The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
There’s an old saying that goes: There’s strength in numbers. It’s a saying that more than one meaning, and all of them hold true. Having superior numbers can spell certain victory or defeat in war. The power of numbers can lighten the mood of a party, can spark mass riots, and take actions that are recorded throughout the annals of history. When more people agree on a cause, their obvious morale can strengthen their argument and win support. Just the feeling of assurance you get from having backup can lighten the burden of stress or fear. While our society encourages independency from others, there’s nothing wrong with people sharing and working toward a common interest. A single person can only accomplish so much; having others to help out can make far more of a difference. Indeed, having someone to back you up can be an the most important aspect of survival and success.
This is what it looks like when you play without a GBA as the controller.
Case in point: Link. This green-clad hero of old has saved the realm of Hyrule more times than you can shake a stick at. He’s faced down everything from powerful madmen to giant dragons to shield-eating monsters to homicidal chickens. He’s always done these adventures solo, adding even more fame to his critically acclaimed legend. However, this hero is in for the wakeup call of his life. An evil sorcerer named Vaati showed up in Hyrule, and started kidnapping beautiful young maidens left and right. Doing what any righteous hero would do, he set off to vanquish the evil and restore peace to his homeland. At the start of his quest, Link came across a strange sword. In a critical moment against a mysterious foe, the hero grasped the sword’s hilt and prepared to fight. One slight problem, though: that mysterious sword split its wielder into four separate fighters, forcing the confused hero to fight alongside three of his own clones. Thus, the typically solo hero Link must figure out a way to work together with his new allies and annihilate Vaati once and for all.
Needless to say, this won’t be your typical Zelda game. With four times the workforce, you’re going to in store for more than a few surprises as you continue your quest. The usual exploration and freedom aspects have been thrown by the wayside, replaced by linear sectioned levels. Sorry, all of you Zelda fans out there, but riding free and fast over the lands of Hyrule is no longer an option. Also, the typical dungeon exploration and item acquisitions have been replaced with Force Gem hunting. As you defeat enemies, cut down grass, and open treasure chests, you’ll come across these pyramid-shaped trinkets. Though they look nothing more than shiny pieces of jewelry, the Force Gems are the key to maxing out the power of your sword. If you collect enough, your sword will be powered up, allowing you to break through the magical barrier placed at the end of the level. If you’ve managed to collect enough gems, you’ll be well on your way to the next area to start the hunt afresh. If not, you’ll have no choice but to try again.
Ooops, look like blue Zelda stepped on a land mine.
However, that doesn’t mean that the classic Zelda gaming formula has been thrown out entirely. You’ll still have to visit towns, climb mountains, and explore dungeons as you inch ever closer to defeating Vaati. The levels are designed to make full use of all four heroes, offering occasionally complicated puzzles and traps. Sometimes you’ll have to stand on four separate panels to make a door open, forcing you to control each Link one at a time. Sometimes there will be large boulders that require the team’s combined efforts to lift or push, while some areas require the weight of all four heroes grouped together. Most switches require four hits to activate, and some enemies can only be taken out by a certain colored Link. All of these aspects have been taken from the usual Zelda game puzzles and dungeons, then tweaked and changed to test your abilities to multitask and use your team to its fullest extent.
Thankfully, your crew is more than capable of finishing the job. They can be aligned into four distinct formations, depending on the situation and surroundings. They can line up horizontally or vertically, crowd into huddled group, or shift into a large diamond perfect for causing a massive range of destruction. Also, all the members of your merry band of clones have the same abilities as Hyrule’s savior, ranging from Spin Attacks to defensive rolls. You’ll also gain access to bombs, boomerangs, slingshots, and other staples of Link’s arsenal. The heroic quartet can use these items in tandem, creating makeshift firing squads that can cover a remarkable distance. However, just because there’s four times the firepower doesn’t make the game any easier. Not only do you get to handle to workload of four Links but you’ll also have to deal with four times the enemies. Just imagine taking on thirty armed knights at once, or enduring storm of projectiles from a screen full of Octoroks. Needless to say, you’re going to have your hands full.
Twenty years of video game evolution and we’re still fighting blue ninjas on bridges. Sheesh.
Luckily, you don’t have to shoulder so much responsibility on your own. The Four Swords Adventures makes full use of the Gamecube’s connectivity features with the GBA, allowing you and three of your friends to link up and independently control each of the Links onscreen. Though managing four heroes can prove to be a chore at times, having other people to help can make the game so much more fun. You’ll be able to get through the levels faster if you can coordinate your actions and team up against foes. Instead of being limited to formations, your team will be able to work independently, allowing them to accomplish tasks more efficiently. Though you’ll be working alongside each other, you can compete for the number of Force Gems collected or enemies defeated, ranking your from the best to worst of the quartet. You can even participate in a Shadow Battle, an epic showdown that pits your Link against your friends’ heroes. Though having four GBAs and link cables can prove hard to come by, the quality of the multiplayer makes it worth every minute of it.
However, the gameplay isn’t the only thing that makes Link’s latest adventure shine. This game makes excellent use of the Gamecube’s graphical abilities, immersing you in a wonderfully vibrant and lively rendition of Hyrule. It borrows many of the cell-shaded aspects of Wind Waker, treating gamers to vivid animations of searing hot fire pits, clear lush green forests, quaint towns blue water, and massive explosions. You can see the shadows of the clouds drifting overhead, or the steam and embers popping off a chunk of burning grass. You can see the sword begin to glow as it gains strength, or the wonderfully bright magic that appears at thee end of every level. Though the sprites are in 2D, they look remarkably detailed with smooth animations and distinct coloring. Also, all of the sound effects were executed flawlessly, with impressive explosions and music themes. And if all else fails, you get to hear Link’s typical attack cries, only in a wonderfully harmonious choir of four.
Yeah, well I don’t know what’s going on in this screen shot, not at all.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is amazing. Not only does it introduce a much-needed change in the story, it gives the series a breath of fresh air with some interesting concepts. Sure, Force Gem hunting may not be the most creative thing the minds behind the series have ever conceived, but it does offer a nice departure from the tried and true gameplay formulas that have grown a little stale. The ability to control four Links at once is an amazing feature, creating plenty of challenges and intrigue for all who seek it. The multiplayer is amazing, allowing for hours of fun for you and all your cronies who are willing to play. But if there’s one thing that this game does well, it proves that 3D gaming is vastly overrated.