December 2, 2017
Welcome back to the Lens of Truth, the number one article series that critically analyzes the series on this website, if I do say so myself. This week we have come to the only home-console multiplayer Zelda title, Four Swords Adventures. Following up the style of the original Gameboy Advance title, we saw a cooperative adventure like never before. This is certainly among the most unique titles, which is saying something because the series has really never done the same thing twice. Let’s take a look, eh?
Using a similar style to the original, the pixel art presented created a fantastic visual. The transitions between the TV and your Gameboy Advance were seamless, though this is both a strength and a weakness. The graphics looked astounding on the mobile system, but when returning to the GameCube they left something to be desired. It was never shockingly substandard, and this consistency of stylization made for nigh-endless immersion, however it occasionally left something to be desired, especially when playing solo on nothing but the TV screen.
While considering the graphic style over the past few days, I have also been reminded of several areas in the more recent Super Mario Odyssey which make the sudden jump from total 3D to pixelated platformer. This is done just as seamlessly, but then the greater part of the game takes advantage of the hardware on Nintendo Switch to present a fully realized world. Admittedly, the less powerful GameCube would not have been able to achieve exactly what Odyssey has done, but it could have used a similar concept in art direction here and it would have gone a long way. They wouldn’t have had to make it a full 3D game or anything, but perhaps something like a top-down game using Wind Waker’s 3D models would have been plausible. It was never a huge issue, I just think more could have been done to make the game stand out on the home console.
The art for the game itself gave us many iconic images which immediately spring to mind when I am reminded of this game, or oddly enough also Four Swords or Tri-Force Heroes. For some reason the art sticks with me and is what I relate when considering any of the multiplayer titles in the series. The toon-style Link split into four made for a lot of kooky images which just have an appealing sense of fun. This does drastically well assisting the feel of the gameplay. I’ll settle for seven out of ten.
Primarily arranged and composed by Asuka Ohta, with several tracks being co-developed by series legend Koji Kondo, this game featured a plethora of familiar music that harkened back to other games as well as a wide range of new themes. While all pieces were well composed, there were a handful that I remember seemed to slow the game down while you otherwise might have been more interested, particularly in the Village of the Blue Maiden level towards the beginning of the game. In this level, there was little combat and a nice diversion of detective work. The slower, more methodical way of thinking required to complete the area coupled with the slow and honestly downright boring score made for a gameplay experience that was just no fun.
Other than being somewhat plain, I did like most of the music, though it suffered from not being able to enhance the gameplay. When it comes to video games, it is the job of the music team to create something that matches the tone and helps extend it to create a lasting effect on the player. The music matched, but blended into the background a little too much, earning this game a middle-of-the-road five out of ten.
If I were to make a list of must-have multiplayer GameCube titles, this would come close to the top of the list, only beaten out by Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and depending on my mood maybe Custom Robo. Still, at the time this game released I was all into four-player co-op games like Champions of Norrath, and this took everything any such game had and morphed it into Zelda in addition to that.
Keeping the feel of Zelda in a multiplayer game is no easy feat. It requires an extra level of cleverness to make puzzles that players need to work together to accomplish, and it needs to present them in a way that solutions are deducible but not obvious. In most cases this game’s level design hit every mark, however as I said before, occasionally levels would come along that broke away from the action for a bit too long.
The only downside was the single-player mode was just not as fun. It was still a solid game, but without the frantic dash for Force Gems and other little competitions between players like “who can get to the Bow and Arrow first because nobody wants to get stuck being the guy with the Shovel?” this game had a harder time capturing my interest. A stupendous seven out of ten.
There is not much to say here that I did not say in my article about the original Four Swords. The story is supplementary to the gameplay to a fault. It was not bad, and it certainly expanded upon the ideas presented by the original, however it still just felt like background noise between fighting different incarnations of Dark Link before ultimately confronting Ganon. Oh, spoiler warning, Ganon’s in this game.
Among the few details that were added, NPCs with speaking parts were the most beneficial. The world actually came across as fairly diverse and detailed compared to some games in the series. There was something going on in every town, and every person you talked to had a little something interesting to add to it. In this game, the minuscule minutiae keep you interested rather than the once again recycled story of “Ganon dun wrecked up our country.” A solid seven out of ten.
For the Zelda series, a twenty-six out of forty might sound a bit low, but if you have three buddies and the afternoon off, I would wholeheartedly recommend you crack open a six-pack, sit down and transport yourselves back to 2004. It is one of the most unique multiplayer experiences ever created, and it’s just so much fun trying to work together and compete head-to-head simultaneously. If you are by yourself, maybe hold off on this one. It was made as a multiplayer title and it’s great that way, otherwise it’s just so-so. What do you think? Was the multiplayer aspect better in Tri-Force Heroes? Did Wind Waker make a better use of the Gameboy Advance to GameCube link cable via the Tingle Tuner? By all means, tear my argument apart in the comments or on Twitter, I would love to keep the conversation careening.
Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons: 40/40
Ocarina of Time: 40/40
Link’s Awakening: 40/40
A Link to the Past: 39/40
Wind Waker: 39/40
Majora’s Mask: 33/40
The Legend of Zelda: 30/40
Four Swords: 28/40
Four Swords Adventures: 26/40
The Adventure of Link: 19/40