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At PAX East 2024, I sat down with Seth Fulkerson, who is the director, writer, programmer, and designer for Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore. During our time together, we talked about his background with remastering CD-i titles as a personal project, developing his own spiritual successor CD-i game in Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore, about how Limited Run Games got involved in publishing the game, and more.

You can check out more about Arzette at the game’s official website.

Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore is available for purchase NOW: Nintendo SwitchPlayStation 4PlayStation 5Xbox Series X/SPC

Finally, you can check out my impressions of a hands-on demo here.

Arzette | Logo

This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H. with oprainfall, and you are?

Seth Fulkerson: Seth Fulkerson, developer and creator of Arzette from Seedy Eye Software.

OR: Can you tell us a bit about Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore?

SF: It is a spiritual successor to a pair of infamous fantasy-adventure games from the early 90s, like CD-ROM era. The game has full motion cutscenes, is full of crazy animation, hand-painted backgrounds, and it is done in a familiar [and] beloved style.

OR: What is your personal history with the Phillips CD-i?

SF: So, a few years ago, I made a fan remaster of Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: Wand of Gamelon. I did that to fulfill an in-joke with friends, but also to explore the potential of ‘Well, what if those games were cleaned up a little bit, they might be a little better?’. The response to that was a lot better than what I thought. I was lucky enough that I had a lot of animators and artists that are my close friends. So, we were always sort of kicking around doing our own take on those games. And the time was right, so yeah, it was where the genesis of Arzette started. My producer, Audun Sørlie, got in contact with me and we started working together to make Arzette to what it is.

“I know a lot of people looked at Arzette and thought ‘Why is he making this? Is he making this as a joke?’

No, I wouldn’t spend three to four years of my life making a joke- I want to make a good game.”

OR: You mentioned a little bit ago, and in a prior interview in a January 2024 interview with Game Developer, you said that you took on the challenge of remastering two CD-i Zelda games: Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon as an in-joke. What kind of in-joke makes you want to develop a game for four years?

SF: So, in 2016, that’s around the time that Twilight Princess HD came out, me and some friends were literally joking ‘What if that, but The Faces of Evil?’. And so, I started trying to scope it out, and I’ve been making games for a long time – mostly really small stuff like game jam type stuff. But I had a hard time finishing projects – especially that were not bigger scope, but along the lines of that.

So, it was a dual purpose: ‘Hey, I’ll finish the joke but also finish a game.’ And in the course of developing those [remastered CD-i The Legend of Zelda games], I learned how to make a game for real and I also learned the development history behind the games and the circumstances that lead to them being the way they were. I found it really inspiring, and it really had a profound effect on me and how I wanted to approach future projects and also what I wanted to do with Arzette.

OR: CD-i aficionados will tell you that there is a third CD-i title out there – Zelda’s Adventure. Why did you not take on remastering [that] game as well? Did you use that particular third game any when creating Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore?

SF: Basically, the duology of games – The Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon – they share the same engine, they are almost the same game. Zelda’s Adventure is a lot different; it is a top-down game. But personally, it is going to sound controversial, but I do not care for Zelda’s Adventure. I know it has a lot of its fans, but for a game, basically The Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon, for all their flaws, had a pretty solid gameplay loop – especially for Western games released in 1993.

It’s very prototypical Metroidvania – multilayer levels – you collect items through people or collect powerups, you go back through levels with new powerups. Zelda’s Adventure does not really have that at all. In fact, there are lots of items that are red herrings – it’s a very mean game to the player. I do not like it.

OR: Let’s follow up on the gameplay loop. You’re taking gameplay from games published in 1993, and putting it into a 2024 gaming atmosphere. We have had at least two generations of gamers come up during that time period. How do you take that and make that relevant to a modern-day audience while still staying true to the original 1993 releases?

SF: So, right away, when I was prototyping, I identified a lot of elements that I knew I would include in Arzette. The gamefeel, how it looks – a lot of things. For instance, if someone were to look at Arzette from a distance, they would say ‘Oh, I know what that is’ or ‘That looks familiar’ and pick it up. Maybe they will get the feeling that this is like a CD-i like game, but they aren’t aware that they are getting the five-star hotel treatment of CD-i. There’s a lot of lives, there’s generous checkpointing, the gameplay’s a lot faster, there’s certain design elements that are intended to be more player friendly.

For instance, keys are always found in the same area if there is a locked door. But in the original game, keys could open whatever door they wanted across the entire world, [and so] it was a lot more obtuse. So, take the essence of those original games and apply a lot of modern sensibilities – ‘cause I don’t want to frustrate the player, I don’t want them to want to give up or think this is poorly designed on purpose.

I know a lot of people looked at Arzette and thought ‘Why is he making this? Is he making this as a joke?’ No, I wouldn’t spend three to four years of my life making a joke – I want to make a good game. It is a delicate balance of jumping, how you attack – it has to feel a certain way and [I] sort of dial it in. Because if I give too many lives, then I can go too far in the opposite direction. But, if you try to stay true to what those games were while polishing off the rough edges, then that is the sweet spot.

“Part of me being sincere and serious about making this a spiritual successor was to get some of the legacy staff on board.”

