The Legend Of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a fantastic video game……under the perfect circumstances that is. Played locally with two other friends (preferably of similar competence), Tri Force Heroes is one of the finest co-op games of the year and a considerable step up from the already solid, Four Swords Adventures. Played online with strangers, it’s still a fun, if somewhat stressful and occasionally frustrating experience. Playing solo is, well, that’s not advisable.
Needing only one copy of the game for local three player action, Tri Force Heroes does make life as easy as possible for fans of local co-op, but as always, you’ll be needing two friends who both own 3DS’ and who don’t suck balls at Zelda to get the best out of the experience (there is no option for two player co-op). If you can make that happen, Tri Force Heroes is as good as anything released this year, but as with all games of this ilk, the returns diminish quickly as you step further and further away from the ideal set-up.
Online can still be great fun, and struggling your way through many of the games’ surprisingly tricky puzzles can be as entertaining as it is frustrating, but while the mayhem, mistakes and miscommunications give the game a unique charm, you’ve really got to be in a forgiving mood to genuinely enjoy it. A great selection of brilliantly designed emoticons make life easier, but you’ll still find yourself consistently exasperated by the disappointing but totally expected lack of voice chat. The excessive cursing during local play probably justifies Nintendo’s decision, but still, Tri Force Heroes requires communication more than most, and while Nintendo have clearly gone to great lengths to make it work, online play is still a major step down from the consistent brilliance of local co-op.
Things get even worse when played in solo. Again, Nintendo have arguably done as much as they can to make the game work for those going it alone, but the ability to swap between the three Link’s in your team simply isn’t enough to make the experience a genuinely enjoyable one. Yes, from a purely practical point of view, it works just fine, but with zero AI to speak of (the other Link’s will simply stand still when not under your control), gameplay inevitably becomes rather slow-paced and arduous as a result. Again, there is still fun to be had thanks to the overriding quality of the dungeon design and boss battles, but you’re always under the impression that you’re not playing the game the way that it was meant to be played.
Still, inevitable issues with online and solo play aside, Tri Force Heroes is an exemplary entry in the series, one that manages to make the very most of its co-op centric design. Whether it be working on separate puzzle pieces, combining to create three player totems or tactically brining down one the games’ many fantastic boss’, the series’ latest stab at creating a quintessential co-op gaming experience at of one of the most fundamentally single player oriented gaming franchises is one that should be picked up by all those in a position to get the best out of it.
Beyond the standard core gameplay which, for the most part, is wisely relatively straight forward, Nintendo have expanded the mechanics, and subsequently, the longevity of the game, by incorporating the use of 30 unlockable costumes that, while undoubtedly giving each character a unique aesthetic twist, also gives the wearer a selection of unique abilities that can be used in battle / exploration. Rather than simply throwing in costumes for fun, Nintendo have instead built the games’ story around the bizarre but decidedly enjoyable tale of a witch and her battle against the fashion-conscious public and their clothes obsessed princess. It’s all rather silly of course, but it gives the games’ mechanics context and a genuine reason for all of these uniquely powered (and great looking) costumes to exist within the world created.
Yes, the dungeons themselves, beyond being incredibly well designed, are made up of the usual selection of themed templates, but with the costumes added, Tri Force Heroes is imbued with a somewhat unique aesthetic and mood. It’s still undeniably Zelda, but this distinctive entry successfully stands out from the crowd thanks to its comparatively irreverent tone.
It might all sound like light hearted fun on paper, and it largely is, but once you get into the dungeons themselves, this is pure Zelda (albeit with a twist). The dungeons might be relatively short, but these are challenging affairs that require both teamwork and skill. The dresses and unique pick-ups give players distinct abilities, but it’s ultimately well-coordinated teamwork that is required to succeed in many of the games’ especially tough latter stages. Yes, as mentioned previously, your level of enjoyment is intrinsically linked to the way that you are playing the game, and perhaps more importantly, who you are playing the game with, but even at its worst i.e. when played solo, Tri Force Heroes is a unique and largely enjoyable entry in the series, one that is as good as anything released on the 3DS when played under the ideal conditions.
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