Release date: October 2015
Format: Digital download (eShop) and physical cart
Other platforms: NA
Price: ~$55 AUD
Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is set in Hytopia, a land where fashion is of utmost importance. This land is ruled by King Tuft and his daughter, Princess Styla, whose exquisite fashion sense drove the jealous Drablands witch to curse her into wearing an ugly brown jumpsuit which cannot be removed. After the miserable princess locked herself away in shame, the rest of the kingdom began to fear that they might also be cursed if they continued to strive to be fashionable. Desperate, King Tuft has put out a call for heroes who might venture into the Drablands and restore his daughter’s fashion sense, which is, of course, where Link comes in.
Link is aided throughout his adventures by Madam Couture, who creates outfits for Link when he brings her certain materials. Most of these costumes have different effects for the player – such as making more hearts appear, modifying an item to be more powerful or allowing you to easily cross terrain that would otherwise be dangerous or difficult – though there are some costumes that are purely decorative. The game tells you what items will be available in each level so that players can choose their costume accordingly, as well as which materials you can find (you get one material at the end of each level). Disappointingly, you can only choose a costume for Green Link in single-player mode; the dummy Links (called ‘doppels’) just wear the basic Hero’s Tunic you make when you first start the game. Another thing that I felt let the game down a bit was that many costumes were only unlocked after completing the levels where they would have been useful.
When I first fired up the game, I played a few levels solo. When you play alone, you control your own Link, as well as two doppel Links and you can switch between them at will. While this is good in some respects (ie. you have full control over all the characters), it also becomes very tedious, very quickly. The spare Links don’t follow you, so you have to either switch and move each one individually, or pick up the other two and carry them. While the first few levels are relatively easy to complete on your own, later levels require incredibly tight timing and a lot of fiddling around and constant switching, which isn’t necessary when playing multi-player; it’s one of those things that feels challenging for all the wrong reasons. One good thing is that the doppels don’t take damage, and when you switch from one character to another, you have a second or so of invulnerability, allowing you to move the character out of harm’s way.
Multi-player is generally a lot better, but this still depends very much on a) who you are playing with and b) how good your internet connection is (if you’re playing online and not locally). Unfortunately, given that we live in Australia and therefore have crap internet, we experienced some pretty serious lag in the game, to the point where we took damage because of it (however it’s worth noting that I’ve played lots of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate online and only ever had one night where lag was an issue, and that was likely because I’d gone over my download limit). Each player controls one of the three Links (Green, Blue or Red; Purple Link from Four Swords got shafted) as you work through each of the levels. There are three items available at the beginning of each levels – sometimes there are three of the same item, whereas other times there will be two or three different items to choose from – and the level cannot be completed with those items. Many of the items – such as the bow, bombs and boomerang – will be familiar to long-term Zelda fans, though there are some new ones, like the water rod and the fire gloves. Some platforms or enemies are tall enough that they require totems of two or three Links to reach or defeat, but with some enemies only being vulnerable to certain weapons, it’s important to make sure the person with the required weapon is on top.
This brings me back to the point about how important it is to be matched up with good players. When there’s only one of each item, common sense would suggest that each player should take the item that benefits from the outfit they’re wearing, but I often got stuck with random players who, even though they were wearing the bomb suit, would take the bow and arrow instead (for example), losing the opportunity to wield a powered-up weapon. Lots of players were just incompetent in general, not knowing how or when to use an item or falling off ledges repeatedly, costing the whole team precious hearts. You can add bad or laggy players to a blacklist, but it’s annoying having to wade through countless time-wasting players to find a few good ones.
Visually, Tri Force Heroes shares the same 3D graphics but top-down view as Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and much of the music will be familiar to anyone who has played other Zelda games. Rather than a more ‘open world’ style game with vast areas and dungeons that make up most of the other games in the series, this game has 32 unique levels (divided up into sets of four for each environment/domain), though each level also has a series of challenges. The challenges vary for each level and include completing a level within a time limit, clearing a level using only one type of weapon or going through a level with less health than normal. I did a few of these challenges but they felt unnecessary and tacked on (kind of like the whole game) and I just couldn’t be bothered trying to do them all (according to other reviews I looked at later, the reward for completing all challenges for all levels is pretty pathetic anyway and not worth the effort). Unfortunately, some materials are only available as rewards for finishing certain challenges, so you will probably have to do some depending on which outfits you want to make.
Like most (all?) Nintendo games, there is no voice chat in Tri Force Heroes. Instead you have a series of icons, such as “Totem” (when you want everyone to form a totem), “Item” (to tell someone to use their item) or “Cheerleader” (for congratulating other team members on a job well done). While playing online, I and my two friends relied on Skype to communicate, as the icons on their own were not really enough to allow us to co-ordinate effectively (for example, which order you needed the totem to be stacked in, or which of your other two team members should use their item; sometimes this was obvious, but not always). Unfortunately, using Skype while playing the game made the lag much worse than it already was.
Tri Force Heroes got a pretty lukewarm response from many Nintendo fans when it was announced during the last Direct, and after playing it, I can see why. Overall, I almost feel like it should have been a cheap eShop title or DLC for A Link Between Worlds rather than a full retail game. It’s not terrible, and it is fun if you can play with good friends (whether locally or online with a reliable external mode of voice communication) but otherwise I’d say give this one a miss, at least until it’s cheaper.