In 2002, Nintendo released a Game Boy Advance port of A Link to the Past ten years after its SNES debut. Developed by Capcom studio Flagship, the creators of Oracle of Ages/Seasons and The Minish Cap, the game took on a couple of changes to accommodate the new format. The viewport is cropped to accommodate the different aspect ratio of the GBA screen, and the palette used is lighter to compensate for the original GBA’s lack of a backlit screen however an option exists to darken the palette for those with a GB Micro, GB Player or DS.
The gameplay is, for the most part, identical to the SNES original, but there are a couple of extras to be found, and a few control changes because the console lacks X and Y buttons, though because the L and R buttons were only used for map manipulation in the SNES version, Flagship didn’t have to make serious concessions. The main addition is the inclusion of a new multiplayer mode called Four Swords, which provided the basis of the gameplay for Four Swords Adventures and the storyline for The Minish Cap. Fans are split as to whether Four Swords can really be considered a Zelda game of its own, though at Zelda Elements we believe that its limited storyline and multiplayer-only nature should characterise it as a spin-off, rather than part of the main series. However, the game can be seen as more than just a fun multiplayer romp, as advancement can unlock extras, such as a brand new dungeon, in A Link to the Past.
The graphical style of Four Swords was made to fit in next to The Wind Waker, a game which was released around the same time as this Advance update. This makes the transition between ALttP and Four Swords a little jarring, especially as they tie in together, but the design decision is understandable. The aim of the game is to get more rupees than your team mates, while using team work to get past the tougher obstacles. For instance, a switch needs to be held down to allow your team to cross a bridge. Are you going to stand on it to let the others go past, knowing that its the only way to get across, yet also knowing that there’s also a chance of them not pressing the other switch to let you go across? This paradoxical game style introduces devious tactics and multiplayer mayhem into the world of Zelda.