I feel like I've fallen into an alternate dimension, staring at the janky pixelated 2D cutscenes of Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore. They remind me of an internet age I thought was on its last legs, and a game I have not seen in a long time. See I grew up with Zelda CD-i not as a player, but as a witness to a terrible—and I use that word affectionately—cultural phenomenon known as Youtube Poop.
In case you were fortunate enough to miss them, Youtube Poops were a trend of heavily-edited sensory nightmares that remixed, typically, older media. The short-lived 1993 Sonic the Hedgehog TV show, the work of british children's poet Michael Rosen, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—it's all fair game. Most are an assault on the senses with little rhyme or reason, a precursor to our modern-day deep fried meme culture. You get some gems though, like this Eggman rap that's an absolute banger.
The Zelda CD-i games were created exclusively for the Philips CD-i, a bizarre Frankenstein's console-slash-CD player, one of those attempts at creating a "we can do everything!" multimedia machine in the 90s.
The games were a weird result of a dissolved partnership between Philips and Nintendo—a compromise from the dissolution gave Philips the right to use the Zelda brand on their system. They've not aged well, as Kotaku's retrospective review called one "an uphill march through a pointless adventure."
Which makes a spiritual successor even more delightfully baffling. Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore was announced at Limited Run's summer showcase yesterday, and it's sure as hell got the spirit right. There's deep charm to the jarringly-animated cutscenes, which jank disastrously with fully-painted backgrounds and 64-bit sprites.
Some of the CD-i game's original creatives are even reprising their roles: Rob Dulanvey, who had a hand in painting the Zelda CD-i backgrounds, is lending his brush. Jeffery Rath, voice of CD-i Link, as well as Bonnie Jean Wilbur, voice of CD-i Zelda,also return to bring their voices to this hyper-specific nostalgia trip.
The question burning in my mind—is it actually gonna be fun to play? Unlike other throwbacks to the classics, there's nothing worth copying from the Zelda CD-i titles. They've always been panned as unintuitive, difficult-to-control, overly punishing messes.
I'm still staggered that this game is going to exist. It owes its existence to a feral culture of internet goblins who sentence-mixed the same few janky cutscenes for years. It's a spiritual successor to a game no-one liked on a console barely anyone played, it's a shitpost made manifest, and I might just fall in love with it.
Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore is set to squadala its way onto Steam later this year, with no specific date announced.