Back in the days of the Game Boy Advanced, Nintendo released a port of A Link to the Past with a rather nifty bonus addition – a co-op Zelda game. It let players play as Green, Red, Blue and Purple Link and work together to complete dungeons. It wasn’t all friendly, though – you could throw your friends into pits for fun and compete for treasure. This carries on with Four Swords Adventures on GameCube and then the re-release of the original on DSi.
Enter Tri Force heroes, a new co-op Zelda games, but with significant changed. Firstly, Purple Link hasn’t been invited, dropping the number of players to three. You also share a health bar and all collected rupees. While this may seem like it takes the fun away, Tri Force Heroes is simply a different approach and works just as well in its own way. Another big factor in this change is the existence of online co-op, as it means much less abusive behaviour from other players as they’ll be hurting themselves.
Tri Force Heroes is specifically designed to play either with two other people or on your own with droppels – lifeless dummies that you can switch control to via the touchscreen. The main gameplay element of the three players is totems – players can pick each other up to create a pillar of three Links. This is used in many puzzles and is necessary to defeat many enemies. The order you pick each other up can be important, too.
You will puzzle and fight across eight areas, each with four levels. Every level is further broken down into four stages, which will focus mainly on puzzles or combat. If you’re playing on your own, then the puzzles shouldn’t be a problem at all. There are a few that are difficult due to having to time things, but most of them are actually easier on your own as only one person needs to work them out. When playing with others online, saying “Over Here” or “Item” are pretty much the only way you can give people clues. Combat, however, is a different matter altogether. While both puzzles and combat get more difficult at the game progresses, puzzles are much more manageable on your own. Some enemies need to be lured away by one player while whacked in the arse by another, which is made much more difficult when you have to quickly switch players and attack. I’m not entirely sure some of the final levels are even possible on your own.
That being said, the core gameplay of Tri Force Heroes is extremely solid. The items are all fun to use, with some affecting other players. The traditional boomerang, for example, will pick up other players, letting all players progress over gaps. It’s a lot of fun trying to figure things off, and there’s even a lot of charm in watching others try and figure out the puzzles when you replay a level with new people. Sure, it can be frustrating when someone does take a tad too long to work something else, but the spamming of thumbs up and the cheer emoticons always makes up for it.
Once you complete a level, you’re awarded with material. There will be three chests to pick from, and one of them contains something better. One thing that can be really annoying with this system is when you get disconnected from a game due to a communication error – you can’t regroup and try again. While you do keep any rupees you collected, you lose out on the main prize: the materials.
Materials can be used to create costumes, most of which look great and have nice bonuses, such as making larger bombs or giving you the magic beam when using your sword at full health. There are over 50 different materials to collect, which will take a long time. You don’t just have to replay the same way over and over – once you complete a world, you will unlock three new bonus challenges for each level. These can be simple things to play with less health or completing it within a time limit, but there are also more creative ones that involve you transporting an orb with you or popping balloons as you progress. This adds a lot of or replayability as you have to complete each level four times to do everything the game has to offer.
There are a couple of other ways to get materials. There’s a lucky dip shop which will give you a material at least once every few days, as well as a sales merchant that lets you buy or sell materials. There is also a specific material calle Friend Tokens which can be only gained by playing locally through Local or Download play (the latter allows three consoles to play from one copy of the game). There are two costumes to unlock with this, which will require you to play with seven different people.
If there are two of you who want to play, there is a separate game mode. It’s a 1v1 battle mode which take place across four small arenas. It’s perfectly serviceable but there really isn’t much to it. It’s much better to just find another person online to join up with (this is only possible if you both have a copy of the game, however).
Tri Force Heroes is a wonderful package, it’s just a big shame that the package comes with lots of limitations. If you do find a good group of people to play with (either locally or online), this game is definitely a lot of fun while also being very challenging with a great feeling of reward when you get through a difficult stage.
A joy to play with three players
Extremely solid level design
Costumes are great
No good 2-player mode.
Feels unfair on your own at times