The latest 16-bit classic to hit the Game Boy Advance, Legend of Zelda is an amazing gameplay experience today as it was 11 years ago. The all new 2-4 player mode, Four Swords, is an enthralling concoction of teamwork and puzzle solving.
The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past remains to this day among the very top of Nintendo’s best video games. A flawless masterpiece, Link to the Past drastically improved upon its predecessors by introducing a more linear framework for the player to explore (rather than the vast open-endedness of the two previous games), a better interface and controls, and dungeon puzzles and layouts designed in such a manner that can only be called perfect.
Zelda is an action/adventure, a unique genre in which the purpose of the game is to navigate through a story-based quest by figuring out puzzles. In the case of Zelda, these puzzles are mainly located in dungeons that you must beat in order to move on, and they are solved usually with equipment and items that you find throughout the game.
Zelda starts out by giving the player very little and keeping dungeons and puzzles fairly simple. As the player progresses through the game, puzzles become more difficult, more equipment and items that are instrumental in solving puzzles will be found, and the enemies and bosses get tougher. By the end of the game, the player will have overcome its challenge in a simple yet beautiful step by step process.
Zelda’s puzzles can only be described as brilliant, especially since the game never tries to hold your hand. It gives you situations in which you must figure things out on your own, and while they aren’t obvious at first, the solutions are simple enough for a player to go “Ah ha! That’s how I do it!” almost immediately.
The core gameplay element that exists in Zelda, and is also the cornerstone of the Metroid series, is exploration. While puzzle solving is the “beef” behind Zelda’s gameplay, the general exploration of the world map and the way you unlock new areas with the new items you have found or earned is the main reason why Zelda is such a beautiful gaming experience.
The game is a fairly tight package. Unlike its sequels, which are built in a way that the experience lasts 30-40 hours, Zelda: Link to the Past is constructed in a manner that is almost pure game. The Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time are long games because of story cut-scenes, mini-games, town exploration, side quests, and other miscellaneous items. While these elements make those games closer to “Action/RPGs” than Action/Adventure, Link to the Past contains none of them, and instead it focuses on only delivering solid dungeons and exploration. Thus, the game can be beaten in a single sitting of only a few hours.
Nintendo has added a few new elements in the port of Link to the Past. Here’s a run down of some of them:
- There are a few randomly placed, shiny stones throughout the game, and hitting the stone repeatedly yields rupees much in the same way that certain blocks in the Mario games yield coins when hit repeatedly.
- There are added sound/voice effects, mainly when Link gets hit and yelps.
- After you borrow the shovel to find the ocarina, you actually get to keep it.
- In the Dark World town, there’s a new shop that sells fairies and bees.
- When you use the ocarina to call the duck, there’s a 9th place on the map that you can fly to, at Turtle Rock.
- Finally, there is a bonus dungeon, located inside Ganon’s pyramid, which is only accessible after you complete the bonus game.
Four Swords is a Capcom/Flagship-developed multiplayer game in which you and a partner or three play through several dungeons. When you first start up a game, there are “worlds” that you can pick from, and each of these worlds have several levels to play. To make things simple, your character essentially has a sword, and another item used for puzzle solving that can be switched with another item at certain blocks.
Four Swords essentially amounts to a multiplayer puzzle game, and that alone makes it an incredible experience. While the true purpose of the game is to see who collects the most rupees, helping each other out seems to be much more enjoyable than competing.
Overall, Zelda: Link to the Past + Four Swords is a must-own Game Boy Advance title. Even if you have already played the original SNES classic to death, there are enough new elements to warrant yet another play through. And if you have a few friends with a copy of Zelda, you’ll get nearly endless entertainment from the Four Swords multiplayer game.