>> Tuesday, August 1, 2006
This month we'll start with a new series to give the CD-i some promoting activities especially for those stucking with Nintendo, Sega and Atari from the good old days. Loads of you feel the CD-i was a bad console with bad games and stuff, I'm not here to make you think otherwise although I'll try to gain a little perspective of the good things CD-i has to offer.
The potential of a home console often relies on its exclusive releases, right? You bought a SNES because it had Mario and Zelda; You bought a Playstation because that was the only way to play Gran Turismo, and now you'll buy the XBOX 360 because of the rumoured exclusive GTA 4. With CD-i on the background for most game-fans, its title library is relatively small and most of the games are based on ports from other versions. Considering the power of CD-i, you can imagine most CD-i conversions are not the best versions around when they also had a chance on SNES or Mega Drive, like Flashback, Micro Machines, or even Lemmings. While CD-i didn't have its own mascotte like what Mario means to Nintendo and Sonic to Sega, it'll surprise you how many exclusive CD-i releases Philips actually put through in the life of CD-i. And I'm not even talking about all Philips Media games because they also ported a lot of titles to PC CD-ROM as well. No, this is only about CD-i games. Games you'll never find anywhere else. A top-10 of exclusives.
I was thinking about a countdown from 10 to 1, 1 being the best in my opinion. Starting with 10, and one extra count every couple of days. It's holiday-time mind you :) - Let's go!
10. Ultra CD-i Soccer
Just when you thought CD-i was dead in 1997 (which partly, it certainly was) Krisalis released a secret project on CD-i which came as a surprise to almost everyone. It was a soccer game for all the fans wanting a lot more after Rage's Striker Pro game in 1993. While Striker Pro was a conversion of the Striker series Rage developed for several consoles, Ultra CD-i Soccer is an original attempt highly inspired by the popular Sensible Soccer franchise. Even the CD-i Magazine didn't feature any preview of this, but ofcourse they were appreciative like nobody else about some great soccer moments you can have with this one. Like with Sensible Soccer, you'll either love CD-i Soccer or hate it. The players on screen are quite small to let the widest part of the field fit onto the screen, the game is seen from above, offering a 2D perspective (you know CD-i would never be capable showing off a 3D game of this kind). Personally, I find Striker Pro the best of the two, with highly enjoyable animations and great humour like players singing 'My Way' in the middle of the screen after scoring the wrong goal - circumstances I still have to find out by the way!!. CD-i Soccer, however, is an enjoyable experience but very hard, the controls are not really responsive (especially not when you're used to Striker Pro), but the field is more detailed even with the smaller players.
Pros: gives you the Sensible Soccer feeling, fast-paced with detailed graphics
Cons: unresponsive controls, occasionally slowdown when a lot of action is on screen.
9-a. Link: The Faces of Evil
9-b. Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
These days the good old Animation Magic titles are hot off the press again featuring articles in Zeldapower and RetroGamer magazine. The Nintendo license still attracts a lot of attention from foreign console fans and it certainly is one of the main aspects why CD-i hits the spot these days. These two games are built on the same engine and were, like with Philips projects topping the budget of $1 million, split in two to gain more profit out of them. Link and Zelda were released simultaneously and were the first titles featuring Nintendo characters on CD-i, after the initial press release AIM presented to use Nintendo characters as a revenge strategy to Nintendo's procedures. If you're interested in the background of Nintendo on CD-i, check out the blog of March 2006.
Recently the artist was tracked down by Zeldapower, check out his blog to enjoy the full-colour background art he created, highly recommended.
Pros: Classics, featuring Link and Zelda, fairly large games with colourfull graphics (notably 1st generation, however)
Cons: Typical mediocre animation, repetitive gameplay, it is brought as a platformer which feels not right when you expect a Zelda game.
