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"These Are the Games You Play in Hell" and Other Japanese Reactions to the Zelda CD-i Games

Squadalah! We're off, Link-chan!

Article by Nadia Oxford, .

The Zelda CD-i games are a fascinating study. Not simply because they're terrible, but because their very existence represents the dissolution of the Sony-Nintendo alliance that eventually gave rise to the Sony PlayStation.

To recap quickly: The CD-i Zelda games are an ill-begotten product of a weird fling between Nintendo and Philips following the Sony break-up. Zelda Universe has an interview with the creator of the games that offers great insight as to why the projects turned out so smelly. The rise of YouTube is arguably another reason why the CD-i Zelda titles are branded forever in our memories, though: One of the first things humanity did with the revolutionary video-sharing service was upload videos of Gwonam from Link: The Faces of Evil screaming "Squadalah!" for ten minutes.

Japan never received the CD-i Zelda games because the country is clearly protected by benevolent gods, but they've seen the animations through the magic of globalization and easy media sharing. Translator Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin gathered up Japanese Zelda fans' reactions to the games' ponderous action and melty-face cutscenes. Said reactions were farmed from message boards, etc, across a span of several years, but as Mandelin correctly points out, opinions probably haven't changed much.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • "This feels like the real world but on drugs."
  • "The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Shits."
  • "They still had crap like this even in 1993?"
  • "Nintendo must’ve been pissed after seeing these."
  • "Zelda looks so cute when she’s sleepy!" (Bruh...)
  • "This background music sounds like American porn music."
  • "In terms of controls, animation, and gameplay, the CD-i Zeldas don’t make the grade as Zelda games. They don’t even pass as actual games. They’re the kind of games you’d play in hell."

If Hell is truly a place of eternal physical and psychological punishment, yeah, I could see demons firing up the ol' CD-i and forcing a sinner to play Faces of Evil if the iron maiden was out of commission for whatever reason.

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #1 Tetragrammaton 5 months ago
    The funny thing is, according to the one person I know who played the CD-i games, they're not terrible. He liked them better than Adventure of Link, at least.

    That said, these takes are hilarious and match my perceptions of those three games perfectly.
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  • Avatar for retr0gamer #2 retr0gamer 5 months ago
    A lot of the negative perceptions of these games are from people that never played them or played them on emulators. The former only laugh at the cutscenes while fir the later the game's are not emulated properly by any current emulators have have major control issues making them horrible to play.

    Wand of gamelon and faces of evil while having problems (janky controls, lack of handholding and some annoying level design) they're actually not bad games with some interesting ideas. They 2d background art is nice and the music us excellent. Definitely worth a play if you have the patience to get through some obtuse sections, which are far less obtuse with a manual.

    Zeldas Adventure which people that haven't played any of the games say is the good one us a compete and utter turd. One of the worst games ever made, it's unfair, badly designed, has horrendous load times just to change screen and is obviously unfinished and rushed. That there is true cdi shit show.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #3 Vonlenska 5 months ago
    I laughed at the reactions, but I have to join the other apostates here. It is the terrible fate I have met with that I always defend these games. I haven't played them; maybe they are bad. I don't really know. As noted above, they're not fully emulatable and playing them on original hardware is beyond me.

    What I do know is that they're actually quite beautiful. Look at these screenshots. Pinch yourself and remember it was 1993. Look up the soundtracks on YouTube. Pinch yourself and remember it was 1993. Look at how you get to play as Zelda as the hero adventurer for one whole game. Pinch yourself and remember it was 1993.

    Yeah, the FMVs are pretty lousy, but they were rushed and produced by a team of Russian animators brought on board a little late in development who weren't really sure what they were doing. The games themselves look legitimately pretty good, and they stand as an interesting little alternate history for the series. At the time of development, Zelda II was the latest entry, so they built on that model. We always talk about Zelda II as if it were a total dead-end, mechanically and stylistically, but these games followed its lead.

    Now, the third CD-i Zelda (which no one ever talks about) does look awful. But it also has Zelda-as-protagonist, so I have to give it a point for that.
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  • Avatar for Mixingmetaphorsoup #4 Mixingmetaphorsoup 5 months ago
    @retr0gamer Nah, but however good the art may be, it doesn't work as Zelda art. Same goes for the music. And also with the art, characters and enemies can't be drawn/animated like that if you want to have an easy time with hitboxes. It's a very western style - like Prince of Persia or Another World - that not only doesn't fit with a Zelda game, but wasn't executed as well as in the aforementioned other platformers. Worst of both worlds and all that.

    I dunno; I suppose they're okay games, certainly not the worst ever, but they really suffer due to ostensibly being Zelda games - there's a certain style, not just level of quality, that people expect, and it's very obvious that no one who worked on any other Zelda game had anything to do with these. And even though the cutscenes don't affect the gameplay, they really make me think the creators were trying to make fun of Zelda or Nintendo or both. Not to mention the "tutorial" to Faces of Evil, which definitely felt like they just didn't care.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #5 NiceGuyNeon 4 months ago
    Knowing my luck I'll be forced to play these in the afterlife.

    Satan: "It says all you used to do was call out sick from work to play Zelda. Buddy, do I have good news for you!"
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #6 riderkicker 4 months ago
    "Nintendo got backstabbed big-time!"

    It's hilarious, as Nintendo's desire to control everything deliberately destroyed their plans with Sony, only to partner with inferior tech company Philips to create a colossal waste of money. It's definitely not the first questionable business decision they made, and it won't be the last.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #7 brionfoulke91 4 months ago
    @Tetragrammaton That's pretty crazy, I'd think if a person can recognize some value in the CD-I games, they'd definitely be able to recognize some value in Zelda 2 which is a near masterpiece. I don't think the CD-I games are complete crap either, but as side-scrollers compared to Zelda 2 it's really no contest. It's night and day.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #8 yuberus 4 months ago
    @Tetragrammaton I'll concur - Gamelon and Faces aren't bad. Maybe not great, but they're decent Metroidvania games with some nice music and level art. Too bad about the cutscenes though.

    Zelda's Adventure is hot garbage, though. I played through it to say I beat all three of them, and I would never have spent the time otherwise.
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  • Avatar for perpetualgrimace #9 perpetualgrimace 4 months ago
    All I know is that the Game Grumps playthroughs of these games are pure gold.
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  • Avatar for mganai #10 mganai 4 months ago
    @riderkicker Sony wanting all CD-ROM software royalties was an understandable reason for Nintendo to bail. Nintendo just chose the wrong way to deal with it.
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