Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon

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Link: The Faces of Evil and
Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
Link facesofevil packaging.jpgZelda wandofgamelon packaging.jpg
Box art for Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
Developer(s) Animation Magic
Publisher(s) Philips Media
Distributor(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Dale DeSharone
Producer(s) Stephen Radosh (executive)
William Havlicek (audio)
Igor Razboff (animation)
Designer(s) Dale DeSharone (game)
Rob Dunlavey (game and production)
Jonathan Merritt (game)
Vasiliev A. (character)
Smirnov V. (character)
Programmer(s) Linde Dynneson
John O'Brien
John Wheeler
Artist(s) Tom Curry (background paintings)
Max Stienmetz (sprite)
John Ursino (sprite)
Rob Dunlavey (additional)
Writer(s) Jonathan Merritt
Composer(s) Tony Trippi
Series The Legend of Zelda
Platform(s) Philips CD-i
Release date(s)
  • NA October 10, 1993
  • EU 1993
[1]
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution 1 CD-ROM

Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon are two action-adventure video games developed by Animation Magic and published by Philips Media for the CD-i video game console. The two games were released at the same time and look and play similarly due to their simultaneous development cycle and low budget. Another The Legend of Zelda game was released for the CD-i titled Zelda's Adventure, which featured a different developer and perspective than its predecessors.

Link: The Faces of Evil puts players in control of Link while Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon has players control Princess Zelda. Both travel to a new world (Koridai and Gamelon respectively) to thwart Ganon's plans. Both games received positive reception early on; later critics such as Seanbaby (who ranked it among the worst games ever made) gave it overwhelmingly negative reception.

Gameplay[edit]

A screenshot of Link: The Faces of Evil.

Players take control of Link in The Faces of Evil and Zelda in The Wand of Gamelon. In the beginning of both games, players have access to only three areas which are accessed through an in-game map.[2][3] The two characters only have their swords and shields at this stage. The sword can be used to attack enemies either by stabbing or shooting "Power Blasts" while the shield can deflect attacks. The shield is used whenever the player-character is standing still or crouching. They gain new items later on in the game including lamp oil, rope, and bombs which can be purchased at a shop.[3][4][5] Rubies can be obtained by stabbing them with the sword after defeating an enemy; after which they can be spent at the shop.

The player's health is measured in "Life Hearts". Although the player begins the game with only three hearts, there are ways to earn more. Each time the player-character is injured, they will lose at least one-half of a heart. The first two times the player-character runs out of Life Hearts, the player will be given the option of continuing from near the point where their last heart was lost. When the player-character loses their hearts for a third time, they will be returned to the map and the player will have to start the level from the beginning. Returning to the map replenishes their Life Hearts and lives and they will retain any items and rubies they picked up.[2][3]

Plot[edit]

Link: The Faces of Evil[edit]

The story begins in Hyrule Castle where Link (Jeffrey Rath) discusses with King Harkinian (Benoît Allemane) the prospects of new adventure.[6] Soon Link's hopes are fulfilled as Gwonam the wizard (Allan Stewart Coaters) arrives on a magic carpet. He tells them that Ganon (Mark Berry) has taken over the island of Koridai and that only Link can stop him.[7][8] Link must also conquer giant stone statues known as the Faces of Evil and rescue Princess Zelda (Bonnie Jean Wilbur), who was kidnapped by Ganon.[9][10][11][12][13] Link is sent by the Ice Queen to Fortress Centrum to retrieve the Treasure of Death; once he finds the sleeping Princess, he discovers that it was a shapeshifting necromancer named Goronu who took her form under Ganon's orders. He receives the Crystal of Reflection for defeating Goronu which protects Link from curses.[14][15]

Link then proceeds to defeat Ganon's minions, which include the revived Goronu, the anthropomorphic pig Harlequin (Paul Wann), the armored pyrokinetic Militron (Jeffrey Nelson), the three-eyed wolfgirl Lupay, and the gluttonous cyclops Glutko, from which the Book of Koridai is retrieved. A translator named Ipo reveals that the book itself is enough to defeat Ganon.[16] After trekking through Ganon's Lair, Link finally reaches Ganon, who attempts to recruit Link with the promise of great power and the threat of death.[17][18] After the ensuing climactic battle, Link imprisons him in the Book of Koridai and then awakens the sleeping princess Zelda. Gwonam appears and congratulates Link on imprisoning Ganon. He shows Link a recovering Koridai and declares him the island's hero. However, Zelda refuses to kiss him as a reward.[19][20]

Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon[edit]

