Zelda's Adventure

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Zelda's Adventure
Box art for Zelda's Adventure
Developer(s)Viridis Corporation
Publisher(s)Philips Interactive Media
Director(s)Anna Roth
Designer(s)Lee Barnes
Christopher Thompson
SeriesThe Legend of Zelda
Platform(s)Philips CD-i

Zelda's Adventure is an action-adventure fantasy video game developed by Viridis Corporation and released on the CD-i format, based on The Legend of Zelda franchise. Set in the land of Tolemac ("Camelot" spelled backwards), the game follows a non-traditional storyline, in which Link has been captured by the evil lord Ganon, and Zelda must collect the seven celestial signs in order to rescue him.

Released nearly eight months after the first two Zelda CD-i games, Zelda's Adventure uses a different game engine from Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon. Whereas the first two CD-i games were patterned on the side-scrolling Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Zelda's Adventure took the top-down The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, and Link's Awakening as its models. Zelda's Adventure is the only Legend of Zelda game to feature live-action cutscenes. Reception for the game was negative, and whereas some critics have given more nuanced reviews of the first two games, Zelda's Adventure is regarded as one of the worst video games ever made.


Gameplay screenshot

Unlike the previous two CD-i Zelda games, which take the side-scrolling view from Zelda II, Zelda's Adventure is played with the overhead view found in The Legend of Zelda.[3] Playing as Princess Zelda, the aim is to fight through the Seven Shrines of the Underworld to collect the celestial signs, and bring the land of Tolemac to an Age of Lightness.[3][4]

Unlike the other two games, Zelda's Adventure was created by Viridis, an entirely different company, with a change in style and gameplay.[3][4] Level design is very much like the original The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past, with an overworld that allows access to individual dungeons.[4][5] The FMV sequences that present the plot are live action instead of animated.[5]


Ganon has kidnapped Link and stolen the seven celestial signs, creating an "Age of Darkness" in the kingdom of Tolemac (Camelot spelled backwards).[6] Princess Zelda (Diane Burns, Annie Ward) is recruited by the court astrologer Gaspra (Mark Andrade) to collect the signs to defeat Ganon and save Link.[7]

Guided by the words of Shurmak, Zelda must first travel through the forest to the Shrine of Rock,[8] where she encounters Llort, a greedy minion of Ganon who protects the first celestial sign.[9] Gaspra appears to congratulate Zelda and direct her to the Shrine of Illusion where she faces Pasquinade to earn the second celestial sign.[10][11] Guided by the inhabitants of Tolemac, Zelda then makes her way to the mountains to conquer the Shrines of Air[12] and Destiny[13] before crossing the great south sea to challenge Agwanda at the Shrine of Water for the fifth sign.[14][15] Gaspra directs Zelda once more to the Shrine of Power in the southeast where her strength is tested,[16] before traveling to the Shrine of Fire where she will face Warbane.[17][18] As Zelda reaches to collect the final celestial sign Ganon's claw stops her, and she is drawn into his lair for the final battle.

In the game's final scenes, peace returns to Tolemac. Link is revealed to be safe, holding hands with Zelda where the entrance to Ganon's lair once stood, the land now thriving with new growth.[19]


In 1989, Nintendo signed a deal with Sony to begin development of a CD-ROM-based system known as the "Nintendo PlayStation" or the SNES CD to be an add-on to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that would allow for FMV and larger games.[20][21] However, Nintendo broke the agreement and instead signed with Philips to make the add-on, which caused Sony to spin off their add-on into its own console called the PlayStation.[20][22][23] Witnessing the poor reception of the Sega Mega-CD, Nintendo scrapped the idea of making an add-on entirely.[20][21] As part of dissolving the agreement with Philips, Nintendo gave them the license to use five of their characters, including Link, Princess Zelda, and Ganon, for games on Philips's console called the CD-i, after the partnership's dissolution.[21][24] Contracting out to independent studios, Philips subsequently used the characters to create three games for the CD-i, with Nintendo taking no part in their development except to give input on the look of the characters[21][25] based on the artwork from Nintendo's original two titles and that of their respective instruction booklets.[26] Philips insisted that the development studios utilize all aspects of the CD-i's capabilities including FMV,[27] high-resolution graphics, and CD-quality music.[26] Because the system had not been designed as a dedicated video game console, there were several technical limitations, such as laggy controls (especially for the standard infrared controller),[27] and numerous problems in streaming-audio, memory, disc access, and graphics.[26] Viridis was tasked with observing A Link to the Past and basing Zelda's Adventure's gameplay on it, though was told to still show off the CD-i's capabilities, meaning that the game still used Redbook audio and animated cutscenes.[28]

