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Zelda Games on the Philips CD-i (wikipedia.org)
38 points by tosh on Sept 20, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 51 comments

Years and years ago (~2006-2007), after one of my many Wikipedia rabbit-hole nights, I stumbled upon the CD-i, and consequently the Zelda CD-i games. I immediately had to find an emulator, and play Faces of Evil, and I couldn't stop laughing once cut-scenes started playing.

I took my video camera, pointed it at my monitor (my computer was too slow for desktop capture), and sent the video to my friends, and it became a bit of a meme that we'd send each other. If I had only had the foresight to upload it to YouTube, I could have been the person responsible for the "My boy!" memes.

The games suffer from awful controls, but I actually did manage to complete Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon...there is a bit of fun to be had playing them, though you'd be better off finding one of the Link to the Past romhacks at this point if you want some more Zelda action.

You don't even need a romhack for Link to the Past now, it's available on the SNES virtual console for Switch. It's free aside from the cost of the Switch.

A romhack typically implies an edit of the original. The original is just called a 'rom', while a 'romhack' might include a different map, story, mechanics, etc.

The link to the past randomizer is a fairly notable romhack for link to the past that randomizes the locations of all items in the game. Another mashes up Super Metroid and Link to the Past, causing certain doors to travel between the games, collecting items in one that are accessible in the other. (E.g. you might find the bow and arrow in Norfair, or the Varia Suit in a dungeon.)

> Another mashes up Super Metroid

You just reminded me that there's supposed to be a good entirely fan-made Metroid SNES rom out there that I wanted to look at a few years ago but entirely forgot about. It's AM2R[1] if I'm remembering correctly. Thanks for that!

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AM2R

AM2R is awesome, but it's actually not a ROM (in the interest in pedantry). It's a fan-made game, and AFAIK it's not able to be played on SNES.

My favorite romhack is https://alttpr.com/en (A Link to the Past Randomizer). It basically takes your rom and swaps the location of all items in chests, pendants / crystals, and can even swap enemies, keys in dungeons (for cross dungeon shenanigans) and entrances.

So I much prefer the romhack to the original now, given my familiarity. Now if only I could play it on the switch...

Edit: a recent playthrough had me without the bow for much of the game. A different one had me start without my sword and I got through a dungeon before finding it. Fun times.

A Link to the Past randomizer is easily the most popular randomizer, but there are now many more randomized games. There are other Zelda games like Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker, and there are non zelda games like Final Fantasy and Castlevania Symphony of the Night.

This is becoming a bit of a trend in classic gaming speed runs. Multiple people will play the same "seed" or arrangement of items/characters and you can watch them race on Twitch or even at live gaming events. In some games the top non-hack gamers have crossed over and spend significant effort playing the randomized version of their favorite game. While there is an element of luck in this game format, the best players tend to consistently rank high in tournaments so skill is a large factor.

Of course, the legality of this is highly questionable. Most people that play A Link To The Past Randomizer do not have a legal copy of the v1.0 Japanese game the hack operates on. For those that do their license would allow them to make a rom, but would it allow them to make modifications to that rom and upload gameplay videos online for profit?

Some game developers have noticed this trend. For example, Cadence of Hyrule (2019) plays similarly to A Link to the Past Randomizer in that key items are distributed randomly across the game. They even call a specific item distribution a "seed" which is terminology borrowed from the randomizer community.

It's easy to ignore this trend in gaming because it's not very large like loot boxes or two tier currencies and it doesn't have a marketing budget. It is however a fun grassroots movement branching out from people's love of classic games.

"They even call a specific item distribution a "seed" which is terminology borrowed from the randomizer community."

Random number generators have been getting "seeded" for decades now; that terminology may well predate video games entirely, though I can't prove that either way with an HN comment's worth of effort. Probably originates from a "seed crystal" in chemistry, which goes back even farther.

Oh, definitely. But even for randomly generated games that term doesn't usually get surfaced (with the notable exception of minecraft). So I think it getting surfaced more often is a sort of a sign of influence from the randomizer community

I wonder how it ensures that the game can be completed. My guess is that someone worked out every 'lock' with it's 'key' (be it an actual boss key for the boss dungeon, bombs for an item behind a broken wall) and then the randomizer has to swap out items anytime a key is found behind it's own lock. Maybe it is even possible to allow for play troughs that are winnable but where some items are inaccessible.

The randomizer has detailed knowledge of which items are required (or sufficient!) to make progress in the game, and will assemble the game in such a way as to make everything accessible.

Here's a user-level overview of how it works:


And here's the source:


I'm partial to Parallel Worlds myself; so much of it is new, that it just feels like a brand new Zelda game, not just a modification.

I think I didn't explain myself very well, so I apologize; I meant that if you've already exhausted one of the mainline Zelda games (which you probably have if you're looking at the Zelda CD-i games), then I would recommend one of the many many many fan romhacks out there that add new levels and characters. Emulating a CD-i is kind of a pain in the ass...installing romhack patches is too, but at least if you choose one of the more popular romhacks you'll at least get something decent.

