I’m happy Nintendo keeps revisiting the idea of multiplayer Zelda games. If you haven’t played any of the Four Swords games before (which I can totally believe, because getting together four people with a Game Boy Advance and Link Cable each, and a copy of the Gamecube game is challenging) then you’re actually missing out on something special. When there are multiple Link’s on the screen, vying for the same items, rupees, and points, things get chaotic. And it’s not like any other Zelda game, because the puzzles are totally different, the gameplay can take interesting twists not seen in other games, and it still remains Zelda and it is still fun!
Coming later this year is The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes for the Nintendo 3DS. A multiplayer focused portable Zelda game isn’t anything new, but the way this game feels and the odd-yet-familiar approach to gameplay and puzzles certainly is. I was able to get a hands-on with the game during PAX Prime 2015 and have some thoughts to share with you on the newest entry in the classic series.
Triforce Heroes borrows its art style, majority of mechanics, and most other details from A Link Between Worlds. If you weren’t a fan of that game (which I can’t believe) then you probably won’t find much to love here, because it feels largely the same. Personally I think the cartoony and more playful style fits the Zelda franchise more than the grittier and darker settings in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, but I digress. On the 3DS screen Triforce Heroes still looks beautiful, with bright colors popping out at you, all too familiar enemies and sound effects playing in your ears, and that charm you often find in Zelda games.
But what really makes Triforce Heroes stand out, obviously, is multiplayer. Three players can play at once, each controlling a different version of Link. Before the start of each dungeon you get to equip your Link with an outfit. Each outfit grants your Link access to a special ability or weapon. For example, the Kokiri Clothes let you use the Bow and Arrow in the stage, while the Goron Garb lets Link traverse through lava. It’s a unique approach to the traditional Zelda formula of items, which coincidentally follows with how items were dealt with in A Link Between Worlds. There are a lot of different costumes to use and unlock, and depending on what items you bring into a stage will change up how you actually complete each dungeon. Hooray replay value!
All three Links share a single Heart pool. That means if you take damage you’re also taking away life from your teammates, which makes reckless gameplay a non-option. On the opposite side of that, picking up a heart will refill your collective Heart pool, so you take damage together and gain life together. There were a few occasions where our team all fell into a pit at the same time (tricky Nintendo!), and we lost a total of three hearts quite fast. This added a lot to the tension of each battle: each mistake could cost you and your team dearly! This wasn’t how past multiplayer Zelda games worked, and I actually like this way a lot better: it forces you to play more strategic to overcome your foes.
Puzzles are one of the biggest parts of any Zelda game, and they are in full effect in Triforce Heroes. Many classic elements from past Zelda titles return, so veterans will have a slight advantage in certain stages when trying to figure out what to do to advance. For example, in one stage some pots are revolving around the center of the stage, and you need to toss bombs into them in order to get them to explode to reveal a key to the next area. Again, standard affair for Zelda vets.
But this is a multiplayer Zelda game, so it can’t be that easy! This is where Triforce Heroes makes a name for itself. Most of those classic puzzles are altered to require you to use your teammates to win. That same bomb puzzle actually required us to stack a couple Links on top of each other, and the top Link would have to throw bombs into the pots. And that third Link wasn’t just standing around, he was attempting to slay jumping enemies that were getting in the way of the bombing duo. It was fun!
It was also kind of tough! To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting to be scratching my head on how to overcome a certain challenge. When Triforce Heroes was first announced, it just seemed like a new Zelda game where you could stack on top of each other to do all the same stuff you normally do. While that is kind of what’s going on here, it’s more than that. The game just feels a bit more challenging overall. There are lots of enemies on the screen that obstruct your views or make your task even more difficult. And then there are the boss fights.
In our demo stage we fought this huge creature in a spiked shell that we needed to throw bombs into in order to make the foe (a variation of Ghoma, I think) reveal itself. It put to use all of the previous skills we learned in the past dungeon to the test. Thankfully we developed a great strategy which lead to a satisfying victory. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for a group ahead of us who fought the centipede link Moldorm on top of a cage with pitfalls on the side. It looked like they still needed to attack the beasts tailside, but he was constantly moving toward a specific Link making it tough to win, because remember, if he got hit they ALL lost damage thanks to the collective Heart pool. They ended up losing in the end, and I honestly don’t know if I could have done better! So yay for challenging new ways to fight old bosses!
The game handled like any Zelda game would. There were also some options on the bottom touch screen to issue simple commands your teammates could see, like when to stack on top of each other, or to simply cheer each other on. Unfortunately I don’t think Triforce Heroes will support voice chat, but it does have online play. Strangely, and in a poor move in my mind, you can either play online with two other people, or locally with two other people, but you can’t play a combination of both. Hell, you can’t even play with just TWO people: you need to have all three or play just by yourself. This can cause a problem for some gamers (myself included) who only have an easy option of one other friend, but that’s not a deal breaker I suppose.
From what I saw and experienced at the demo, Triforce Heroes is going to be a solid entry in the Zelda pantheon, but it’ll hinge on your availability of willing friends to play with. Speaking from past experiences with Four Swords Adventures on the Gamecube though, getting a group together that actually can play this in the same room will surely be a blast. Screaming to one another to shoot arrows, throw bombs (or one another), or how to defeat an intricate boss is awesome. The game will be out this October, so get ready to tag team those dungeons!