As a young lad, I was more than a little fascinated with The Legend of Zelda. That universe was the coolest thing to me, and anything that had anything to do with it was super-cool in my book. Yes, even the weekly episodes of Zelda that aired every Friday as part of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. I made up my own new Zelda games, I ran around the house saying "Well excuuuuuuuuse me, princess" and I was even Link for Halloween. (Though most people thought I was Peter Pan). One fateful Sunday morning, I came downstairs to find my sister watching an infomercial for some fancy futuristic device called the Philips CD-i. Clearly, she was enthralled by it because she kept talking about how CDs were the future, and that the two of us needed to work together to convince our parents to buy us one. This was her second viewing of the infomercial, since it played back to back/ I thought it looked pretty cool too, but I wasn't entirely convinced. Then she told me that the new Zelda game was only on CD-i. A new Zelda game? Surely she was mistaken.This wasn't a Nintendo system, how could there be a new Zelda game on it? She told me to stick around until the end of the infomercial, and sure enough, there it was. Link: Faces of Evil. My sister's mission had become mine as well. Our parents NEEDED to buy us a CD-i.
Face of evil indeed
Despite our best efforts, and our insistence that they watch the entire infomercial with us the following week, our parents were not convinced of the brilliance of the CD-i. Turns out that they were very right in their decision to not buy it for us, as the CD-i isn't exactly what most people would consider "good." However, I now knew that there was an actual Zelda game out there that I couldn't play. I turned my attention to video game magazines to try and find out if Faces of Evil would ever come to Super NES or whatever Project Reality was, and I learned that there wasn't just 1, but 3 new Zelda games that were CD-i exclusives! I was crushed. The first screenshots of Zelda 64 were still at least a year away, and honestly, a new Zelda II-style game sounded really great to me at the time. (Heck, it still sounds pretty great now!) But alas, it wasn't meant to be. Turns out nobody I knew had a CD-i either, so Link: Faces of Evil, Zelda: Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda's Adventure remained in my imagination as fascinating relics. Images from the infomercial as well as screen shots from a few game magazines were my only insight into what these marvels actually held. By the time I was old enough to have my own money and buy my own stuff, the CD-i had vanished from store shelves, along with all of its software, and my hopes to ever learn about the Faces of Evil.
In retrospect, this isn't all that impressive. But at the time, my imagination went nuts with pictures like this.
But then one day, while working at the local FuncoLand, a rather unpleasant customer walked through my door. This guy walked right up to the counter, plunked an extremely heavy box down in front of me, and said he wanted to trade his games in. I opened up the unsuspecting cardboard box, and what did I see? A Philips CD-i unit! Now, FuncoLand didn't carry CD-i, so technically, I was supposed to turn this guy away. But, since I had always wanted one of these monstrosities, I struck a deal with him then and there, and paid him cash for his CD-i along with its games. He was a pretty surly gentleman, and he wanted a lot of money for the thing, but with the help of my store manager at the time, we talked him down to a reasonable price. He left unhappy, but I wound up with my very own CD-i console, wireless controller, and 5 discs. None of which were the Zelda games. But I was one step closer to living my dream, so I counted my acquisition as a victory.
A game about closing doors? Absurd!
It would be years before I came in contact with another CD-i game, and even more before I landed any of the Zelda games. I had made my way to a local video game convention called the Philly Classic (now known as TooManyGames) looking to get my hands on a copy of Contra III: The Alien Wars for Super NES. While I was there looking for a good deal, I came across a copy of Hotel Mario, which I scooped up as quickly as I could. I asked the vendor if he had any of the Zelda games, but he told me that he rarely saw them around, and that when he did, they were very expensive. Still, I finally had a CD-i game I was genuinely interested in playing, so I left a satisfied customer. See, the discs I got with my CD-i weren't exactly what I would call engaging. There was Alien Gate, which is an absolutely awful vertical shooter, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds, Kether, which is... umm... an experience..., Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which is literally just the movie on a CD, and Stickybear Reading, which I'm clearly not the audience for. But now, I had a Mario game, and I could properly put this system through its paces.
Truth be told, Hotel Mario isn't a terrible game. It reminds me a little of Wrecking Crew, except with terrible music, and gameplay that centers around closing doors for some reason. But unlike my other games, this one was actually kind of fun. It also showed me beyond any shadow of a doubt that if I was ever going to be able to play the Zelda games, I was going to need a controller.
Not exactly the ideal controller for, well, anything really.
The CD-i had several controllers available for it while it was on the market. There was the TV Remote looking thing that was shown off in the infomercial, the kids controller (also from the infomercial), this dumb-ass wand thing, and 2 different styles of traditional game controllers. My CD-i came with the dumb-ass wand thing. And let me tell you, trying to control anything with this piece of trash is an exercise in frustration. Still, I had my Mario game, and that was something. Now I just had to keep my eyes open so that I could finally play those Zelda games. Little did I know it would take an extraordinarily lucky trip to a game store, a hurricane, a strange man from The Bronx, some French instructions, a Super NES controller, and someone who goes by the name "The Fat Man," to finally get there.
To be continued...