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Four Swords Through the Lens of Truth

By Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
September 23, 2017

 
How many times did you wish you could play The Legend of Zelda as a multiplayer adventure and bring three friends along to join the fun? Personally, I never wished that, but when I was suddenly given the option on top of a remake of A Link to the Past, I did wonder why I had never considered this possibility before. As if the remake wasn’t enough to sell me, the Big N decided to grace us with one of the wackiest four-player action games ever made. This week on The Lens of Truth, we will examine the small yet tremendous treasure that is Four Swords.

Graphics

As the first title for Gameboy Advance, Four Swords did a marvelous job transitioning styles to the new hardware. The bright colors really popped like the Gameboy Color could not, just because of the increase in pixel density. Overall the style was very clear despite the game having very little official artwork released. In retrospect, the sprites almost look like Toon Link, who met a very mixed reaction during his Wind Waker debut, however when he was on a 2D plane nobody batted an eye. This shows how well the style worked for the system at the time. In fact it worked so well that the same style was applied to Four Swords Adventures and Minish Cap, and even these three games together did not experience as much backlash as Wind Waker.

The environments were very fun to look at. Each area had a very obvious theme, and the toon style just presented an enjoyable visual. It really added to the whimsy of the game, seeing all these vibrant colors cascading across the screen. It was a light-hearted game, and the light-hearted art and environments extended that feeling tenfold. I can’t think of a complaint, so this title earns a perfect ten.

Sound

I have very little to say about this category, possibly because the game was so short. I only seem to remember small bits of music, and nothing about the sound effects. It never stood out to me as bad, but the lack of memorability for me is somewhat confounding, as the rest of the series, as I have stated many times, is beyond memorable. It gets under your skin and becomes a part of you as you play. I did not feel that with this title. I felt like it enhanced the gameplay, but only marginally. Six out of ten.

Gameplay

Combining traditional Zelda puzzles with a crazy competitive challenge made for one of the most unique gaming experiences I have ever beheld. In addition to the series’ standard gameplay experience, you had to work together to complete puzzles while simultaneously trying to grab the most rupees while not being enough of a douche to make your friends down vote you into the lowest bonus at the end of the level. Combined, these aspects make the game stand out even among the few multiplayer games in the series.

Through each level, you are greeted with many familiar items, plus some fun add-ins like the Magnetic Gloves from Oracle of Seasons, and the Gnat Hat, which may have been part of the inspiration for the Ezlo’s signature ability in Minish Cap. Instead of finding one item per dungeon, however, players have to work with the combination of items they are given to solve puzzles. If you are playing a four-player game, for example, each of you may have a Bow and Arrow, or each of you may have some totally different item and it’s up to you to work together based on who chose which item. Sometimes you are given the option to switch items mid-dungeon. This simple mechanic made for a frantic search for the right combination of items, and made you all have to think outside the box to get through to the end.

Primarily, the dungeons were filled with combat and puzzles, as most Zelda games tend to be. On top of that, however, dungeons saw their fair share of platforming elements, which is a little out of character. These were fun and challenging, however sometimes I really wished you did not have to get each player across individually, much less simultaneously. In certain areas, this made my buddies and I retry entire areas just because of our difficulty getting past the platforming segment at the end.

Strong core mechanics take this game far, but tedious elements keep it from going to a perfect score. Eight out of Ten.

Story

Almost nonexistent, the primary story of Four Swords effectively served to tell you why Link was four guys. That worked well for this game; it did not require the grandeur of many Zelda stories full of lore and interesting characters to show off its uniqueness. Despite having a plot that could be summarized in a single sentence, the game did inspire quite a bit down the road in the series. This was the starting point for Four Swords Adventures and Minish Cap, and being able to derive the lore within two games from such a small foundation means that it was sturdy if nothing else. Would the game have been just as good without it? Almost certainly. Was it worth adding because it went on to forge large chunks of the official timeline? I think so, but that might be a debate for another day. Four out of ten.

Thus ends the shortest review in the Lens of Truth series, for the shortest game in the Zelda series. Twenty-eight out of forty may not stack up against many of its competitors in this ranking, but it is still pretty impressive for such an understated game to reach so far above average. What do you think? Should I have even bothered with this game because it is no more than a spin-off? Is this truly the greatest game ever because it brought together Zelda and your two friends with a Gameboy Advance? Please tear apart my review and argue all the minutiae with me in the comments or on Twitter, let’s keep the conversation standing!

Current Rankings

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
Majora’s Mask: 33/40
The Legend of Zelda: 30/40
Four Swords: 28/40
The Adventure of Link: 19/40