Review: The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

Despite the odd stumble, three is definitely company in Link's triple outing.

By Jack Taylor – 18 February 2016
Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS (code provided)

Strange as it might be to think that a series such as The Legend of Zelda would ever work well in a multiplayer setting, it's done pretty well for itself thus far. Its first major multiplayer entry was The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, bundled in with the Game Boy Advance remake of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and an idea which later also made its way in new forms to Nintendo GameCube and later Nintendo DSiWare as well. Announced by Nintendo during E3 2015 as part of a Nintendo Digital Event which focused on transformation in its games, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is the series' latest push into the multiplayer world, this time taking it further, into the online realm as well.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes takes place some time after The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and is set in the Kingdom of Hytopia, a very style-savvy land ruled over by the King and his daughter, Princess Styla. Once an enviably fashionable family, Princess Styla has been cursed by an evil witch and now wears an incredibly dull outfit which she is unable to remove. With the curse sending the entire kingdom into a tizz, the King seeks three legendary heroes - the Totem Heroes - to venture into the Drablands and find the evil witch in an attempt to defeat her and remove the curse from Princess Styla. It just so happens that you are one of these three heroes, having travelled from Hyrule and found yourself here in Hytopia.

Unlike the more traditional games in the series, which have you travelling across large areas and collecting items as you go along, progression in Tri Force Heroes is naturally geared more towards a multiplayer experience. There are a number of different locations within the Drablands, each of which features different enemies and terrain, and your journey through these is a lot less linear than you might be used to. You're only able to access one location initially, but more will open up once you've made enough progress; even then, each location features four different areas, meaning there are lots of interesting areas to get to grips with, particularly since it's an experience you'll be sharing with others.

Each area is designed with a team of three in mind, and you have a number of options as to how you go about assembling such a team. It's more than likely that you'll go online to find your fellow conscriptees, and you can choose to be teamed with two unknown players or with any friends of yours who might also be playing. When you're offline, you can choose to team up with two friends using local play, or download play if they don't have their own copies of the game. Alternatively, you can bite the bullet and take the trip yourself, with two copies - known as doppels - which you can switch between at will.

There are four parts to every area you visit, the last of which will be a boss or an unpleasant group of enemies. The first area is where you'll find your team's items, and where the first hint of strategy comes in. The items will sometimes be the same - three bows, for example - but on occasion, there might be one item that's different from the other two, or even three different items altogether. Figuring out who's getting what is mostly just a case of seeing who gets to the item first, but who's best equipped to take an item can sometimes depend on what you're wearing. Yes, really.

See, the pride of Hytopia is its fashion, and there's no way you'd be seen dead in your everyday wear. By travelling out into the Drablands and completing areas, you'll be rewarded with materials, some of which you'll also be able to purchase in the castle town not long into the game as well. By taking the right materials - and enough rupees - to Madame Couture in town, you'll be able to order new costumes, many of which have special powers. For example, by wearing the Goron Garb, you'll be able to swim around in lava, while the Kokiri Clothes let you shoot three arrows at once from your bow. Picking the right costume for each area can be vital in a successful journey through the Drablands.

The way that Tri Force Heroes is set out lends itself well to some puzzle-based gameplay as well as the usual action and adventure you're used to seeing in the series. Having three players, each potentially with a unique item, often means finding out how best to progress, and naturally each area is designed to accentuate that. There's almost always a set path, certainly, but having the ability to work out how to progress when faced with a tricky or unusual situation is often important here. This often involves two or three players joining to form a totem, letting you access higher points or items, for instance. Sometimes, it's even an idea to form a totem just to avoid obstacles - since all three characters share a heart gauge, a totem can be a way of avoiding mass damage.

There are plenty of areas to be mastered, as well. There are eight main locations, each featuring four different areas, for a total of 32 areas. Once you've completed all four in a location, though, extra tasks will open themselves up to you, such as beating the area in a certain amount of time or without taking any damage. Alongside the main quest, each area has three additional challenges, and again you can take these on either by yourself or with two other people. Though the challenges do sometimes vary depending on which path you take - single-player or multiplayer - they'll count towards your total regardless, which sits at an impressive 128 quests or challenges in total, not including the Den of Trials added in a post-launch update.

Though the gameplay is very clever and brings a unique twist to the series, the game isn't without its drawbacks, which are almost all related to its online play. It can be frustrating to be paired with people who don't understand how certain items work, or what needs to be done next even when the rest of you have figured out the next step - though you're provided with a set of symbols to essentially let the other players know your feelings, and the "Over here!" icon can be helpful at times like this. Worse, though, are those times when somebody disconnects, whether it's because they have to go or because they lose connection - essentially wiping the progress you've made in that area and causing you to have to start again. Local play does away with these troubles because you can converse, and the ability to use download play makes this even easier than it would otherwise be. You don't have these problems while in single-player mode, but areas can take quite a bit longer to progress through on your own.

Despite this, there's still a lot to love about Tri Force Heroes, which is a charming little game throughout. It obviously looks very pretty and is built on the same engine as A Link Between Worlds was, so the gameplay generally works very well as its core. It also has a great soundtrack, with the overworld music in some areas being just lovely to listen to. It's also a game that knows how to make you smile, particularly with its storyline, dialogue, and costumes - the Princess Zelda costume is a stroke of genius, and if the sight of Link waddling about in a Zora costume won't make you feel all warm inside, very little is likely to, really.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes has an awful lot going for it. Everything - the gameplay, the visuals, the soundtrack, and plenty more besides - reeks of the Zelda titles we know and love, but with a little twist not unlike Four Swords, the key difference being online play. That's where the game can fall down, as local multiplayer presents the game at its absolute finest, but online play needs to be included and has been in the best manner possible - at least, without causing further problems for player, parent, and publisher alike.

All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a hugely enjoyable game, which manages to introduce some fantastic locations based entirely around the concept of a three-person adventure. This is a very clever title, and one that will definitely be appreciated by Zelda fans and unique adventure lovers alike.

Verdict: Good

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes