It Takes Two to Tango, But Three to Totem
In many ways, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes was the most pleasant surprise to come from Nintendo at this year’s E3. I mean, who among us, depressed over the absence of the tantalizing open-world Zelda coming to the Wii U next year (we hope), expected a three-player cooperative dungeon-crawler to materialize out of thin air, and with a costume-based upgrade system?
Indeed, the typical Zelda formula is being done rather differently this time around, and my teasingly-short time with it made that clear the moment I was made to scramble through a puzzle-riddled dungeon alongside two other Links, in the hope of not succumbing to the urge to pick up one of my teammates and toss them into a pit.
Resisting that troll-ish urge quickly proved to be easier than one might suspect. Unlike the series’ past stints with multiplayer in the Four Swords games, Tri Force Heroes lacks any incentive to be competitive with one’s teammates, grab the most treasure at any cost or anything like that. In fact, it discourages players acting against the best interests of the team and insists on having everyone always working together.
Of course, it’s hard to really feel inclined to sabotage your team or let a teammate die for laughs when everyone shares the same health gauge. Nice touch, Nintendo.
Not letting each other get killed aside, communication is another key part of collaboration, here especially. TLoZ: Tri Force Heroes’ puzzles (from what I’ve seen so far) require some versatile usage of items and skills –like the new ability to pick up teammates to form a walking totem pole of Links– to solve, ranging from simple tasks like using the totem to hit switches too high for one Link to reach, to more complicated sequences involving using gust jars to blow each other across wide gaps and then tossing bombs to another to destroy barriers.
As such, players need to be able to make their intentions clear to each other and in quick fashion, which the game manages to do well due to those second-screen picture-messages you see in the screenshots that convey exactly what they imply to teammates with just a tap of the screen. I found that it works smoothly and enabled me to avoid any confusion with my fellow Links as we fought off enemies, navigated moving platforms and ultimately conquered a boss whose weak point could only be hit by a bow-wielding player being hoisted by their teammates.
I can’t help but wonder if that was due to the puzzles we faced being relatively on the easy side, however. Might the message system be a bit unwieldy for those trying to work out solutions to the harder, more elaborate obstacles in Tri Force Heroes? Hopefully, Nintendo has considered that and designed the puzzles to avoid anything too abstract even as the difficulty ramps up.
Thinking on it, I suppose the bigger, more pressing question we ought to be asking is: what if you get stuck with teammates too thick to figure out how to get past a destructible wall?
Possibilities aside, what Nintendo has shown of the newest Zelda is promising. Gameplay, while quintessentially Zelda, feels unique thanks to the multiplayer emphasis and dungeon structure. I even like the way the costumes –through which players can power up their spin attack, avoid attacks on occasion, and enhance a particular item’s power– spice things up while giving the action a lighthearted sense of whimsy.
Have I mentioned the whimsy at all? If so here is all you need to know: you can clad Link in a dress modeled after Princess Zelda’s.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes will be released at some presently nebulous point this fall for the Nintendo 3DS. Here’s hoping that I won’t end up snapping my device in two from frustration brought forth by communication difficulties.
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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