GC to GBA linkablity has reached its apex with this title. If you have three other friends that own GBAs (and link cables) then you will have the time of your life playing this game.
Zelda Four Swords Adventures can best be described as the perfect blend of Link to the Past (LttP) and the Wind Waker. As the game retains is 2D playability of LttP, it combines many graphical as well as puzzle solving elements of Wind Waker. This game must be played within the restrictions of two dimensions strictly so the GBA can support the game play. However, any classic Zelda game, as well as Four Swords, can once again prove to the world that 2D gaming is still alive and well. Unlike previous Zelda games, this one plays linearly; when you complete one level, you go to the next. Even though there is no Overworld to traverse, the game is still fun and exciting.
Zelda, along with some other maidens, have been kidnapped by an evil sorcerer named Vaati and it is up to Link, or rather Links, to save them. Once Link grabs hold of the legendary Four Sword, he is split into four copies of himself. If playing alone, the player will control all four Links simultaneously. Controlling the Links is well thought out as each Link can be controlled together or independently. The “L” button is designed to shape the Links into a number of different formations. The green Link will always be the leader of the pack as the other Links follow closely behind. However, if the “L” button is used, the player can tell the remaining Links to form into a vertical or horizontal line, group together into a box shape, or face outward as if standing in a diamond. Each formation can best be used in different battle or puzzle situations.
While the single player is still a pretty solid adventure, the heart and soul of the game revolves around multiple players each controlling their own Link. When playing with multiple people, each player must use a GBA as the controller just like in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The game play flows seamlessly from your television to your GBA without any type of lag. If players are luckily enough to have three other friends, then each player will control a single Link. However, since there must always be four Links on screen, if you play with two or three players, another Link or two might be following another player given how many people are playing. For example, if playing with only two human players, each player will also have another Link under their command.
The control layout is perfect for the balance of the game. The “A” and “B” buttons are used for sword attacks and item use while “R” will pick up and throw objects. Multiple items and upgrades will be found throughout each stage. Classic Zelda items like extra heart containers, boomerangs, Roc’s Feather, bombs, slingshots and more can be found throughout the game. The trick is, you can only hold one extra weapon at a time. Item swapping and careful planning are an essential part of Four Swords. While playing solo, if you pick up an item, all your Links will have that item. However, if playing with multiple players, it would be wise for each player to grab a different item as you never know what item will be needed. This is one instance of teamwork and the joy of co-op play.
Today, game developers tend to lean more toward competitive game play as opposed to cooperative. Four Swords Adventures is actually a unique blend of the two. In order to complete each level, the four Links must work together. Like the GBA version of Four Swords (included in the remake of Link to the Past), the Links must all simultaneously stand on switches, push and pick up heavy boulders, and throw each other over chasms. However, this GC version takes this co-op idea to another level. For example, in one of the earlier stages of the game, the players might be wondering how to get across a giant pit. To find an answer, each player splits up. In order for this to be accomplished, players must venture solo on their own personal GBA screens. The game is played through your GC on your television screen, but when a single player falls down a hole, enters a cave, or ventures to the dark world, the game shifts over the your GBA screen. This means that other players can continue on wherever they go. This is quite a nifty idea and provides very innovated game play.
Getting back to the crossing the giant pit problem? the players must split up to find an answer. After walking to a different part of the level, Player One might notice some eyeball switches that are out of reach. Player One now knows that these switches must be hit with an arrow for a drawbridge to open to cross the pit. However, Player Two is the only one with a bow and arrow and cannot see the switches as they are off screen. It then becomes Player One’s job to guide Player Two where to shoot the arrows. Player Two’s first shot might be a little high, so Player One tells Player Two to move down until the switches are hit. This type of co-op play is only possible through multiple screens. Also, the game even switches from the GBA world to the GC world in real time. Let me give another example. Within time, players will come across a shooting gallery where you can shoot a limited number of arrows at moving targets to win gems. All the Links must walk inside a house and talk to the owner of the shop. Once the competition begins, targets start moving on the GC television screen while the players are still inside the house, on the GBA screen. The players must then shoot their arrows off the edge of the GBA screen onto the television screen. The Links can move left and right inside the house (GBA screen) to deliver a proper set up shot on the GC screen and the arrow will fly from the corresponding part on each system. This strong attention to detail and innovated programming make this game a true wonder to play.
