When we think of the Zelda franchise what is it we think about? For me personally I think of wonderful stories, memorable locations, the thrill of the adventure, challenging puzzle solving, excellent dungeons, and of course exploring each and every location that fill an entire world. If you are like me and think of a Zelda game like this then entering Tri Force Heroes you need to leave all your ideas at the door, as this is not your standard Zelda game. The Zelda franchise is definitely not known for its multiplayer and for good reason, the series is primarily a single player focused experience but on a few occasions Nintendo has broken from this namely with the two Four Swords games, and now after many years they return to the system.
To be honest multiplayer is an idea that I have felt never truly felt fits the Zelda franchise and Tri Force Heroes does not change my mind, while the game certainly was built around the concepts of multiplayer that is in fact my biggest problem. A lot of the things that make a Zelda game what it is are lost here in this game and all to accommodate the multiplayer focus, there is no freedom to just explore, there is no grand world waiting for you to see it, for the general game itself you have a small hub town and then several micro level sections. The only side of Zelda that lives in this game is the puzzles which I will admit are very well thought out (more on that shortly).
The Legend of Zelda Tri Force Heroes brings us to the Kingdom of Hytopia a fashion obsessed kingdom or at least it was. Hytopia’s pride and joy was the kingdom princess Styla who everyone looked up to, however a witch decides to curse her forcing her to forever wear a black body suit which makes her lock herself away from the world and sends the kingdom into some dark times. Seeing his daughters distress the king puts out an order for a hero to venture into the Drablands and find a way to cure his daughter. Overall the premise is pretty dull and for me personally lacked any real appeal as I felt there ideas were shallow but clearly the plot was placed in just to accompany the game.
To replace the franchises usual adventure focus Tri Force Heroes instead is a game about action, teamwork and problem solving. While the game is primarily focused towards multiplayer and playing with others a single player mode has also been added which acts in the same way to the multiplayer. This being available is great for those who lack friends and don’t have a fondness for online like myself, and this is where I spent a good portion of my time in the game. The unfortunate side to the single player is that I couldn’t help but feel that the single player was simply forced in to accommodate for those who want to play alone.
Even if this is the case I will admit that the single player component is perhaps the most rewarding side to the game but also the most monotonous. In choosing to go forth and play the game alone you are given dopples to act as your companions, basically these are husks which you can transfer Links soul between and you must utilize these and all your skills in order to proceed through the game. Like I said before the single player feels forced and the way the game plays echoes this, puzzles often require you to think outside of the box, and often require you to consider how each of your characters can be utilized including how you need to use them in quick succession. The acts that would seem simple with three minds across three characters that are being controlled at the same time are harder when you only can use one person at a time, but with each of these they require a good amount of thought.
For the single player you must learn to balance the three characters and always remember who has what ability among other things, and there is a lot to remember. In each level you have three items to grab which will be utilized to solve problems going forward, sometimes these are all the same such as all players getting a bow, other times these can all vary meaning you have to pay close attention and remember who has which item. This however leads to many new layers of puzzle solving which were honestly quite devious, some occasions require you to quickly switch between characters to use a specific line of items in quick succession, other times you also need to make use of the games topple mechanic which allows you to stack your three characters to reach new heights.
The topple mechanic was one thing I both loved and hated, being able to lift up my characters allowed puzzles to reach new heights forcing new ways of thinking, this also meant you had to build your tower often with the right character in order to use the necessary item. However while this is a major part of the games core focus it felt overused and this took away some of the brilliance of such a system, it was also annoying that if I had one of my characters higher up on my tower they were unable to get down without the one holding them throwing them which was honestly quite annoying.
Even still this has not even delved into the game’s biggest problem which is repetition and just how tedious it is. For starters while levels certainly each hold some unique ideas, as I delved deeper into an area things seemed to be becoming very much the same, and this carries over throughout the entire game and is worse still in single player. Unless you are carrying your characters around the areas they grow stale as you move three characters through the environments, and it is because of this nature the game pushes for multiple players. Another thing that got to me was how the game seemed to push me to go back through levels I had already done, by the end I had not had much fun doing the levels in the first place but then you get told to go back so you can get treasures to get costumes.
Much like the fashion obsessed story, a lot of the gameplay is built around fashion with the clothes you bring into the level offering special powers to the player. To get these treasures you need to complete the games levels which once you finish them you get a chance to open one of three treasure chests, two of these usually offer a basic material with a rare one baiting you to try your luck. Alone this system is already frustrating particularly when looking for certain materials but their uses are even worse, in the time it takes to go through levels and get the specific materials things seem bad enough but the costumes you can get are all pretty dull and offer barely any improvement to the game at hand. By collecting you can get a Goron costume which makes it easy to cross lava, you can get a Zelda costume to gather more hearts in a level, and there is even a Kokiri costume which allows you to fire more arrows in a single shot. The small things these costumes provide were already pretty poor to me, but for what they do collecting is not worth it, even when encouraged I only ever organized a couple of additional costumes and one was for a laugh and the other was because it looked cool.
Even for my problems on the single player side of things I still think it is the most rewarding way to play, being alone makes the difficulty of some of the game’s levels and puzzles ramp up substantially and getting through them just made me feel really smart. It was a true reward knowing I had bested a multiplayer focus on many occasions but the good times don’t last, while this is fine in the early game the further I got into the story the less accessible things got and any fun I was having was lost. As you approach the games closing it seems incessant on having you work with a team of actual people and unless you are good and really well co-ordinated you will struggle.
Unfortunately I can’t say the multiplayer is any better, I took a chance to see if things improved by playing online, but the game struggles from a communication barrier which made me think I had better luck playing alone. I don’t normally care about voice chat but this game needs it, all it offers are vague and stupid pictures to communicate with one another and these don’t help when I could never tell if any of my random companions had the same ideas I had.
If you really want to go multiplayer you need some friends for local play, this is by far the best way to access the game and deal with all challenges ahead. Not only does it benefit from actual communication but the game actually becomes almost fun, I only ever needed to focus on my role in the problems ahead and this made puzzles and combat a much better experience. It was good to grab my item and rely on whoever I was teamed up with to deal with their own problems and this really worked with puzzles, problems that required quick and smart work were done easy and without any trouble. This however creates a reverse imbalance and at times things become too easy especially with some of the locations the game offers, and nothing here ever truly removed the feeling of monotony that holds the game, it almost gets to point where it’s fun but just loses it.
On the whole The Legend of Zelda Tri Force Heroes feels more like a chore, the level of repetition across the base gameplay and single player set things back and multiplayer suffers from similar problems. Though one of my biggest issues is that this game never feels like a Zelda game, sure it has ingenious puzzles and classic enemies but it feels more like a much different type of game with the Zelda name chucked on to sell. Multiplayer does not work with this franchise and with such a focus it just takes away from the true spirit of the franchise which this game is sorely lacking.