It’s usually true that style over substance ends up being bad in games, but when it comes to the Zelda’s CD-i entries…oh boy. They’re so deprived of style that it’s no wonder they’ve become meme-worthy. While the gameplay is notoriously clunky, it’s nothing compared to the crime that is the infamous cutscenes. The sad thing is if they were from an edutainment game or a 90s cartoon, it’d be forgivable — possibly even charming — but to have this in a Zelda game is what makes it so gross. Looking at it for CD-i month, it got me thinking about just how much style does matter and led me to some interesting CD-i fan art.

CD-i Month is a month-long “celebration” of (or an excuse to poke fun at) the “unholy Triforce” of Zelda games: Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda’s Adventure. These games were released for the Philips CD-i console in the mid-‘90s with Nintendo’s blessing… much to their regret, and now they pretend that they don’t exist. Throughout the month we’ll explore how they came to be, what they did right, what they did wrong (a lot), and their impact on the Zelda community. In short, we want to laugh with — or maybe laugh at — these relics of the past.

Breath of the Wild…but CD-i?

This first, amusing piece (found on reddit) imagines what a scene from Breath of the Wild would look like if it was in the CD-i style. To me, it perfectly sums up how the crude, soulless art style is impossible to take seriously. Even Link’s inappropriate grin seems to mock how tone-deaf the CD-i games are. The style simply could not pull off a scene as emotive as the one from Breath of the Wild.

zelda cd-i botw

The Faces of Evil: Reimagined

This Faces of Evil scene recreated by BlueLink is adorable and just goes to show how a bit of TLC can make your character designs actually look appealing and give them some life. The black and white manga style makes it even look like official artwork, perhaps from an alternate universe where the CD-i games were produced properly and not shunned by Eiji Aonuma himself.

zelda cd-i recreated by bluelink

I think this comparison also highlights the fact that the flat, awkward artwork from the CD-i games’ cutscenes lack the ability to convey any actual believable emotions or reactions, whether from facial or body language. They’re textbook uncanny valley. To clarify, the uncanny valley refers to the unpleasant feeling when something that resembles a human almost looks, emotes, and behaves in a relatable, predictable way, but is not quite right. This is especially because of the eyes, and is why eyes in artwork are often stylised — to be different enough to not trigger the uncanny but to still capture relatable emotions. Well, suffice it to say that BlueLink’s recreation is a perfect example of stylising done right.

The Wind Waker art style: less controversial than CD-i.

The last bit of fan art I found is SamuraiFerret’s (Jay Baylis’) reimagining of a couple of CD-i characters in The Wind Waker’s art style. What a world of difference! While the original CD-i designs are ugly, jagged messes with unpleasant, dirty colours, SamuraiFerret’s recreations are calligraphic, clean, creative designs, with pleasant pastel colours and subtle shading. They’re actually nice to look at! While there are many sinful aspects of the CD-i games, I reckon they would have been much more tolerable if the games were in this art style, or similar.

zelda cd-i wind waker style samuraiferret

zelda cd-i original

But alas, all we got was the infamous, unsightly designs that the internet “memeifies” and we, here at Zelda Universe, poke fun at every year — And so it shall always be.