Marmite, you ever love it or you hate it. Zelda, you either love it or you hate it. Zelda: Four Swords, you have no choice but to love it. If you don't, you need help. We have been spending a lot of time with this title and we have rarely enjoyed a game more. Those of you that are aware of the term Schadenfruede will instantly get the feel for this game. Gaining pleasure from the pain of others is certainly the aim of this game. Cooperative play has never known to cause so many arguments, marvellous!
The general idea of most cooperative games in the past has been to help each other and generally be nice; amusingly the Nintendo philosophy not only allows you to, but actively encourages you to make your friends life a pixilated hell. The basic idea is one of connectivity, something of a dirty word here at Cubed3. We have long dammed the idea as stupid and gimmicky, and only now have Nintendo proved once again that their idea is one of the best to come out of gaming in years, but only if done well.
The only problem with the whole thing is the cost. Getting three friends who all have GBAs and are willing to sit around playing a cartoony videogame with you for hours on end could be a bit tricky, so for those who can't, there is a solution. So if you have no friends or they all think you are a bit odd for playing 'kiddy' games, have no fear, this game is fantastic for one as well. As a party of one you just a hit of a button lets your scroll through all the Links available, as a party of two the Links are split and as a party of four you get one little Link each.
Unlike just about every Zelda game ever, the structure of this one is a little bit different. Gone are the massive free-roaming levels, in come smaller little sections that can be tackled in (as the Beeb might say) 'bitesize chunks'. So if a friend happens to get bored or 'has to go and walk the dog' you can save up and shut down, or carry on with fewer mates; simple.
That's just about as far as this game goes as far as the word 'simple' is concerned. Dotted with ingenious puzzles that make the very most of the games innovative gameplay ideas, this is one of the toughest cookies to hit the GameCube. Nintendo have used the four Links idea very well. Some puzzles involve you having to push down on four pressure pads at once to open a door, meaning all Links have to stand on a pad, and you can progress. But it can and will get trickier than that. Many sections are colour coded to each Link, meaning you really have to be on the ball, otherwise like us; you will be left very confused.
The game also switches between GameCube and GBA frequently (if there is no GBA in play, this is displayed in a small window on-screen). At first it is very confusing, the mechanics of the game are totally different to just about anything that has ever come out of the gaming industry. In effect you have to use four brains to solve problems and work out enigmas in this game, at last count we only had one each...
So the simple answer is to play with mates, that makes it all rosy...right? Wrong! The point we made at the start comes in here, this is about as un-cooperative as a cooperative title gets. At the end of the day the person that wins is the person with the most Rupees in his pockets, so doing everything in your power to ensure victory is certainly a good idea. It is all terrific fun, especially when you unearth a mass of Rupees and frantically run about trying to fill your pockets before anyone else can. Somebody getting a bit too far in the lead for your liking? Well gang up on the Link in question and kill the rich git, relieving him of half his wealth. Hilarity and physical violence may ensue.
There are 24 levels to play through, each of which adds as a sort of mini-dungeon. There is also the inclusion of a very intriguing and mysterious shadow world. At certain sections in the game there are portals, by jumping down one the action switches to the GBA. On the TV screen you will see a picture of links shadow, whilst the main action appears on your GBA screen.
Arranging and working with the four links can be quite confusing at times, but we found that it is easy to get to grips with after a little while of playing. With a flick of the C-Stick the four little Links will move about into a variety of formations, so attacks can be structured differently. Hitting the left-trigger sets the game back to default, whereby you control the green Link, with the other Links following behind in a little elfish train.
In effect this is Zelda condensed. Everything in here is packed full of action, enemies, visual puzzles and cognitive delights. 'Normal' Zelda games normally have periods of calm and serenity, this one doesn't. You are thrust from battle against a screen full of enemies, to huge puzzle, to boss fight, to another puzzle and back again; it never gets dull. Sure you can play it on your own, it is perfectly enjoyable and the intensity of it makes it great fun, but you will be missing out on so much, and the main reason that makes this game so great.
Sit down as a quartet in front of a GameCube with four GBAs in hand and the hours will fly by. Puzzles that have been considered standard fare for over a decade are turned on their heads as you now have to four characters at once to get the game to work. Organisation, synchronisation and working as a team, with someone taking charge and the rest following orders. For the authoritarian amongst you this provides gaming perfection.
As we have already mentioned, being evil is key to enjoying this title. With all four Links concentrating on a particularly large and complex puzzle that involves getting over a massive gorge, only for one Link to get bored, pick up another and throw him in said large hole, we haven't laughed so much at a game in years!
Alas, this being the USA version there is a notable lack of Tetra's Trackers, which we have been told is a wonderfully enjoyable and amusing addition to the game, but due to translation costs Nintendo left it out. Still, the main adventure mode in both single and multiplayer will entertain any gamer for hours upon hours.
Some of the most innovative and inspiring gaming on the GameCube. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords makes excellent use of the formally gimmicky (no marvellous) link-up idea. Everything is so well thought out and the puzzles and evil streak in the game make it hugely entertaining. Almost perfection
Anyone who can't appreciate the fact that this game looks drop-dead fricking gorgeous doesn't deserve to breathe the air on this fair planet. 2D gaming has never looked as lush, as vibrant and as beautiful as this.
All the tunes you have come to know over the years, but its all a bit mundane for our linking.
It will last an age, and it is very replayable. The only thing is without any friends things can get a little limited at times. Get three mates around with GBAs in hand though, and it will keep on going and going...
The most innovative and creative use of the Zelda franchise in years. This title shows that the link-up idea can be used to great effect and then some! You will laugh, cry, steal, kill, run away and discover once again why you love gaming. This isn't Nintendo at their rip-roaring best, but it is a brilliant reminder that they are the best developer in the world. Period.