Developer(s): Animation Magic
Publisher: Philips Interactive Media
Released: 1993

Link: The Faces of Evil is a 2D side-scrolling action-adventure game that, despite ostensibly taking place in the Legend of Zelda universe, was made with no input from Nintendo. Originally Nintendo had an agreement with Philips that Philips would produce a CD add-on for them, but soon Nintendo decided to go another way and they broke off the deal. As a consequence, Philips walked away with the rights to use some of Nintendo’s characters for their own console, the CD-i, and, decades later, hundreds of “Can you believe this exists?!” YouTube videos were born.

Ganon casts some kind of spell on Zelda to make her sleep… forever!

Most of Link: The Faces of Evil’s infamy comes from its animated cutscenes, of which the game has many. The animation is, admittedly, kind of hideous, with the “camera” constantly zooming in, out, and around the characters, and everyone looks bulbous and floppy at the same time. Link’s voice acting is whiny, and he regularly pesters Zelda for a kiss, and she seems to find him repulsive. All that being said, I don’t personally think the Zelda universe is sacrosanct, and I found the animations amusing. The actual gameplay graphics are really good, with most environments looking as if they were sketched in with colored pencils. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the music is also quite good, and miracle of miracles (for a CD-i game anyway), it manages to have music and sound effects at the same time.

You’ll spend a lot of time on this early level farming enemies for their snowballs

The gameplay is in a hack-and-slash style. With only two buttons to work with, the designers were terribly limited, and ended up mapping too many functions to the buttons they had. Up is jump, button 1 is attack (and talk, and pick up items), and button 2 is use items (and go through doors, and if crouched when pushed it’ll open your inventory). It’s all too easy to go through a door when you meant to throw a bomb or light your lantern. You can use your shield to block projectiles, but you have to come to a complete rest and wait a moment to raise it up, and many projectiles will hit your head or legs anyway, which is all rather frustrating. I wouldn’t say the combat ever feels good, but you do get better at it as you play, and later in the game I was cutting through enemies fairly efficiently.

Link is king of the world!

Its biggest strength is the overall game design, which presents with you a large map and several areas to choose from. As you explore, you’ll come across barriers you can’t cross or NPCs who want you to bring them an item. It’s a good idea to keep a notepad nearby, as you may find yourself struggling to remember where you were supposed to bring the necklace, for example, by the time you find it. The environments are varied and interesting, and it’s quite satisfying when you acquire the item you need to return to an earlier zone and finally clear it. Once you reach the end of a level, you touch a triforce symbol to exit, and this will unlock a new area on the map to visit, and so on.

These pterodactyl enemies are THE WORST

The collecting and use of special items is also a major component of the game. You’ll need to spend early parts of the game grinding for “rubies” (not rupees for some reason) to buy bombs, ropes, and lantern oil, but eventually money is a non-issue. You also need to collect plenty of snowballs, because certain enemies are only vulnerable to them (and those enemies drop fireballs, which you use to fight other enemies, etc.). As you progress you’ll acquire other enhancements, like something to increase your jumps and a bell that can freeze basic enemies (at the cost of some rubies).

Just a typical adventure: climbing out of a giant pig marionette’s mouth on the way to fight an evil Harlequin

Link: The Faces of Evil wears its Legend of Zelda IP like an albatross around its neck. If it were called, say, Lance: The Faces of Evil, it would be 10,000% less well-known, but the CD-i fans who did know it would remember it fondly, as a halfway decent action-adventure game for a system with precious few “real” video games to call its own. Yes the animations are grotesque, and the combat is barely functional, but despite all that I had a great time with it, and I’m actually, surprisingly, looking forward to the next entry.

Graphics – 8
The animation is a bit grotesque but the rest of game looks terrific

Sound – 8
The background music is high-quality and it actually has both music and sound effects at the same time

Gameplay – 6
The combat never truly feels good and they tried to map too many functions on to too few buttons

Value – 8
A ton of levels to visit, all quite different, and several hours of exploration

Reviewer’s Tilt – 9
I love action-adventure games, especially those that have a focus on exploring, and, despite problems with the combat, I had a ton of fun playing this

Final Score – 7.7