Wednesday 24 October 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures Review (Game Cube)

A new Zelda title accompanies each new generation of Nintendo hardware as surely as the controller and connection cables in the packaging. Along with this event comes some form of gaming innovation to get both fans and critics bouncing around like the proverbial thing on a spring. Despite these high expectations the latest addition, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, offers  something very special. Gather three friends, have them bring along their Game Boy Advances and up to four players can work together to bring the light back to the land of Hyrule. More impressively, the charm and high levels of ingenuity still shine through as strong as ever when played solo. Ladies and gentleman this is how games were meant to be - original, charming and filled with small people wearing different coloured hats.

Unlike most Zelda titles the plot is truly lacklustre. All that we can recall about it is that Princess Zelda has been kidnapped and for some reason there are lots of evil shadow Links running around because of a nasty mirror. Apparently plot writing day happened to fall on the same date as the company picnic for the Nintendo team. Fear not intrepid gamers because where the story is normally a pivotal point in a Zelda title the same is not true in this case. Four Swords is all about bite sized chunks of action. In that respect it delivers.

Layout of the title poses another departure for the Zelda series. Instead of the usual idea of one huge landscape to explore, everything is split into a number of levels. Eight areas, each consisting of three parts, can be revisited at any point. After the initial unfamiliarity wears off this different approach brings a welcome sense of freedom for the player. No longer do thoughts that you may have left some important object on the other side of the world intrude on your enjoyment. In fact, once you reach the end of a level all objects are removed from your hero. Furthermore, the Links can only carry one object at a time so the hording and painstaking item searching of old is long gone.

The new level format works masterfully and allows for solo play that seamlessly becomes multiplayer. When friends wish to join they can immediately enter at any level meaning you never sit around waiting for people to get off their back sides and get playing. Cruise through a few levels then let them join in at the new point you just reached; or simply select a level you have previously played through. So simple, yet so effective.

Graphically this  is simple yet sublime. What we have is and updated take on the SNES classic A link to the Past mixed with subtle and beautiful fire and explosion effects plucked from The Wind Waker. Zelda Four Swords is all about the little things being done right to come together in creating one excellent greater thing. The reasoning behind the use of 2D graphics becomes clear when your character enters a house or cave, and action switches to your Game Boy Advance screen. If the Cube version of the title had more complex 3D graphics (a la Wind Waker) then all continuity in the style would have been lost upon the move to the GBA.

For those concerned you need both a GBA and a Cube to play the game, don't worry too much. If you plan to go through the game in singleplayer, then any action that would move onto the GBA screen is brought up in an overlay window on the TV screen. However, multiplayer requires each player to have a GBA for independent movement in order to try and find treasure before anyone else gets their hands on it.

Whether in singleplayer or multiplayer Link (or the Links as it were) are never difficult to control. The friendly control system lets you organize the four Links into different formations at the touch of a button. Furthermore you can take control of individual Links as needed meaning there is nothing you cannot do in singleplayer that you can in multiplayer. When controlling a single Link the others fade slightly and become invulnerable. This classy touch removes any worries when you have to go far off to find a switch leaving the other Links behind.

Four Swords Adventure is the sort of game Cube and GBA owners have been waiting for ever since the Link cable existed. It's a joy in singleplayer and borderline heavenly in multiplayer; the challenge is set just right; the puzzles are set just right; everything from the box art, the feel and most importantly the playing is just right. This is what Crystal Chronicles should have been and finally shows how truly great connectivity can be. If there is a sour note it is that the Japanese Tetra Tracker mini game has been removed due to technical limitations; but it is questionable if you will miss it anyway. All we can say is go and buy it. Find friends or enjoy it alone, just get hold of it and see how much fun games can be.


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