Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords Plus

Nintendo takes the concept of GBA connectivity to the next level


The Lowdown

Pros: Excellent multiplayer mode, great single player mode, three different games, awesome graphics, includes a free GBA link cable

Cons: Not as difficult as other Zelda games

Purchase at Play-Asia
It took two great companies to come together to make The Four Swords. Capcom and Nintendo teamed up to make a multiplayer Zelda game. Originally this was a bonus Game Boy Advance game that was included in the Link to the Past cartridge. However, many people didn't take advantage of the Four Swords. Two years later The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords Plus gets a number of additions and becomes a full fledged Gamecube title. Not just a standard Gamecube title, but a game that exemplifies what exactly Game Boy Advance connectivity can do.

The story begins as Link is walking through a forest where he sees a shadowy figure image of himself imprison princesses. To set them free Link draws upon the blade of the Four Swords, which splits Link into four separate Links. He must work together with the other Links to free the princesses. When you enter Hyrule Adventure, which is the game most similar to Legend of Zelda each player controls a different Link. Each Link has the ability to hack and slash by pressing the B button. Holding down the B button allows Link to do his signature spin move. At the beginning of the level you don't start out with an item. Instead you need to venture through the level to find tools. Tools include classic items like the boomerang, fire rod, bow and arrows, slingshot, bombs and even the shovel. These can be used by pressing the A button. Each weapon can also be charged up by holding down the A button and if you find a special fairy you can even increase their level for more abilities. However, each Link can only carry one tool. This means in multiplayer mode you'll either have to share or fight over the different tools. Getting the right tools will enable you to collect more "force" pieces. These colorful triforce like icons are not only your points, but they can also provide a valuable upgrade for the sword. If you can collect 2000 pieces as a group the sword powers up and allows you to do the whirlwind attack and shoot magic shots from the blade. To make sure players aren't over powering other players every level all of your upgrades get reset. You lose all gained heart containers, items held and sword power ups to balance the game between players.

To upgrade your sword and complete levels you'll need to work as a team. Capcom and Nintendo have spent a significant amount of time making some intuitive puzzles that aren't too taxing, but just enough to make you think. Many of the puzzles in the first level are pretty simple. Mainly standard Zelda fare like stepping on switches, picking up giant rocks and pushing large objects. Only that these puzzles have a twist since you need to work together. For instance you may need all four Links to stand on a switch, or need four Links working together to push a single object. Later puzzles are more interesting and not exactly what you would expect. For instance you can't jump until you collect the rare Roc's feather item. Instead you'll need to pick up a fellow Link and throw him across gaps. Another more unique puzzle places you between two different worlds a shadow world and light world. You can see the shadows of the shadow world on screen, but can't enter that world unless you can obtain a special orb. Once you're in the shadow world changes you make in that world have an effect on the normal world. Which means to solve puzzles you'll be moving between the two worlds. Sometimes you'll have to have some Links in the shadow world, while some are in the light world.

Besides all of the puzzle solving you would expect from a Zelda game, the Four Swords has epic battles. Instead of fighting say two or three enemies on screen at a given time you'll be battling enemies in the double digit range. In the first level when you're walking across a bridge you'll see a flood of armored knights running down at you. One or two hits will eliminate a standard foe, but when you're surrounded by them you'll have to rely on your partners. You can actually "chain" the number of enemies you defeat. Each time you defeat a foe you'll see a number and as long as you are not hit the number will increase. Adding to the combo meter will increase the quantity of force pieces that can be dropped. Boss fights like puzzles require teamwork. The first boss, who resembles an enemy from the Wind Waker, throws energy balls at you which you need to hit back to it. Instead of directly throwing the ball back to the enemy you'll throw it to the next Link, who will then throw it to the next Link until the fourth Link throws it back to the boss. Sure the boss battles could have been hack and slash affairs, but instead they make you think just a little. Not only that they force teamwork upon players like no other game.

So you're probably asking yourself why the need for connectivity. Nintendo makes sure that there is a need for connectivity for the Four Swords and it isn't an after thought. Whenever there is a cave on screen or a house to walk into you enter your Game Boy screen when you enter a new area. This allows players to still fight on the overworld while you're talking to someone inside a house or hording treasures in a nearby cave. It basically allows a wider range of movement than your standard multiplayer action RPG. Of course you do need all four Links to move on to the next screen on the Gamecube, but while you're in your GBA you can move or not move as much as you want. Nintendo also placed some puzzle solving elements using the Game Boy for instance when there is a giant bomb placed on the screen the only way to avoid certain death is to hide inside of your GBA. The GBA also acts as a puzzle solving tool because players can be two places at the same time. This is best seen in Level 2-2, the shadow/light world level. Two players can be traversing in the light world ready to grab an item while another two are solving a puzzle in the shadow world. It is possible to have done the game by using split screens, but the connectivity is used in such a well done way Nintendo opted with the right choice.

