Format reviewed: GameCube
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 3
Find out what happened when Nintendo split Link into four.
The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was first revealed back in 2003, when Nintendo announced two new Zelda games that would highlight the connectivity between both the Game Boy Advance and GameCube. The first was Four Swords; the second was Tetra’s Trackers. Nintendo and Capcom had already proven the merits of a four-player Zelda game thanks to the addition of Four Swords to the GBA version of A Link To The Past, which enabled four Links to team up and solve dungeons while they competed against each other for rupees. It was a great idea if a little rough around the edges, but was obviously the inspiration for Nintendo’s new GameCube project.
Several months later, Nintendo had announced that the two games (Four Swords was now known as Hyrulean Adventures, while Tetra’s Trackers had changed to Navi Trackers) would be included on the same disc and would be joined by a third title, Shadow Battle. Navi Trackers sounded particularly interesting at the time, because it included an interesting speech navigation system that would recognise player’s names and notify them when it was their turn to play. Unfortunately, only Japanese gamers and importers got to experience it; it was eventually released only in Japan. However, even with just two of the original games, the Western version of Four Swords Adventures proved an essential release…
The meat of Four Swords Adventures is the excellent ‘Hyrulean Adventures’, which expands magnificently on Capcom’s original GBA multiplayer effort.
Unlike the vast majority of Zelda games, Four Swords Adventures takes place over eight distinct worlds, which are further broken down into three smaller levels featuring such well known locations as Lake Hylia and Kakariko Village, and always culminate in an exciting boss encounter. It was a massive step away from the traditional sprawling worlds of both Ocarina Of Time and The Wind Waker, but perfectly suited the more arcade-style trappings of Four Swords’ gameplay mechanics.
When playing on your own you’d typically control one Link, with the other three following you (don’t worry, as you can control each one independently when needed). When using linked Links, you’ll need to master four different formation styles, which cover everything from defence to setting up attack strategies and solving puzzles. While initially tricky to get to grips with, you’ll soon get used to the new mechanic and, before long, will be activating switches, swapping attack formations and lobbing huge boulders many time your size without a second thought.
The arcade pace only increases further when playing with friends; while you need to work together in order to progress, the inclusion of Force Gems allows for plenty of squabbling between team-mates. At certain points of the game the screen can become filled with huge numbers of gems, which immediately cause a frantic fracas as you rush to collect them all. Collecting gems grants its own rewards, as it greatly powers your sword and enables you to break the seal at the end of each stage.
This tense competition between friends is further fuelled by the inclusion of eight fun mini-games which range from racing horses to collecting monsters. Additionally, we shouldn’t forget about the separate game ‘Shadow Battle’, which pits you against your mates until only one Link is left standing. In fact, the only downside to the multiplayer was its reliance on four Game Boy Advances in order to play it.
Luckily, while Four Swords Adventures benefits greatly from playing with friends it is still a superb romp in single-player, where you were tasked with taking control of all four Links at once. Admittedly, the story is a little twee – while the ending is something you’ll probably be able to see coming a mile off if you’ve ever played a Zelda game before, but it’s put together with so much love and attention that you won’t really mind.
It’s also slowly rising in price (especially the more lavish box set that comes with a Link Cable), so be sure to grab it now and enjoy one of the most inventive games in the Zelda canon.
Why It’s A Future Classic
The reason we’re convinced you’ll still be playing this in years to come is because it’s just an amazingly charming little game that offers endless replay value. While there’s no denying that the main joy of Four Swords Adventures comes from playing with up to three other friends, the single-player mode of ‘Hyrulean Adventures’ is just as enjoyable, and features an array of clever puzzles and boss encounters that linger in the memory long after you’ve finished the lengthy solo quest.
Yes the story is twee and overly familiar to anyone who’s ever played a Zelda game before, and yes, the oh-so-cute visuals won’t appeal to everyone, but the innovative gameplay mechanics, cleverly designed stages and frantic arcade action will constantly draw you back in to the beautiful looking world. An excellent achievement that needs a sequel.
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