What Do Japanese Fans Think of the CD-i Zelda Games?

I’ve been looking at a lot of Zelda-related translations lately, but whenever I run into the strange CD-i Zelda games usually I have to skip over them because they were never released in Japanese. In case you haven’t seen them before, you can take a peek at one of the CD-i Zelda games here.

WHAT were they thinking?!WHAT were they thinking?!

On a whim, I decided to check out Japanese comments about the games today. The results weren’t very surprising, but I thought it’d be fun to share some translated comments anyway. First, though, there are a few important things to note before checking them out:

  • These are random comments from Japanese news sites, message boards, videos, and Twitter. There are so few listed here that they shouldn’t be considered representative of all Japanese gamers – that would be a silly thing to assume. This is only to satisfy readers’ curiosity!
  • Similarly, the comments come from many different years and shouldn’t be considered representative of current opinion, although I doubt much has changed.

Now for the comments!

Why isn’t Link the main character?

This isn’t the Link I know!

This feels like the real world but on drugs

It’s like they drew this game in MS Paint

Yep, this is the quality you can expect from no-name foreign companies.

I can’t believe these exist… It almost seems like Link is straight out of old Disney films LOL

The others are terrible, but Zelda’s Adventure seems a tiny bit fun.

Foreign games have always LOOKED nice, but that’s about it.

Whoa this is horrible LOL

The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Shits

What a waste of good art.

The animation is so amateur-level

Wait, is this Link right-handed??

In terms of controls, animation, and gameplay, the CD-i Zeldas don’t make the grade as Zelda games. They don’t even pass as actual games. They’re the kind of games you’d play in hell.

The old wizard guy seems like he could’ve fit in Disney’s Aladdin movie just fine

The three CD-i Zelda games the AVGN covered – I can promise you that there are no bigger game trainwrecks out there

They’d never be able to air this animation in Japan

Link’s a middle-aged man!

Nintendo got backstabbed big-time!

These look like they’d be stressful games to play.

Despite the bad controls, these graphics aren’t TOO bad

These feel like PC games

They still had crap like this even in 1993?

Nintendo must’ve been pissed after seeing these.

Animated Zelda is cute!

I bet they wouldn’t be so bad if they changed the controls a little.

It feels like they sacrificed everything else just for the sake of fancy graphics.

They need to put the CD-i Zeldas on the Virtual Console someday

I’m guessing a bunch of stuff happened behind the scenes back in the day, and that’s why Nintendo let these other companies use their two flagship series of Mario and Zelda.

This goes to show how great Nintendo actually is!

The CD-i Zelda masterpieces rank near the top of all crappy games

Basically, some foreigners tricked Nintendo.

It’s no wonder Nintendo won’t give the rights to anyone else now.

Zelda looks so cute when she’s sleepy!

How could they do this?

Setting the actual gameplay aside… that animation is clearly “do not want” ROFL

That’s foreign quality for ya

It’s refreshing that Zelda does the fighting for once

This background music sounds like American porn music

There’s no question about it. The CD-i Zelda games are textbook examples of shitty games.

It feels like these might’ve been decent if they hadn’t been Zelda games.

Wow, this is way worse than Zelda 2

They seem pretty playable, actually.

This music reminds me of Splatoon somehow.

I bet the CD-i would’ve sold great if Nintendo had handled these games instead.

Western games from this period all had horrible controls and insane difficulty.

This is a nightmare

All the American animated Links are too obnoxious

Did they have a grudge against Nintendo or something?

It’s disgusting!

Miyahon would knock a table upside-down out of anger if he saw this.

What is this, a fan game?

The Rule of Crappy Games: good music, nothing else

The animation reminds me of 80s music videos.

Zelda isn’t Zelda without Nintendo.

All in all, the responses were about what I expected, but it was still fun to look into. It also felt like the games were almost unknown in Japan until the Angry Video Game Nerd’s episodes about the CD-i were translated into Japanese. The HD remake video also hit the Japanese gaming news sites in 2016, which brought another surge of attention to the games.

Image 1

I’ve never played the games myself so I can’t say much beyond what I’ve seen in videos, but there’s a small part of me that wants to translate them into Japanese for some insane reason. But maybe I’ll save that for Shaq Fu instead.

43 Comments
  1. Seems like there’s a lot of “That’s Western game development for you.” Nah, gurl.

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    1. Meanwhile, a Western developed game like Shovel Knight gets a 34 from Famitsu. Seems many Japanese gamers are just narrow-minded, or don’t realize that some of the great games they play were made overseas.

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      1. On the other hand, they seems to like Undertale a lot if the videos I have seen are any signs.

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        1. Oh, I know they like Undertale a lot. That was my point–there are plenty of Western developed games they enjoy (a 34/40 Famitsu score is good, btw).

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      2. Famitsu is known for its rigged scores. Therefore, you shouldn’t use it as a means of discerning how the Japanese see foreign games.

