It seems like people will become nostalgic for anything over a long enough period of time. Don’t believe me? Well, then how else do you explain Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore: a spiritual successor to the worst Legend of Zelda games ever?
Arzette: The Jewel of Faramor is an action-platformer that sees players control Arzette on her journey to save the Kingdom of Faramore. While Arzette‘s core gameplay looks fairly standard for the genre, the title’s visuals and voice acting certainly stand out. If those aspects of the game strike you as being slightly…off, that’s because they are. In fact, those “off” elements of the game are actually a tribute to the infamous Phillips CD-i titles Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon.
Widely considered to be some of the worst games ever made, Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon were the result of a bizarre partnership between Nintendo and Phillips. Basically, Nintendo was supposed to work with Sony to develop a CD add-on for the Super NES. However, that deal fell apart when Nintendo signed a separate agreement with Phillips. The fallout of that deal resulted in Sony developing the first PlayStation console. Meanwhile, Nintendo eventually decided to abandon the idea of a CD-based add-on for the SNES. As part of the agreement, though, Nintendo allowed Phillips to license some of their more popular characters for titles that would eventually appear on Phillips’ own gaming console, the CD-i.
So, that’s how Phillips ended up producing two of the worst Zelda games ever made for one of the worst consoles ever made. Granted, those titles were basically doomed from the start due to a variety of issues that plagued their development. However, no amount of understanding can prepare you for how bad those titles really are.
Forget trying to compare them to proper Zelda games made by Nintendo. That’s an entirely different discussion. Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon are bad enough on their own terms. They’re both fundamentally broken side-scrolling action-adventure titles that happen to feature some of the worst cutscenes in video game history. Though those cutscenes have become something of a guilty pleasure over the years, the games themselves remain significantly less enjoyable. A third Phillips Zelda title, Zelda’s Adventure, was eventually released, though that game featured slightly more traditional top-down Zelda gameplay and live-action cutscenes. Some will argue the game is technically better than the two that preceded it, though that’s a pretty sad debate.
So why would anyone develop a spiritual successor to some of the biggest failures in gaming history? Well, much like movies like Troll 2 and The Room, those Zelda games were so bad that they’ve kind of taken on a life of their own. They remain something of a dread fascination among gamers who just can’t fathom how terrible they are much less the fact that they exist in the first place. They’re true guilty pleasures despite the fact that they’re not actually all that fun to play.
Mind you, those titles do have genuine defenders. While many of their defenders are obviously being ironic, some critics and fans have heaped genuine praise upon those games’ truly unique visuals and the things they were at least trying to do. Some even go so far as to argue that those games were just a better budget and more development time away from being significantly better experiences.
That’s what makes Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore genuinely interesting. Its development is being led by Seth “Dopply” Fulkerson, who actually previously worked on very well-received fan remakes of the original Phillips Zelda titles. Jewel of Faramore will also feature the art of Rob Dunlavey, who actually previously worked on Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon. Hell, Jewel of Faramore even reunites some of the original actors that lent their voices to those games’ infamous cutscenes.
You could consider this title to be something of an apology then, though that’s probably not the best way to look at it. It actually feels closer to an attempt to realize the untapped potential of those original games as well as a way for the genuine supporters of those titles to show others why they believe there was more greatness in those games than they regularly receive credit for.
While the team behind this concept faces an uphill battle, I have to admit that there is something charming about the game itself as well as the motivation for this entire project. We’ll see if Arzette: The Jewel of Faramor can redeem the reputation of some infamously bad Zelda titles while carving its own legacy when the game is released later this year for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.