8. Christmas Country
Often confused with Christmas Crisis, Creative Media really put all their acts together to fill the gap Super Mario's Wacky Worlds left when it was cancelled on CD-i. Christmas Country is a highly enjoyable platformer, and the first of its kind resembling a real Super Mario game. True, the mechanics and the engine are a bit simplified would you like to compare it with, say, SMB, but the overall feeling is highly worked out and fine-tuned. The limitations of the CD-i hardware are visible as no background music was added to the levels because it would chop the framerate too much. However a remake was initiated with 'The Lost Levels', the CD-i was over before they finished it. Read through the December blog for detailed info about this title and don't forget the original CD-i magazines you can download at www.philipscdi.com. If you want a platform game and already played The Apprentice, this will be your next bet. Nice level design, super smooth engine and definately an improvement over Christmas Crisis, a title they were also responsible for in 1995.
Pros: Great platformer, colourful graphics, lots of secrets and levels to explore.
Cons: Too easy, no in-game music, engine is very basic.
One of Devin`s personal favourites I believe, Plunderball wasn't even a retail game. The game was "released" in 2003 by Oldergames Publishing after retrieving the prototype software. It was developed in 199x by ISG Productions which is the same company behind Video Speedway and Tox Runner (also unreleased). From all retrieved proto software on CD-i, Plunderball is called to be the most finished and original CD-i game. Here's a recent piece of Devin's perspective about Plunderball. Now, It still is no pinball Dreams by any means but regarding the technical limitations of the CD-i I'm convinced ISG did a pretty good job developing a Pinball game on CD-i the way it should be. With the high amount of video material and the essence of the story behind it, this title would top the rest easily if they would have used digital video using the cartridge for it. But there a lot of games on CD-i that would be a lot better only if they would have used the DVC. Still, the game is enjoyable to play, but the gameplay is a little limited.
Pros: Very original combination of Pinball and a story to evolve in.
Cons: Pinball moves too static, (Still, consider it was prototype software!)
Zenith is called 'spin ball' on several websites, a blend between 'Marble Madness' and pinball. While it's not an official name by any means, it does describe the kind of game we're dealing with here. Also covered in one the previous blogs, Zenith would win the originality award on CD-i easily. While the game is pretty short (it has only got six levels to play with), the variety is increasing causing a more difficult play-field to go through with your ball. There are all kinds of traps built in to get your ball out of the main course, including secret buttons, lava, warps, and keys. The thing is, you control a ball which is bouncing up and down, through a vertically scrolled 3D landscape, which result in pretty neat graphics for CD-i without the use of the Digital Video Cartridge. The game is very fast and very responsive. It's just highly enjoyable and I recommend this one to almost everyone to check out. If only they would have got the opportunity to create a multiplayer or online version from this, that would be awesome!!
Pros: Great concept, straight to the point arcade; fast game with good graphics;
Cons: gameplay is a little repetitive; no in-game music, presentation is a little rushed.
5. Hotel Mario
The only Nintendo licensed CD-i game produced by Philips internally. Also not important, this is the only Mario title that was released for CD-i. While it's not an original platform adventure like we all have hoped for, Philips' Fantasy Factory developed a highly original puzzle game starring Mario and all his famous enemies like Koopa and Bowser, not to forget the original power-ups like Fire Mario and the invincibility star. If you grew up with Super Mario this will all sound very familiar, you will love this title. Now, the game is about closing doors in an hotel Mario steps in. The enemies on screen are also able to open doors, and you use elevators to change floors. All the action in one level is on one screen. OK, I'll admit it is still a Mario game on CD-i, which has a few small consequences. Like the framerate on one hand is a little lower, especially when a lot of enemies are on screen. If you are willing to forget this as an issue, it's a classic which has the Nintendo flavour all over it. In fact, if I had to call one title to resemble the most with an original Nintendo title, this would be the winner.
Pros: Super Mario!
Cons: You can't help thinking about a real platform game this could be. Late levels can be frustating (stupid enemies opening doors right before time limit).
4. Zelda's Adventure
With a potential of 12 titles set for CD-i release at the start, producer Viridis only put through two of them to the market. Fortunately most bets were placed on Zelda, which took years for them to complete. The final package is the only real Zelda game to consider on CD-i, Tolemac (Not surprisingly, the original Camelot spelled backwards) and Ganon included. The game is fairly large, and will get pretty difficult once you get passed the first shrines. Scrolling issues are visible from the very start, the gameplay is limited to what's visible on screen. Once you enter a side, the next screen is loaded, which means a three second break. These are only minor issues I had with the game, and overall this is a very nice adventure game with a lot of action. I really wish we had more games like this. Like the other Zelda games on NES and SNES, you have to complete dungeons to move along and find the evil Ganondorf. In Zelda's Adventure, you play the main character as Zelda instead of Link and the dungeons are called 'shrines'. The photo-realistic environment differs a lot from the original Zelda games, but the amount of detail it creates with it only make this a good thing in my opinion.
