"Of all the great gaming icons ever to grace our living room screens, Nintendo's Link stands as perhaps the most fervently adored. Sure a little Italian plumber by the name of Mario may have cornered the mainstream market, but that hasn't stopped Link's army of dungeon crawling fanatics from declaring their favorite series #1. And why not be enthusiastic? For over the course of the past 20 years, the Legend of Zelda has spawned a steady stream of quality titles that have captured the hearts of yo..."
Of all the great gaming icons ever to grace our living room screens, Nintendo's Link stands as perhaps the most fervently adored. Sure a little Italian plumber by the name of Mario may have cornered the mainstream market, but that hasn't stopped Link's army of dungeon crawling fanatics from declaring their favorite series #1. And why not be enthusiastic? For over the course of the past 20 years, the Legend of Zelda has spawned a steady stream of quality titles that have captured the hearts of young and old alike. Pioneering in genre development and entertaining in full, the Legend of Zelda has been a consistent source of innovation and quality in a market where such concepts are usually frowned upon. With all this innovation being thrown around, it should come as little surprise to learn that Nintendo's own Miyamoto Shigeru has taken a step backwards and has once more embraced the retro stylings of 2d gaming. Has the man finally had one mushroom too many? Or does he know something that we don't? In an age of polygons and 3d processors, his decision to embrace the old could be seen as being somewhat eccentric... and if not, then maybe just a wee bit insane. But come to think of it, some of the concepts behind The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure are so crazy that... well, they may just work...
When Four Swords Adventure was first announced, people weren't quite sure what to think. Superficially at least it bore a striking resemblance to the old Super Nintendo classic, A Link to the Past, only prettied up with a some sweet, sweet lighting and smooth as silk scaling. Further more the game's apparent reliance on GBA connectivity in order to present the otherwise simple multiplayer environment was, in the words of some, simply ridiculous. That being said however, the proof was in the making and the game was eventually released to critical acclaim. And though the story may pale in comparison to the more epic of tales told in previous installments, Four Swords Adventure still has all the hallmarks of a great Zelda legend. Returning to the mythical world of Hyrule, players will be called upon once more to defend the good Princess Zelda from the ever present forces of evil. This time however lurking in the shadows is Vaati, an evil wind sorcerer born straight out of legend. Defeated eons ago, Vaati has returned to his old ways and has set about liberating the kingdom of all its fair maidens. It's with the lady folk disappearing as quickly as men on Sunday that Link turns to the power of the Four Swords and thusly a new adventure is born.
What sets FSA apart from the rest of the Zelda series is its primary focus on an outstanding multiplayer experience. For it's no sooner than having taken hold of the mystical Four Sword that Link finds himself split not only in body, but in mind and soul as well. With 4 Links now populating the screen it would be a good idea for players to tally forth into the real world in order to search out 3 equally as dedicated GBA owning friends. Now before cries of ''What the hell?!'' ring out, let me tell you this... the effort required in bringing together a circle of adventurers who all happen to own GBAs and link cables is well worth the trouble. And if you don't have that luxury there's always the single player option to fall back upon. While the connectivity aspect of the game may seem like an overly blatant GBA selling gimmick at first, a few minutes spent in front of the TV with a group of friends will soon ease all fears. Yes, this is the type of innovative gameplay experience that drove most of us to become gamers in the first place. It's not just co-operative play, nor is it strictly competitive either. It's its own kettle of fish, and one that having hooked players in, won't let go until the very end. Ignore the fact that it's more puzzle/action than RPG and let your inner gamer enjoy the mediums's latest guilty pleasure.
While a living room packed with Zelda fans is sure to drive the women folk away, some consolation can be had in the fact that you will be having as much fun as 4 men can possibly have while keeping it strictly platonic. And though the step backwards into a 2D world may initially be quite jarring, it won't be long until the merits of FSA's old school presentation begin to pay off. Viewed from an overhead perspective, the screen constantly zooms in and scales out in order to present players with the best possible view of the action at all times. Which of course is a good thing as nothing gives new meaning to the word ''hectic'' as four equally as intrepid adventurers all eager to snag their fair share of the gold *coughs* force gems *coughs* and other assorted special weapons. Acting out of one's selfish best interests, players are sure to find new and interesting ways to torment each other while still furthering the overall story. Whether you've picked up a partner only to toss them off a cliff rather than let them take the booty, or have simply taken to attacking each other when backs are turned, the spirited air of competitive joy is sure to bring a tear to the eyes of any socially minded gamers in the group.
When you're not busy competing with each other, it's probably a good idea if you all band together and get on with the job of rescuing Princess Zelda and friends. Spanning 8 worlds and 24 stages, FSA is literally chock full of co-operative multiplayer opportunity. From teaming up to move mammoth boulders to the many elaborate puzzles that require each player to perform a set task before being allowed to move on, the co-operative aspects of FSA have been wonderfully balanced with the otherwise competitive gameplay. And nowhere is this fact more obvious than when standing in the shadows of some of the game's most intimidating bosses. Whereby one group of players may need to stun the fiend with an arrow, another will have to be ready to attack once the window of opportunity has presented itself. It's fun, it's frantic, it's going to be hard to trust each other again after the the guy sitting next to you has thrown you off a cliff for the nth time. But that's what multiplayer gaming is all about. The absolute random insanity generated by a bunch of people who all want to be #1 and will do absolutely anything in order to accomplish that goal. With the bosses vanquished and the puzzles completed, it won't be long before you all get back to the mad dash for force jewels and other assorted betrayals...
