After the success of the The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, which was packed as an extra with the Gameboy Advance port of A Link to the Past, Nintendo has decided to continue the multiplayer concept with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Set for release on the Nintendo Gamecube on June 7th, Four Swords Adventures expands on the gameplay of Four Swords by including two multiplayer modes, Hyrulean Adventure (which can also be played single player) and Shadow Battle.
The villain from Four Swords, the wind sorcerer Vaati, has escaped and abducted the precious Princess Zelda along with six Shrine Maidens. Using the power of the Four Sword, Link splits himself into four adventurers, color-coded for convenience, who set out to collect Force Gems and rescue the Princess. This is the underlining story behind Hyrulean Adventure, which can be played alone or with up to four players via Gameboy Advances and link cables. Just like in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, single player mode can be played with a GBA or a standard Gamecube controller, but multiplayer mode requires that each player have their own GBA. When players go into a cave or house, play will switch to the GBA screen without interrupting the other players. In single player mode, all four Links are controlled simultaneously through a number of battle formations that can be switched between by the tap of a button, or controlled seperately to solve different puzzles.
The gameplay of Hyrulean Adventure involves all four Links cutting down enemies, collecting Force Gems, and solving a lot of puzzles. Most puzzles require strategic manipulation of the Links (or efficient teamwork in co-op mode) to solve some simple tasks such as simultaneously standing on pressure pads, pulling levers, or pushing stones. As the game progresses, classic Zelda items like keys, torches, boomerangs, bows, magic rods, and bombs will be collected. Each Link is allowed to carry only one of these special items, requiring further teamwork when more complex puzzles arise that require multiple types of special items to solve. The Links can also interact by throwing each other across chasms to solve puzzle (or into chasms out of spite) or by attacking each other directly. When playing multiplayer, a competetive edge is added to Four Swords Adventures with a race for the collection of Force Gems and other items and weapons. There are over twenty lengthy levels in the Hyrulean Adventure, each composed of a number of areas filled with puzzles and enemies. All players are ranked at the end of each level by the number of gems picked up, number of deaths, and number of hearts remaining. Each player also votes for the most and least helpful Link, which adds or subtracts rank points to their tally. So, while ignoring a difficult enemy to hoard gems may seem like a good idea, if it causes your fellow Links to get angry it will most likely cost rank points in the end.
The second gameplay mode packaged in Four Swords Adventures is Shadow Battle. In this multiplayer mode reminiscent of Super Smash Brothers, the four Links battle each other to the death in a number different arenas including Forest Town, Fire Cavern, Grim Castle, Castle Grounds, and Clouds. Starting with a weapon and a few hearts, each Link must work frantically to collect special weapons and set traps that can be activated away from the main arena on the GBA screen. Each arena includes its own unique features, such as walls in the Clouds arena that change color periodically and keep the Link of the corresponding color from passing. The different arenas in Shadow Battle are sure to provide a lot of variety and an entertaining distraction from the main Hyrulean Adventure.
The graphics and much of the sound of Four Swords Adventures are taken from A Link to the Past. The 2-D setup has been enhanced with a higher resolution and a number of effects only possible on the Gamecube, such as fire and smoke effects similar to those seen in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The processing power of the Gamecube is also exploited as droves of enemies may flood the screen during frantic battles. Much of the music is also taken from A Link to the Past and The Wind Waker, not that players will have any time to pay attention to it amidst all the multiplayer chaos.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures promises to be a multiplayer masterpiece for anyone lucky enough to have three friends with Gameboy Advances. Even in single player mode, the title could certainly be as or more enjoyable than A Link to the Past, as much of the newer title is based on the SNES classic. Look for Four Swords Adventures to hit stores on June 7th.