Here’s a notorious curiosity from the Zelda series. A title Nintendo had little to do with, which is one of the reasons why it ended up such a mess.
The Arrival of the Philips CD-i
Okay, so this story has done the rounds online already. The AVGN shredded the CDI-i ages ago, as have many other YouTubers and websites.
We just kind of want to cover it anyway, as this project intrigues us. But first, a little backstory!
The Russian-American developer Animation Magic worked on this CD-i Zeldas, with Dutch multinational company Philips Interactive Media publishing.
As the famous story goes, Nintendo was working with Sony in 1989 to create a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES.
Eventually, for various reasons, Nintendo backed out of this deal and signed up with Philips instead. And yes, that led to Sony using what it had learned to make the PlayStation.
Meanwhile, in the early 1990s Sega launched an add-on for the Mega Drive (Sega Genesis). This was poorly received.
Worried about that, Nintendo scrapped the whole project.
To not annoy Philips about that, the Japanese gaming giant gave it the rights to launch several exclusive Zelda games on its Compact Disc-Interactive (CD-i) majigger in 1990.
Philips duly did this, but the titles weren’t played by many people.
Primarily as its console had an absurd price, looked like a clunky VHS player, and it didn’t have any good games.
The console is now a retro gaming curiosity, arguably most famous for the inclusion of three bizarre Zelda games.
Link: The Faces of Evil in Review
Right, so Animation Magic went on to make three of these Zelda games. They’re now thought of as the worst titles from the whole series.
We’re focusing on The Faces of Evil here as it’s (sort of) the most normal. A platformer, like Zelda II or some such.
The plot begins in Hyrule Castle, where Link is bored. Events transpire where he has to travel to an island called Koridai where he has to save the day.
What follows is 2D platform with (for the time) pretty decent graphics. Plus, some truly appalling cutscenes.
One of the most famous aspects of the game is the bizarre voice acting that complements these truly disturbing creations.
It is, without question, very bloody irritating. Especially with Link’s voice.
The game seems to play on the 1989 US TV cartoon The Legend of Zelda.
In the show, and over 13 episodes, Link is a petulant annoyance. Whereas in the real game series he’s brave, stoic, and humble.
All this suggests Animation Magic didn’t really know what to do with the Zelda license. It made something serviceable, relying on a few of the series’ signature things.
While Philips presumed the name alone would be enough to sell its system. Given the CD-i cost $1,000 in 1992, more than twice as much as the SNES, that was dumb thinking.
The only thing that stood out in 1993 was the graphical presentation.
Although it looks mediocre now, for the time it would have seemed (probably) not as subpar as to our modern eyeballs.
Anyway, away from the voice-acting mess, from what we’ve read online the Faces of Evil’s control system is dodgy.
Otherwise, the whole thing mediocre and insipid. Standard 2D stuff that’s implemented in a rather humdrum fashion.
Apparently, with the platforming it’s unclear where you’re going and that often proves rather frustrating.
The reviews from 1993 are pretty telling, as some praise the game for its graphics and interesting take on the series.
These days, The Faces of Evil is thought of as an abomination that curses the series’ good name.
Gamers tend to overreact about things, so we should imagine it’s not as terrible as some make out.
It’s more that it’s aged very poorly. As many FMV/animation cutscenes have since 1993. And some games in general.
Yet you compare it to the masterpiece A Link to the Past (1991) on the SNES, which is one of the greatest games of all time, and this two years later… yeah.
Considering Philips had a golden opportunity to do something outstanding here, it’s disappointing to see such ridiculously adequate results.