Sunday 02 October 2011
I spent my Saturday playing Nintendo’s free anniversary gift for Zela fans, Four Swords Anniversary Edition. It was a strange announcement to make - that Nintendo were upgrading and re-releasing a game that was originally a short multiplayer extra included with Link to the Past on GBA, but it makes sense if you think about it. Very few people got the chance to play the original, as you needed a copy of the game for each player and a link cable. I almost managed to play it with my friend until it became apparent that for some reason I owned an Australian copy of the game, and my copy and his copy wouldn’t communicate. But this seems like the right time to retry things, as we’re now in the age of wireless handheld communication, there’s now a single player mode and, well, it’s free, so anyone with a DSi or 3DS can get ahold of it. But how does it hold up, and is it worth your time?
I played the game on single player mode, and really enjoyed it. The original game is intact, which takes around two and a half hours for a single playthrough. It’s good fun, encourages replay, and is the perfect Zelda game for a train journey. Where things really get interesting, though, is the “Realm of Memories”, which is unlocked when you complete the game for the first time. Here there are three dungeons, in the visual style of Link to The Past, Link’s Awakening and the original Zelda. These are essentially replicas of various sections of the games (e.g. Hyrule Castle in LttP), with layout changes to convert them into Four Swords dungeons (think Master Quest-style). These are a joy to play for any long-term Zelda fan, and seeing the Four Sword Links retrofitted as Game Boy sprites was one of the highlights for me. These dungeons alone will take you about two and a half to three hours to play through, so already the length of the original game is doubled.
But this is where the fun ends. Collect 30,000 rupees and you unlock the Hero’s Trials - three extra dungeons - and these are TOUGH. You may be able to get through the first one on single player, but I found the second one to be a brick wall. It’s not that the puzzles are hard, but these dungeons throw particularly menacing waves of enemies in quick succession, and these can easily lead to a quick death. And throw in the fact that these can take over an hour to get through, with no checkpoints, and they become incredibly frustrating on single player (especially considering the hardest fights are right at the end). It’s clear these were designed for multi-player, where I imagine they’d be considerably easier. Also, unlocking the second and third endings is more difficult in single player, as they involve collecting 3000 and 5000 rupees in each of the original game’s dungeons. In single player, this is a very monotonous task, involving waiting for enemies to respawn to fight them for their rupees. At the end of the day, despite Nintendo adding a single player mode, it’s clear there are sections of the game that just aren’t meant for single player, and that’s a shame.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out if you don’t have any Zelda-loving friends. The original game is still a lot of fun, the Realm of Memories is a nostaglia-filled thrill, and, hey, it’s free! It’s short in length, but perfect for a rainy day, and providing you know when to stop playing due to the difficulty spike, you can have a great time with it. Props to Nintendo for giving this away.