The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes Review

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 Title: The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes
Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
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The Legend of Zelda series has made an attempt or two at making a game that can focus on single player and multiplayer at the same time.  Ever hear of Four Swords Adventure?  That was a game that had a multiplayer focus that had many Links working together as they went through the world to save it.  They didn’t stop there, though.  They made another attempt at a multiplayer game that released in late October, 2015.  Although I am writing this on October 30th, this shall not be published for a few months, so it’s a bit odd acting like October was awhile back.

A new multiplayer Zelda title was announced at E3 2015 and four short months later, it released.  That game showed a focus on multiplayer in regards to local as well as online play between up to three friends.  So, without further delay, here is my official review of The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes!

Story

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The plot of Tri-Force Heroes is a bit odd for a Zelda title.  In the land of Hytopia, the princess greets her fashion-heavy pupils in marvelous dresses and garments.  One day, though, an envious witch from a nearby land curses her into wearing an ugly outfit that will not come off.  In shame, the princess locks herself in her room, refusing to go out in public in such an ugly outfit.

In response to this, the King of Hytopia calls upon heroes to come forth, hoping someone to become a Tri-Force Hero to collect materials and create an outfit that can lift the curse and remove the ugly outfit from his daughter.

I’m not really sure what to say about this plot.  For a series that’s known for its unique plots around saving the world’s harmony, this seems kind of lackluster.  In all honesty, it sounds like a small children’s Saturday morning cartoon.  How can one go from collecting Spiritual Stones and Elemental Emblems to prevent Ganondorf from destroying the world to collecting materials for outfits so the princess of Hytopia’s ego is well nurtured?

Gameplay

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Tri-Force Heroes is an overhead hack n slash dungeon crawler with puzzle elements thrown into the mix.  If you know the basic formula of how dungeons work in the 2D Zelda titles, then you know what to expect here.  You’re traveling through small dungeons with your team members, fighting enemies and solving puzzles to get to the end of the dungeon and move into the next.  Think of a 2D Zelda title without the overworld map.

When you play the game, you have a hub world, which is the town of Hytopia.  This houses all of your establishments you need, as this is a quest-based game and not a free-roam game.  In the town, you have the Castle, where you can form parties and go on Quests or take part in PvP battles with online players, local players, or Single Player.  Then, you have the Costume Shop, Traveling Merchant, and Miiverse Shop.

The Costume Shop is where you trade materials and Rupees for new costumes.  As you do quests, you’ll get materials and you must have specific materials to make specific costumes.  The Merchant lets you buy special materials you sometimes can’t get anywhere else.  The Miiverse Shop lets you post saved Quest Screenshots (an in-game feature) to Miiverse.  Outside of this are just NPCs you can roam around and talk to.  This Hub World scenario really reminds me of the Hunting genre.

The game’s quests take place in 8 main areas, which have four dungeons a piece.  You only have access to a few, but as you play through the story campaign, you can unlock more.  You can play the dungeons of each area in any order you wish, but it is normal and appropriate to do them in the proper order.  You also have challenges that unlock upon beating the final boss of each dungeon, pitting you in the same quests, but with restrictions, like fewer heart gauges.

When you go into each area, you have three players that share the same Heart Gauge.  In Multiplayer, each player controls one Link.  In Single Player, you only control one at a time, while the other two become Doppel Statues, impervious to attacks, but unable to move on their own.  The goal is to reach the end of the stage where a Tri-Force Pad is waiting to teleport you to the next stage of the dungeon.

Puzzle-solving and combat are how you reach these areas.  Some areas have mini-bosses and horde fights where a door won’t unlock until you’ve defeated all of the enemies in the area.  Others have puzzles you have to combine your strengths into to solve and unlock the door.  Puzzles could range from having each player stand on a switch to using equipment like boomerangs or hookshots to move to specific areas, and launch another player to a switch or torch to be activated.

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Both of these elements implement cooperation between characters.  Tri-Force Heroes focuses on a Totem mechanic, where characters can jump on each other’s backs to create totem poles.  Some switches are high in the air and you must be on another player’s back to reach it with your bow.  Also with this system, many enemies or enemy weak points are high in the air and require totems to reach and hit.  No stage goes by without using cooperation in some way, shape, or form.

In Quests, you generally have mostly puzzles in Stages 1-3 and a mini-boss in Stage 4.  Also, each Temple normally has a major boss as Stage 4.  Bosses are where the game gets really fun.  Every boss is unique and has different attack patterns that must be learned.  They also have the typical Zelda system of requiring the use of special equipment found in that dungeon to defeat.  For example, you get a hammer in the Ice Temple, and that is required to damage the armored head of that temple’s boss.