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      3. Maybe the retraux graphics with the garish NES color palette didn’t fly too well over there without any established IP behind it. The pseudo Famicom doujin games usually have a more colorful palette. That’s on top of a widespread perception even in the West that this sort of graphics is detrimental to the end product quality, what some would call “anti-indie stigma” but not really that simple.

        Even the indie developer culture is very different over there. The Japanese doujin game developers position themselves most of the time as serious traditional game developer *companies* holding themselves to the same standards as the various traditional developers there – and it helps there’s a lot of traditional developers in Japan that go for low budget games (D3Publisher and partners for example).

        I get the feeling it might have done better with 16-bit era graphics over there, even the existing one with more colors and slight shading.

        One recent Megaman clone themed around a fantasy anime by a doujin house and distributed as official merchandise had late-SNES/early-PS1 graphics even though its mechanically just a Megaman game. The bar raised over there and the indie label isn’t that beloved there to give them a pass.

        About the xenophobia bias, more interesting study cases could be the reception for the Donkey Kong Country games, both original and reboots, Luigi Mansion 2, Metal Gear Solid V, Wizardry, the Fallout games since they have garnered some interest there (enough for one to be fan-translated to Japanese despite having to reverse engineer x86 assembly), and the big mobile IPs (Pokemon Go, Angry Birds, Flappy Bird, etc).

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        1. A 34 is quite good. It’s out of 40.

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  2. Something I find fascinating is how apparently both American AND Japanese gamers tend to think the other country’s games are “too hard.” I wonder what things specifically make those on the JPN side of things think American games are too tough…

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    1. Maybe they heard that Battletoads (which was actually British, but work with me here) was made easier for its Japanese release. The opposite happened with games like Castlevania III or Bayou Billy, where the American version had its difficulty raised so gamers couldn’t rent the games and beat them over the weekend (from what I’ve heard).

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  3. My first thought:
    “WOW, I’m surprised Japanese people actually know the AVGN. Didn’t expect him to be a thing over there.”

    My second thought:
    “Wait, Japanese people really don’t think highly about foreigners, do they?”

    Reply
    1. You can’t really judge a nation’s mindset from its Youtube (or in this case, Nico Nico) comment section. 😉

      Reply
    2. >“WOW, I’m surprised Japanese people actually know the AVGN. Didn’t expect him to be a thing over there.”

      Well…..
      http://cinemassacre.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/AVGN_anime.jpg

      Reply
  4. I’m honestly surprised just how many of those comments thought the graphics were actually good, with more then one actually comparing them to Disney movies.

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    1. Well, the actual in-game sprites and backgrounds are very well-done; they were done by a different team than the one that did the cut-scenes.

      Reply
  5. I look forward to someone translating the [in]famous cutscenes into Japanese with voices too. xD

    A lot of the comments on “western game development” remind me of how the reverse is said now and then among western gamers, too. As Mato pointed out in previous articles like this, both sides are more alike than they think or know!

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  6. I’m with the guy who wants the CD-i games on Virtual Console. Hotel Mario, too!

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  7. Why are all non-Japanese “foreigners” to them? Do they not teach geography in Japanese schools?

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    1. “Foreigner” is a relative term. Everyone not Japanese are foreigners to them, just as anyone not of your nationality is a foreigner to you.

      Does seem as though a lot of these comments are biased against Western games, though.

      Reply
    2. …Er, yes. If you’re Japanese, foreigner means someone who isn’t Japanese. Foreigner literally means someone from a different country.

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      1. Guys, I know what the word means. But it’s rarely used so casually in the west. If I wanted to criticize Yooka-Laylee, to use a game that’s currently being slammed by critics as an example, and say that all games made in that part of the world were bad, I wouldn’t call it a “foreign” game, I’d call it a British game. People generally appreciate the dignity that comes with having their nationalities recognized and not be lumped into some amorphous “foreign” category, and this especially rings true when it comes to criticism. Or do you want to be judged for simply not being born Japanese?

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        1. It is used frequently in English, just not in the video game spheres.

          Consider domestic beers or cars versus everything else.

          Or the Oscars where they have a specific category for foreign films. Hell, we use the term foreign films in the U.K. (or sometimes “World cinema”) which doesn’t count movies from America; it’s shorthand for “Movies not in English.”

          We use this kind of shorthand all the time in English. Sometimes it’s not so nebulous as foreign, but still not helpfully specific – “I love Asian food!”

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          1. The whole domestic beers/domestic film thing is really only an American thing, you know. I wouldn’t lump that in with the rest of the English speaking/western world.

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            1. I’m from the UK. We don’t make the distinction of domestic beers but I certainly see people talking about foreign movies, which never includes American movies.

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        2. It’s a weird part of Japanese culture that they call every other culture foreign. I’m no expert in Japanese history (I don’t think that’s Mato’s specialty either, but he might be able to help you more), but Japan’s always had a weird dichotomy with the rest of the world: A lot of things in Japanese culture throughout the ages have been borrowed or adapted from other cultures – which I’m not saying is a bad thing! – but at the same time, they remain very isolationist and nationalistic.