King Harkinian announces his plan to aid Duke Onkled (also voiced by Nelson) of Gamelon (possibly named after Camelot with the first and last letters changed) when the latter falls under attack by Ganon,[21][22] and orders Zelda to send Link for backup in case that he does not return from his mission within a month.[23] A month passes without word from the King,[24] so Zelda sends Link to find him.[21][25]

When he too goes missing,[21] Zelda ventures off to Gamelon (accompanied by the elderly Impa) to find both Link and the King.[21][26] During Zelda's time in Gamelon, Impa discovers that King Harkinian has been captured, and that Link has engaged in a battle, the outcome of which is unclear.[27] As she adventures across the island, Zelda meets many friendly characters and battles with many monsters and enemies including the villains Gibdo and Iron Knuckle. Along her travels Zelda battles the sorcerer, Wizzrobe, to free Lady Alma (Natalie Brown), who gives Zelda a canteen that she claims Link gave her in exchange for a kiss.

On reaching Duke Onkled's palace, Domodai Palace, it is revealed that Duke Onkled has betrayed the King and is working for Ganon.[28] Zelda storms the palace, kills Ganon's minion Hectan, and saves an imprisoned Spaniard named Fari (also voiced by Berry) who used to work for the King. Fari reveals the secret entrance to Onkled's chamber, and when they confront him he reveals the entrance to Reesong Palace, where Ganon has taken residence.[29]

Zelda travels to the Shrine of Gamelon to defeating the head-switching chimera Omfak and obtain the Wand needed to defeat Ganon, and she also visits Nokani Forest to obtain the magic lantern needed to clear the darkness around Ganon. Finally at Reesong Palace, Zelda fights Ganon, incapacitates him with the Wand, and rescues her father. Back at Hyrule Castle, Duke Onkled is turned over to the king, begging for mercy. He is arrested and punished by becoming a lowly drudge for the King.[30] Although Link's whereabouts are still unknown, a comment by Lady Alma prompts Zelda to throw her mirror against the wall, and as it smashes, Link magically materializes, seemingly having been trapped in the mirror.

Development[edit]

In 1989, Nintendo signed a deal with Sony to begin development of a CD-ROM-based system known as the "Nintendo PlayStation" or the SNES CD to be an add-on to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that would allow for FMV and larger games.[10][31] 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.[9][10][32] Witnessing the poor reception of the Sega Mega-CD, Nintendo scrapped the idea of making an add-on entirely.[10][31] 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.[31][33]

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[12][31] based on the artwork from Nintendo's original two titles and that of their respective instruction booklets.[34] Philips insisted that the development studios utilize all aspects of the CD-i's capabilities including FMV,[21] high-resolution graphics, and CD-quality music.[34] 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),[21] and numerous problems in streaming-audio, memory, disc access, and graphics.[34] The first two games were showcased at the 1993 CES and surprised audiences with their degree of animation.[35]

The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon were the first two Nintendo-licensed games released on the Philips CD-i.[1] They were given the relatively low budget of approximately $600,000 and the development deadline was set at a little over a year—time which would have to be split between the two games.[21][34] It was decided by Animation Magic, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based development team led by Dale DeSharone, that the two games would be developed in tandem and would share the same graphics engine to more efficiently use the budget.[36] The animated cutscenes were created by a team of four animators from Russia (led by Igor Razboff) who were flown to the United States for the project.[34] These games marked the first time that Russian outsourcing had been utilized by an American company—a move that was only possible due to the somewhat thawed political climate after the fall of the Berlin Wall.[34]

The rest of the development team included three programmers (all previous employees of Spinnaker Software), one musician (Tony Trippi), and freelance-writer Jonathan Merritt who created the scripts and designs.[34] Under DeSharone's direction, game development progressed similarly to that of his earlier-directed title, Below the Root, a game which Retro Gamer's John Szczepaniak has suggested may have served as a forerunner of sorts.[37] Background designs were created by local Cambridge artists.[34]

For voice acting, Animation Magic auditioned local actors from the AFTRA union.[34] In Link: The Faces of Evil, the voice of Link was provided by Jeffrey Rath, the voice of Princess Zelda by Bonnie Jean Wilbur, and the voice of Ganon by Mark Berry,[38] while additional voices were provided by Jeffrey Nelson, Natalie Brown, Chris Flockton, Jerry Goodwin, Karen Grace, John Mahon, Josie McElroy, Phil Miller, Marguerite Scott and Paul Wann.[39] The Wand of Gamelon featured most of the same voice actors as Faces of Evil, save for Flockton, Goodwin, Mahon and Miller.[40]

IGN's Peer Schneider claimed that the decision to star Zelda in The Wand of Gamelon was based on the fact that the CD-i's library was directed at females. However, he felt that they failed at this due to Zelda playing the same as Link.[41]

