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Link and Zelda on CD-i in the eyes of John Szczepaniak

>> Saturday, December 22, 2007

Apparently more people know about the Zelda CD-i games and more than often dislike them without ever having touched a CD-i player. Thankfully John Szczepaniak is from a rare breed who tries to convince the internet of the quality of the Zelda CD-i games, and I have to credit him for his ways to do that. John: "I am one of the minority who sincerely enjoys the first two CDi Zelda games, Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil. I bought a CDi to play them, since I had never seen any explanation of the gameplay amongst all the criticism. People only talked about those awful cinemas. I didn't pay too much, and started them thinking they'd be awful. I used a 3-button hardwired pad, and was surprised to find them very enjoyable and clever in places. If you use a gamepad, as opposed to the infrared remote, they play rather well. I’ve heard good results from emulating the system and using a 360 pad. I like them for many reasons, some of which I’ll try to explain."

John: "I enjoyed them so much, I tracked down and interviewed the guy behind them. I then wrote a couple of articles on them. The latter of which was, in truth, very loud in its praise. Balancing I thought, since almost everything else about them is stupidly loud criticism. I now pleasantly find that Interactive Dreams has written not ONE but in fact TWO pieces on the games, stating they're good, and asking: "What if they weren't lumbered with the Nintendo license?"

The games are cleverly designed, with staggered progress like you’d find in the official Zelda or Metroid games. I’m not going to explain the whole game(s), but I’ll describe two of my favourite bits that really made me really think the games were clever.



Here we see a key, but we’re not sure where the key needs to be used. Later on you’ll meet a character who’ll tell you she locked a cave door to keep the monsters away, and hid the locking mechanism inside a skull.



The skull was only a little way to the right. I’d never even thought about using the key on it!

Key and lock, a common gameplay mechanic in videogames, existed on the same level, in nearly the same screen, but it was never made obvious. When you’re finally told where the lock is, it’s like a revelation. My other favourite section is pure “Metroidvania” in terms of design.



These guys drop snowballs.



These fire lizards can only be killed with snowballs, and in doing so, they drop firestones.



Which are the only things that can kill these monkeys.

The game has several sections like this, where you progress a little, then have to have to go back to a different stage to acquire items, progress a bit further, and so on. Very much like Super Metroid, or any other such game. It’s not original design, but it works, and is fun (I’m only breaking it down into baby steps to make it easier to understand why I enjoy this game).

Item collection works as well as you’d expect, and being able to keep everything you’ve collected up to the point when you die makes the game painless. When I first started playing, and only had three hearts, I died maybe a dozen times (I died twice as much when I played my very first NES game), but at the end, I’d accumulated a lot of money for the item stores, and also a magic lamp! All that effort felt like it paid off. Die a dozen times another game, and it means nothing.

Graphics

Ignore the cinemas. No offence to Sergei Servianoff (or my father), but East European cartoons are crap. On the other hand, I like it when a game tries something different. Okami tried something different and was praised. The Zelda games have a kind of Monet-like style to them. No, they’re not as good as Monet, but they’re trying something different which is not unpleasant. In fact, it’s quite stylish in places.

Monet:



Zelda:



The in-game graphics are another highlight of LZ, especially the backgrounds, since rather than being traditional pixel-based sprite-art, they have a Claude Monet-like pastel impressionist quality. This should be evident from the screens - strokes from when the backgrounds were first painted are still visible. Over the years only a few games have tried experimenting with different visual styles, which elevates LZ to the plateau of titles like Okami (Japanese brushwork); Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct (CG renderings); Skullmonkeys (claymation); Rakuga Kids and Rakugaki Showtime (graffiti); Saga Frontier 2 and Legend of Mana (water color) plus of course, Yoshi's Island (wax crayon), among others.

This was a direct result of the CD medium being able to hold the higher resolution scans, and it's a pity that not more games have tried being a little different. Also as clever, as previously stated, is that character dialogues are introduced via portrait-cinemas which overlaid onto in-game action. The problem though is that all the FMV-style cinemas are of a very low quality.

The reason for this proves fascinating: a bunch of Russian animators were flown over and placed in an apartment, then drew everything. Not to offend anyone from Eastern Europe (my surname reveals that I too hail from that area), but when you think about it, the post-communist east-bloc styling is painfully evident in the cut-scenes, and for anyone who enjoys Japanese anime (a staple in most videogames) or the kind of output from Ghibli studios, then those in LZ aren't very palatable. More beautiful Zelda shots. Viking shipwreck on a mountain:



Dead whale:



There are many others. they play a lot like most Zelda, Metroid and other adventure games, though with some rather clever ideas thrown in (and yes, they could retrospectively be considered a Metroidvania-type pair of games).

Gameplay for both is the same: you start with a large map (too large to fit in a single screenshot) and three selectable areas. Choose one to start that stage. Finishing a stage involves moving to the end and striking a triforce symbol. Doing so ends the stage, opening up a new one on the map, and so you progress. Occasionally instead of a triforce there will be a boss to defeat.

You can scroll backwards and forwards at will. Killed enemies drop items (such as snowballs and fire crystals) and rupees which can be used to buy essential items like lamp oil (for dark areas, useable once you've found an oil lamp), rope (for climbing to high platforms), and bombs (for killing enemies and breaking rocks).

Some enemies can only be killed with specific weapons, while some areas can only be passed using certain items. There are also NPCs who request you bring them items in exchange for other valuable things (such as jars to hold fairy water which restores health, the ability to shoot from your sword, and so on).