If you're one of the Zelda series followers that have been frowning on the idea of Game Boy Advance connectivity, rest assured it supports a single player without a GBA. When you're playing single player mode you are still in control of all four Links. By pressing L you can change a different formations. The common formations are a back to back formation, a horizontal line, a vertical line and a square formation. For pushing large objects, picking up giant rocks and pulling switches the formations are a fast way to accomplish what would normally have to be done through teamwork. For other puzzles you'll need to manually control each Link. By pressing X you can move one Link at a time to position them to whatever places you need. When you would normally enter your Game Boy Advance a window pops up with what you would normally see in your GBA. If you have a link cable plus a Game Boy Advance and want to play single player mode you can do that too. The controls in this mode are the same as above except pressing select allows you to choose individual Links. Either controlling with the Gamecube controller or the GBA is a breeze due to the set formations. Nintendo made sure that they didn't have to alter the levels or the design of the game to make up for single player gameplay. If you we're thinking that the Four Swords is strictly a multiplayer affair, Nintendo has proven you wrong.

However, you will be missing out on quite a bit if you don't have a Game Boy Advance and a buddy. You won't ever get to experience the meat of the game working together to solve puzzles in the Hyrule adventure. Tingle also presents special multiplayer mini games that can be unlocked by completing levels. These mini games are normally fast paced arcade games. One game has you on a horse racing to the finish line while collecting scattered force pieces. The mini games included are an extra bonus for GBA users.

You'll be missing out on more than mini games with out a GBA. You'll also be missing out on a four player battle mode. The four player Shadow battle mode pits you against another Link, up to four Links in a battle to see who loses all of their hearts first. Each of the stages are completely different from one another. One stage has you on a platform above lava, which you can throw an opponent in. Another stage has a bunch of ladders, which allows for some interesting match ups. More levels can be unlocked while playing the game. The other game that requires a Game Boy Advance is formally known as Tetra's Trackers. Tetra's Trackers pits you against other players in a race to collect rupees and find shipmates. On the TV screen is a map, which shows the location of the players and people you need to talk to. You'll race against other players to talk to them first and to give them rupees. These two extra gameplay modes not only add more replay value to the game, but make the Four Swords a certified party game on top of an epic adventure.

The graphics in The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords owe a lot to A Link to the Past. Many of the sprites were taken directly from a Link to the Past. While the sprite based graphics pale into comparison to the high level of animation in the Wind Waker, the graphics have a certain style to them. The retro style of the characters, levels and enemies translates perfectly to the Game Boy Advance. So when you're entering into the GBA there is no loss in translation. The graphics also allow for many objects to be moving around on screen without slowdown. Four characters throwing boomerangs, thirty enemies running around and force pieces falling from the sky can all happen without a hint of slowdown. There are some Gamecube effects like the crisp explosion graphics, reflective water and shiny sword charges. The only time when the graphics have a problem is when you're looking at them up close. You can see a pixilated edge, which isn't as clean as you'd expect from the Gamecube. However, this is minor since you'll be mainly looking at the characters from a panned out camera.

The sound has more of a quality loss than the graphics. The music is mostly MIDI based. While it is nice to hear the familiar tunes from A Link to the Past it would be better to have them in higher quality audio. It might have been even a better to throw in some new songs too. The in game voices also suffer from a Game Boy Advance translation. The voices don't sound as clear like a Gamecube game, the quality is the same as a GBA sound byte. Although, these are still minor problems that don't distract a player from enjoying the game.

For the people that doubted GBA connectivity after seeing Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords Plus is here to prove that GBA connectivity can enhance gameplay. Nintendo has also put in effort so you can enjoy this excellent title without having a Game Boy Advance. This is because Four Swords Plus is a great game without the use of connectivity. The level design is excellent and the puzzle solving feels fresh since you have four players. Playing through Hyrule Adventure, is like playing through any other Zelda game with slightly more puzzle solving. If you do have a GBA you're in for more of a treat. Because The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords plus doubles as a party game due to the battle mode, Tingle's mini games and the Tetra's tracker mode.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 3

While the game is in Japanese, you can get through it without any knowledge of the language. It might require a little more patience and a look at different message boards, but it isn't that confusing to figure out with out Japanese knowledge.

US Bound?

On June 7, 2004 it comes out to America. Although, the US release will lack Tetra's Trackers. If you want all three games you have to import the Japanese version.

Overall

The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords Plus is more than a game that Zelda fans or even action RPG gamers will like. This game is easy to learn, innovative and can appeal to people of all ages. The use of GBA connectivity and all of the extra mini games just fills this game to the brim with replay value. Oh yeah, it comes with a free link cable too!