Monday, December 7, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GCN) Retro Review

We've been busy this Monday. We've already seen and heard my favorite VGMs, looked at some new pics of SuperPhillip: The Game, and now we're taking a gander at a Zelda review in anticipation for Spirit Tracks. Here we are with a retro review of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.

Are Four Links Better Than One?


The Zelda franchise is the most celebrated in gaming. For the longest time, the series has been known solely for its single-player excursions. No longer with the Game Boy Advance Four Swords game and this multi-player focused Zelda title, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for the Nintendo Gamecube. With four Links to control and solve brain busters and smash massive monsters alike, are four Links really better than one?

Long ago, an evil wind sorcerer named Vaati began capturing and imprisoning several young maidens into his dastardly clutches. The people of Hyrule needed a hero, and they got one in a young man who claimed the mystical four sword, split into four of himself, and did away with Vaati. Several centuries later, Vaati escaped once again from his imprisonment. He captured the Princess Zelda, and locked her away inside a crystal chamber. Zelda's childhood friend, Link, opted to pick up the four sword, split himself into four, and take down the sinister Vaati once and for all. But in doing so, he awakened a flurry of evil shadow versions of himself. Now Link must do away with Vaati, and take care of the evil shadow engulfing the land of Hyrule before it is too late. The story is told with in-game cut-scenes with written text. It's nothing fans of the series haven't seen before. By the midpoint of the game, the plot turns on its head with an even more formidable foe being the focus of the adventure...

Somewhere over the rainbow...

There's two games in Four Swords Adventures. There's the standard Hyrulean Adventure mode which is main mode of the game, and Shadow Battle which is purely a competitive multi-player affair. Hyrulean Adventure can be played solo or with up to four players. In order to play multi-player, each player needs a Game Boy Advance. This makes trying to find friends with Game Boy Advances a hassle indeed. Regardless, if you play alone, you control all four Links. You can split them up and control each Link separately with the X button, you can call your Links into one of four formations from a cross, to a vertical or horizontal line, or in a box. In two player, each player controls two Links, in three player, two players control one Link and the third controls two, and in four player, everyone controls one Link. What makes multi-player fascinating is that you'll have to work together in order to proceed through the levels. Also, certain puzzles are altered compared to single-player to create a brand-new experience with more than one player.

Four Swords Adventures takes place across eight areas with three levels to each area. Unlike traditional Zeldas, these levels are stand-alone from one another. This means that nothing carries over between levels-- items, heart containers, stat-boosters-- nothing. Another twist is that you can only carry one item at a time. These include Roc's Feather, the Pegasus Boots, the fire rod, bombs, bo and arrows, boomerangs, and many more. These items can be leveled up by a great fairy. To use the Pegasus Boots as an example, when they're leveled up, that means you can run across chasms and holes with ease. Most levels have an overhead perspective while a select few are side-scrolling like Link's Awakening. You'll go to familiar locations such as the Eastern Palace, Lake Hylia, Death Mountain, Kakariko Village, the Lost Woods, and the Desert of Doubt. The levels themselves all feel like dungeons, even the outdoor ones, with puzzles thrown in here and there. Occasionally you'll encounter ambush rooms where your four Links will have to come out fighting against twenty or more enemies. It's very hectic and crazy.

Working together does wonders in this game.

Usually a level ends with a small boss battle, with every third level ending with a big boss battle to save one of the seven maidens. You'll face off against the likes of Phantom Ganon, bomb-hating Dodongos, and gigantic worms. Many times you'll take on Shadow Link-- nearly every level. Sometimes he'll toss giant exploding bombs that will kill your quartet of Links in one blow unless they hide inside a cave while others he'll just be causing havoc inside a level. Then there's the encounters against him. Each has a different hook to it from fighting on icy platforms to a fiery wonderland. Oftentimes he'll change color which means whatever color Link he is is the one you attack him with.

Phantom Ganon's back, and he's not here to chat.

It's not all action in Four Swords Adventures, however. The use of four Links brings about a whole new variety of perplexing puzzles to solve. Some are relatively simple such as stepping on four buttons to unlock a door while others are much more complicated. As an individual Link, you can pick up another Link and toss him across short chasms. There's also traditional block-pushing puzzles, torch-lighting affairs, switch-puzzling puzzles, and tons of other brain twisters that will feel home to many Zelda veterans.

What won't feel home to many Zelda veterans is the use of the Game Boy Advance. Like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, all players must have one-- except when playing solo-style. The reason each player needs a Game Boy Advance is that when you enter a house, cave, or a Dark World portal, the game switches from the television screen to your Game Boy Advance. In solo mode, the GBA screen pops up over the television action, and it can be removed with the Z button. It's cool in practice, but the actual finding someone-- much more four players with GBAs-- is a lofty aspiration for sure.

The game switches to a GBA screen
on the TV in single-player.

Something odd in Four Swords Adventures are the force gems. They replaced rupees in this journey. In order to complete a level and smash through the magical gate blocking exit into the next level, you need to collect 2,000 of these gems. If you don't have the gems by the conclusion of the level, you're warped back to the start. Once you collect 2,000, you're warped back to the end of the level. What's the point of this really? It's great in multi-player as it's both cooperative and competitive in nature to see who can collect the most force gems. In single-player, it's pretty much worthless.

Speaking of competition, the other mode in Four Swords Adventures is Shadow Battle. It's pretty much every Link for himself to see who can finish off the other three Links before they're taken out themselves. There's five or six arenas to compete on, and that's pretty much all there is to say about this mode. It's an interesting distraction, but at the end of the day that's all it is.

The visuals are reminiscent of A Link to the Past.

Any fan of A Link to the Past will fall in love with Four Swords Adventures' presentation. The art style utilizes familiar graphical assets from the game. Meanwhile, the Link's themselves, explosions and enemy destruction animations use a Wind Waker approach to them. The game zooms in and out depending how far each Link is from one another. Additionally, the soundtrack borrows heavily from A Link to the Past with remastered and remixed versions of various LttP tracks. The Game Boy Advance sections are in comparison have much less going-on in them. There's no smoke effects, Wind Waker effects, or anything of that matter. It's fairly tame in comparison.

Four swords might definitely be better than one in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. The levels are expertly-crafted with little in the way of back-tracking, the aesthetics are wholeheartedly pleasing, and the puzzles created by having four Links instead of one are truly maniacal. An often overlooked entry in the Zelda franchise, Four Swords Adventures get a hearty recommendation with or without friends to play it with.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

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