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Japan

Zelda no Densetsu: 4tsu no Tsurugi+

by Michael Cole - June 1, 2004, 9:03 pm PDT

9

Three dimensional gaming is for chumps.

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For the longest time, Nintendo preached GameCube-Game Boy Advance connectivity as the future, but had done little to support its claims. Some publishers used it for downloadable bonus content or as a sneaky way to encourage GBA or GameCube game sales. The lack of games making serious use of the connection often disappointed Nintendo fans’ high expectations. Well, Nintendo has finally come through with what it promised oh so long ago. Four Swords + (releasing as Four Swords Adventures in North America) is a divinely executed title that uses connectivity as a fundamental part of its design.

As I mentioned in my initial impressions of the import, the main game, Hyrule Adventure, is a euphoria of old-school Zelda bliss. Borrowing heavily from A Link to the Past—both in sprite artwork and game design—Hyrule Adventure sends up to four friends on a stage-based quest brimming with the quality action and puzzles gamers have come to expect from a Zelda title. Each of the twenty-four levels is impressively long (averaging around twenty minutes the first time through), and is filled with interactive and varied environments. Hyrule Adventure incorporates a bit of everything from the Zelda universe: power-up items such as the fire wand and boomerang, side-scrolling passageways, intense battles, and even trading sequences! Half of the game takes place on the television, but players will cross over to their Game Boy Advance screen when entering a house, cave, the alternate “dark" world, etc. Secret pathways, harboring optional and vital power-ups, are the game’s staple; players must coordinate to ensure the team is well-equipped. Friends must also collaborate to solve ingenious puzzles that toy with seasoned gamers’ preconceptions of Zelda games. (I don’t want to spoil any surprises.) Each stage also comes with its own boss battle, often inspired by The Wind Waker and other recent Zelda titles. You might even find that some of the rooms change, depending on the number of players…

It may all be fun and games, but Hyrule Adventure isn’t all peace doves and wholesome teamwork! Oh no, just as in many of the stages themselves, there is a dark side to Link’s multiplayer adventure. As more players join in the fun, the game becomes exponentially more competitive. Sure, everyone still has to work together to unlock doors and retrieve important items, but who gets said item? Once the players are familiar with the level, things become really vicious: everyone knows where the good items are, and they must compete for them.

As an experiment in greed, Nintendo has also scattered force power (basically money) throughout each stage. What’s more, the game has the nerve to declare the player with the most force power at the end of a stage the winner. Players will scramble for the goods, often turning the sword on their companions. And while the sword only stuns allies, pain can be inflicted through other means. To compensate, the game offers virtually unlimited lives. However, a downed player drops half of his force power, which the closest Link will undoubtedly pounce upon. A Link is revived after three to eight seconds, depending on just how force-rich he is compared to his brethren. Adding another psychological twist is the voting system at the end of each stage. Using the personal GBA screens as ballots, each player votes on the most amiable comrade and the least cooperative ally. The most popular player is rewarded with more force power before the final tally, while the “jack-ass" is similarly punished.

Four Swords + has an excellent adventure mode, but it is just as good as a party game. Tingle’s eight mini-games, unlocked through the main game with multiplayer, are as good a time-waster as you will find. They aren’t all winners, but the whack-a-mole (complete with Link’s hammer), Cuccos round-up, and tag games give the finest Mario Party games a run for their money.

Then there’s Shadow Battle, which pits up to four Links against each other in a frantic, bloody battle to the death. The rules are simple: whoever is left standing wins. Just as in the main game, the battle mode often makes use of the individual GBA screens for larger arenas and sneakier tactics. Switches in caverns will set off bombs or trap doors on the TV, and dimensional disturbances can provide quick players with a temporary relief from the battleground. While there are only five battle arenas, each one is unique. You want to down-stab a fellow Link in a side-scrolling battle? Fine. You want to play with jets of fire? You can do that too! You want to grab your friend and throw him off a cloud, you say? Be my guest! It’s a shame Nintendo didn’t include options for Shadow Battle, though: an adjustable time limit or an option for multiple lives would have made Shadow Battle all the sweeter.

The Japanese version does include a third mode, Navi’s Trackers, which will not see an international release. Nintendo has excluded it with good reason: it is aimed at a decidedly younger and narrower market, and would do little more than turn some prospective buyers away. While playing Navi’s Trackers once is an interesting experience with amusing voice acting (all in Japanese), it doesn’t fit into the Zelda universe very well and isn’t very fun. It amounts to a scavenger hunt that can go on for way too long, and could only keep a five-year-old Pokémon fan’s attention—though Tetra would probably wind up silenced by a Psyduck reporting news anyway.

If anything can sell gamers (and developers) on handheld-console connectivity, this is it. Ignoring the abandoned Navi’s Trackers, Zelda: Four Swords + is what any Nintendo fan has unknowingly been waiting for. The level of freedom that connectivity provides in this four-player adventure is a breakthrough innovation for console games, and it does so without scarring the single-player experience.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6 6.5 9.5 10 10 9
Graphics
6

The game won’t wow anyone with its graphics, but the interesting hybrid of SNES and Wind Waker graphic styles gives the game more personality. The action on the TV zooms in and out smoothly to accommodate the action. Artistic touches such as falling snow stand out nicely. However, when the game zooms in--as is often the case in single player--the sprites are very blurry. On the GBA end, the dark palette makes it difficult to play on the original GBA under normal indoor lighting conditions.

Sound
6.5

Some might complain about its enhanced Link to the Past soundtrack, but I think the SNES samples, coupled with newer samples, complement the game’s traditional Zelda flavor very nicely. If you love LttP’s Dark World theme song, you’ll be in heaven. The voice acting in Navi’s Trackers is hilarious, but four yelping Links get annoying quickly.

Control
9.5

The game plays crisply, regardless if you’re using a GBA D-pad, the GameCube’s D-pad, or the analog control stick. Nintendo has squeezed a lot of functions into two face buttons and the D-pad. The formation system is intuitive regardless of the number of players, though you might snag it by accident on that stubby SP L button.

Gameplay
10

This isn’t some crummy Zelda spin-off: Zelda fans, old and new, will rejoice in its two-dimensional brilliance. The gameplay shines best with four players, but Hyrule Adventure’s action and puzzles are just as good alone.

Lastability
10

You’ll be playing this game alone and with friends long after you beat the final boss. Four Swords + provides excellent multiplayer fun for both short and long gaming sessions. That is a rare quality indeed.

Final
9

This multiplayer Zelda game’s elegant, fast-paced action and exquisite level design takes A Link to the Past’s gameplay to new heights without leaving single players behind. Four Swords + is a no-risk purchase and highly recommended.

Summary

Pros
  • Deep and varied multiplayer gameplay
  • Generations of allusions to past games
  • Impressive Wind Waker-style lighting and particle effects
  • Just as fun alone as with friends!
  • Some of the best puzzles in the series
Cons
  • Annoying, modulated Link voices
  • Game restarts without saving on GC-GBA connection failure!
  • Heavily relies on SNES sprite graphics
  • Navi’s Trackers (not applicable to North American release)
  • Requires GBA systems with link cables for multiplayer
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Action
Developer Nintendo
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Release Jun 07, 2004
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Zelda no Densetsu: 4tsu no Tsurugi+
Release Mar 18, 2004
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Release Jan 07, 2005
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Release Apr 07, 2005
PublisherNintendo
RatingParental Guidance
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