• Developer/Publisher: Nintendo EPD & Grezzo/Nintendo
  • Platform: 3DS ($/€ 39.99, £34.99)
  • Copy provided by publisher.

A new Zelda game is always a reason for celebration, and the 3DS has been absolutely spoilt when it comes to Nintendo’s green garbed elf-boy. The system kicked off with Ocarina of Time 3D, soon got an original Zelda in A Link Between Worlds, pleased begging fans everywhere with Majora’s Mask 3D and even got a special version of Four Swords at one point. And now another new title approaches and, honestly, the Zelda world seems hesitant. Should they be?

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a brand new portable Zelda game, and a multiplayer one at that – which is where much of that resistance is coming from. In concept you can understand, the Zelda series has historically played best when played solo and Tri Force Heroes eschews that entirely, saying; “Playing with a friend just isn’t enough, you’re going to need at least two.” In practice then, the good news is that the game works as both a single player adventure and a multiplayer romp.

Starting with multiplayer, you and your friend control three Link avatars, styled after Wind Waker’s Toon Link, and you must tower on top of one another in order to hit switches, reach new areas, defeat enemies, solve puzzles, y’know, the usual Zelda fare. Happily, at least when everyone in the room knows what their role is, the game comes together pretty magically. Each dungeon begins with each Link choosing an item to use in the dungeon – being in charge of any item is a big responsibility for you will no doubt be essential in leading the group to victory. No matter which item you choose, you won’t have the option of simply sitting back and allowing everyone else to do the work – no, everyone is important here.

The towering “Totem” mechanic here works far better than you would expect, and requires far more thought than you would expect. Often switches may be placed high atop towers, requiring, say, a Link with a bow to be atop the tower, whilst the Link on the bottom is in charge of moving. This is definitely a double-edged sword, however, because no matter which character you’re lucky enough to be the pressure is on you. If you’re on the bottom, you’ll have to be careful to get into position at the right time without messing up, and if you’re on top your aim and movement is all being decided for you, with you simply having to shoot at the right time – a task which will quickly become not-so-simple.

The different items take the shape of familiar Zelda items, Gust Jar, Clawshot, Bow, Boomerang, etc., but these items have new uses now. Boomerangs, for example, are better than just tools to fight and hit switches with, and now can be used to retrieve your fellows Links from over large ledges. The Clawshot works similarly, with the user able to pull themselves over chasms and such to meet their pals.

The items themselves can even be enhanced depending on what your Link is wearing. There is a decent amount of costumes that can be unlocked in game which can give you different effects to play around with. The Legendary Dress, for example, will give you more hearts in battle, while the Boomeranger costume will make your Boomerang supersized – more likely to hit and hurt your targets. A bit of advice is to collect all of the costumes you possibly can and then keep an eye on which items will appear in any given dungeon so you can prepare yourself accordingly.

The single player experience closely resembles its multiplayer counterpart – although is a little bit more awkward. In single player, you switch between yourself (complete with your chosen outfit) and two Doppels, literally dopplegangers. You tap between icons on the touch screen to switch and, honestly, the whole thing works really well. The only difference being that when you’re on the bottom of a Totem tower, walking around, you can also make the top character swing their sword and use items without having to switch to them, making some enemies slightly easier if you find it’s difficult to rely on friends!

When you finish a dungeon you’re given an almost Destiny-style distribution of goods – after each dungeon there are three chests, one for each player, and only one containing a rare piece of material to create clothing with. This encourages replays to collect the rarer loot, but luckily, I often found myself in need of the common materials to create clothing, so it never felt like a loss (which I suppose makes it very unlike Destiny, in which every dungeon feels like a loss).

The single player experience offers everything that multiplayer does, albeit with the slight struggle of having to move all of your player characters around the map at once – this can be easily done by towering up, though the act of having to control all characters, move them to the same spot, in order to tower up and move on gets old fast.

Luckily, you don’t have to feel guilty about powering ahead in single player and leaving your pals in the dust – replaying older stages in incentivized with new modifiers, such as playing the stage in darkness, or losing the ability to use your sword. I’m happy to report that I completed stages with my pals using a few of these modifiers, but it wasn’t easy.

In case you haven’t got the picture so far, I really like The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, though I’m not without my qualms. First of all, why the Hell is there no multiplayer for two people? Yes, the game is built around three people, but why couldn’t the space of the third Link be a Doppel for either of the other two human players to hop in and out of? That makes no sense, and restricts multiplayer with friends to only when at least two are present and holding their 3DS unit. Very annoying.

All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a great Zelda game

Another qualm are “Friendly Tokens”, unique materials that can only be acquired by playing with friends. You get one Friendly Token for each new friend you play with. Since I only have two friends I could play with, I only have two Friendly Tokens, which isn’t enough to make any costume currently. As much as I like Nintendo encouraging me to find new friends, I really don’t want to have to find new friends. I’m too old for it.

All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a great Zelda game, far better than either Four Swords or Four Swords Adventures and somehow easier to get a group to start playing than either of those. It’s fun solo, great with a group and has plenty of replayability and adorable charm. This definitely isn’t the usual epic-story Zelda game, instead the story feels about as epic as Link’s Crossbow Training, but it’s full of unique Zelda puzzles fans and newcomers alike will adore.

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