There’s a certain level of attention to detail that makes the Zelda franchise memorable. The setting, plot, and characters just have a relatable “human” feel to them. I believe that a large part of this is due to the strong presence of cultural references. The world’s heritage, especially in its Eastern and/or ancient forms, pops up everywhere in Nintendo’s Zelda games; Keatons display Nintendo’s Japanese roots as the manifestation of the many-tailed kitsunes, Epona borrows her name from the Celtic god of horses, and the desert areas take influence from Middle Eastern cultures. In sharing this vast wealth of inspiration from various cultures, the CD-i games show no dearth. There is, in fact, a strong Western influence acting upon these entries in the series.
The large, green-mound enemy with just one eye from Faces of Evil resembles an ancient Grecian Cyclops. Perhaps his gluttonous character design was based off of Polyphemus, an antagonist from Homer’s The Odyssey who ate many of Odysseus’s men.
This wolf-girl from Faces of Evil is more than likely influenced by Roman culture. “Lupa” is the Latin word for a female wolf. Romulus and Remus, before founding Rome, were taken in by one such she-wolf; that’s a kind of power you’d expect to find in one of Link’s enemies.
This Faces of Evil character may have some derivation from Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen. In the fairy tale, the Snow Queen is described as such: “[Her clothes were] made of millions of little star-shaped snowflakes. She was beautiful but all made of ice: cold, blindingly glittering ice…” The color of the Ice Queen’s skin and the harshness in her gaze call back to this short description.
The clothes, the mug of beer, and the color of his clothes/skin immediately make this Faces of Evil character distinctly Irish.
A skeleton warrior in Faces of Evil, he has armor resembling that of a Roman legionnaire or Grecian soldier. Sleepy Bones calls back to the spartoí, warriors which sprang from the Earth fully grown and armored. In some versions of mythology, the spartoí that Jason and Cadmus created by sewing dragon’s teeth were, like Sleepy Bones, undead.
The Royal Retainer
Better known as Fari by fans, this character from The Wand of Gamelon is a Spaniard. Just look at his clothes!
This character from The Wand of Gamelon is in a very fashionable, eighteenth-century Western Europe get-up. That wig is the very height of sophistication.
The CD-i games do a fantastic job of continuing the Zelda legacy and portraying cultural heritage. The diversity of Western influences here adds greatly to the human experience of the games. Can you think of any other characters from the CD-i games that show cultural influence?