Pros: excellent Action Adventure with a few RPG elements. Unequaled on CD-i.
Cons: Later enemies can only be killed with one specific weapon. Out of a large list this can be quite a task to find out, which makes it frustrating from time to time. You can't (and shouldn't) compare it with other Zelda titles on Nintendo consoles. One other con: Because of the Nintendo theme the title is very rare and expensive...
3. The Apprentice
The all-time CD-i classic, this platformer starring Marvin would be nominated on the first place when you want to give CD-i a mascotte. In fact, once you have played the marvelous gameplay of this game you'll want to know all titles producer SPC Vision produced for CD-i. Seen as CD-i's most productive 3rd party developer, SPC Vision crammed the disc full with secrets, platform levels and oh-so colourfull graphics in a very cute anime style. This title is not to be missed, and I'm proud of the fact this is developed in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, however you would believe otherwise with its japanese influences all over it. Platforming at its very best, Marvin is equiped with different weapons every world he enters. From toyrooms, ice-cages and pipes to an aquarium and all the big big bosses, this is fun-packed like no other CD-i game.
Pros: Excellent platformer, great colourful graphics, very fluid animation, guaranteed fun
Cons: I only dislike the fact the game is a vertical scroller; probably done because of the technical scrolling problems CD-i had. They tried to fix this in Lucky Luke, another SPC platform game. Lucky Luke is also a very fun patformer, but doesn't surpass the qualities of The Apprentice.
2. Lost Ride
The very last exclusive CD-i game (along with the Golden Oldies releases) with the most promising technique CD-i had to offer with MPEG: Seamless branching. Titles like Kathy Smith Personal Trainer, The Philips Encyclopedia and Dead End all used the technique in its engine. While the seamless branching isn't noticable in the first two mentioned, The Lost Ride is the same kind of game like Dead End only with a different setting: A roller coaster. Three worlds are offered including Mine-world and Water-world, with great graphics and a very accurate gameplay. Unfortunately, the game was rushed onto the market, some bugs are still left in the game which makes the compatibility with some CD-i players low. The title may crash at random moments, especially on the newer 4xx models. Also very unique is the level map which is automatically generated at the start of the game, this means you never play the same level again, the mazes are created randomly which gives the title an enormous replay value. You can read more in-depth information in the last BLOG.
Pros: Random levels, fast-paced gameplay with great graphics, high replay value
Cons: No in-game music, bugs may cause game crash, limited weapons
1. Atlantis: The Last Resort
One of the most remarkable releases on CD-i came in 1997. The first and only realtime semi-3D First Person Shooter, something CD-i had never seen before. The most remarkable thing is that the engine was produced not by a real software company, but by Philips Research Laboratories in Redhill as one of a side project they were working on. Dedicated to the spirit of ADS, unfortunately gone by the day it was released, but with an enormous encoding help Dorking (just at the westside of Redhill, the base of Philips ADS) offered as always. Sceptically received by fans who were used to the quality of Doom, this was only really appreciated by CD-i fans. We're talking about low-res graphics (think about Catacomb Abyss) but with a much higher quality animation and speed. The framerate was very fluid and only dropped in large areas and when a lot of enemies were on screen. But when you are a CD-i fan, this was still an amazing title. The game is divided in 20 levels, with 4 areas (desert, ocean, swamp and high-tech) to play in. The soundtrack is very good with up-beat computer music, suiting perfectly to the game.
Pros: -Realtime (semi) 3D, unique on CD-i, -accurate gameplay including strafing, shooting and walking, -nice enemy animation, -good story, great soundtrack
Cons -Graphics can be blurry, -easy to loose directions, high difficulty!
One of the next parts will cover a top 10 Philips Media Games on CD-i, for those missing high-end classics like Burn:Cycle and Chaos Control ;)