Review: Zelda Four Swords (Downloadable)

Anniversay Edition Review

"Even though you can play through on your own this is a game that's best played with two to four participants. The game suddenly transforms from a solo puzzle type experience to an enticing mix of teamwork to help each other progress and betrayal as you battle it out to grab more rupees that your colleagues/opponents"

Its been rather a long time since The Legend of Zelda was first released. Twenty-five to be precise and Nintendo are understandably excited as they're celebrating in a variety of ways, including giving gamers an anniversary edition of the original Four Swords for the generous price of free until early next year as a downloadable DSi/3DS title. First developed by Capcom as an extra multi-player only title contained on the same cartridge as the GBA re-release of A Link to the Past, this new version is far from a basic port as it's developed by Grezzo who also brought us the recent Ocarina of Time remake, adding a single-player mode where you can control two Links plus some extra stages thrown in for good measure.

There is a plot to the adventure but it's fairly inconsequential, an evil Wind Wizard named Vaati has been sealed away inside the legendary 'Four Sword' this seal is of course broken, Vaati takes a shine to Princess Zelda kidnapping her for the purpose of marriage and then Link takes up the Four Sword thus splitting himself into four different coloured versions of himself. Of course this is all just an excuse to make use of an original mechanic for the multiplayer element of the title but it never hurts to have some sort of motivation.

Legend of Zelda Four Swords DSWhile the vast majority of Zelda games are fairly lengthy this title seems, at least at first, to buck the trend as it is fairly short when you take stock of what the game actually offers - four main areas each containing three levels plus the obligatory training stage. All of this can be completed in roughly just under three hours which hardly seems like an epic length but then again lest we forget this is free plus more geared toward the multiplayer component. Even playing solo, though, you will still get a reasonable amount of enjoyment out of this small but satisfying adventure; you play through the areas – which are based on Death Mountain, Ice and Woodland type locations – collecting lots of rupees plus a different coloured key each time you replay that same area, there are of course many puzzles along the way which may have felt somewhat odd in other Zelda titles but here they work well thanks to the unique mechanic.

There is also additional incentive to return to each area due to the fact that the stages contained within each area leading up to a potential boss battle are not always the same. You don't always know what level is coming next though with multiple playthroughs you'll eventually experience them all.

Controlling your Link(s) is relatively simple as moving the D-Pad controls movement, as it always did, while pressing the action button will allow you to slash your faithful sword, items can be assigned to the other buttons which is just as effective as ever though you can only carry one 'pedestal' item at a time so choose wisely. Pressing the X button will call the other Link to you in single player mode but you can also opt to either switch between them at any time or even make one sit still while you carry the other, this is essential to clearing certain challenges. 3DS owners, of course, have the option to use the Circle Pad in place of the D-Pad, which may prove preferable, though neither control scheme is ideal due to the unfortunately poor design of the D-Pad on that particular handheld.

Even though you can play through on your own this is a game that's best played with two to four participants. The game suddenly transforms from a solo puzzle type experience to an enticing mix of teamwork to help each other progress and betrayal as you battle it out to grab more rupees that your colleagues/opponents. One minute your friend could be throwing you across a gap to reach a button to stand on in order for the rest of your friends to cross and the next you could decide not to stand on the button until you've cut all the grass and claimed all the treasures for yourself before letting them across! This certainly provides an interesting dynamic but you may end up thrown down a few holes if you decide to stab your friends in the back too often.

Whether you decide to stand on the side of cunning enemy or formidable ally, you'll almost definitely bury the hatchet with each other in the latter stages of the game as the difficulty ramps up towards the end and you'll need every ounce of skill and teamwork to make it through. It's just a shame that there is no online option to make it easier to get a group of adventurers together.

Legend of Zelda Four Swords DSRegardless of whether you decide to go it alone or as a band of heroes it's still a lot of fun and has much of that special Zelda magic in abundance from the very moment you load up the title screen to the very end; there are many classic items from past games which are used in ways that you'd expect and some that are somewhat surprising with even a few unique items which are sure to make you smile. When you reach the end of the main stages though you are transported to the Realm of Memories which contains three brand new stages which are actually based on classic titles from the series past, we're not going to be spoilsports and ruin it all for those who are unaware but suffice to say it will bring back a good few memories.

This is of course a more tactical experience than fans will be accustomed to thanks to the game mechanics which is mostly refreshing but at times can be slightly infuriating when colour-coded attacks don't seem to 'work' plus another negative is how long it can take to recover from being frozen which seems significantly longer than in other titles. But when it all comes together everything does work rather well and there's something quite beautiful about four avid Zelda fans working together to achieve a common goal, something that you're unlikely to get anywhere else.

Visually the game is fairly well detailed taking many of its cues from A Link to the Past as this is what the game is closest to perhaps a little less detailed in places but retaining most of the Zelda charm which is what's important. It will, however, look a little less vibrant on the 3DS screens in comparison to that of the DSi due to the difference in resolution between the devices. The accompanying music is relatively poor for the most part though some familiar tunes will bring a smile to your face with the classic theme from the title screen in particular effortlessly sending a nostalgic chill down your spine. The training stage music is, however, less than stellar so you'll be thankful you don't have to spend much time, if any, learning the ropes there.

To conclude, whilst short, the game offers replayability through the randomly generated nature of its dungeons, however, this only extends to multiplayer as repeated play throughs in single player quickly become bland. With two or more players is where Four Swords truly comes into its own – before you know it Link will be showing his dark side, heartlessly sacrificing allies for a few extra rupees at every opportunity. Have you ever pined for a dungeon crawler, loot based, multiplayer Zelda? No, can't say we have either but that's what Four Swords delivers and when it's in full flow, it becomes the perfect blend of co-op and versus gameplay. Being free of charge, this anniversary edition of Four Swords is a no-brainer for all DSi and 3DS owners. Just remember to get together with some friends to experience it at its finest. If you only plan to play it alone, you are advised to take a couple of marks off our final score.

N-Europe Final Verdict

The break from the single player Zelda norm that we never knew we wanted. Download it while its free!

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability5
  • Visuals4
  • Audio3
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Retro stages
Hero's Trial high difficulty
Multiplayer longevity
Free Zelda!


Short lived in single player
Grating music
No online
One day it won't be free

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