In the early 1990s, through a quirk of licensing, the Dutch electronics company Philips ended up with the rights to make three games based on Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series for its CD-i interactive CD-ROM format. The CD-i was not really a games machine, and Philips was not really a game developer. The results were, predictably, awful — one of several cautionary tales in Nintendo’s history that has contributed to the company being so fiercely protective of its IP.
Now the third of those games, 1994’s Zelda’s Adventure — commonly held to be the worst of the lot — has been remade by indie developer John Lay for the Game Boy, in the style of its contemporary, the massively superior Link’s Awakening. You can play Lay’s version in-browser on itch-io, or download a ROM to play in an emulator or on original Game Boy hardware.
If nothing else, it’s a little easier on the eye than the famously ugly original, which appeared to be cobbled together from smudgy clip-art and unintentionally hilarious full-motion video cutscenes. The first two CD-i Zelda games had been side-scrolling platformers in the style of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, and featured hand-drawn sprites and animated cutscenes, but Zelda’s Adventure — the second CD-i game to feature Princess Zelda herself as the playable protagonist — blended the series’ traditional top-down view with its own, quite horrifying aesthetic shift.
“The game sticks to the aesthetics of Link’s Awakening, but also incorporates some features from Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons,” Lay writes in his description of the port, noting that he’d developed it in the GB Studio game creator.
Lay told Kotaku that Game Boy Zelda’s Adventure took him around 14 months to develop. Zelda’s Adventure isn’t anything more than a curious footnote in Zelda history — but if you’re looking for that playable-princess fix before Tears of the Kingdom either dashes or fulfils your dreams, it’s the perfect place to start.