I've spent many hours playing Zelda Classic (zeldaclassic.com) quests. I wish Nintendo would release an official version of something like this like they did with Super Mario Maker.

It's not free; you have to pay for Switch Online monthly or yearly.

If you have Twitch Prime, you can get up to a year for free but only through Tuesday.

I remember playing one of these games. It was super cool that you got to play as Zelda, but the controls where so unresponsive and awful. That ruined most of the experience. The graphics where very different then the competitors. That was also pretty cool. Think we borrowed the player from someone else for a couple of weeks. Thinks we knew more about the cd I because of my Dutch roots (philps). Also the console/video player was incredibly expressive at the time.

While these games have become infamous for the hilariously bad animation quality, the studio that did them continued to do work for the videogame industry. They were contracted out to do the animation for the ill-fated Warcraft Adventures game by Blizzard:


Though the game was never released, someone leaked a copy years later, and playthroughs were subsequently uploaded online:


They also worked on IM Meen and its sequel, which retained a lot of the art style from the Zelda CD-i game animations (and garned some of the same internet infamy as a result).

Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans is around to be found still, pretty cool

Slightly OT. Whilst the CD-i was a poor seller and far from the best gaming console of its generation it had the best digital video playback of any platform on the market thanks to its excellent MPEG-1 decoding add-on.

PCs did have MPEG accelerator cards available but these were niche and expensive. The Philips CD-i offered this for less and in a convenient VCR type form factor - pitching itself as a premium Video-CD player with gaming thrown in.

This was important at the time since full motion video games like The 7th Guest and Rebel Assault were very popular. Some of these titles debuted on the CD-i and indeed offered the best experience there, better than even the PC by quite some margin.

I remember my jaw dropping when I played The 7th Guest on my friend's Philips CD-i. It was smooth as silk vs the jerky PC version.

Other titles like Space Ace and of course Burn Cycle were also incredibly impressive. Basically any game with heavy video elements played to the strengths of the CD-i in a pretty big way.

As gaming graphics started to improve FMV games became less popular and with DVD on the horizon the CD-i came to a dead end.

Never heard of the CD-i is there an emulator out there? Also is this the last time Nintendo made a game for a console they didn't own?

Mario Teaches Typing 2 was released in 1996 for PC and Mac. There are the mobile games for ios/android. And I saw an article that they were going to release some older (emulated) titles for nvidia shield in China.

Up to you how much of that counts.


I remember the CDi as an awful platform. My friend parents got one bundled when buying a big paper encyclopedia that came also with some "interactive content" CDs. Some sort of Encarta precursor.

So, from what I can recall right now, for interactive/video/hypertext content for that "encyclopedia" style stuff wasn't that bad. For games, at least with the selection my friend had at home, was awful, and we rather play with his Nes/Famicom clone.

There is, but Nintendo didn't make these games. As a consequence, they're pretty awful.

However, we did get some of my favorite quotes out of it for the past few decades: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN8-Pdz-ns8

My wife and I often say 'I guess I better get going!' and 'How about a kiss, for luck?' to each other

Then when she leaves the home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBC-2y6C8xU

Squadala we're off!

I mean, they're no end to it. I've played them a minor amount, and couldn't stand them at all (they're in the 2d side scrolling style but just... janky for lack of a better word,) but these cutscenes will live forever for us.

"I wonder what's for dinner."

"I just saved you from Ganon!" "You did not!"

"Oh boy! I can't wait to bomb some Dodongos!"

"Great! I'll grab my stuff!"

Monster: "You killed me!!!" Zelda: "Good!"

has always been one of my favorite. I used to occasionally take audio samples from the game and put them as texting and ring tones on my phone, back when people did such things.

ALSO, look on youtube for the I.M. Meen PC game...the animation is made by the same studio [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I.M._Meen

Well, they're making phone games these days, and they made a bunch of edutainment PC games in the 90s (Mario Teaches Typing, Mario is Missing, etc.).

They didn't make the CD-i games. They did license out Zelda for it, though. The CD-i is a bit of a mess. There are YouTube videos of the games, they're quite atrocious :) There's also Hotel Mario [1] and the unreleased Super Mario's Wacky Worlds [2] on the CD-i as well.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_Mario [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Mario%27s_Wacky_Worlds

Nintendo released Pokemon games for the Sega Pico as recently as 2004. https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Sega_Pico

You're better off watching the cutscenes on youtube, the game is truly terrible.

Also the CD-i focused on "interactive media" rather than what most would consider a good game. Hulk Hogan's "Thunder in Paradise" was a companion game to go along with his TV show. Youtuber SuperGreatFriend has a good playthrough of it. It looks awful.

The FMV-era is something that's more fun now than it was in the 90's I think; there seems to be a near-endless supply of these low-budget movie games, and the combination of terrible acting, cheap special effects, and over the top writing actually makes them incredibly fun to play on a so-bad-its-good level.

