Dangerous To Go Alone –
Using the Link Between World’s engine and with a nod to Four Sword Adventures, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is unlike any other Zelda game before it. Instead of journeying through an arcing narrative, Tri Force Heroes revolves around tightly designed liner dungeons, co-op play with three players, and a grinding loot mechanic not too far off from other modern games like Destiny, Diablo, or even Borderlands.
The story in Tri Force Heroes is far and away the most ridiculous plotline in a Zelda game to date and mostly just acts as an excuse to join up with two other players to collect a bunch of loot. Instead of rescuing Zelda from Ganon, Link instead needs to free a princess from lame fashion at the request of the King. A witch has cursed the princess to wear an ugly brown unitard unless Link can put a stop to the evil villain by donning unique outfits of his own. Even the developers have stated that Tri Force Heroes does not really fall into the official Zelda timeline and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. In other words, no one is going play this game for the story; players will play for the co-op gameplay.
Tri Force Heroes is always a co-op game even if you play solo. It is also worth noting this game either be played solo or with three players; there is no two player only option. Three Links (green, red and blue) join together in each stage to solve puzzles and defeat baddies just like any other Zelda title. The difference here is the unconnected stages. Instead of adventuring around one big world, the player is free to choose a specific set of stages at will. Each of the eight worlds contain four levels within, further broken down by four sub-levels – basically everything is broken down in sets of four which takes around 10 minutes to complete. At the end of each set of stages, the player is rewarded an item that can be used to craft additional outfits to give Link one unique power or enhancement like the ability to shoot three arrows at once to walk on sand without sinking. This means even after the credits roll, players will need to grind these same levels if they wish to unlock all the suits available. For an added challenge, Drabland Challenges, like beating a stage in a certain amount of time or having to avoid constant Wall Masters, can be activated during worlds that were already beaten to earn additional goodies. This is a thoughtful way to get players to go back and replay levels they have already grinded through several times before.
When playing solo, two dummy Links join along for the ride and can be controlled at any time by tapping their icon on the touch screen. The dummy Links are statues when not being controlled so enemies cannot hurt them. However, they can still be pushed off ledges for damage. Further, health is shared between all players so teamwork is not only essentially to complete each environmental puzzle but to also be successful in combat. Unfortunately, there are some stages that are super frustrating when playing solo simply because one player cannot switch between each Link fast enough. The perfect example of this are the stages with the teeter-totters. The Links need to balance themselves on each side and there really is no way to properly do this when limited to controlling one Link at a time. It is clear the game was designed around having three human controlled Links; the statue single player mode seems a bit tacked on.
Luckily, Tri Force Heroes offers online play, download play, and local wireless multiplayer options. My time playing online has been split 50/50 in terms of fun and frustrating. To be perfectly honest, there are some dumb Zelda players out there and genuinely suck at the game straight up. The lack of voice chat makes the whole online experience a frustrating mess, especially when you simply want to tell the one guy with the bow to shoot the orb across the gap. The emoticons at the bottom of the screen probably do the best job possible without being able to type or speak messages but expect to get pissed off on numerous occasions when playing online. Sometimes you even get jerks who will pick you up and toss you over the edge for no reason like many other online games – I had to use the blacklist feature a couple of times, a welcomed featured to the online infrastructure.
Speaking of picking up and throwing your friends, the totem feature is one of the highlighting gimmicks in Tri Force Heroes. One Link can pick up another Link and then the third Link can put up the two Links to make a tall totem of Links. This is used constantly to either attack enemies on ledges, to hit high switches, or to toss your buddies to new heights. It works well as a puzzle solving tool without getting obnoxious. The only problem is, sometimes players online just do not understand this simple concept. The totem feature is even used during the game’s charming ending.
When Link is not venturing through a gauntlet of dungeons, the small hub world contains everything Link needs and nothing more. There is a daily game of chance to earn one piece of loot, the clothing store to make and try on outfits, the bottle salesman from Link Between Worlds will sell random pieces of loot for a high price if you don’t want to grind, and a hut dedicated to entirely optional snapshot picture mode. For a Zelda game, this super small hub world seems out of place from the lack of exploration but works in the confines of Tri Force Heroes; there is no fat to shift through.
Similar to the Four Sword games, each Link can carry one additional item at a time per world. Arrows, a Mario fire-glove to fight torches, the gust jar, bombs, boomerang – all the famous Zelda items are here. What is a little strange, however, is the complete lack of a shield. Link is able to hold down the attack button to perform the spin attack but having no shield means the player needs to focus much more on offensive than defensive. I feel the need to highlight this because there are times when being able to block would have been rather intuitive especially against the final, final boss (don’t want to give away spoilers).
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is definitely not the best Zelda title but actually wound up liking it a lot more than I initial thought. Seeing how the game opens up after the first couple of hours by focusing on grinding for loot to upgrade Link creates a draw to come back for more. The online play is a crapshoot but at least the option to play against opposing Links online is a way to take out the frustrations found in trying to find a worthy team of online co-opers. If you and your co-op friends have exhausted Smash Bros, Monster Hunter and Mario Kart, Tri Force Heroes will scratch that co-op itch.
Not As Good As: A Link To the Past With Four Swords (GBA)
Surprising Fact: no amiibo support
Also Try: Secret of Mana
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com