October 23, 2011
For those who never played the original or the GameCube spin-off, it can be summed up in two words: multiplayer Zelda. It was designed specifically for multiplayer as each player takes control of a differently-colored link with up to four players playing at any given time. And depending on the number of players partaking in the stage it scales in size and scope accordingly. Being a competitive multiplayer game at heart, whoever obtains the most rupees at the end of the stage (made up of three levels including a boss level at the end) will come out on top. Because of this, participants need to decide when it's best to work together or when it's best to throw your opponent off a cliff or push them into an enemy to grab those extra rupees.
Needless to say, four-player matches are incredibly fun and exhilarating because of this mechanic and it really plays into the "just one more round" mentality. The fact that players can easily connect to each other wirelessly instead of connecting clumsy cables breaks down a lot of the barriers that negatively affected the acceptance of the original version.
Just this would have been a good enough upgrade for what's a free title, but Nintendo and developer Grezzo, who most people know as the developer of the The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D remake, went the extra mile by including two new stages that are unlockable after fulfilling certain conditions in the original stages. The first stage, Realm of Memories, which is unlocked after defeating the final boss Vatti once, transports players into levels modeled after Link to the Past, Link's Awakening and the original Legend of Zelda for the NES.
Each stage is true to the original sprite art right down to even "downgrading" each Link's sprite depending on the level. The effect itself is entirely cosmetic as the enemies and puzzles are the same as in the other levels but it definitely tugs at the memories of long-time fans of the series who want to take a trip down memory lane. The second stage is called Hero's Trial, and it ups the ante with new challenges that will test the mettle of even the most hardened long-time Zelda fans.
Since the multiplayer is local-only and most players might not always have friends with a Nintendo DSi, Nintendo DSi XL or Nintendo 3DS available, Nintendo wisely added the ability to play single-player by having the player take control of two Links either with one tagging behind the other or taking control of one Link while the other sits there invulnerable to enemy attacks. In the case of enemies which required two or more players to work in tandem the computer will automatically carry out the other player's action, although occasionally this doesn't always work as planned and can lead to some frustration. The new functionality certainly works but it's definitely not the way the game was meant to be played and parts of the stages become incredibly boring and rote as a result of some bosses becoming much more challenging than they should be when the player has to switch back and forth quickly to carry out actions. For example, with bosses that required projectiles to be bounced back and forth before they can hurt them. All in all if you can get at least one friend to play the game wirelessly you should, otherwise the single player is an acceptable alternative.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Sword Anniversary Edition, for being free, is a great experience if you can grab friends together to play it and it's still an adequate experience even if you are forced to play through the at times wonky single-player mode. The original game was near-perfect and had tons of lasting appeal and this carries over into this enhanced version. Anyone who is a Nintendo fan or even has a inkling of interest in the Zelda franchise should download this immediately. You won't be disappointed.