Believe it or not, but The Legend of Zelda has something of a history as a co-op series. Three games have been released that allow multiple players to take control of Link across a variety of stages, ditching the open areas the series is known for. So far we’ve seen four players take to The Four Swords, The Four Swords Adventures and now three can tackle Tri-Force Heroes together. Unlike the other two co-op games, however, Tri-Force Heroes doesn’t let you play the game with two players, allowing only one or three – the biggest mistake in what’s otherwise a perfectly fun little Zelda title.
Employing the same wonderful engine (and magic bar system) of A Link Between Worlds, Tri-Force Heroes looks and sounds great. There’s a level of polish here that isn’t present in many other 3DS games. The action plays in a lickety-split 60fps whether playing in co-op or not, but when online you’ll need to make sure your connection is great to avoid lag. Again, much like A Link Between Worlds, the animation here is top-dollar. The way Link’s hair bounces around when you move just adds to the excellent expressiveness and charm found throughout the game. Between stages you are able to talk to anyone you see in Hytopia, the fashion-obsessed world you find yourself trying to save from a dreadful curse that makes Princess Styla spectacularly unfashionable. It’s a silly story, and as you’d expect, the writing alongside it is very humorous. This is not a serious game.
You are tasked with heading into the Drablands in a three to try to stop the wicked witch, “The Lady”. You’ll fight your way through several worlds that incorporate your standard set of visual and gameplay elements. Lava, ice and water all rear their heads, along with grassy areas and a desert area. Each world consists of four stages split into four smaller levels and if you just focus on finishing the story, it shouldn’t take you too long (under 20 hours). If this seems too short for you, each stage comes with three extra ways to play. This can come in the form of popping all the balloons, fighting through with half of your health missing, or carrying a light-emitting orb that stops the darkness damaging you. There’s plenty to get on with, and this is before collecting all the materials needed to create each costume.
Tri-Force Heroes’ main new feature is its costumes. There are many outfits to create, each of which upgrades Link in different ways. Many of them upgrade particular items, such as making bomb blasts bigger with the Big Bomb Outfit, make the boomerang bigger with the Boomeranger and turn one arrow into three by wearing the Kokiri Clothes. Choosing the right outfit for each level will really help you out in your quest to save Hytopia. There are loads to choose from and create, but it will take you a long time to make them all. Each outfit requires certain items to be made, items that you receive one at a time at the end of a stage. You can buy them too, but building up the right amount will take a long time no matter your strategy to do so. There are some real crackers in the game though, believe me, it’s worth your time.
Along with the outfits, the other main gameplay hook is the totem. You can grab each Link and stack them like a totem pole. You can throw the top, or middle one to reach new areas, shoot arrows at targets that are too high up, etc… It’s a clever mechanic, and when you’ve got three people playing it in the same room together it can work really well. The bottom of the totem controls movement, whilst the top can slice with his sword or use the item (of three) he chose at the beginning of the stage. In single player you can move and use Link’s sword and item of the top of the totem all at the same time. The totem finds its best use when it comes to the boss battles, which can be quite difficult if tackled alone. Indeed, Tri-Force Heroes is generally pretty tricky when played alone.
When played in single player, you take control of one Link at a time. You can swap between the three Link “Doppels” with a touch of their icon on the bottom screen. The swapping is seamless and quick, but when not in control of one of the doppels, they remain completely motionless. Switching between doppels can make simple puzzles fairly infuriating, especially when they are time based – something that comes up far too often. Single player Tri-Force Heroes just feels a little slow and cumbersome compared to playing the game in co-op. Playing the game in co-op can get infuriating, too. The bonus stages are pretty much too hard for their own good and require perfect synchronicity, which is pretty hard when playing in the same room, but when online is almost impossible. You get small icons to press to try to help you out, but it’s just not the same as voice chat.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes is a good game, one that’s full of charm and plenty of humour, but whether played in single player or co-op (particularly online), it can all get too tricky. There are plenty of brilliant outfits to create, but it will take far too long to collect all of the ingredients necessary to make them. You’ll find plenty to enjoy about Tri-Force Heroes, but the bite-size levels will contain enough to frustrate you.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes is a good game, but it can get a little too hectic for its own good.