Posted on February 20 2018 by Jarrod Raine
The Zelda CD-i games have been marked with infamy since the release of Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon in 1993 and the release of Zelda’s Adventure in 1994. The cutscenes failed to live up to the graphical quality of the time, the voice acting has been endlessly ridiculed, the controls can be downright frustrating, and the games have been the subject of many YouTube poop compilations. It almost feels as though the games had been set up for failure from the beginning, as Nintendo had very little input over what would be included in each adventure. However, despite what the review scores would imply and what public perception may suggest, there is one underrated and overlooked silver lining to The Wand of Gamelon and The Faces of Evil: they both have groovy soundtracks.
From The Wand of Gamelon‘s “Reesong Palace: Goria’s Welcome” and “Tykogi Tower“, to The Faces of Evil‘s “Harlequin Bazaar” and “Shipwreck Cliff Chasm“, there are plenty of fresh and catchy songs present throughout these games. While the grand majority of Zelda songs are performed with more traditional instruments and thus have a classical genre feel, the CD-i games feature primarily techno music, which is characterized by repetitive instrumental music layered over a backbeat. The soundtracks contain a mix of 80’s synth, electric guitar, panpipes, marimbas, and other uncommon instruments, which adds further to their own style and sound, and helps them to stand out when compared to traditional Zelda songs. While not the most memorable songs in the history of the Zelda franchise, the use of uncommon instruments and a different genre of music entirely have certainly helped these soundtracks to give each area Link visits its own unique feel.
Even related areas, such as “Sakado” and “Sakado Graveyard” in The Wand of Gamelon, remain distinct from each other despite having the same underlying tune. “Sakado Graveyard” adds a hint of mystery and ghostly shenanigans (much in a similar vein to the classic “Spooky Scary Skeletons“), while “Sakado” focuses more on an adventurous tone befitting the starting area of the game. This same trend holds for each new area. Anyone that has played either of these games can listen to their soundtracks and instantly recognize every area attributed to a given song within the first few seconds. Many great soundtracks in video game history only have a small handful of songs that can be universally recognized within the first few seconds, and I place those of the CD-i Zelda games among them.
Overall, the Zelda CD-i soundtracks, while strange when compared to those of traditional Zelda games, remain admirably unique. While I am not conflating the CD-i games to have some of the greatest soundtracks of all time, they most certainly hold their own when it comes to uniqueness. Personally, I would like to see such a unique set of songs in future Zelda titles, both in genre and tone, alongside some of the more well-known songs of the franchise. The CD-i soundtracks were bold, and they invite, however indirectly, a bold approach by future Zelda soundtracks as well.
But what do you guys think? Do you like the CD-i games’ soundtracks and, if so, do you have a favorite song from either? Let us know in the comments below!
Jarrod Raine is an Original Content Editor and News Writer for ZeldaDungeon. If you would like to see an idea explored in a Daily Debate or an Editorial, then feel free to leave a comment or send him a message saying so on his Twitter!