Review: The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (Nintendo Gamecube)

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GCN)
Genre: Action/Multi-player
Platform: Gamecube
Rating: E for Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo

When games featuring Nintendo’s much hyped connectivity feature between the Gameboy Advance and the Gamecube started to hit the streets, many fans wondered perhaps this wasn’t just some money making scheme by Nintendo in order to sell more hardware, games, and accessories. And while titles like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles may have done little to disprove that theory, the Big N has finally released a title that showcases how good this connectivity feature can be, provided you have the friends, the GBA’s, and the cables. Indeed, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, is one of those rare games that throws us back to a different era of gaming with little effort, making us wonder why the hell all multi-player games can’t be this good all the time. From the graphics, to the great flow between the Gameboy and ‘Cube, to the intense multi-player mode, Zelda: Four Swords delivers in spades. So let’s get right into this, as we look at The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure

1. Story

Well, let’s be honest here: The story is one that we’ve seen before. In fact if you have played the Four Swords version that came with the GBA release of A Link to the Past, then you already have a pretty good idea of what’s going down here. The Wind Sorcerer, Vaati, has captured Zelda and the Maidens, and just for kicks and giggles he decided to unleash Shadow Link as well. So, Link has to go out and rescue Zelda again, because that’s what he does, right? The story departs from traditional Zelda games a bit, because as this game’s title would hint at, Link gets split into four by the Four Sword. Also, it’s interesting to note that this is one of the few Zelda games where Ganon is not the final boss that you have to deal with. So as you (and your friends if you want to get the best game play experience) go on this adventure through Hyrule, you will be encountering many things from previous Zelda games, and a few new additions as well.

Still it’s not the most original storyline, since it’s very close to the GBA Four Swords version. And it doesn’t deviate from the typical Zelda storyline formula: Link saves Zelda, defeats the big bad, everyone’s happy. Honestly though, the story here doesn’t matter. How many people play the Zelda games for the story? I would wager that a majority do not play it for the story; instead, they play it for the pure gaming goodness that comes with this series. And that’s what happens here with the Four Swords. This game is just so flat out fun, and entertaining, that the story just ceases to matter as it only serves to give you a direction to head in as you transverse the eight main areas of this game (for a total of 24 levels). Personally, I loved each and every minute I played this game, and with some of my pals joining in it was a big party hit at my apartment. Story? I say who needs it.

Overall Story Rating: 5/10

2. Graphics

Let me explain a few things about myself in the context of the Four Swords graphical rating. My favorite Zelda game is the SNES’s (and now the GBA’s) A Link to the Past. In fact I am one the few who did not like Link’s transition to 3D, with the N64 games he appeared in. I like my Zelda two dimensional and I get some flak for it, but I am really uncompromising about this fact. So it’s no surprise to me that I am in love with the Four Swords, because this game uses A Link to the Past graphics. That’s right kids, Link is back in 2D and all is right with the world (well at least for now). Now, I know what some of you are saying: “Whaa! But the Gamecube can do more! I need my graphics, because gameplay means nothing! Moan!”. My response to you is to quietly go to the corner and stand there until you realize the error of your ways! These graphics are so perfect for this game, words fail to describe their splendor. It’s by design, and I have to give Nintendo credit for it, because they knew if they were going to do a multi-player game like this then 2D was the only way to do it. Everything in this game, from the weapons, to the items is so crystal clear that it’s downright scary.

What I love about the graphics, though, is that they prove that 2D can still be a viable way to do things for certain titles. What Nintendo has done here, is shown that you do not need Square-Enix like cutscenes and graphics for a game to be great. All you need is the right gameplay formula with the proper corresponding graphics and then just like that you have a winner. I have basked in the graphical goodness of the Four Swords, and it has given me hope that the old way of doing things in video games will not be forgotten so quickly. Also worth mentioning here is the seamless switch from GC to the GBA when you are playing this game. For example when you go into a cave the gameplay switches to the GBA, and because Nintendo used 2D graphics everything looks exactly the same, and the transition is that much smoother because of it. This also clears up the main TV screen, because now you don’t have to split the screen or read dialogue there. Everything about The Four Swords graphical make-up; quite simply, rocks. Bemoan your loss of 3D all you want my misguided friends, because it still doesn’t change the fact that this game is as great as it gets in terms of visuals.

