CD-i games from The Legend of Zelda series
Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's Adventure are three action-adventure games produced by Philips for the CD-i as part of Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda video game series. Not designed for Nintendo platforms, the games owe their existence to negotiations related to Nintendo's decision not to have Philips create a CD add-on to the Super NES. During these negotiations, Philips secured the rights to use Nintendo characters in their games for the CD-i, and the development of these games was achieved through the hiring of third-party developers. The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon were developed by Animation Magic and were both released in North America on October 10, 1993, and Zelda's Adventure was developed by Viridis and was released in North America on June 5, 1994. The games were given little funding or time for completion, and Nintendo provided only cursory input.
The Philips CD-i did not sell well and the games saw relatively small sales figures. Critical reception for all three Zelda CD-i titles is unusual in that while largely positive at the time of the games' release, they have seen nearly universal negative criticism since the mid-2000s. This is attributable to the reaction of many gamers to the obscure games' full motion video cutscenes when they first became widely available through video-sharing websites like YouTube. Because the aging early 1990s visual effects of the titles failed to live up to the graphic effects of the 2000s, and because for many fans this was their first experience of the games, the CD-i Zelda titles have developed a critical reputation as particularly poor members of the Zelda franchise based largely on animation quality and to an extent on awkward controls. In the eyes of devout hardcore gamers, according to Edge magazine, these games are now considered "tantamount to blasphemy".
Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon are played using the side-scrolling view introduced in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, while Zelda's Adventure has a top-down view reminiscent of the original The Legend of Zelda. All the CD-i Zelda games begin with animated FMVs to illustrate the capabilities of the CD-ROM format, save Zelda's Adventure, which begins with live-action video.
In 1989, Nintendo signed a deal with Sony to begin development of a CD-ROM-based system known as the SNES-CD (also known as the "Nintendo PlayStation") to be an add-on to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that would allow for FMV and larger games. However, Nintendo broke the agreement and instead signed with Philips to make the add-on, which caused Sony to spin off their add-on into its own console called the PlayStation. Witnessing the poor reception of the Sega Mega-CD, Nintendo scrapped the idea of making an add-on entirely. As part of dissolving the agreement with Philips, Nintendo gave them the license to use five of their characters, including Link, Princess Zelda, and Ganon, for games on Philips's console called the CD-i, after the partnership's dissolution.
Contracting out to independent studios, Philips subsequently used the characters to create three games for the CD-i, with Nintendo taking no part in their development except to give input on the look of the characters based on the artwork from Nintendo's original two titles and that of their respective instruction booklets. Philips insisted that the development studios utilize all aspects of the CD-i's capabilities including FMV, high-resolution graphics, and CD-quality music. Because the system had not been designed as a dedicated video game console, there were several technical limitations, such as laggy controls (especially for the standard infrared controller), and numerous problems in streaming-audio, memory, disc access, and graphics.
Link: The Faces of Evil
Paired with Zelda: Wand of Gamelon in a simultaneous release, Link: The Faces of Evil represents the first of the Zelda games to be released by Philips for the CD-i. Following the traditional Link-saves-Zelda plotline, Faces of Evil was patterned most closely upon Nintendo's previous side-scroller, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The game broke new ground in the video game industry by using outsourced Russian animation to create all cutscenes, and the game received largely positive contemporary reception. Modern criticism is almost universal in its harsh negativity toward the game and the animated cutscenes have become particular targets of derision.
Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
Reversing the traditional Link-saves-Zelda plotline, Wand of Gamelon stars Zelda as she adventures to rescue Link and her father the king who have not returned from their quest. As with Faces of Evil, the game was patterned most closely upon Nintendo's previous side-scroller, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and again features outsourced Russian animation for all cutscenes. Despite the game's similarly positive contemporary reception along with Faces of Evil, modern critics have almost unanimously derided and ridiculed the game for its inability to live up to modern expectations with the animated cutscenes again having become a particular target of negative reception.
Released nearly 8 months after the first two Zelda CD-i games, Zelda's Adventure was created by a different third party developer, Viridis. The game again follows a nontraditional Zelda-saves-Link plotline, but it uses a different game engine than Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon. Whereas the first two CD-i games were pattered on the side-scrolling Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Zelda's Adventure took the top-down The Legend of Zelda as its model. Zelda's Adventure featured FMV cutscenes, but rather than using drawn animation, the game used live-action scenes. Reception for the game was poor, and whereas some modern critics have given more nuanced reviews of the first two games, modern criticism for Zelda's Adventure is unanimously negative.
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- Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon at the Internet Movie Database
- Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon at Hardcore Gaming 101