The cut scenes littered throughout Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon are often the subject of scorn, but they were not the first time that Link and Zelda were animated and given voices. Most fans of The Legend of Zelda have some familiarity with The Legend of Zelda animated series, a cartoon that aired in 1989, but you may not know that the character designs in the animated series greatly influenced the character designs in Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon.
There are some key differences in the character designs, but I was surprised to learn just how much Link, Zelda, and King Harkinian of the animated series have in common with their Phillips CD-i counterparts.
The first similarity between the two Links shows itself at the beginning of both the animated series and Faces of Evil: when Ganon is not around, Link is bored. In the animated series, we are told that Cartoon Link only puts up with his life in the castle because Princess Zelda is nearby. Regardless, his boredom is short lived: Ganon causes trouble in every episode of the animated series.
Likewise, moments after CD-i Link describes his boredom, Gwonam appears informing players that Ganon has “seized the island of Koridai.”
In both cases, Link quickly jumps into action.
While it is more obvious in the animated series, both Links are romantically interested in Princess Zelda and actively try to gain her approval. In both the animated series and Faces of Evil, Link asks Princess Zelda for a kiss multiple times and does not receive one.
CD-i Link is simply refused a kiss on multiple occasions, but Cartoon Link is far more unlucky. In the animated series, Princess Zelda often agrees to kiss Link, but they are always interrupted – often due to Link’s own clumsiness.
Interestingly the similarities between the two Links can all be found by comparing the first episode of the animated series with the opening and ending cut scenes from Faces of Evil making it hard to believe that the developers of Faces of Evil were not inspired by Cartoon Link while creating CD-i Link.
The primary similarities found between Cartoon Zelda and CD-i Zelda are their tomboyish personalities and willingness to act as the hero. In Wand of Gamelon, Zelda leaves in search of Link and her father after they do not return from Gamelon. She journeys through Gamelon until she ultimately defeats Ganon and rescues both Link and her father.
The animated series was the first time Princess Zelda was shown as a hero instead of a damsel in distress. She frequently accompanies Link on his adventures and saves Link on multiple occasions.
Both Cartoon Zelda and CD-i Zelda seem to be in love with Link, but are unwilling to admit it. Even so, when asked, Cartoon Zelda seems more willing to kiss Link than CD-i Zelda.
The most interesting similarity between Cartoon King and CD-i King is the name King Harkinian. I was very surprised when I learned that Phillips had adopted the name of Cartoon King for CD-i King (and learned later that the name was also used in the short-lived comic series). Using a name previously created only for the animated series makes it abundantly clear that the animated series was used as a reference when developing Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon.
However, aside from the name, the two Kings do not appear to have much in common. Both are King of Hyrule and are good kings (as opposed to tyrants), but Cartoon King is a more innocent character who is captured frequently and unable to defend himself.
On the other hand, while CD-i King is also captured in Wand of Gamelon, he is also a more capable character who volunteers to go to Gamelon and aid them in their fight again Ganon.
I cannot help but wonder how the developers of Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon were able to successfully write scripts that are reminiscent of the animated series, but were unable to produce artwork or voice acting that match the not-so-great-but-not-so-bad quality of the animated series.