As videogame spin-offs go, Nintendo’s Zelda series Four Swords spin-offs are some of the most successful and best loved. With the release of The Legend Of Zelda: Triforce Heroes on the 3DS, has Nintendo created a spiritual successor worthy of similar praise?
The plot’s certainly not doing it any favours. A witch residing in the Drablands has put a curse on Princess Styla, forcing her to wear unfashionable clothes. Your task is to leave the Fashion Kingdom of Hytopia with two friends and defeat the witch. Yep. It’s absolutely dreadful. Not that it makes much difference really. Once things are up and running, you can just choose to ignore the plot. Sure, fashion pops up frequently – you’ll be paying regular visits to Madame Couture’s tailor shop, for example – but, when it does, it’s done so in a way that genuinely enhances the game. Outfits need to be crafted from resources gained on previous quests, and selected to compliment the weapons you’ll be using on future ones. If you’re going somewhere where there’s bows, pop on the Kokiri Clothes so you can fire three arrows instead of one, for example.
The game looks good, in the way first party Nintendo games usually do – it borrows heavily from the aesthetic of A Link Between Worlds – and avoids unnecessary gimmicks when it comes to its use of 3D. Where it is used, it’s done so effectively, whether that’s subtly demonstrating that items might be below penetrable floors, or clear indicators that you need to stand on a colleague’s shoulders to shoot your target. We say a colleague, and we’d really recommend you play this with two friends, if at all possible. Ideally, you’d be in the same room with them but, if not, try to chat on the phone or Skype as you play. Whilst the game offers a limited set of messages you can use to communicate with each other in-game, they fall short of the nuance you need to avoid collaborative puzzle solving becoming a frustrating experience, on occasion.
If you don’t have two friends who also want to play this, you can be paired with random gamers from across the world, which actually – in our experience – worked fairly well although, of course, you run the risk of being paired with someone who quits out of the game, or deliberately tries to spoil your enjoyment, so you might have a less positive time. The game thankfully does allow negative players to be reported though. It’s certainly still preferable to playing alone. Having to make each character progress through the level, one at a time, can be a tedious experience and, particularly in the final stages where you’re battling a level’s boss, it’s painfully apparent that the game was not designed with solo play in mind, at all. It’s not impossible, but several moments were frustrating, precisely because you can clearly see how much more fun it would be if you were playing with someone else.
Gameplay itself takes the form of a series of top-down puzzles. Some simply require one of you to wander ahead and clear the path for the others but, as the game progresses, you’ll frequently find that you need to work as a team if you’re going to get anywhere. Much is made of your ability to form a Totem Pole, with the three of you stacked one on top of the other, like the legendary TriForce Heroes of days gone by. It’s a simple, but effective mechanic that undoubtedly feels more satisfying when the other two players are controlled by real people.
If you fancy a change of pace, you can visit the Underground Coliseum, which allows you to work not collaboratively, but competitively, against other players. Placed in a small battle arena, you’ll attempt to inflict as much damage on each other as possible, within the time limit. It’s a fun mode, but certainly one that’s easier to enjoy once you’ve unlocked more of the game’s outfits, so that you’re able to choose an outfit that can enhance your skills with whichever weapons are available to you on a given occasion.
If you’re a fan of action puzzlers, this is more than good enough to be worth your consideration. It might not quite live up to the high standards set by Four Swords, but – if you can find some friends to play with – there’s a lot to enjoy. And, after all, someone’s got to help Princess Styla wear fashionable clothes again…