Though typically remembered as one of the most iconic single-player adventure series in gaming history, The Legend of Zelda is no stranger to cooperative multiplayer. Four Swords Adventures was a big hit on the GameCube over ten years ago and introduced a fun formula change for the series.
Though a primary purpose of Four Swords was to serve as a technology experiment involving connectivity between the GameCube and GameBoy Advance, the four-player suited environments and gameplay puzzles are still just as entertaining today as they were in 2004.
When The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes was unveiled at E3 this year, it may not have been the game Zelda fans were hoping to see but the immediate similarities to Four Swords were an optimistic sign.
Tri-Force Heroes is another instance of Nintendo branching off some of their most popular IPs into spinoffs heavily focused on one of the main game’s aspects. Animal Crossing got a similar treatment with the micromanagement of Happy Home Designer and Metroid Prime is slated to see the shooting-heavy Federation Force released in 2016.
This new Zelda game focuses solely on dungeon-crawling and puzzle solving. Where most of the series main installments have an expansive overworld stuffed with secrets and side-quests, Tri-Force Heroes ropes players off in one small town with access to a number of challenging maps available to drop into at any time.
Of course, the biggest selling point of the game is the reliance on cooperative multiplayer. Three Links, clad in red, blue and green are displayed on the cover, letting players know that this time around, it is very dangerous to go alone.
Nearly every level in the game is designed for three players who can communicate and plan accordingly. It allows for single-player, but at a minimally satisfying level. What holds this game back from greatness is the strict requirement for multiple adventurers, leading to the difficulty it poses for just one player.
However, when the title works, it works fantastically. Players with a number of 3DS-carrying friends in their immediate area will find the most enjoyment from this game, as a sense of real cooperation is lost when playing online.
Starting each area makes three items available to be grabbed, ranging from standards like the bow and arrow to magic items like the water rod.
There is a pretty standard and predictable rotation depending on what environment the dungeon is in, but racing to find and claim each item is always a thrill. Sometimes, only one player will have access to the bombs that are necessary for all three heroes to progress.
There are also a number of creative and inventive puzzles involving using all three players’ mobility and interaction to get to the end of a level. Bouncing off of each other and grappling across areas is exciting and sometimes takes a decent amount of problem-solving.
But a big hindrance to this formula is the assumed cooperation of all three players. If you’re paired online with a renegade-type who either doesn’t know what to do or doesn’t want to do it, you will find yourself quickly frustrated.
Playing the game in single player tasks you with control of all three Links. While the idea of switching between multiple characters on the same map in a Zelda game seems fresh and inventive, the execution is poorly handled and requires a great deal of backtracking and repetitive movements and actions.
Overall, Tri-Force Heroes has some great ideas for a multiplayer addition to the popular series. The main problems with the game are the unwavering reliance on cooperation and lack of seriously compelling content.
The game will encourage you to replay levels a significant number of times if you want to get any more than five or six hours out of it. Collectors will find plenty to love with all the game’s outfits and materials.
In a world ruled by fashion, players have a wealth of costumes to track down that each offer aesthetic and gameplay bonuses. Some increase the hero’s magical abilities, boost health or grant protection.
Funnily enough, the costume-collecting aspect is tied directly to the game’s simple story, but it provides a charming and reasonable motivation to track down the coolest cuts of cloth.
There are vendors in the game’s small hub world that sell outfits and material which change daily, serving as a reason to check back with the game frequently. To obtain the materials needed to craft each, players will have to head out into the Drablands and defeat enemies to claim a hidden chest.
The content of these chests are hard to predict and change often. In the same way, players vote on which area they want to play in, so there is no way to control exactly what level you’ll be playing next outside of single player. Due to the fact that some materials can only be found in one area, hunting down a specific area can become a repetitive headache.
The latest free update added the Den of Trials, a fun gauntlet-style dungeon crawling gameplay mode that does add a new energy to the game. The Den of Trials is a good addition but nothing significant enough to make it easier or harder to recommend the overall game.
Tri-Force Heroes shares a similar visual style to the 3DS’ excellent A Link Between Worlds but the comparisons end there. For a handheld Zelda, this latest installment is serviceable and shallow in light of what the series has provided before.