There are a lot of great series and developers, but not everything that comes from them is a gem. Road Bumps is a column that will focus on the games that are just plain bad or didn’t quite get everything right from a revered game series or developer. It will cover anything from bad games, to decent games with a big design flaw, bad decisions overall, and more. The first in this series, will take a look at The Legend of Zelda. Yes, not everything with Link on the cover of it is gold.
Lets begin with the short-lived relationship between Nintendo and Phillips that brought us three abominations starring Link andor Zelda. These three games were released for the Phillips CD-i: Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda’s Adventure. Nintendo loves to pretend that these games don’t exist and for very good reason. The games are infamously bad and chances are if you’re a Zelda fan that you’ve heard of them from somewhere(but likely not played due to the prices they go for on auction sites, the CD-i(and games) goes for quite a bit due to a low print run as the console didn’t survive for long) but here’s an overview for those who haven’t.
Link: The Faces of Evil takes the game play style as first seen in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link(which Nintendo themselves never returned to, sticking to the overhead style for their 2D Zelda games). All of the action is done in 2D as Link destroys baddies walking left and right in stead in the normal overhead view for the series. A lot of people didn’t like Zelda II for that reason, but at least that game was well made. The Faces of Evil does just about everything poorly with cheesy and poorly done animated cut scenes, poor hit detention, bad item management, confusing level design, and more. All of that is made even worse since the controls are kind of awkward. The game would actually be recommended just for how bad it is if it were easy to come by. The story isn’t any better due to bad writing and poor representation of the characters(for one Link talks, and any Legend of Zelda fan knows he’s a mute).
Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon has the player controlling Zelda as Link needs rescuing this time around. The Wand of Gamelon has the same game play style as The Faces of Evil and brings most of the problems back with it. These two games are by far not the worst ever made, but for games with Zelda or Link stamped on they become much worse by comparison. Either way they aren’t really worth playing as they are still very mediocre by any standards, unless one really wants to see how bad a Zelda game could be. The animated scenes are definitely worth a watch though for a laugh or two. Both games really needed a higher budget and more development time as both were rushed to be released on the same day.
Zelda’s Adventure was released less than a year for the third Zelda game to grace the CD-i. Zelda’s Adventure went for an overhead approach that more resembles The Legend of Zelda series but ruins it with poorly done graphics and FMV cut scenes. The FMV scenes can be mistaken for any cheesy generic fantasy and barely resembles anything Zelda related. The game play itself just gets fairly boring and it can be hard to distinct objects and such due to the poor graphics. This one also brought some long loading times with it. Between those problems and too much trial and error, makes Zelda’s Adventure the worst of the three games and isn’t really any good by any standards, Zelda or not.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was actually a fun game but deserves a mention to one big questionable design choice. One Gamecube, and four Gameboy Advances(as well as link cables) were needed to get the most enjoyment possible from the game. This made it really hard for a lot of people to get into. It’s now a free 3DS game though, so Nintendo has mostly made up for it. Either way though, in a series that doesn’t have constant spin-offs(like Mario), Nintendo could have made this one into a new IP as it doesn’t really fit into the Zelda series very well. There is no story to speak of though, so it’s easily fine to pass on for those not multiplayer as the game isn’t really worth playing alone.
Link’s Crossbow Training was a Wii game packaged with the Wii Zapper in which both game and the accessory fell short. The Wii Zapper had it’s own problems and was short lived. Link’s Crossbow Training was somewhat fun but the controls could’ve been better(faulted both to the game and the Zapper). Aside from that it is also extremely short and mostly boring. It didn’t really do much as either a Zelda game or a shooter. There are much better options on the Wii for both(Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, House of the Dead, and Resident Evil Umbrella/Darkside Chronicles).
The last game deserving of mention here, is a handheld adventure for the DS, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Phantom Hourglass did a lot of things right from the intuitive touch controls and nice looking graphics but there was one thing it couldn’t get down, the pacing. The culprits here are the titled item, the Phantom Hourglass, and The Temple of the Ocean King. The dungeon may not be completed in one shot, so as Link gains new items and abilities, the dungeon must be returned to several times. Due to this large portions must be traveled to several times and makes the game a bit of a chore to play through.
The Phantom Hourglass is still decent but this big flaw keeps it from standing up to the best in the series. Overall the game was also just to easy. Repeating same parts of the dungeon didn’t make it more challenging, just tedious. The sequel, Spirit Tracks wasn’t exactly as great as the handheld Zelda games that came before but it was better than Phantom Hourglass and is just good enough to not deserve a spot here. It might be a remake, but Ocarina of Time 3D shows that the next three-dimensional Zelda handhelds have hope of being a whole lot better.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda is an excellent series. But any series that has been going for over twenty years is bound to have some road bumps. That’s it for The Legend of Zelda, next month we’ll take a look at another series.