The backgrounds for Zelda's Adventure were created from videos of scenery near Santa Monica Boulevard in West L.A., footage of Hawaii taken from a helicopter and the developers' vacation photos.[29] This decision was responsible for much of the game's RAM usage, causing backgrounds to scroll slowly and causing extreme frustration to the game's developers. The CD-i's technical abilities were so limited that the use of one or two kilobytes of system RAM caused arguments amongst the developers.[29] Photos of the characters were shot using mirrors mounted on the ceiling, which was so low it precluded mounting the camera. All of the game's human characters were portrayed by the in-office staff. The character's sprite walking animations were done by having the actors walk on a motorized treadmill.[30] The game's music composer, Mark Andrade also physically portrayed the part of Gaspra in the game's cutscenes, while his voice was dubbed by The Andy Griffith Show star, Hal Smith. Zelda in the game's opening cutscene was played by office receptionist Diane Burns, while in other cutscenes as well in-game she was portrayed by Annie Ward.[29] The houses and interiors built for the cut scenes were built as scale models.[29] Non-human characters were created using clay models and being animated in stop motion animation. The model artist was Jason Bakutis, who had worked in Hollywood on movies like Critters 3 and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare.[31] Developers have stated they were not influenced by the first two CD-i Zelda games.[29] Zelda's Adventure spent two years in testing, longer than it took to develop the game.[29] Much more music was composed for the game than was used.[29] Developers had difficulty making sure all the areas of the game had proper background masking.[29] There were plans at one point to hire Echo & the Bunnymen to do the music.[31]

Intending to push the capacities of the CD-i to its limits, development initially progressed with a goal of 600 screens and 160 NPCs. At this early stage, Viridis president Lee Barnes suggested that playthrough time might take as much as 300 hours.[32] These development figures were reduced in the final product which had only a handful of NPCs and whose playthrough time has been placed by one commentator at only 12 hours.[33]

The majority of the game's programming was done by one person—Randy Casey. Randy was responsible for programming all of the game and all associated tools. Additional programming for the inventory system and game progress tracking, dubbed "FRP engine", was done by Gavin James. There is conflicting information about the game's budget—one developer claims there was "no budget at all"[30] while Bakutis claims (possibly facetiously) it had "at the time, the biggest budget ever for a video game".[31]


Zelda's Adventure was widely panned by critics. The graphics of Zelda's Adventure were called "blurry and digitized".[22][35] Wired magazine said that the graphics were some of the worst ever encountered.[22] The game's acting was criticized as unprofessional. Another flaw that has been identified is that the game could not produce both sound effects and music at the same time.[35] Scott Sharkey of 1UP.com called the box art of Zelda's Adventure one of the 15 worst ever made.[36] Zelda's Adventure was released as the Philips CD-i was being discontinued and has become very rare over time, as have the first two Philips Zelda games; Zelda's Adventure is regularly sold for over $100.[35][37]

Despite giving positive reviews for Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon, neither Danny Cowan of 1UP.com nor RetroGamer's John Szczepaniak would extend them to Zelda's Adventure, which Szczepaniak described as demonstrating arbitrary and illogical design, sloppy visuals, nearly non-existent music, excruciatingly high difficulty and cumbersome loading and controlling. Gameplay for Zelda's Adventure has also been portrayed as a trial-and-error effort to guess which items can be used to defeat which enemy.[38] Cowan called Zelda's Adventure "practically unplayable" due to the jerky frame rate, unresponsive controls, and long load times, summarizing his review with a warning to avoid the game at all costs.[35] In discussing the popular online conception that Zelda's Adventure is superior to Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil, RetroGamer pointed to the top-down perspective as fomenting misinformation regarding the game's similarities to the original Zelda when, according to RetroGamer, the game is actually not worth playing.[38] USgamer staff ranked Zelda's Adventure as the second worst The Legend of Zelda game, noting that it is counted separately from the other CD-i games due to being less terrible than the others. They considered it a "well-meaning attempt" to recreate the original The Legend of Zelda on the NES, as well as crediting it for being one of few video games to let players play as Zelda, but felt that the lack of experience on the designers' part as well as the CD-i's technical limitations made it a "dreadful" game to play.[39] IGN writer Peer Schneider was excited that a new developer was chosen instead of the one behind Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil, though still felt it was not worth playing despite being an improvement over the other two games. He recommended it only for "die-hard Zelda fan[s]".[28]


