Link Play

People love to claim that the Legend of Zelda series is basically the same game over and over again. While this is failing to take into account all of the handheld titles, even the main console entries have enough differences to differentiate themselves.

Still, Nintendo must have really taken that criticism to heart as the Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes is completely different from the classic Zelda mold. The game is more akin to Four Swords and not it’s Gamecube sequel.

While I enjoyed the game, I think it was mostly due to me being a die-hard Zelda fan. The singleplayer mode is hot trash and the weird requirement of three players kind of ruins local multiplayer with just a single buddy. Download Play is very generous, so at least you don’t have to have friends with copies of the game.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I may consider this the weakest Zelda game in the series. That isn’t to say anything is particularly bad about it, save for it’s netcode; I’m mostly just saying that nothing is quite original about it.

Since the game bears a huge resemblance to Four Swords, it’s easy to compare the two games. For starters, you progress through areas that are basically small rooms. There isn’t an overworld or any kind of dungeon exploration; you are placed in an area with some items and small puzzles.

“Puzzles”

Successfully completing the puzzle gets you to the next room and so on until a boss fight. It is fun, but it becomes pretty routine in a very short time. There are stylish touches like some graphical effects, 3D and great music, but without the costume changing mechanic, the game would be a bit dull.

Costumes are what define this Zelda experience. Changing to and fro makes for some great times. Having Link cross dress or putting on a replica of Marth’s outfit is well and good, but unlocking some of the more badass costumes (like Sword Master or Fierce Deity) can make replays and challenges trivial.

Four Swords was incredibly rudimentary in design. While having three friends help you through puzzles was a blast, all of it’s dungeons are randomly generated. At some point, you begin to see repeat room designs and immediately know the solution. I guess that takes awhile, but it also leads to a game that has no distinct or memorable moments.

That game got it’s fun out of being novel. The DSi re-release added some much needed content to spruce up the endgame, but it’s original state is a bit of a throwaway gimmick. Can Zelda multiplayer work? Four Swords said yes.

The sequel, Four Swords Adventures really went to town with the whole concept. You were required to have Gameboy Advance link cables for multiplayer, but each person could be exploring a small room on their own. Main puzzles had players taking divergent paths to find items and culminate in some grand solution.

Or a daring escape!

Everyone emerged from their GBAs and provided the steps necessary; Triforce Heroes doesn’t really have that. I can accept the lack of 4 players, but often times you can beat an entire room by yourself. It makes the concept of multiplayer feel like it was forced upon a different execution of the Zelda formula.

While online play should make up for lacking friends or having differing schedules, Triforce Heroes has some really unstable netcode. Seemingly perfect games can end suddenly for no reason and most people have no idea how to setup a WiFi connection; I’ve had lag so bad that my sword wouldn’t swing for 5 seconds after pressing the attack button.

At least with Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures, you had to be in the same room. It might have limited the chances most people had to play the game (not to mention the outlandish price required for such a feat), but the game worked at all times. Triforce Heroes sometimes fails at multiplayer while simultaneously failing at singleplayer.

The original Four Swords never even had a singleplayer component, but Four Swords Adventures allowed players to summon the extra Link’s in different formations. That kind of gameplay feels akin to some classic Bioware RPGs like Icewind Dale or Baldur’s Gate. Why the same type of mechanic wasn’t utilized in Triforce Heroes is beyond my comprehension.

Singleplayer has you tapping the bottom screen to switch between dopples of yourself. It makes for tedious progression; every time you get somewhere with one Link, you need to completely stop and redo it for another. The totem mechanic almost seems to come from frustration in solo play rather than any genuine multiplayer advantage.

There is also a rather limited method of communication for online play. You get emoticons that you can press which are supposed to tell other players what to do. They rarely work. There are no icons for “Do not use item” or “Stop”. You just have a generic “NO!!!” to warn players of anything wrong.

Where is the “Stop Dying” button?!

Trying to specify what needs to be done in a given situation to a totally clueless player is an exercise in frustration. You wouldn’t even believe how many times I ended up yelling at my 3DS when a solution came to me in seconds. To watch others shrug and bumble around like a doofus is maddening.

When everything does click into place, Triforce Heroes is fast and fun. I like that there is actual puzzle solving instead of just murdering enemies like in Four Swords. This feels like a compromise between the two previous multiplayer Zelda titles. It also has a vibe similar to Skyward Sword’s upgrades.

I also can’t stay mad at a Zelda game that calls back to the 2D gameplay from yesteryear. People love to worry about how Nintendo has basically forgotten “classic” Zelda, but they still make these games for us to enjoy. They never buried that tried and true game system.

If anything, I think Triforce Heroes has shown me that I just prefer to take my Zelda alone. To me (and a lot of people), Zelda has been about exploring a new world and conquering it’s many dungeons. It’s been about guiding Link through treacherous paths and perilous situations.

Traveling “literally” anywhere.

