The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords was the first game in the series that took the classic adventure setup we all know and then threw in four player support. 2 years later we then got Four Swords Adventures for the GameCube which expanded on it but other than some battle modes added in with the DS titles, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, multiplayer has been noticeable absent from the franchise. Now after 12 years since their first co-op title Nintendo are giving it another go in Zelda Tri Force Heroes which pits 3 players in the most bizarre Zelda game to date.
This time around we find ourselves in the fashionable kingdom of Hytopia in which the citizen look up in admiration of Princess Styla’s adorable fashion sense. That is except the Drablands resident witch Lady Maud who decides to curse the princess, forcing her to wear an ugly and irremovable onesie. This act forces the kingdom into a dark depression where the citizens and king Tuft look for the Totem Heroes of old. Heroes with very pointy ears, fantastic sideburns and one killer side-parting. Tri Force Heroes without doubt takes the top spot for the most bonkers plot. As weird as it might be this lighter plot is meant to be a good laugh, as you mess about in the Drablands with some mates.
The Drablands is split into 8 different regions from Woodlands to Volcanos and each one of those is divided again into 4 sections. For those that aren’t great at maths that’s 32 levels to explore, each gradually getting more difficult the further you progress. Each scenario starts with you obtaining your different bits of equipment before you must guide your 3 Links to the glowing Triforce at the end of the level. From there everything plays out like your normal Zelda game, B to swing your sword and Y to use your tool. The key gameplay mechanic involved in this game is the mighty power of the totem. Enemies, switches and items all sit on different levels so you need to work together, picking up your friends to throw them across gaps, reach out of place switches and thwart enemies. Boss fights are particularly fun as they require some smart team work to win as each monster is a small puzzle itself. Lava dwelling Moldrom for example requires one Link to act as a diversion while the others target his tail. The game definitely does well to encourage players to work as a team and goes so far as to share one health bar between three. If you’re still not intrigued then perhaps the bonus challenges may just change your mind. These challenges thrown into each stage after completion such as time trial runs go a long way to greatly extend the replayability.
Link has access to seven of his past tools of destruction plus one new one; Fire Gloves which lets him throw and hold fireballs. The usual tools include Link’s trusty bow, shattering hammer and devastating bombs. Ultimately though it’s not his weapons that are the biggest talking point. Hytopia is a fashionable place and you’re not going to get anywhere here without some more heroic and fancy threads. Yes in this game Link is a fan of cosplay. The outfits aren’t just for an aesthetic change either as each costume is imbued with magic care of the clothier Madame Couture. By bringing her materials recovered at the end of each dungeon run you can create an outfit that can give you a certain edge above your allies, others…well they’re just a bit of fun. The Zora costume makes you a faster swimmer, a Fire Blazer that lets him shoot three fireballs at once and the Timeless Tunic alters the music to chiptune tracks. Overall they’re not necessary to beating dungeons but they are rather fun to just mess around with.
Of course the whole appeal of this game relies on its multiplayer capabilities and there’s plenty of choice. You can play online with your friends or the rest of the world, you can play locally with friends who also possess copies of the game and then if they don’t there’s also download play. Multiplayer is the best way to play by far, however there are occasional drops in performance and local coop trumps online as you can communicate better in person. Online you can use 8 emotes to encourage, call or complain which is rather restricting so you may find yourself in situations where you’re waiting for your team mates to work out puzzle solutions you already now.
So what do you do if you have no mates? There is a single player mode in which Doppels take the place of the other two players. Using the touchpad you can switch out to one of your other Doppels so you can literally be in multiple places at once. If you do happen to play this way though be prepared for a much tougher challenge. Some puzzles for example require Link to pass bombs between each other, on your own you need to have some fast reactions to successfully switch between the right colour links before the explosive detonates. Another example is that even though they’re just in inanimate objects they can still take damage from certain stage hazards so you have to make sure every Link is in a safe spot before continuing with one. While some may seem impossible every puzzle can be completed solo you just have to work a bit harder to progress. Not being able to play single play was a major complaint for Four Swords as multiplayer was actually very complicated and required each player to have their own GBA, a copy of the game and a link cable. In a way single player in this game feels like it was bolted on at the end as Nintendo look back on this flaw from the original.
Tri Force Heroes oozes charm as it borrows it’s artstyle from Link’s last original 3DS outing, a Link Between Worlds. Bright, attractive colours are splattered all of the game with characters, enemies and environments all composed of interesting and eccentric designs. Of course with this being a Zelda game there are zero complaints about the sound design as it includes revamped retro classics and some new great orchestral pieces.
Zelda Tri Force Heroes isn’t your typical Zelda outing, boasting the franchises most eccentric story and some unique team oriented puzzle mechanics. The game looks fabulous and that’s not just about the clothing, the bright colours and superb soundtrack oozes your typical Zelda charm. Multiplayer is without doubt the best way to experience the land of Hytopia and the new totem mechanic makes for some interesting puzzle designs. Just be wary that communication is restricted when playing online and single player (while fun in short bursts) feels like more of an afterthought. Tri Force Heroes is a fun experience that anyone can get into but because it’s essentially a mini game spin-off title it may lose some of the diehard fans who are eagerly awaiting the next big instalment
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down.