Rewind Review - The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
It is now Week 10 of the Legend of Zelda Rewind Review, and we now return to the world of 4-player co-op Legend of Zelda action! That's right, we're looking at The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures on the Nintendo Gamecube.
As with all Rewind Reviews, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures will undergo a review process through the eyes of a modern critic. No nostalgia glasses, no excuses, no rationalizing hardware limitations, and no sparing myself from angry fans and readers. Nothing will excuse this game from anything that we - as modern gamers - would expect to see in the genre today.
With Tri-Force Heroes coming out next week, it seems like the perfect time to take a look at Nintendo's second - and last - attempt at a multiplayer Legend of Zelda game. So, let's give the Four Swords a second chance, and set out to vanquish Vaati once more in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures!
The story of Four Swords Adventures starts very much like that of Four Swords - but, it would not be fair to say that the two intros are the same. After giving a quick rundown of the events of Four Swords, the game opens with a view of dark clouds that cover the kingdom of Hyrule. It is then we find out our narrator is Zelda, and that she has summoned Link to come to protect her and the six maidens as they open a portal into the Sanctuary of the Four Sword. However, a shadow copy of Link emerges from the portal and proceeds to attack Zelda and the six maidens.
After Link completely fails to protect the maidens - seeing as he only brought a shield to the ordeal - he follows 'Shadow Link' into the portal. Link draws the Four Sword in an attempt to fight Shadow Link, but all this does is release Vaati, who promptly blows the four Links away in a tornado.
A map of the kingdom of Hyrule in the stage select for Four Swords Adventures
The rest of the game follows the four Links in their adventures across Hyrule. Each area is divided into multiple levels, each with their own themes and storylines. The characters - while not particularly memorable - are charming in their usual Legend of Zelda way. As for the story as a whole, however, the game doesn't stand out in any way. It is a rather disappointing entry that has about as much substance as the earliest of Legend of Zelda titles.
Where Four Swords Adventures lacks in story, it makes up for in gameplay. While Four Swords on the Gameboy Advance failed to entertain with its rather simple level design, Four Swords Adventures manages to create a more traditional Legend of Zelda standard of difficulty.
The primary reason for the game's ability to function as a traditional Legend of Zelda title is the game not relying solely on the four-player gimmick. Dungeons are designed in such a way that a single Link can solve most puzzles. Any part where multiple Links are involved is set in such a way that it is impossible to progress further than the start of a room. As such, there is no time that players are waiting around for someone to catch up.
Also, since any Link can pick up another Link, it also helps make sure that uncooperative allies - or players who simply do not know what they are doing - can be brought along, even against their will.
This can also lead to some multiplayer shenanigans that simply improve the enjoyment of the game. These things - in my playthrough - could be anything from tossing friends into bottomless pits, getting torched by their fire rods (as seen in the game's official art above), and getting pushed out of safe zones into one of Shadow Link's super bombs (which is a one-hit kill).
That said, Four Swords Adventures also provides a single player option for anyone who is unable to gather four friends who all have Gameboy Advances and Gamecube Link Cables. In it, the player can use several default formations for the four Links, as well as take control of each Link at a moment's notice.
While the experience in single-player is certainly playable, I would not recommend it. The game's dungeons and stages are exactly the same as playing with friends, but it does not have the same social aspect that truly brings this game together.
In my review for Four Swords, one of my major complaints was that the game required several game cartridges and enough link cables and devices to actually play the game. While Four Swords Adventures still requires players to have their own Gameboy Advance systems and the cables to link said systems to the Gamecube, this is a lot more realistic considering the game came out in an era where the Gameboy Advance was the only real competitive handheld device, and the Gamecube Cable was owned by just about everyone who played Pokemon games. The fact that the game came with its own adapter helps too.
While the cost of a Gamecube-Gameboy Advance Link Cable is nothing to sneeze at, it is certainly more affordable than buying 4 GBA cables, 4 copies of A Link to the Past, and 4 devices to play the game
As for the game itself, Four Swords Adventures is a great game. It feels just as well put together as other traditional top-down Legend of Zelda titles, and as such it is capable of providing an enjoyable experience. Enemies act as they would in other Zelda games, and dDungeons don't feel watered down like they did in Four Swords.
Four Swords Adventures has all sorts of memorable characters! Like... that hefty woman standing in your way! You know, from that village? Okay, maybe not...
While Four Swords Adventures solves many of the issues with Four Swords and stands as a functional Legend of Zelda title, it's still not among the best. Characters are not memorable, the story is still watered down for the sake of focusing on multiplayer, and getting the equipment to play the game can be a bit of a hassle.
I would certainly recommend thinking these points over well before putting any money toward the game in the present day.
Four Swords Adventures has an interesting art style. Baring a striking resemblance to Minish Cap, which came out that same year, Four Swords Adventures blends the cartoonish style of The Wind Waker with A Link to the Past. The result is something that looks good, but may feel strange for fans of older Legend of Zelda titles.
This is not to say that the game looks bad. It looks good. Weather effects, reflections, and various other effects that can be emulated on the Gamecube truly help bring out a fresh look on the 2D atmosphere of the game. That said, the 2D sprites feel like a waste of the Gamecube's power.
The music in Four Swords Adventures is likewise disappointing. Many of the tracks are simply reused tunes from other games, and the worst part is that it uses a soundboard that sounds unmistakably similar to the Super Nintendo title A Link to the Past that leads me to believe little to none of the pieces were composed solely for this game. Considering that the Gamecube is fully capable of mimicking orchestral-level sound it seems like a cheap throw-together that is uncharacteristic of the series' standards for music.
The game's soundtrack can be found below.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is a fun game, albeit flawed. While it does a much better job than Four Swords on the Gameboy Advance, it still feels poorly put together. While I might be taking it a bit rough on the game - seeing as this could be considered a spinoff title - I do not feel as though this game does the franchise justice.
While Four Swords Adventures is a good game, it lacks what truly makes a Legend of Zelda title great: tricky dungeons, good music, and a greater story. As such, I give this title a 7/10.
That does it for Week 10 of the Legend of Zelda Rewind Review! Be sure to check back on this article or the GameSkinny front page next week for future reviews, as well as swords and sorcery action as we make our way from the original 1986 release of The Legend of Zelda on the NES to the 2013 release of A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS!
Reviews in this Series:
- The Legend of Zelda (NES)
- The Adventure of Link (NES)
- A Link to the Past (SNES/GBA)
- Link's Awakening/Link's Awakening DX (GB/GBC)
- Ocarina of Time/OoT 3DS (N64/3DS)
- Majora's Mask/MM 3DS (N64/3DS)
- Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons (GBC)
- Four Swords (GBA)
- The Wind Waker (GC)
- Four Swords Adventures (GC)
- The Minish Cap (GBA)
- Twilight Princess (GC/Wii)
- Phantom Hourglass (DS)
- Spirit Tracks (DS)
- Skyward Sword (Wii)
- A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
- Tri Force Heroes (3DS)