Honestly, even Thunder in Paradise has its moments if you play it with a group of friends to laugh at. As somewhat of a bad-movie lover, I actually have a more modern appreciation for the crap on the CD-i.

Fun to watch, frustrating to play. That's why I'd recommend the youtube versions of these. There are parts in Thunder in Paradise that look nearly impossible with the Phillips CD-i controller, and I think you'd need the rarer Phillips CD-i keyboard and mouse, or a PS/2 compatible set (but not sure on that)

Despite that, yes the FMV stuff is hilarious, though I think there are better options for DOS/PC rather than trying to bother with the CD-i which seems to be difficult to find in working order.

I mean, the CD-i is pretty difficult to get for a reasonable price legit, but it's not terribly difficult to emulate, and while watching cutscenes on YouTube is fun, you really need to play the game to get the most cringe-enjoyment.

If you emulate, it's then relatively easy to get any controller you want working.

Not sure how much he paid for it, but my brother actually bought one of these travesties online not that long ago, so he could get the "real" experience playing these games on it. It looks like a VCR but feels like a lead brick to lift.

> Also is this the last time Nintendo made a game for a console they didn't own?

Nintendo has released several mobile games in recent years. They didn't develop them—but then, Nintendo didn't develop these CD-i games either.

I have a strange memory about these games. Whenever I was a kid I was looking through some boxes and found a bunch of my older video game magazines. I saw an ad in GamePro for these games and Philips CD-i. I was shocked! How could I have missed multiple Zelda games being released on a console that used CDs? Why had I never heard of this? I am pretty sure that this would have been in 1998/1999 or so, but the magazine was much older.

It had a 1-800 number, which I called immediately to see if they were still selling the games and the system. Someone answered and they were still selling them, but I seem to remember the price being pretty high despite the age of the games and the system. Soon after I must have searched on the internet and discovered that it was mainly a system for edutainment games and lost interest.

Now I have to go look to see if there are any GamePro scans in the Internet Archive that have that ad.

Not all of the Nintendo titles were bad though: I loved Hotel Mario.

It also had cringeworthy cut-scenes though :)


edit (unrelated): Steel Machine was a decent shooter. I recently found some background info about the game and how it was like to develop for the CD-i at the time.


Oh man, I wanted the CD-i so badly because they had this infomercial and showed watching movies on CD, which was very exciting to a 10 or 11 year old me.

Very grateful my mom ignored me and and my protestations that we get one because if we had adopted this thing, I know the battle to get a DVD player in 1998 would have been way harder (even then, I had to get it as a DVD-ROM on the computer I got for Christmas and had to buy the stand-alone player myself in 1999 once I turned 16 and had a job).

Also, these games are complete trash. But this partnership was historically very interesting.

One of my buddies at Zeldathon (https://zeldathon.net) holds the World Record in Zelda's Adventure Any%... It's so crazy to see them play it, on a real console, and fast. https://www.speedrun.com/Zeldas_Adventure#Any 1:12:56 for that game is crazy fast.

We still own a CD-i and Faces of Evil. I never could beat it just due to how awful the controls were. There were a few other games we had for the CD-i that were legitimately enjoyable. The Wacky World of Miniature Golf and Mystic Midway: Rest in Pieces were both fun games.

Every once in a while when I'm visiting home, we'll break it out for a round of mini golf!

To this day I still do the sound effect of the skeletons that floating up the screen as my go-to "spooky noise". What a fun game. Burn:Cycle was my #1, followed closely by Escape from Cyber City. The CD-i did have some really fun stuff.

Zelda... nope.

In one fell swoop, Nintendo brought to pass both the PlayStation and the Zelda CD-i games. They would never live it down.

Sort of random and not everyone's style of humor but here is someone who used the poorly acted CD-i sound bites to troll people in the Ventrilo App:


I'm surprised that Nintendo has not yet re-released The Legend of Zelda (Zelda 1 from 1986) with updated graphics. It seems as if all the re-releases for the various platforms including Nintendo Switch are just emulators for the NES version.

Technically, BS Zelda no Densetsu [1] is a re-release with updated graphics, but I see your point. I believe Zelda 1 & 2 gameplay do not translate well to modern audiences, so it's easier to just re-release them in their original form instead of merely updating textures or going for an all-new remake. Link's Awakening was a much fitter candidate for the latter.

By the way, the Oracle games were originally intended to be a remake of Zelda 1 [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellaview_games_from_The_Leg... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legend_of_Zelda:_Oracle_of...

If the Link’s Awakening remake does well, I could see it happening

Which was just released today and is currently being downloaded at my house.

Well they kinda did. They released it on the Satellaview:


Unfortunately, said game never got released anywhere else, meaning the one time we got a 16-bit version of the original Zelda game, it was on a Japan only service that's long been discontinued.

Can it be emulated?

I feel like Zelda 1 & 2 have some dead ends that would be really frustrating. Maybe if it was a true remake, not just a reskin or something.

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