Up until now, readers could be forgiven for thinking that FSA's GBA connectivity has been the gimmick that conspiracy theorists would have had us believe. Gauntlet style action spiced with co-operative play aspects and a GBA instead of a controller. Yeah, put like that it doesn't sound so crash hot now does it? Even still, before you balk at the idea know this... there will come a time when you won't want the other players knowing exactly what it is that you're doing. With the TV representing the main play area, players are given the freedom to wander off on their own in search of the many hidden bonuses that litter each landscape. Enter a house, cave or other secluded location however and the action will suddenly shift to your GBA monitor as everyone else is left to wonder where it was that you disappeared to. Hello opportunity! Here's your chance to get a leg up on the others! Raid those treasure boxes! Grab them special weapons! Assault a chicken and unleash its fury (...I'm not kidding). Whatever it is that you want to do, chances are you going to want to be alone when you do it. And as such... voila, connectivity has been conveniently justified in the name of selfishness, greed and chicken abuse. Sure they could have probably programmed a way around the one screen/four player limitation, and the concept may not have been as involved as perhaps it could have been, but it does make for a smooth 4 player experience and as such the connectivity feature has performed wonderfully well.
If you don't have the luxury of three GBA owning friends then fear not, there's still a FSA waiting for you. Players looking to go it alone are free to do so with the added caveat of now having four Links to control. Rather than moving each around independently however Nintendo have streamlined the concept by allowing players to fill the shoes of a single Link while forcing the others to follow close behind in formation. And though it's certainly makes the best out of a potentially bad situation, it unfortunately isn't without its pitfalls. Difficult to manage during the heat of battle, the formation system is equal portions heaven sent goodness and teeth grinding nuisance. As new areas are opened, there will come a time when players will find themselves quite unexpectedly surrounded by a pack of enemies. With the hordes closing in, it's going to take a few seconds to select the appropriate formation from a choice of four before fighting back becomes a viable option. And with the pressure to get your boys ready, a single mistake is all it will take for players to find themselves kissing a few valuable health points goodbye. But then again... this is the type of concession that a lone player should expect to make when partaking in something that is essentially a multiplayer game. The puzzles are equally as brain tickling and the quest is just as enjoyable, the dynamic gameplay however is MIA and that alone may be enough to turn some away...
As entertaining as the game may sound, there are sadly some aspects of FSA that could have been improved upon. Most notably is the wasted opportunity represented by having 4 Links of varying colors, each capable of the exact same moves and skills. Would the game have presented a greater variety of co-operative play had each Link been given a special ability? Most definitely! Would it have been terribly hard to implement? Probably not. Further muddying the waters is the fact that FSA's surprisingly short challenge weighs in at little more than 12 hours from beginning to end. Good things in small packages then... maybe, but even so, Nintendo have eased the pain in providing players with two additional play modes. With the combat-centric Shadow Battle and the glorified treasure hunt Navi-Trackers helping to pick up the slack, players will have a chance to try something fresh between bouts of Hyrule Adventure induced bickering. Sure they may not be terribly deep, nor are they going to redefine multiplayer gaming as we know, but their inclusion still comes as a welcome bonus that players are sure to appreciate. And thats got to be worth something... right?
Ultimately however it's FSA's duality that makes it such a difficult title to review. Whereby the multiplayer experience is a hulking great bruiser that could grind-up friendships in an instant, the single player mode could be seen as a meek feather weight of a friend who will do everything you ask yet totally fail to excite. If you have the ability to enjoy FSA's oh so sweet offerings in full then by all means, don't hesitate to do so. For here is a game that is sure to make you laugh while generating enough hatred to fuel several lifetimes worth of regret. Gamers who don't have the friends or the GBA technology however may want to think things through before taking the plunge. Not because the single player game is bad, it's just... well, lonely. No matter the circumstances though, FSA's old school style is going to feel like a welcome breath of fresh air for those looking to turn back the clock and revisit a bygone era. The 2d graphics are simple and the quest is linear, but within the confines of such elegant simplicity a new legend has been born. And as such, the Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure can proudly hold its head up high and a break through moment in one of gaming's most prestigious franchises. It may not have been the RPG that you were perhaps expecting, but what good are expectations if you can't be surprised once in a while? 2d isn't dead, it's just been on vacation... check it out!
* Pick up and play friendly
* The puzzle aspect of the gameplay has been nicely balanced with the action
* The many boss encounters require some serious team work
* Chaotic multiplayer fun
* FSA is a great example of how much fun GBA connectivity can be
* 2 additional gameplay modes have been included
* Modern lighting and scaling effects have been wonderfully intermixed with the old school presentation
* The hand drawn 2d graphics are beautifully retro in design
* Many of the sound effects are sure to evoke deep feelings of nostalgia
* The Princess isn't in this castle, please try the next... aahhh the memories
* At 12hours, FSA isn't the longest of Zelda games
* The single player game is fun albeit lonely
Community review by midwinter (August 22, 2004)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!