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          1. Oh, and I’d definitely agree with Anonymous.

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    3. The Japanese live on an island, and they were in a period of isolation from the 1500s to the 1800s. They’re also a very ethnically homogeneous country.

      Compare that to Europe, where so many countries are packed together and have always had a high degree of interaction. Or North America, where the majority of the current population are descendants of colonists and immigrants.

      Reply
  8. They say it’s like Disney animation.
    Is that suggesting it’s good?
    (my guess is they only think Disney when they think non-Japanese animation)

    Would be interested what they think of Secret of Evermore. It was pretty horribly rated compared to Japanese games like Mana, but I think judged alone it’s pretty decent. Not great though. (though impressive for supposedly being made by a newcomer team)

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  9. I know Shaq Fu is oft the butt of jokes, but honestly it’s not even in the 10 worst fighting games I’ve ever played. Heck, maybe even 20.

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  10. I find it interesting that there’s a Japanese AVGN fandom that translates his videos. How do they handle all the colorful swearing? I was under the impression that Japanese doesn’t really know many curse words at all…

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    1. There are plenty of curse words in Japanese, but I don’t think most of them are used as meaningless expletives like in English, they’re sexual terms or specific insults. You can also just use impolite registers.

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    2. There’s definitely enough interest in Japan to subtitle popular web videos. I wish I could find the webpage of the group that subbed Yu-gi-oh: The Abridged Series into Japanese. EVERY episode had a big wall of 20-30 translation notes to try to explain all of the jokes that didn’t wouldn’t make sense overseas.

      My favorite two were a note explaining the “Yugi had gone all emo” line and translators trying to make sense of “Please don’t put me back in the box” (it was something to the effect of “We’re not sure what the significance of this line is. It could be a reference to Barney the Dinosaur, where Tristan’s voice comes from”).

      Reply
  11. “All the American animated Links are too obnoxious”

    Whoever said that one must have also seen the DiC cartoon, because that’s an accurate description of that Link. The CD-i Link just seems like an idiot. And this does make me curious to know what Japanese fans think of the DiC series (or any of DiC’s Nintendo cartoons for that matter).

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  12. As far as English to Japanese retrograding projects go, I’m surprised that no one has translated the StarTropics series to Japanese yet. Are there many NicoNico videos of those with a decent amount of comments?

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    1. I’d love to hear what Japanese gamers think of StarTropics. I played the hell out of those and would give anything to see the series make a comeback.

      Reply
  13. *retrogaming (thanks, autocorrect)

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  14. “The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Shits”

    I guess if this were translated and localized, it would be “The Legend of Zelda: A Shit to the Past”

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    1. are you secretly james rolfe

      Reply
  15. These games for Virtual Console? Keep dreaming buddy! It ain’t gonna happen!

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  16. Um, is there a particular reason my comment is “awaiting moderation”?

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  17. Hey now random Japanese commenter that will never ever see this comment, I actually liked the DIC cartoons!

    It’s funny that, at least in this small sampling, they seem to think Philips somehow tricked or ripped off Nintendo. In reality, Nintendo screwed over Philips and this was their attempt to salvage what they could of that failed partnership.

    I’m also surprised at how many of them have good things to say about the graphics. I’m guessing they are talking about the in-game background art rather than the infamous FMVs. Whoever said it “looks like old Disney cartoons” doesn’t seem to have any clue what they’re talking about though.

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  18. So, got any ideas of what you want to do next mato? How about an article on various historical styles Chinese Characters and by extension Kanji have taken over the centuries. Oracle Bones, Seal Scripts you name it. Despite this, you occasionally can still run into these historical forms in places. The cover of a Japanese Passport for instance uses Seal Script for it’s Kanji. And for game examples, look no further than the chapter titles used in Japanese version of Bayonetta. Yep, that’s Seal Script or at least a font styled to look like it that’s used there. Kinda a neat touch if you ask me.

    Reply
  19. I’ve played “Faces” and “Wand” on an emulator and while far from amazing, they’re aren’t bad games. They just aren’t good games either. Hard to describe if you haven’t actually played them. They definitely have a strange charm to them.

    Contrary to popular belief, “Zelda’s Adventure” is the worst one. People tend to give it a pass because it looks better and not much is really known about it. It’s much rarer than the other two and not many gameplay videos exist of it. But trust me, it’s really bad.

    Reply
    1. I own them all (though Zelda’s Adventure is still sitting in its box unplayed), they’re decent little games that don’t deserve the kind of hate they get. They’re not amazing or anything, but they’re perfectly okay platformers with the occasional design flaw. The cutscenes are what they are, and it’s obvious 99% of the “worst games ever” comments come from people that have never even SEEN any actual gameplay footage, let alone played the games.

      Reply

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