Way back in 2002, Nintendo re-released The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past for the Game Boy Advance, and while the game was still a blast to play, it was the multiplayer mode, Four Swords, that stole our hearts. Up until this point the Zelda series had always been a purely solo experience, so the ability to link up with our friends and take the multicoloured Links on an epic adventure was a real treat for gamers who had grown up bombing Dodongos on their own. Well now that Link is turning 25, Nintendo has decided to celebrate by re-releasing Four Swords on its own for a whole new generation of gamers to experience. So does this classic hold up to today’s demanding standards, and are four Links truly better than one?
Now let’s clear the air, The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords: Anniversary Edition is, for the most part, a direct port of the game that was released nine years ago. Not much has been done to take advantage of the DSi or 3DS’s unique capabilities save for a map/inventory display on the bottom screen and the ability to now play via a local wireless network with friends. Both of these are definitely welcome additions and go a long way towards making the game user friendly, but why oh why didn’t they include any online functionality? Nintendo has two systems (DSi and 3DS) whose online capabilities are severely underrated and under-used and yet they decide to release a game that’s 90% a multiplayer experience without any online?
Now you may have noticed that I said ‘90% a multiplayer experience’ (and you should have noticed since it was like a sentence ago). That’s because this time around, the game features a single player mode, so if you can’t find a friend (or have really bad B.O.) and can’t take on Vaati with anyone but yourself Nintendo’s got you covered. In single player, you take control of two Links. You can switch between them by pressing ‘L’ or ‘R’ or ‘link’ (haha) them together by pressing ‘X’, sort of like single player mode in Four Swords: Adventures only much, much less intuitive.
The problem here is that you constantly have to multi-task between the two Links. Always making sure that one is safe while the other completes a puzzle or navigates a trap, and once he has… do it again with the other Link. It’s clumsy system that makes it all too clear that Four Swords was designed as multiplayer game for two or more, not for one player to go through. These problems even exist in the combat, when one Link is trying to defeat a mob of enemies that is so large it clearly requires two heroes.
Thankfully the multiplayer mode is still a blast to play and having two or more friends going through a dungeon is both deeply rewarding and infinitely frustrating. Sure, you will be having the time of your life, laughing with friends as you slash spiders and beat on bats, all the while collecting items and treasures to help you on your quest. However, the game does throw in an element of competition where you and the other Links are competing to see who can collect the most rupees by the end of the level and collect a lavish reward. Now let me ask you this, have you ever played a game with friends, in which you do all the work, defeat the enemy and solve the puzzle, and just as you're about to collect your hard earned reward they swoop in and take it? Well I hope you are the most generous person on Earth, as this will happen a lot when you play Four Swords.
For a game that released almost nine years ago, Four Swords has aged…meh. Now while that may be the least professional sentence I have ever written, let me explain. The graphics, while not terrible, just don’t have the detail and polish that you would expect to see today. Now while I understand that this is a port and not a full-on remake, it would have been nice for a bit of work to be done in making the game more presentable, especially since you will be playing this on the much larger and brighter screens of the DSi, 3DS and maybe even DSi XL.
The game’s sound design, however, is as good as ever; from the classic Zelda theme booming through those tiny speakers, to the new compositions, Four Swords definitely sounds like a Zelda game should. Everything from the sound of a pot crashing to Link’s battle yell (hayaaa!) just sounds right and instantly makes you feel like you are playing a classic Zelda game.
Now Four Swords: Anniversary Edition does have some new features, including two whole new areas, each with three new levels (Fours Swords is a ‘level’ based game, in which each area is split into two levels and a boss battle). After you complete the main quest, which won’t last you more than 2-3 hours (dependent upon how good your friends are) if you’re going for high scores, you will unlock the ‘Realm of Memories’, which features locales from The Legend Of Zelda, A Link To The Past and Link’s Awakening, complete with classic graphics and sound. In addition to this, completing these classic stages will reward you with new power-ups to use in the main game.
As I mentioned, Four Swords is not a very long game (it did start off as a multiplayer mode in a GBA game after all), but the game does feature some rather extensive replay value. From the aforementioned ‘Realm of Memories’ to the multiple paths and secrets for you to find and of course the high scores you and your friends will be competing for, this is a game that is jam packed with content. Oh and did I mention that The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords: Anniversary Edition is a free download? So as soon as you finish reading this review (priorities first people), grab your DSi, DSi XL or 3DS and get downloading.
The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords: Anniversary Edition may not be the grand, epic adventure that we have come to expect from games that start with ‘The Legend Of Zelda’ but what it does, it does well. Sure, the single player mode may be a bit on the cumbersome side, and yes, the game does look awfully dated. And, of course, the exclusion of any online modes in a game that is mostly a multiplayer experience is a big no-no. But the sheer thrill in getting some friends together and going on a quest to save a princess is an experience like no other.