  1. ^ "The Scrapped NA Release". Retrieved January 7, 2021. The July 1994 issue of Computer and Video Games included a preview of Zelda's Adventure, where it gave a release date of August of the same year. Likewise, the August 1994 issue of the UK CD-i magazine had a review of Zelda's Adventure, which gave an October release date. Neither of these release dates stuck, and the game would be pushed back to early 1996. Had any of the releases happened, it's likely that Zelda's Adventure would've been released in North America around the same time.
  2. ^ CDi Magazine UK (Magazine). Haymarket Publishing. April 1996. p. 12. Out: 10/05
  3. ^ a b c "IGN: Zelda's Adventure". IGN. Retrieved April 15, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c "Zelda's Adventure for CD-i". MobyGames. Retrieved April 15, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Zelda Elements Staff (January 1, 2008). "Overview: Zelda's Adventure". Zelda Elements. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
  6. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Opening sequence. Gaspra the Astronomer: And so it was that Ganon, Lord of Darkness, had taken over Tolemac. He had stolen the treasured celestial signs and captured Link!
  7. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Opening sequence. Gaspra the Astronomer: And so I've found this champion of strength and courage. It is you, Princess Zelda. (...) Go now, my princess; restore the celestial signs and rescue Link.
  8. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Shurmak: I am Shurmak your guide. I have known you since you were a child. (...) Go now to the one who has a bed but never sleeps, where by its side the red willow weeps and to its mouth that never speaks.
  9. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Inside the Shrine of Rock. Llort: I said this is my cave. Mine! This is the Shrine of Rock and I am Llort! Go away! Take nothing! It's all mine!
  10. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Sequence after the Shrine of Rock. Gaspra the Astrologer: Congratulations, Zelda. You have prevailed. Hurry now; you must travel to a place of festi`val. Rumor tells it is found in the great forest to the north. And remember, all is not what it seems.
  11. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Entrance to the Shrine of Illusion. Shurmak: Look beyond illusion to conquer the evil Pasquinade. Deception is all around you.
  12. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Thabul the Mystic: Something you seek is not of this world, but above it. Defeat the woman of the air. It is to the east you must go.
  13. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Sequence after the Shrine of Air. Gaspra the Astrologer: Your quest continues to the northwest, to a place of burial where destiny can be challenged.
  14. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Sequence after the Shrine of Destiny. Gaspra the Astrologer: Hurry, now! Waters of healing and renewal await you. Remember, to look for the great sea island to the south.
  15. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Entrance to the Shrine of Water. Shurmak: A strong spirit leads the way to the troubled waters that lie ahead. Stay above water and you will conquer the evil Agwanda.
  16. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Sequence after the Shrine of Water. Gaspra the Astrologer: I hear tell of a vast fortress of strength and power. Go forward bravely, and you will be victorious.
  17. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Sequence after the Shrine of Power. Gaspra the Astrologer: You're drawing close, but your journey will carry you far to the northwest where many say there's a rumble in the earth and a glow of fire.
  18. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Marketplace in Great Wimbish. For thirty suns my husband and I ran the great locksmith forge for Warbane. Then Ganon came and pressed Warbane into service for his own evil plan. The forge was closed. Warbane built a fortified retreat of his own, somewhere off in the Forest of Canvula to the north.
  19. ^ Viridis (1994). Zelda's Adventure (Philips CD-i). Philips Media. Level/area: Closing sequence. Gaspra the Astrologer: Princess Zelda, you've succeeded! The victory has brought peace and light back to Tolemac. Your courage and strength will not be forgotten. For now, your work is done. Off you go to celebrate Link's return. But first, remember, lessons of the heart, mercy, and human kindness prevail above all else. Farewell, young princess!
  20. ^ a b c Zelda Elements Staff (January 1, 2008). "Overview: CDi Series". Zelda Elements. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
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  32. ^ "New Nintendo Titles are in the Pipeline". CDi Magazine. Pg.4.
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