I don’t think that The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is very fun at all when played alone. It’s functional, but that’s just about the kindest thing to be said about it. Pre release circumstances forced me to play a fair bit of this game in single player and I wish I could have those hours of my life back.
Tri Force Heroes does not modify levels to suit the number of players available. This is a game with a set number of levels available and all are designed to be puzzling, challenging, and playful in turn when faced by three likeminded human players. When these levels are played solo, challenges that require three coordinated actions need to be input one at a time by switching rapidly between Links through touch screen icons. This makes the process of clearing levels less of a mad cap spelunking experience and more of a slow paced step by step methodical crawl instead.
And here’s what’s worse – Tri Force Heroes has a much heavier emphasis on traditional Zelda puzzle solving than past multiplayer experiments that leaned towards barely controlled chaos. I happen to prefer Zelda puzzles to Zelda themed mayhem in a vacuum, but one of the downsides to filling levels with puzzles is that you lose replayability. Once you figure out the solution to a puzzle, replaying that room will only ever be an experience of going through the motions. So not only is single player not very fun, but if you play a level first in single player it actually robs you of the delight that is figuring the level out with friends.
Not to mention the dynamics of playing a level with friends that you’ve already played alone. It would be wrong to just tell your friends all the solutions and give them instructions, because that ruins their fun. But waiting in silence for other people to catch up with you all the time isn’t really fun either. The way to enjoy this game is to go on an adventure together with your friends, and really that’s the only way to do it. I almost feel as though a single player mode shouldn’t have been included at all.
There is an upside to the time I spent in single player though – when playing with friends I don’t really get as much out of the audio/visual aspects of a game. Playing together means interaction with other people, not single minded focus on a screen. It’s almost a shame then how good Tri Force Heroes looks and sounds, because the presentation is absolutely up to Nintendo’s high first party standards.
The graphics and sound aren’t what you might expect from a Zelda game though. This is a profoundly goofy game, downright irreverent in fact. Zelda games have never been the most concerned with “lore” in the way most fantasy video game franchises are, and The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes straight up mocks the status quo that has defined past single player entries. There have been Kirby games with more on the line than there is in this game. This is Zelda without the gravitas. There’s no Ganondorf, no Hyrule, and the prophecy of a destined hero is so broad as to be a joke in itself (pointy ears, heroic sideburns, and hair parted to the side).
This distinctive tone is reflected in an absolutely delightful soundtrack featuring heavy use of a happy sounding accordion and some genuinely outlandish outfit designs for Link to don. Cross dressing is only the beginning. I don’t predict any tunes from this game showing up in Symphony of the Goddess any time soon (prove me wrong Nintendo!) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the music fits the aesthetic of the graphics and tone of the story perfectly within the game itself.
Just because playing single player gave me an opportunity to appreciate the finer details of this game doesn’t redeem the mode though. If you want to play by yourself, play something else. I’ll write about multiplayer in an upcoming article.