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Oh my gosh i love Zelda games. The scale of the environment. The consistency of art and design down through the ages. The quality of Nintendo's careful handed development. The hype, excitement and fan service. The trumpet tune when you open a chest. But the bottom line is I've never been able to see one through to the finish.
This is no doubt more of a comment on me than the games themselves. I'm conflicted. I waste time playing what I don't like, and I'm unable to commit to the games I love. But rather than fight against this, I've recently decided to play the games that come naturally. To this end I thought I'd give the left field Zelda: Four Swords Adventure a run out.
This game, I discovered, takes the Zelda franchise into new more acradey territory. Rather than each world being an open wide ranging affair, they exist in a more limited level just a few screens wide and high. This, and the lack of side quests, keeps the game moving at a greater pace. Rather than action being focused in the discrete dungeons of the other Zelda games, here the challenge is the puzzle of each level en mass.
But what makes this Zelda unique is that it is designed for four players to tackle in true co-operative fashion.
But what makes this Zelda unique is that it is designed for four players to tackle in true co-operative fashion. Each player plugs in a Gameboy Advance (the wide un-backlit GBA) or Gameboy Advance SP (the clamshell GBA-SP) using the Gamecube to GBA lead. This enables them to control their player on the main screen. When they enter a building, tunnel or dungeon though they disappear from the TV and appear on the little GBA screen in front of them - enabling the other players to carry on with their action. It's an ingenious use of the GBA and makes the gameplay feel completely unique.
What's more you can do all this on the Wii. Having got hold of the Gamecube game itself for GBP20 and a Gamecube control for GBP15 I was a little reticent to invest further. But once I'd given the game a quick go and seen it in action I was hooked. The next day I turned up a stock of GBA-SP's for just GBP8 each. I scooped up four and headed home to order the four Gamecube to GB cables (8GBP). All in it had cost me GBP99, but it felt worth it.
I was like an excited schoolboy as the kit started to arrive and my setup grew in the living room. I popped the disc into the Wii, and started it with the Wii-mote. Then powered up each GBA-SP and used the cable to plug them into the Gamecube controller ports on the Wii (no need for any cartridge in them). The Wii then downloads the required code to the GBA and away you go.
The game instantly wove its magic.
I rounded up three friends, each of whom had sufficient memories of the old style Zelda games to appreciate the visuals, and started it up. The game instantly wove its magic.
The Hyrulean Adventure game's puzzles suddenly made sense as each of us had to work together to trip switches, heave boulders, attack bosses and generally progress through the world. Sometime extra strength from all four of us was required to move an obstacle. Sometimes a combined variety of attacks were needed to down a big bad boss guardian. Sometimes we each needed to simultaneously trigger different switches to open the doors. The sense of teamwork was palpable.
Then we moved onto the Shadow Battle. Here we are pitted against each other in a battle to the death. As I snuck into a house to trigger bombs on my foes outside, and to set traps for anyone following, I felt a pang of sentimentality for those games of Spy vs Spy I used to play on my old Spectrum against my brother. As we ran around the levels shooting, hitting and blowing each other up, the game again proved its worth. This was as much fun as any Super Smash Brothers game I'd played and as intense as the longest Bomberman sessions that used to draw out into the evenings at university.
As the novelty faded and we each became more considered and tactical, the speed of play slowed a little and I had a chance to appreciate the visuals. Perhaps the best testament to them is that you simply don't really notice them at first. They do their job perfectly without intruding on the game play, whilst enabling the action to continue unencumbered.
This takes the simple top down graphics and endows them with magic and light just when they need it.
The visuals are straight out of the Zelda: A Link to the Past SNES but with accents from Zelda: Wind Waker's cell shaded aesthetic. This takes the simple top down graphics and endows them with magic and light just when they need it - such a simple idea but one that works so well.
As needs be the screen zooms out to ensure each Zelda remains in view at all times. As I said, when you enter a house or similar off screen area you appear on the GBA screen in your hands. Leaving that returns you to the TV with a little signatory flourish. This enables the co-operative mode to continue unabated with all four players working hard at the task, whilst also enabling some sneaky thieving and trap laying in the competitive game.
This is not only the Zelda game for those of us that can't afford the huge time commitment of the other titles, but also the game for those of us that simply prefer playing with other people. For me this make Zelda: Four Swords Adventure a perfect fit. Although a little pricey (not to mention geeky) to setup, a few nights in with friends more than paid for what represented many happy hours of game play.
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