Overall Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound

The classics truly never die, but sometimes they get remixed. That pretty much sums up the sound that goes with Zelda: Four Swords. While it is very disappointing to have little in the way of original sound content, it gets made up for with classic Zelda themes that have been tweaked a bit in the form of remixed versions. I suppose the lack of new material on the soundtrack here fits with the theme of the Four Swords. With old school multi-player goodness and 2D LttP graphics it makes sense that Nintendo would continue the trip down memory lane vibe by providing us with the all time great themes that the Zelda series has had over the years. I suppose I am just a bit disappointed because with the re-release of most of the Zelda games in one form or another over the past 2 years, I have already heard these themes not to long ago. Remixed tracks or not, this was a good opportunity for Nintendo to give us some original sound content despite my earlier comment about the nostalgic value, and they didn’t do that.

I’m torn here. On one hand I think new music would have been the one thing that would have put this game truly over the cusp. On the other hand it’s hard for me to hate the old themes which still hold up after all these years that the Zelda series has been available to you and me, and the gaming public. I think what it comes down too is whether or not you enjoy the themes. And since I found myself still enjoying the themes, sound effects, etc., I would say that, overall, the Four Swords still delivers with a solid soundtrack that will keep you and your friends into the game, and not reaching for a CD from one of your collections.

Overall Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Controls

You will not hear me complaining here. The controls for Zelda: Four Swords are very crisp, and simple. The item screen is great, and easy to use, and your Link responds quickly, and smoothly to whatever you want to do be it movement, weapon use, etc. If you’re playing the main mode with just one player the excellent controls are a major plus since you’re constantly switching between one of your four Links in order to solve puzzles and other assorted tasks. But, honestly, how can you hate a game that’s not named Custom Robo, if it has a great control scheme like this? Zelda: Four Swords is running on all cylinders when it comes to the control scheme, and by doing so it makes it just that much more enjoyable to play this game and really get into it. If you haven’t guessed by now: I enjoyed this game immensely, and I’m a sucker for a great control scheme any day of the week.

Overall Control Rating: 7/10

5. Balance

This game, if you’re playing it with friends, can get damn competitive, and that’s where the balance comes into play. You have to juggle two objectives when you play with friends. The first, is obviously completing the level and working together to advance onwards in the levels of the game. The other is where things get complicated, because while you must work together, you are also in constant competition with your friends. Who can collect the most Force Gems (think rupees here)? Who was the most annoying? The most helpful? So the trick now becomes to work together, but to also outsmart your friends so that *you* get the most Force Gems, etc. So, obviously, this leads to quite a lot of spite and competitive spirit as you play. You’ll remember when someone pulls one over on and you, and you’ll pay them back later. You’ll take delight in getting Force Gems before your friends, and you’ll sometimes just beat the crap out of them for the pure comedic gold that comes with that. It’s ingenious really, and Nintendo makes the Four Swords ooze with challenge, deceit, and deception, while promoting cooperation all at the same time! How many games can say that? Maybe a few others, but I guarantee none of them provide the same experience that Zelda: Four Swords does. Hell, I’d put my money down on none of them even coming close.

