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Retrospective: Philips CD-i

We cast a look back at one of the forgotten victims of the late 90s console war...

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Amongst other words, 'unlucky' is a fair way to describe the whole Compact Disc-Interactive incident.

Rebounding from a collapsed Nintendo CD gaming deal, Philips had it all worked out. Unfortunately their target audience, those '90s multimedia families who should have been tripping over their cables and tongues in a rush to throw money at this techno-witchcraft CD/console/PC hybrid for the TV, never showed up for the party.

That left Philips to fall back on the single-minded console crowd they'd sidelined from the start. And even then the games development was mainly in the hands of people who wouldn't know their Electronic Arts from their elbow.

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Up front it offered audiovisual CD quality well before PlayStation; a running start in a new market with only Sega's Mega-CD, Commodore's CDTV and 3DO to beat; a film, music and reference library to back up the games; old ties with Nintendo turning up some of the only Mario and Zelda games outside the Big N holy sanctum.

All this goodness came together about as well as a chicken biryani sponge cake. The machine was only cheap in early '90s PC terms, not SNES and Mega Drive terms. Those Mario and Zelda games... didn't quite mimic the Miyamoto magic. The identity crisis worsened, and the olive branch offered to gamers was flimsy at best.

Console gaming's 16-bit golden years had evolved into the crazy high-tech era of PlayStation, 3D was the new 2D and nobody gave much of a toss about interactive movies any more.

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Nevertheless, it wasn't such a brief, tragic mayfly existence. The CD-i lasted three years before being rebranded like a traumatised boyband, then another 2-3 years as a pure games machine before the axe fell. Despite a library of less than 150 games all in, that's not such a bad run. Just not enough to persuade Philips to ever go back for more.

Amongst that collection however, there were plenty of discs worth interacting with. Click the next page to read about eight of the best.

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