As you all know, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures features Game Boy Advance connectivity. Previous games have tried it with mixed results. While Pac-Man Vs provided a simple, but excellent example of 'Connectivity', Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles totally missed the boat and did very little with the GBA screen that couldn't have been done on the TV screen with a small window in the corners. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures however is the perfect example of what connectivity is all about. The game is best played with friends and you can play with up to three other people using the Game Boy Advance. But that's not to say the single player isn't still enjoyable, quite the opposite. When in single player you can choose to play with the Gamecube controller or the Game Boy Advance as the controller. If you use the Gamecube controller you will see all the Game Boy Advance screens on a pop-up screen on your TV. You will still have the Gamecube game on screen, but a window will pop up whenever you move into parts not seen in the overworld on the main TV screen. For multiplayer everyone needs a GBA to compete.
For single and multiple players, Hyrule Adventure is the main meat of the game and while reminiscent of A Link to the Past and other Zelda games, it's quite different in a big way. Instead of having a large free roaming world to explore, the game actually progresses through actual levels like an old Mario game. There is a world map and the player will slowly move across this map to new locations, then they enter the level. Each “world” is broken down into three levels. On the final level there is a boss fight and then all four Link’s can move on to the next area. So what's the story behind 4 Swords? Well, the evil wizard Vaati, who kidnapped the shrine maidens in the GBA Four Swords, is released upon the world by the power of Shadow Link -- and it's up to you, Link, to vanquish the foes and rescue the girls again. Using the famed Four Sword that splits our hero into four differently coloured Links, the Hero of Time sets out on a series of adventures in familiar and new environments and battle big bosses as Hyrule Adventure spans over eight large lands as you go in search of Vaati and Shadow Link. During your journey you will have control of each of the 4 Links, each dressed in different coloured clothes - Green, Red, Blue and Purple. This is essential to the games puzzles and mechanics, where you might have to use the green Link to push a green block that is blocking the path ahead or attack red enemies with Red Link. You will be able to use one Link or all four Links at a time. Using all four Links will result in more power against enemies because you will be able to use four times the weapon power. You can also line the Links up in various formations using directions on the C-Stick. You can form a line of four, form a square or form a diamond shape to battle in all four directions. Using the d-pad you can also use one single Link and move him separately which is need for many puzzles. One press of the L button and the other three will rush to join you, even if you are on the other side of a cliff meaning you don't have to waste unnecessary time getting them all back together after solving a puzzle. Link can also swim and dive under the water to collect gems and avoid enemies. Speaking of enemies, there will be times when there are dozens of enemies on screen at once (with no slowdown whatsoever) which are certainly some of 4 Sword's highlight moments.
A Zelda game wouldn't be complete without its special items and weapons and 4 Swords is no different. When you collect an item/weapon, such as a Fire Rod, all four Links will be able to use this weapon. You will also be able to get items like shovels to dig for items, the famous bow and slingshot, and even the 'Pegasus Boots' make a return to aid you as you navigate your way through the games many obstacles. In multi-player each Link will have their own weapon and as such will have to work together in order to complete all the tasks that lay ahead. While on single player once one Link has one weapon, every Link will get that same weapon. Here is where the game differs from previous Zelda games however, there is no item screen. Once the player changes their weapon they will only have that one single weapon. They can always go back and change it again, but they can’t hold more then that one weapon. The layout of the game was for players to help each other, and it shows. Some players may not like this aspect but it actually works very well, even in single player there is very little in terms of back tracking. Like other Zelda games, you can replenish your health with hearts as well as fairies that completely replenish you (at the cost of Gems). If you loved the Zelda games of old, especially those for the NES and the SNES, then you will feel right at home with this game.
The question that many have is that is why is GBA usage essential for a game that appears to be doing what past Zelda games have managed on a single screen? Well the main reason is that this Zelda game is designed for multi-player (in fact single player wasn't originally intended for the game at all) So how do you go about making a multiplayer version of game which is all about freedom and clever puzzle solving? Answer - another screen, which explains the need for the GBA. With the GBA one player could enter a house on the TV screen and then switch the view from the TV screen to the GBA screen where they could interact with characters and do whatever they liked while the rest of the players continued doing what ever it was they were doing. It may sound a bit odd to be switching between looking at a TV and at a handheld, but in practice, this all comes together brilliantly. One player could be talking with an old woman inside a cottage, trying to get a clue on what to do next, while two players are trying to solve a block puzzle inside a dungeon below. The fourth player could be digging up bushes with the spade looking for some hidden rupees. Sure, you still have to wait for everyone when you want to exit an entire area to move on to the next, but you're no longer locked in place doing nothing while other players are having conversations as in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.