OR: How did you develop Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore‘s story, and keep the game from falling into an awful parody of the classic CD-i games instead of paying an earnest homage to it?

SF: From the beginning, I knew that I didn’t want to make a wink wink, nudge nudge meme game that was mean-spirited. This was an earnest homage to those games. I wanted to make sure the writing was sincere – it is a strange world with strange characters, but they don’t know that. They are just kind of living their lives. It was important to me and my co-writer to make sure that the atmosphere was Saturday morning cartoons. Sometimes the humor didn’t land, but for the most part, it was a good-spirited world with a good-spirited antagonist.

To me, Arzette would never work if it was mean to itself. It’s a loving homage, and everyone that worked on the game – they all knew what we were doing, they all have the same sort of strange fondness for the [CD-i] games.

OR: About how many minutes of cutscenes are there in this game?

SF: There are 45 minutes of animation in the game.

OR: How do you decide when to use an animation to tell the story and when not to use animation in developing your story?

SF: The original games, for all their flaws, they had a really clever way of delivering player information – and that was through the cutscenes. A lot of the scenes in Arzette deliver gameplay information, like it might seem nonsensical at first, but the drunk guy at the bar is actually telling you that you can reflect projectiles by stabbing them, even though it seems like he is just going on a drunk rant. We added a few minor quests in the game that don’t have animation, but for the most part, I wanted to make sure that the entire thing was fully voice acted and animated.

Arzette sliding down a rope.
A lot of Arzette: The Jewel of Faremore’s story is told through animated cutscenes that invoke the art style of The Legend of Zelda CD-i games. (Images courtesy of Limited Run Games.)

Arzette | Cutscene Character

OR: Did you direct the voice acting?

SF: I had a professional voice director that worked alongside me while voice casting for the game.

OR: And I think you brought back some classic voice actors from the CD-i era. Can you tell us about that?

SF: Part of me being sincere and serious about making this a spiritual successor was to get some of the legacy staff on board. I managed to network and find contact info for some of the original voice actors and one of the original artists that worked on The Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon, Rob Dunlavey – he did the world map for Arzette and one of her levels. He was one of the background painters for Faces of Evil and he did the world map for the game as well.

Jeffrey Rath, who voiced Link in the original games and Bonniejean Wilbur who voiced Zelda – I explained the project, and that yes, it’s been 30 years [but] I promise I’m not crazy. I outlined that it’s an homage, right? They understood, because they’re fully aware of the reputation that the games have. I think for them, it’s really rewarding to see people wanting to revisit their work. They were very receptive [to this], and a joy to work with.

OR: Can you tell us about your partnership with Limited Run Games to publish this title?

SF: After I decided that I wanted to do this game, I started pitching it to various publishers. I sat down with Josh Fairhurst, the CEO of Limited Run, to pitch a physical version of the game. He saw approximately 30 seconds of an early version of the shopkeeper scene, and he decided this was a game they wanted to do. Limited Run seems to want to take risks on games that nobody else would, because Zelda CD-i spiritual successor is certainly a risk. But I think he knew exactly what I wanted to do and how it would be a special game. The game has been a success, so it certainly has been a wonderful relationship with Limited Run Games.

Arzette | Platforming in a level
Even though the game is designed with a heavy CD-i influence, the gameplay itself is better suited for modern day gamers. (Image courtesy of Limited Run Games.)

OR: In a 2020 interview with Eurogamer, you mentioned that it took you about four years to develop the remasters of Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon. Did any of that experience play into developing Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore?

SF: Absolutely. I learned a lot more about programming, project management, and how to structure a game from those. They also share the game engine – Gamemaker Studio 2 – I’ve been using Gamemaker since I was 12 years-old, so a fairly long time and I’m fairly familiar [with it].

But it’s learning lessons from those games as well. Even remastering those games – I learned what works and what doesn’t for Arzette to give a modern gameplay experience for players.

OR: There is also a new CD-i controller that was released through Limited Run Games. Can you tell us about that and why would you want to do that yourself?

SF: That was one of the things that we had a discussion about, was doing that controller. It’s just one of those silly, fun things that Limited Run loves to do. For the authentic homage, you can pick up one of those retro controllers. It’ll work on any Switch game. I would not recommend players playing through Arzette the first time with the controller, but it is certainly playable. I’ve played through the whole game with that.

Arzette | CD-i inspired controller
I tried this CD-i inspired controller out at PAX East to try to play Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore. It was…difficult to play with, to put it mildly. (Image courtesy of Limited Run Games.)

OR: And how was that experience playing with the CD-i controller?

SF: I will say…interesting. I will say, interesting.

OR: That is a loaded statement.

SF: Yes, it is.

OR: Now with Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore released, what’s next? More CD-i inspired titles? Are you going in a different direction entirely? Or what are you planning on doing in the future?

SF: I would love to keep exploring lesser-loved games and everything else. But really, a lot of it depends on the success of Arzette for where I would go next. But yeah, I’m pretty much up for anything.

OR:  Thank you.

Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore is available for purchase NOW: Nintendo SwitchPlayStation 4PlayStation 5Xbox Series X/SPC

Have you ever played either of the classic The Legend of Zelda CD-i titles?

What do you think about the new retro-style controller?

Let us know in the comments below!

Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.