Overall Balance Rating: 8/10

6. Replayability:

And here we are, the one category where Zelda: Four Swords excels above all others. The game is built with replayability in mind. With 24 levels that take an average total of about 20 hours to complete you get a decent starting point. However the real replay value comes in when you, to be redundant, replay the levels. Your friends and you will replay these levels just to see who really is the best. You won’t be able to help yourselves from going back and trying to outdo one another as you try to collect as many Force Gems as humanly possible. The fun doesn’t stop there though. The Four Swords also features a “death match” mode called Shadow Battle where the only objective is to beat the hell out of your friends with whatever you can, from your sword, to traps, bombs, and so on. It’s a great way to let off some steam if the main mode is getting a bit too competitive, and it also provides mindless puzzle-free fun that is great for anyone to jump right into. In addition to this there are also eight unlockable mini-games featuring events such as horse racing that will give you even more to do. This game will literally keep you enthralled for as long as possible, especially if you have the friends and hardware required to play this game in a multi-player capacity. It’s a great party game, and really is a must have if you are a Zelda fan. If you’re on the fence about it, do yourself a favor and go rent it at least. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

Overall Replayability Rating: 9/10

7. Originality

Since we already saw this in the GBA edition of LoZ:LttP it’s tough to call this game truly original. It does improve on some features from the original version though. The option to play this game with only one-player is great, because now you don’t necessarily have to have 1-3 friends who own GBA’s, and game link cables in order to enjoy this game. The mini-games also are a nice touch for those who get into that sort of thing, and like the quick fun they provide. However, the problem with a nostalgic game that gives you remixed old Zelda themes, LttP graphics, and gameplay from another game we have already seen is that the originality portion of a review really suffers. Don’t let this discourage you though, because while not original in concept, the gameplay is still as fun, exciting, and competitive as it gets. A formula that combines Zelda gameplay and multi-player goodness holds it’s own with any other game out there, including those that break the originality barrier. The Four Swords is STILL most definitely worth your time.

Overall Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Appeal

This game needs to be in every Cube owner’s library. To not have this game should be a crime, because it is that damn good. While this game is infinitely more enjoyable if you have the friends to have a true multi-player adventure, it still is a hell of a lot of fun with just you controlling all four of the Links. It truly doesn’t matter if you are a Zelda fan or not when it comes to the Four Swords. It is just flat out pure gameplay ecstasy. Your girlfriend will love it, your best friend will love it, your siblings will love it, hell your grandmother would probably love it. It’s fun for the family, the friends, and its fun on your own. How much more appealing can it get you ask? Unless Julia Stiles calls me and asks to get together and play the Four Swords then you can bank on the fact that this game can’t get any more appealing for me. Take it as gospel folks: The Four Swords is a game you need.

Overall Appeal Rating: 8/10

9. Addictiveness

I think I’ve accurately portrayed how I feel about this game. It’s my smack, and my Cube is the dealer. I can’t get through my day without a fix of the Four Swords. And with two different modes and mini-games this game can get you addicted in any number of ways. It gets to a point where you get so competitive that no one wants to give it up until they are declared the undisputed winner. Needless to say, that lends itself to long nights that have us glued to the TV for hours on end. You’ll think about it even when you’re not playing it. Nintendo did a hell of a job here in creating a game that is scary fun, because you get so into it. It didn’t take me long to get addicted, and it didn’t take my friends that much longer then I. From the 2D graphics, to the great controls, and friendly interface the Four Swords is just as good as it gets on the Cube right now.

Overall Addictiveness Rating: 9/10

10. Miscellaneous

There really is nothing more to say. Go to your local video game retailer now and pick this up, and commence playing this game as soon as possible. Stop reading this and go, because I truly believe no one will be disappointed with this game. Old school gamers will be reminded of what made Zelda so awesome in the first place. New school gamers will see a new side of gaming that shows that not everything has to be as cutting edge as possible to kick copious amounts of ass. You get the best use of the connectivity between the GC and the GBA yet. And you’ll get many hours of gaming out of this game for you and your friends. It’s pretty hard to beat all that.

Overall Miscellaneous Rating: 9/10

Story Rating: 5/10
Graphics Rating: 8/10
Sound Rating: 6/10
Controls Rating: 7/10
Balance Rating: 8/10
Replayability Rating: 9/10
Originality Rating: 3/10
Appeal Rating: 8/10
Addictiveness Rating: 9/10
Miscellaneous Rating: 9/10

Overall Score: 7.0