Review: The Legend of Zelda Four Swords Anniversary Edition

Earlier this week, Nintendo released a special version of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords as part of their on-going celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Legend of Zelda.

Four Swords was originally included as a bonus game in the Gameboy Advance remake of  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but Four Swords required two or more players and was largely ignored due to the requirements (each player needed their own Gameboy Advance and their own copy of A Link to the Past).

Almost ten years later, Nintendo has taken this opportunity to improve the game. The most important change is the addition of a single player mode. Nintendo has also added new stages based on some of the oldest Legend of Zelda games. The best part: the game is a free download for all Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS owners (for a limited time).

Finally: Single Player Four Swords

Multiplayer Four Swords has always been fun, but the requirements kept people from playing it (I’ve never played the Gameboy Advance Four Swords game with more than two people). Unfortunately, the Four Swords Anniversary Edition doesn’t help solve this problem. There is no online multiplayer, so you’ll have to find some friends with a Nintendo DSi or Nintendo 3DS and have them download the game. To make matters worse, the game may become unavailable in the future (Nintendo hasn’t been very clear about whether the game is “free for a limited time” or “available for a limited time.”).

If you do get friends together to play, the game is fun, challenging, and competitive. Bosses and puzzles will change based on the number of players and player communication plays an important role in some encounters.

Fortunately, the new single player mode works beautifully. You are given control of two Links. The first Link is always green, but the game lets you pick the color of the second Link (red, blue, or purple). It makes no difference in the actual game, but it’s a nice touch.

You can control each Link individually, or you can use a whistle to bring them together. The controls are very intuitive for a single player experience, but the whistle can make some puzzles trivial. The whistle brings the second Link to the currently-controlled Link’s location no matter where they are located. In the multiplayer game, a puzzle may require finding two separate paths for two different players, but the whistle allows you to get one Link across the obstacles and then have the second Link automatically bypass the obstacles.

The abilities of the whistle will come in handy on several occasions during the single player game. The whistle does make some areas easier than they should be, but if it were not in the game the single player mode could have been too difficult to be fun.

Cooperative Combat

Regardless, puzzles were never the strong point of Four Swords. Cooperative combat is what makes the game fun, and it works well in single player mode. Certain enemies require precise positioning, but your second Link knows exactly what to do. For example, there is an enemy that must be stunned with the sword and then thrown. While in the air, the enemy’s shell will open and he will be vulnerable to sword attacks.  In a multiplayer game, another player must stand a fair distance away and swing their sword to strike the enemy while he is airborne. In the single player game, your second Link will automatically position himself and begin swinging the sword when you pick up this particular enemy.

The combat is also challenging. You will find yourself in situations you were not prepared for even if you are a Legend of Zelda veteran. Completing certain objectives in the game will unlock even more difficult stages that will test the abilities of any Legend of Zelda player.

Challenging New Content

The original Four Swords included an extensive tutorial stage and four other stages. Four Swords Anniversary Edition includes all of the content of the original plus two completely areas with three stages in each one.

The first, and arguably the most exciting, is the Realm of Memories. It contains new stages based on areas in The Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Anyone who has played these games will instantly recognized the settings. You’ll find yourself outside A Link to the Past’s Hyrule Castle and inside Link’s Awakening’s Tail Cave. You’ll even travel to the very first screen of The Legend of Zelda. These stages are challenging and will have you feeling nostalgic in no time.

The second is without a doubt the most challenging section of the game. When I said veterans of the series would not be prepared for the challenges I was referring especially to the Hero’s Trial. At this time, I’ve only completed the first stage of the Hero’s Trial, but I’ve already died more times than I care to admit. These stages are extremely challenging, but I also found the Hero’s Trial extremely fun.

Nearly Unlimited Replay Value

After spending a few days with the game, I have unlocked and experienced most of what the game has to offer. Even so, this is a game that will be enjoyable for years. Four Swords was designed to be played with a short amount of time, and it uses randomly generated dungeons to give you a different experience each time you play alone or with friends (however, it is my understanding that the new Realm of Memories and Hero’s Trial content is not randomly generated). No other Legend of Zelda game offers this kind of replay value, and no other Legend of Zelda game can be so easily picked up for a short amount of time.

This is a Legend of Zelda game worth picking up. It’s not a long adventure, but it is a fun and well made game worth your time. Did I mention that it’s free?

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