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Saturday, 04 March 2006 16:03
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Review

By Kao

In the early 90's, Nintendo went to hardware manufacturer Philips for help in making a CD drive expansion for their SNES console. Though these plans eventually fell through, Philips did manage to retain licenses to the Legend of Zelda series. In 1993 Philips Interactive Media published Zelda: Wand of Gamelon, and Link: Faces of Evil, two Zelda-based games that were created by developer Animation Magic and were somewhat in the sidescrolling style of Nintendo's own Adventure of Link. Later, in 1995, Philips Interactive Media published a third game, Zelda's Adventure, which was developed by Viridis Corporation, and was in the overhead style of gameplay that most 2D Zelda games use. Nintendo had absolutely no influence or oversight on these projects, and these games are not recognized as being part of the Zelda series in any way.

In Faces of Evil, Ganon and his minions have seized the island of Koridai and are enslaving its inhabitants. The anxious Link rushes off to battle Ganon, but while he's away, Zelda is put under a sleeping spell and imprisoned in Ganon's Lair. Link must battle his way through the Faces of Evil, huge face-like rock formations leading into dark, underground dungeons.

Faces of Evil and its fellow CD-I Zelda games are often scoffed at by Zelda fans for being incredibly sub-par to what a Zelda game should be. The games are only loosely based on the characters of the Zelda series, and honestly, the game would be the exact same experience if these characters were replaced by others. Additionally, the CD-I machine and its various controllers were really not conducive to the play control of these games, and the player often feels they are wrestling with the controls. But one of the most-cited reasons people dislike these games are their many poorly animated cutscenes which were done overseas by a Russian animation studio using what appears to be MS Paint. When I first played these games, I was fairly young, and the extremely low quality of these animations didn't really bother me then. But now, looking back, I can admit that they are truly horiffic creations.

Despite their shortcoming and obvious failure as Zelda titles, these games actually make decent sidescrolling action adventure games. Each game features 70 play fields with beautifully illustrated background paintings done by Rob Dunlavey and Tom Curry. Additionally, these games feature great new age soundtracks composed by Tony Trippi. They are fairly challenging games, filled with monsters, bosses, treasures, and plenty of levels to unlock. Faces of Evil is actually a bit harder to complete than its counterpart, Wand of Gamelon, which features Zelda as the main playable character. I'm guessing this game was seen as being more aimed at the male gamer, and therefore it could be made more difficult than a game like Wand of Gamlone which was designed to also appeal to the easily overwhelmed female gamer (sarcasm). Decent enough games to stand on their own feet, I sometimes wonder if Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon would have perhaps been better recieved had they not used the Zelda license.

Still, this game has plenty of faults. A lot of the challenge of Faces of Evil comes from trying to master the sluggish controls. Adding to the confusion and frustration is the sometimes hit-or-miss nature of the platforms in the levels. It's not uncommon to try to make a jump to what you think is another patch of solid ground, only to find that it's just a background detail, and you end up falling to your death. The overly cheesy and poorly communicated Russian cutscene animations don't help this game either.

It's hard for me to suggest this title to other gamers, considering they'd have to go on eBay and try to purchase a CD-I player and a copy of this game just to play it. Emulation of the CD-I has recently popped up, but even this you must pay for and have a physical copy of the original game first. But despite its faults, this game shouldn't be scoffed at and disgarded as it has been. The soundtrack is stellar, and the background paintings are absolutely beautiful. The game itself is a fairly decent sidescrolling action adventure.