Reception[edit]

At the time of its release, contemporary criticism was largely positive for both games. SNES Force magazine described the animated sequences as "breathtaking" and praised the game for its high-resolution graphics and its "brilliant" use of sound and speech.[42] Highly anticipated by the French video game press, Joystick magazine's development preview of The Faces of Evil described it as a veritable arcade-quality game with stunning graphics and "perfect animation". They gave The Wand of Gamelon similar praise and gave it additional praise for its use of voice acting, its plot, and its backgrounds.[43][44] The same magazine would ultimately score The Faces of Evil 79%, a few months later, giving particularly high marks for music, sound effects, and play-through time.[45] Other publications gave more negative reviews. CDi Magazine rated The Faces of Evil 65%, stating that the game was a poor relation to the original Nintendo games, and singling out the perfunctory storyline, the lack of graphical features like parallax, and the slow and repetitious gameplay. Another reviewer for the magazine gave The Wand of Gamelon a higher 75% and called it a "reasonably good game" for its puzzles and animated sequences. He however criticized its plot and controls.[46][47] In 1994, Edge reported that both Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon had sold a "respectable number of units", but as CD-i sales began to suffer criticism sharpened and the games were described as low-cost, low-risk ventures that had failed to excite any interest in the platform despite their sales figures.[48]

Wired magazine said that the animation on the first two Zelda games was extremely simple and stilted and that the graphics had several glitches.[9] IGN indicated that sales of CD-i games (including these two) were poor and caused the game to be readily available years later.[41] IGN's Peer Schneider ranked the two games among Nintendo's biggest failures.[49] Electronic Gaming Monthly contributor Seanbaby ranked Zelda: Wand of Gamelon the sixth worst game of all time while GameTrailers rated it fifth worst game of all time.[50][51] The Star Tribune described the game's voice acting as "laughable"[52] and it was also criticized by Zelda Elements as jarring.[12] IGN described the games as "infamous" and "cheesy";[53] other reviewers called the animated cutscenes "freakish"[1] and "an absolute joke".[31] The designers were criticized by IGN's Travis Fahs for using a style similar to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for the games and for insufferable controls and the designers' poor understanding of The Legend of Zelda franchise. He noted however that the backgrounds looked decent considering the poor design of the CD-i's hardware.[54] The Wand of Gamelon appeared in a bracket poll of "The Greatest Legend of Zelda Game" along with Zelda's Adventure. It lost in the first set of rounds to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.[55] IGN's Peer Schneider criticized The Wand of Gamelon for its cutscenes. He claimed that they were "entertaining ... for all the wrong reasons." He also claimed that the soundtrack sounded like "the same redbook audio CD pop" as the one in Faces of Evil. He added that the game does not do well to indicate when a platform begins or ends and that its controls were "sloppy".[41]

Despite the largely negative reception that the games have received, there have been a few positive reviews as well. Both Danny Cowan of 1UP.com and John Szczepaniak praised Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon as among the best games on the CD-i. Szczepaniak in particular suggested that several of the gaming magazines that had rated and reviewed Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil had engaged in hate campaigns having never even played the game.[34] Cowan's and Szczepaniak's praises drew from the games' detailed, well-drawn in-game backgrounds and "pretty decent" gameplay,[1][21][36] although both criticized the controls.[1][36] While the audio was thought to be "average", and not up to the usual Zelda quality by some reviewers,[21] this has been contested by Szczepaniak, who described it as diverse and high-quality with an adventurous upbeat tempo blending electric guitar, panpipes, marimbas, and other unusual instruments.[34] In a periodical for Retro Gamer magazine, Szczepaniak identified the natural comparison of the games by reviewers to the quality of games in the rest of the Zelda series as an improper comparison to make and suggested that when reviewed in their own right the games were actually excellent.[56] Contrary to what were described as "lies perpetuated about [Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon]," Retro Gamer described the games as "astoundingly good" and rated them together as number ten in its "Perfect Ten Games" for CD-i. While acknowledging that the games lacked canonicity, the games were praised for exhilarating pacing and superb gameplay design and music. The games' background art was also described as ranging from Gigeresque[34] to Monet-esque.[57]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b Animation Magic (1993). Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon instruction booklet. Philips Media. 
  3. ^ a b c Animation Magic (1993). Link: The Faces of Evil instruction booklet. Philips Media. 
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  5. ^ Animation Magic (1993). Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon. Philips CD-i. Philips Media. Level/area: Sakado General Shop. "General Shop Merchant: Course I'm on your side, but I still have to sell the stuff. Just pick what you want. I'll handle the rubies." 
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