The multiplayer focus comes up a lot during boss fights.  Many bosses are built around having multiple players doing multiple things around them.  One boss, for example, hinges on one player distracting the boss while another runs up behind it to attack its weak point.  This presents a unique situation to the game, but also a bit of a difficulty confusion when you want to play the game by yourself and try to tackle these areas built for multiplayer in Single Player.  Some parts simply cannot be done in Single Player and must be skipped.  There are also multiplayer-specific items called Friend Tokens that are required for certain costumes.  So, you can’t 100% the game without using Multiplayer at least a few times.

Once a quest is completed, you are awarded Rupees as well as the chance to get one of three materials for costumes.  In each dungeon, it has one rare material and two common materials and you can only get one at random.  This has a bit of an element of repetition because if you don’t get what you need, you’re doing the entire quest all over again in the hopes that you get luckier the next time around.

That brings on my biggest complaint about the game.  It’s way too easy.  When I think about Zelda games, I think of difficult and head-scratching puzzles on the way to a fun boss that requires a clever use of my equipment.  The boss factor is here, but none of the puzzles are head-scratching.  In the game, you receive equipment and instead of figuring out how it works, the game tells you what all it can do to save you the trouble of figuring it out for yourself.

This tied with the fact that the puzzles are extremely simple and short.  I never had a single puzzle that I didn’t know pretty much exactly what to do as soon as I got to it.  That just doesn’t happen in the Zelda franchise.  I have Ocarina of Time practically memorized and I still have to think about a lot of the puzzles when I get to them.

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There is also the Skip feature.  You have 3 fairies when you go into a Quest.  These are used up whenever your Heart Gauge runs out.  Similar to how Bottled Fairies can essentially revive you when you die in Ocarina of Time.  They can also be used for Skipping.  The game has a built in feature that allows you to use a Fairy to skip a stage and move immediately to the next.  The price of this is a Fairy, reducing your Rupee count to 0 at the time of use, and removing the rare material at the end of the quest.

What I don’t like about this easy-way-out feature is that it allows you to skip boss fights.  If you’re going through a dungeon and get to a boss and just don’t feel like learning the boss, just skip it.  And when you use it on major story bosses, the game lets you and it still awards you for completing the quest and gives you the story-progressing reward for defeating the boss.  You don’t even have to fight bosses anymore?  And the worst part is that not only can bosses be skipped, but it can also be used for the game’s Final Boss.  The most fun I have with Zelda titles are boss fights, but in this game, you can just skip them.

As far as length is concerned, it could be fairly lengthy, or it can be extremely quick.  Technically, all you have to do to progress the story forward is clearing the Temple dungeons.  If all you did is that, you can beat the game in about an hour and a half.  Maybe two hours.  Even less if you use that Skip feature.  If you do it proper and play out all 32 dungeons and enjoy the game, you’re looking at more like 6-8 hours.  And if you go back to do all the challenges to 100% the game, you’re looking at more like 15-16 hours.

Controls

The controls for the game are pretty simple and easy to use.  First off, the Z buttons aren’t used but the C Stick is.  The C Stick can move the camera around, which the D-Pad can also do.  However, I think it’s a little more comfortable using the C Stick for it.

Moving around is done with the Circle Pad and almost everything else is done with the face buttons.  A interacts with objects or other players for totems.  B is used for slashing or charging your sword attack.  X lets you take a quick screenshot/photo while on a quest.  Finally, Y lets you use your current sub-weapon, like a boomerang or bow.  L and R are used for dashing.

Presentation

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Visually, the game doesn’t look bad.  The style is definitely the same style as games like Wind Waker and the DS handheld Zelda games.  So, expect it to be the Toon Link style when you play through the game.  The visuals themselves aren’t as well polished as Ocarina of Time 3D, but they look nice with the overhead perspective.  Bosses and environments look especially colorful and fluid.

Performance is pretty good, overall.  If you’re not a fan of re-used audio, you should know that Link’s audio are the same clips that were used in Ocarina of Time.  But this isn’t the first time Nintendo’s done this so not a huge deal.  There aren’t any frame drops or long load times in normal gameplay.

I’ve seen a lot of topics online about it, so I thought I would mention the multiplayer lag.  When you’re in an online session with someone with a poor web connection, you’ll encounter lag.  This isn’t anything wrong with the game.  It’s just the normal case of someone’s slow connection affecting your game.  A lot of people didn’t think of that right away, so I figured it was worth mentioning here.

Summary

The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes is the newest multiplayer Zelda title.  While the system does work and has potential, the game is held back.  The plot, overly simple puzzles, ability to skip boss fights, and repetitive feel of getting costume materials really make this a game for only the most extreme of Zelda fanatics. 

6/10

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