The Legend of Zelda is no stranger to multiplayer focused editions of their adventures. Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures each had four players take on the role of Link in dungeons designed with four players in mind. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes takes a thematically orientated approach by using three heroes to represent each piece of the Tri Force. While an interesting idea, there are kinks to iron out.
Tri Force Heroes has a clear sense of identity in that it’s inspired by fashion, with the Kingdom of Hytopia living in fear of not looking fabulous when the Princess is cursed to wear hideous clothing by a witch who resides in the Drablands. It’s certainly different to most damsel in distress scenarios, but the overall plot is both predictable and distinctly barebones, though the world it’s set in is interesting nonetheless.
Fashion as a theme is also reflected mechanically with the use of materials to make new costumes that have interesting abilities such as enhanced sub-weapon usage or augmenting core abilities such as not falling in quicksand or firing a beam when you attack at full health.
Credit where credit is due, there is a sense of social commentary surrounding the costumes on offer, and despite how feminine they are, no NPC seemed to care about Link’s appearance. How the players will view seeing Link in Princess Zelda’s dress or indeed many of the clothes that seem mostly feminine is a fascinating question, but the fact that the game has the guts to raise it in a subtle way is commendable.
Controls are the same as The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, so those who have played that particular title should feel right at home using the Pegasus Boots or charging a spin attack. Each level has the three characters sharing a health bar, but also gains the ability to use cooperative moves, such as stacking in a tower. Elevation is very important, so each player needs to understand the specifics about how towers work, with cooperation being key.
You have two ways to play: on your own with three switchable Doppels, or with other players using either an online connection or local multiplayer. In order to make multiplayer as accessible as possible, you can opt to use local or download play for those who don’t own the game; while Online allows you to either join with friends or strangers. During our pre-release testing of the game, we initially found that the online connection had a couple of odd dropped connections, but it became much more stable after this, up until release.
Both modes aren’t perfect in their design however. While online multiplayer is a blast to play, not having native voice chat and instead opting for emoticons that you tap on the touch screen means that your online partners in particular will not truly understand what you’re trying to tell them. The communication barrier could potentially lead to players having enough of someone spamming the chat and throwing their avatar into the nearest pit.
Single player also has its drawback of not being able to equip clothes onto the doppels. I can understand that the controls and switching between the doppels was at the forefront of the developer’s minds when creating the single player mode, but it’s a telling omission that signals that it was one of the last things created during development.
What brings down Tri Force Heroes the most is the dungeon design. Normally when you’re exploring a dungeon in a Zelda game, each one is intricately designed around one or more items that you use to get around, culminating with a dungeon that uses many of these at once. Tri Force Heroes is different in that each area is designed around the three items that players will use during the level, which makes sense.
Each world in the Drablands is split into four levels that reuse a lot of assets from A Link Between Worlds, which in turn are split into four parts. Using a combination of items, techniques, and cooperation, your goal is simply to get to the end. These levels are for the most part enjoyable, combining some imaginative use of each player’s abilities. However, there are times where the level design is unforgiving, not affording the player an option to go back and undo a mistake easily.
One particular section in the Fortress segment of the Drablands has a sequence where a boulder will constantly roll towards the player on a narrow path. Should only one of the players proceed along the path with the help of the mount you find there, you will be stuck and only have the option to skip or commit suicide to reset the segment. It’s infrequent, but for a franchise where design is paramount to the enjoyment of the game, it leaves a lot to be desired at times.
It doesn’t really take all that long to rinse through the eight worlds, but the challenge comes in not only collecting the materials to make all the garments, but also completing the three bonus challenges of each of the game’s levels. Some are really easy, while others need the support of two humans to make it through efficiently.
Aside from the two ways to play cooperatively, there’s also the Colosseum where you’re dunked into one of several arenas with a choice of weapons. The aim is simply to beat your two opponents, by reaching the end with as many hearts left as possible. It’s a fun diversion that does reward the winner with more loot, but gets stale rather quickly.
Sadly, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes doesn’t quite wow the catwalk. It may have the character, control and theme down to a tee, but the dungeon design is nowhere near as tight as those from the main franchise. If you have the right minded people playing locally or using some kind of voice chat, you will have a blast if you can get past some of the flawed dungeon design. While far from a fashion disaster, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes does need some touching up.