To make the game competitive and interesting, players must collect Force Gems. These gems come in different sizes and colors, with each displaying a different value. At the end of each level, the game tallies up each player’s score. In order to increase your score, you must collect these Force Gems. This makes players squabble for each remaining gem. Plus, the game even promotes this competitive game play. Often times, all the Links must stand on switches where one big gem falls from the sky. Only one gem! This is game’s way to promote the competitive edge between players. Also, after a level has been completed with three or four human players, each player must secretly vote on their GBAs on who performed the best and worst.
Teamwork is a beautiful thing when it is fully understood. With this said, let me advise that I warn players to pick their friends carefully. You and your friends will have a blast playing Four Swords cooperatively until an unintentional accident happens. One player will accidentally pick up and throw another player into a burning hot sea of lava or one player will accidentally hit another player with his sword when chopping down grass. If persistent, the player who is getting the shaft will become vengeful. Before you know it, each player will be competing in a free for all death match in a quest for satisfying revenge. Revitalizing and life-saving (and rare) fairies will be used to keep the match going instead of reviving players when it is needed most, in the heat of a boss battle. Just be sure to carefully pick your friends.
Like previously stated, the graphical style of the game is similar to LttP. In order to spice up the game’s visuals, Wind Waker particle effects are thrown in all over the place like the swooshing twirl dust cloud after you defeat an enemy. Even bosses and enemies from the Wind Waker are present, like Phantom Gannon. Everything looks well detailed with bright and vivid colors except Link himself. When the screen zooms in, it can easily be seen that the sprites are not vector based as they begin to pixelate. However, when the Links move apart on the GC screen, the view pans out to display a detailed environment.
To truly please long time Zelda fans, the musical score has been lifted from past Zelda games. Everything from the classic Hyrule theme, to the original Zelda level 8-dungeon theme are all placed within the game. However, most musical themes have remained unchanged and sound just as they did in the past. As stated, long time Zelda fans will enjoy this, but I would have liked to hear a little more power coming from the Cube besides a simple midi file. Revamped, orchestrated versions of classic tunes could have been recreated for this game. Even though this would have been nice, the game still retains its high musical quality for a Zelda game.
To up the replay value, a death match mode has been included in Four Swords. If your friends are constantly fighting in the story mode of play, tell them to take out their frustrations in the death match ring. Many levels are available to play right from the get-go, but more will be unlocked after the story mode of the game has been completed. Each level contains numerous weapons and environment interactivity. Everything from chicken fights to racing on horses will have players entertained. Players can even unlock mini games compliments of Tingle in the story mode of the game. Sadly, Navi Trackers was not included in the US release of the game. Japanese gamers had this game include with their copies of Four Swords, but Nintendo failed to include it because the general review was rather negative.
Despite being a great game, there is one massive flaw in the design. There is no “save anytime” feature. While this isn’t that big of a problem considering each level will not take a whole lot of time to complete, but the problem lies in the hardware. If playing with four human players, each player has to control their Link with a GBA. However, if one player decides to leave, or if their GBA runs out of juice, the game resets automatically when a connection has been lost and returns to the title screen unsaved. Plus, the GBA SP cannot be plugged into the wall for a recharge when linked up the GC because the link cable covers the recharge slot. Players are strongly advised to always charge up their GBAs before starting the game.
The bottom line is simple; if you have friends that own GBAs, you must play this game. Even if you do not own a GBA, you might want to consider buying one. While the single player will still hold hardcore Zelda players to the end, it just doesn’t compare to playing with friends. Rarely do you see a co-op game that revolves around the use of puzzles instead of leveling up. Four Swords probably has the best mix of co-op and competitive game play. Plus the battle mode and mini games will hold you over when the quest has been completed. The graphics demonstrate the wonderful flair of the hand drawn 2D sprite, but the special Wind Waker effects put this game over the top. While the sound could have benefited from a slight revamping, it still helps create the mood of the game that Zelda fans will definitely appreciate. It is time to gather your friends and take GC to GBA connectivity to a whole new level. Oh yeah, and you also get a free GC to GBA link cable when you purchase this game. If you have multiple friends with GBAs, play this game. Go now.