LOZ CD Rom Games: How Did These Get Made?

Hey Hylians! I’m back! And I had one very important question in coming back…

Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon: HOW DID THESE GET MADE!?

I know the memes( I mean, we are named after one of them!), I know the ridiculous art style of the games, but I had never seen anyone play it until this year (thanks Game Grumps). And it made me realize something I didn’t know before I wrote a few key articles. Zelda DID have a lead role in a game! I should be ecstatic, right? After all, she DOES wear the pants. Sadly, it’s a game that makes the most sane hard core gamer want to rage quit.

I understand ROM games to be a very different medium seeing as it was an experimental game addition back in the day. But even so, you would think the Zelda franchise would have higher production value. Don’t get me wrong, there are some promising ideas hidden in the game play and plot such as the return of some of the classic minions like Wizzrobe, Iron Knuckle (who is the butt of jokes as his armor falls off), and Gibdos. The idea of Ganon using magic more than brute strength as he was in the games of that era is also nice to see despite being defeated by a simple spell book.

But for late 1993, this game could have been executed much cleaner. Most of the issues I have lie in the audio, animation, and mechanics departments. Horrible voice recordings, bad sync match ups with dialogue and animation, insane art development for the animations, and did I mention the bugs? Somewhat repetitive and frustrating, this game has me signing in relief when it’s finally over. Unlike Zelda 2, however, the choppy and somewhat horrific visuals will stay with me in nightmares. For a production company called Animation Magic, the magic is all in the name and nothing more. 

For game critics of the time, the visuals were “brilliant” and high resolution with amazing animated sequences and I can see where they would have thought that for the time where as I am seeing the dated works for the first time in an age where Virtual Reality is the new frontier.  To be fair to the game, the look of it on a side scroll/ plat former is much more interesting and somewhat beautiful compared to Zelda 2 and even Link To The Past. It’s got color variation, doesn’t have a level up mechanic, and hey, look! A GIRL! But for comparison, consider what came out that same year: Doom, Star Fox, Myst, and Super Mario All Stars. These Zelda games could have rated up there with the game giants of the time if they only had the support and budget. So what happened?

Well, bad business happened. Nintendo made a deal with Sony to develop and CD console system, but then broke that agreement to partner up with Phillips. Don’t shed any tears for Sony, however; the designs they came up with would eventually become the Playstation. So Nintendo was going to call it the SNES-CD as an add on for the super Nintendo, and, well, they started to have doubts when they saw their main competition hit a major downfall with their version called the Sega Mega CD. “So what?” I thought in discovering this. “Finish the job and make it so successful that you dominate that market!” But even then, any risk was too big a risk in the video game industry. Nintendo would continue with it, but pull back the whole development should they feel the need to abandon ship. This was the first big problem.

The second big problem was the expectations: $600,000 and one year. That’s all the developers were given. This could only afford them four developers, four animators flown in from Russia thanks to the fall of the Berlin Wall, one musician, and a freelance writer for the team based in Massachusetts. They were so strapped that they looked to local AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio) performers to do the voices. And if that’s the best Cambridge, Mass. had to offer for voice talent, then I will keep in mind never to hire from that state.

After reading about the obstacles to have these games produced, I want to slap Nintendo executives upside the forehead and ask them if they had a V8 today. No wonder these projects were a train wreck! But I give the development team a huge heap of credit because they made it despite their restrictions. Was the end result great? No. But it certainly made an impression on release and for today’s gamers digging back through classic titles. Even back then, these games were the newest innovation for the industry; something different that would inspire game developers to think outside the basic confines of a side scroller.

Adding variety to the market by betting some chips on new technology seems like a solid move. But the original conception of the Zelda based CD-I games started in 1989 and finally finished in 1993. Five years they had to make something smooth and clean, like a delicious chocolate mousse. If only Nintendo invested in high quality ingredients. Instead, it gave its dedicate chefs a measly budget, a insane cut-off date, and stopped the cash slow out of preemptive fear that it wouldn’t work anyways. So in the end, the mousse is chunky and though it’s brown, it sure isn’t chocolate. But I promise you, the aftertaste will last decades.

“But the industry has gotten better about funding and processing major projects” you may be thinking. I would too for the sake of quality over time and being an optimistic player. Then again, people still can’t shut up about games Spore, No Man’s Sky, and We Happy Few, and not for good reasons…

If you want a good laugh or are curious as to what others thought of the games, google “Wand of Gamelon” images. A couple of fans parodied the art style, made 3D renders, and have even cosplayed to the game’s characters. I don’t blame them on the cosplay. Pants are a lot more comfy than a regal gown.

Dany Best

Dany Best

Dany Best is a content contributor to The Hyrule Herald and one of the founding managers.

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