While this added freedom gives players more of a chance to do their own thing, unless players co-operate in solving puzzles, getting through 4 Swords will be a problem. A lot of puzzles require help from other players. Take a section in the castle in world 2 for example. There's a door in sight, but there is no way across. While exploring a lower room on his GBA screen Player 2 finds 2 switches, but is unable to hit them from his position due to a wall. With communication with Player 1 it's obvious that with use of P1's arrows he is able to miss the wall and hit the switches that are only visible on Player 2's GBA screen. Other co-operative puzzles involve something similar the old Light World/Dark World theme from A Link to the Past. When players enter the Dark World the game switches to their GBA screen. While in the Dark World, players appear as dark shadows on the TV screen and vice versa, players in the Light World appear as shadows on the GBA screens. With reference to both screens players can make their way through seemingly impassable areas. Co-operation also extends to the excellent boss battles where there fight usually spills over into the underground GBA areas or into the 'Dark World' so players again have to work together to decide who is doing what and when to do it. Again, more proof that this game could not work without the GBA connection. The beauty of this co-operation theme is made all the more apparent when you realize that in 4 Swords you are actually competing against each other. At the end of each level a winner is decided on who has collected the most Gems collected in each. Gems are also awarded at the end for various things like being the person who killed the most enemies, but most of the Gems come from within the level. So, while you're trying to work together to progress, once a puzzle is complete as soon as there's the sniff of rupees the knives are out and all hell breaks loose as everyone dashes around trying to collect as many Gems as possible. It is immensely enjoyable when there's always the temptation to pick up the Link with the most money and throw him down a dark hole or 'accidentally' shoot an arrow into his back and steal his dropped Gems....
The is actually another mode of play in Four Swords - Shadow Battles. The name pretty much describes what it is all about as up to 4 players battle it out head to head. Shadow Battle is a Smash Brothers like free-for-all, competing in both 2D and pseudo 3D plains. Using various weapons and items that appear to inflict damage to your opponents to aim of the game is to be the last one standing. It's very frantic and very chaotic, but winning sometimes is more about luck and being in the right place at the right time. That said, there are usually some off-screen GBA areas where there's a hidden switch to pull that usually ends up doing something bad to everyone else be it turning on huge jets of flames or opening large pits of doom in parts of the areas. It's good for a laugh and as a break from the main game, but not in the same league quality wise. There are also lots of little mini games that can be unlocked in Hyrule Adventure by finding Tingle. These games are pure simplicity and while a few aren't really worth bothering with, a lot of them are great fun. The horse racing one especially being a favourite of mine.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures has the looks and feel of the SNES game, A Link to The Past, but it takes advantage of the GameCube’s graphical power as well. Link may be small, but he is very detailed and well animated as are the enemies, some of which are from past Zelda games. The game is full of little effects that weren’t achievable on the SNES. For example, while Link is swimming in the water, you will see very nice effects of the water rippling. There are great fire effects also as well as some beautiful rainbow and water spray effects at waterfalls. You can see the reflection of the clouds and such in the water. 4 Swords may not be technically impressive, but that doesn't stop it from being a beautiful looking game. It shares a similar look and art-style of the last Zelda Gamecube game, Wind Waker. When something gets blown up you get this huge cell-shaded explosions effects as found in Wind Waker. The same goes for the fire effects that are reminiscent of what can be seen in the volcano area in Wind Waker. It is a very nice mix of the two styles and doesn't look out of place in the slightest. When using the GBA screen the game isn't quite of the same graphically quality as what you see on the GC screen, but it certainly looks good enough and does what it's meant to do well. Four Swords Adventures is full of classic Zelda music, mostly from Link to The Past. While it does not feature much new, and the music is still in midi format, it works with the style of the game as good as always. Link also makes many grunts and sounds we've come to love since Ocarina of Time.
Like the JPN and US releases of 4 Swords, the PAL version comes in a larger cardboard box which includes a GBA>GC connection cable, which is certainly a much welcome addition considering you need one for each person in multiplayer. Sadly the future of connectivity doesn’t look very bright and most likely this will be one of the last games to utilize this potentially great feature. Nintendo has delivered a connectivity game, which makes the slight extra expense and effort in setting up connectivity worth it. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures blends cooperative and competitive play superbly to make it one of the best console games released in a long time and one of my favourite games of this generation so far. Clever puzzles, inventive bosses and the epic battles of facing dozens of enemies at once make 4 Swords an experience that everyone should take part in. Gamers who are only interested in a single-player experience should be warned about the slightly low difficulty and overall length of the Hyrule Adventure mode that is around the 10hr mark but it would still get a solid 8 from me if it were just a single player game. Anyone who can play it multiplayer (even with just 2) or has even a shred of nostalgia for Link to the Past should snap this up immediately.