Sure, sharing that fun is great, but the real joy comes from figuring out a solution and putting it into action. Without the ability to verbalize that to a friend (or get them to read your mind), the game becomes an exercise in patience and insanity.

Having like minded players makes all the difference. With friends who actually understand Zelda (or being in the same room), you can accomplish what is being thrown at you. Local multiplayer saves the day yet again.

All in all, Triforce Heroes isn’t bad. I rather enjoy it. I just don’t know if I’d ever see myself playing through it again.Four Swords exists mostly as a way to kill time on long flights and Four Swords Adventures is an epic journey with friends.

Triforce Heroes kind of feels like a short trip to an amusement park. It’s fun while it lasts, but you really want to get home after you’ve had your fun. It also sucks to have to deal with people who lack common sense.

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Split Screen Woes

Multiplayer is definitely not the newest idea in the gaming world and it’s online application isn’t even in its infancy, but I’m really starting to feel angry over the lack of proper split-screen or developers bright ideas to tack them on to single-player games.

Last night, my friend/brother Jim and I sat down with Killzone 3 to try out the Move support. We were skeptical that it would work well, but we figured that, since GameStop has a fairly lenient policy on used games, what the hell? We synced our two wands, booted up the game and were greeted with a lovely message.

“Move is not support in split-screen multi-player. Please connect a dual shock 3.”

Alright, so Guerilla Games lied about that; whatever, no big deal. Move isn’t the end all, be all of first person gaming (and believe me, Killzone 3 bot matches with Move are stupid), so Jim and I just decided to say the hell with it and continue on into the campaign.

Now, I know I complained a tiny bit about Resident Evil 5’s split-screen application, but at least that game kept an aspect ratio of 16:9. Killzone does one better and formats the game to 4:5 or some kind of stupid mash-up of full screen with black bars. It’s one of the ugliest uses of split-screen I’ve ever seen in my gaming career and that covers nearly 20 years!


Best picture I could find. Definitely really awful, though.

It turns out, co-op was a completely tacked on idea at the last second. Sony needed another bullet point to sell their latest shooter and they figured co-op was it. Why there’s no online use or customization of the screen is beyond my feeble brain, but it definitely brought my piss to a boil. Jim was so frustrated at his inability to see anything that he gave up after 3 levels.

While we were lamenting our lack of any kind of current co-op game to play (we can’t keep going back to Borderlands for the umpteenth time), I kept making the joke of, “Well, we can play Dead Space 2 online!” That brings me to a totally separate discussion.

We all know Call of Duty rules the online, first-person gaming scene along with Halo and Battlefield. So why do developers feel the need to tack on a multi-player mode into their single-player game? Granted Dead Space 2 is still a wholly awesome game and worth the price of admission, but think of how much more polished the mid-section could have been if half of Visceral wasn’t being wasted on trying to copy Left 4 Dead.


Who needs skill when I can just statis away?

Bioshock 2 made this same kind of offense. Not only was the single-player game lacking in almost all of the charm and mystery of the first, but its competitive multi-player component was utterly worthless. Laggy battles, poor collision detection, insanely worthless perks and game ending crashes (at least in my experience with the PC version).

On the flip side, we have Bulletstorm. It features a fairly neat co-op mode where you can team up with 3 friends and fend off against waves of enemies. Oh wait; you can’t do that split-screen! This is truly baffling as Epic provides a fairly well done split-screen mode in Gears of War, offering both Horde and Campaign without any sacrifices.

Taking a look at an open world game, why does Saints Row 2 not feature any kind of split-screen support? Maybe it’s due to the underwhelming amount of RAM in current generation consoles, but it’s completely stupid that open world games with co-op modes cannot be experienced on the same console.

Why can’t more developers do something like what Gearbox did with Borderlands; provide the entire game in split-screen and actually make it function? While Borderlands has a vertical split, at least it fills your screen.


Everything is in plain view.

How about Infinity Ward and their co-op mode in Modern Warfare 2? Every mission is playable and fully functional and the screen is perfect. It doesn’t feel like a tacked on idea to sell more copies and, even if it were, it at least doesn’t hinder your ability to see anyone.

While Scott Pilgrim lacked an online feature, at least it’s same couch experience was well made. All characters worked well together and even had some extra functions over their single-player prototypes. Hell, lacking online probably made the offline mode that much better.

As for single-player experiences, what is the need of including a multi-player component? Did we really need to have multiple Isaac’s running around? Was there any want for Bioshock’s powers to be explored with other players? Why not take all those creative ideas and apply those to even better scripted events?


Makes me wonder how well the split-screen will fare in Uncharted 3.

I know this isn’t a call to arms or a very insightful blog, but I’m just sick of seeing multi-player being offered in games and then developer’s half-assing their way through it. Yeah, obviously not every game has awful split-screen or lacks it, but I just want to see a revision like the old days. Give me more Perfect Darks and less Killzones.