Progress is staggered, and all of this makes it very comparable to the first two Zelda games and also the Metroid titles. You're shunted to-and-fro, acquiring items which each time enable you to progress a little further. This style of design is hugely satisfying and is pulled of really well. The only flaws found in the games are due to inherent hardware problems, not sloppy design or structuring - the actual pacing and structure is impeccable.

The biggest problem is control, in that you only have 4 direction and 2 action buttons (less options than even a NES pad). Jumping is done by pushing up, which takes time to master, though a winged helmet later on enables bigger jumps and makes things easier. This doesn't stop the game from being enjoyable, but you need to learn its subtler nuances to make movement easy. Sword attacks are done via button 1. Accessing the inventory meanwhile is done by ducking and pushing button 2, the same button assigned for using special items. This genuinely can be annoying, since it means you can't use items such as bombs or anything else while ducking. Still, not a major problem once you're aware of it.

Some people complain it's impossible to avoid enemy projectiles without getting hit, resulting in repeated deaths. Not so! If you had read the booklet, you'd know that Link or Zelda's shield only become active if you stand still. That's right. Do nothing, and all those enemy axes, rocks and spears will simply bounce off. Once I started doing this, I found it possible to traverse stages without taking any damage - you must resist the temptation to constantly move.

Another complaint is the flying enemies, which people claim harass you relentlessly. Not so! If you stand still and continuously kill them (resulting in a lot of useful rupees), they will eventually stop. Between twenty to thirty need to be killed, but once done there are no flying enemies until you change stages. Furthermore, you can buy loaves of bread which will distract them, and you can also later acquire a bell which allows you to freeze them in mid-air (making them ripe for a quick, easy killing).

A general problem encountered by people playing LZ for the first time is one of difficulty. In truth, once you know the weak spot for certain things (enemies, jumping areas, and other sticking points), the game becomes fairly easy. There's also the jars which can hold fairy water and restores your hearts, plus also the ability to shoot from your sword and items to jump further, all of which makes things easier still. Finally, even if you die in a stage, there is no such thing as game over. You're simply placed back on the map with all the items you've collected so far in that stage. This was a brilliant move, since it means that no game time is ever a waste. If you play through an area only to die at the boss (I only ever found one boss to a major challenge), you'll still keep all the rupees and special items you've collected up to that point. This means it's possible to load the game up for fifteen minutes, dive right into a really difficult monster-filled area, kill a few brutes to rack up some rupees, then let yourself die so you can try a different stage. It ensures the gameplay remains painless.

Overall the atmosphere is one of a grand adventure, with great excitement as new and exotic areas open up. The first time you board the Viking longboat, or venture through the Harlequin Bazaar, is quite special. It feels satisfying as progress is made and, thanks to some beautiful backgrounds and unique music, makes for some memorable gaming. It baffles me how people could have such hatred for these games, and I can only assume that they've never reached later stages, or were blinded by Nintendo loyalty.

Examined in isolation from their source material, and acknowledging the inherent faults with the hardware, there isn't actually any complaint which can be raised against the raw design of the two games. They contain fun and unusual ideas, while making clever use of a well implemented item system (the feeding Glutko bombs puzzle is a personal favourite, and mimics the Grumble Grumble boss in the first Zelda).

Music

I love the music in this game, and if I could get decent recordings without sound effects I’d put them on my MP3 player. Again they try something different. Panpipes and middle-eastern music, and other non-conventional sounds. Maybe it’s a bit electronic in places, but it’s quite pleasant.

Listen to a few tracks of the soundtrack. I quite like Kobitan Village and Sakado Town. The overworld music is also fairly good. Sadly they don’t have the desert music.

People get so hung up about these being non-canon because Nintendo never made them. If that’s so, then Metroid Prime must be utterly rubbish because it was made in Texas (it’s not rubbish, just in case you were wondering, though I still prefer Super Metroid).

Ignore the Nintendo licensing, ignore the names of the characters, ignore the cinemas, and try to see the genuine quality in these titles. They’re really not that bad. Actually, they’re rather good fun if you have an open mind."

Credits: John Szczepaniak Screens: Quebec Gamers Source: Insert Credit

4 reacties:

Anonymous,  December 23, 2007 at 12:58 AM  

I've completed both these link and zelda games with the commander remote , basically the first CD-i games I finished. and I have to say I did enjoy playing through them. I consider them to be decent platform games nothing more or less.

Can't say the same about Zelda's Adventure though, it starts off looking like an interesting game with the FMV scenes. But the game plays horribly, extremely bad controls so you die all the time and you very quickly accumulate a large amount of useless items. Only passed the first boss and then I couldn't take it anymore...

Bas December 23, 2007 at 10:07 AM  

As with hte first two zelda games, I really enjoyed Zelda's Adventure on CD-i. I don't agree with you about those horrible controls. It's a very deep and epic game in my opinion. The only downside is the lack of hints so you not always know where to go next. Thankfully we've got the official Philips strategy guides and with the help of this guide I've played this games for hours and it was a lot of fun. Actually most items have a function but without anyone to tell you it's hard to guess ;) -

CopyCat April 2, 2012 at 3:33 PM  

Do you know where I can download the backgrounds? I've been searching for a site where I can download them but I've had no success. Thanks in advance.

Bas April 2, 2012 at 3:39 PM  

Unfortunately no... As you can see the links to the credits and source are dead now, which means he took them offline. I saved the originals to my own archive on Black Moon, but the owner, Devin, hasn't contacted me for over a year. So it's still there, but I can't access it right now...

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Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

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