QCF: The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes

uper Mario isn’t the only Nintendo property that’s hoisted its share of spinoff titles, because there’s certain green-clad hero of legend that’s inching right behind him. In addition to titles like Link’s Crossbow Training, and Hyrule Warriors, the Legend of Zelda franchise has experimented with multiplayer in Four Swords; a cooperative adventure that up to four friends can play, and a fan favorite to this day.

As the online connectivity of the Nintendo 3DS continues to expand, it was only natural that Nintendo would revisit the idea, and add a different spin to it that would distinguish it from its predecessor; The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes, where three players can work together to solve puzzles that focus on verticality, and well—not much else.

It would seem that the concept didn’t have a whole lot of steam left in it after all as Tri-Force Heroes only manages to recycle familiar dynamics with some superficial additions thrown in, within a networking system that’s actually regressed in terms of performance, and reliability.

Deep within the kingdom of Hytopia, lies a community that’s ruled by style and fashion above all else; lead by King Tuft, and next in line within his royal blood, Princess Styla, who has been cursed with a tasteless unitard that’s permanently affixed to her person, cutting off any other wardrobe option to her in the process.

That’s the premise to the plight that demands the power of three heroes, and ironically enough, it conveys a theme that’s sets what kind of tone to expect for the rest of the game—underwhelming.

Now, before we get into why it is underwhelming, and where the game goes wrong, it bears mention that the game should be commended for it gets right; the tight and concise design towards a pick-up-and-play formula.

The game starts out of Hytopia’s courtyard, which acts as miniature hub-world, working to introduce the mechanics and options to the questing in Triforce Heroes, with details pertaining to the single player, and multiplayer venues of play, along with the other functions that the hub-world will serve during the downtime between quests, much like the way a lobby would.

Within this town, are three important outlets to interact with when you’re not setting off for the Drablands, the most significant being Madame Couture’s outfit shop, where you’ll be bringing materials and money from adventure to finance the creation special outfits for Link to wear—which can grant a variety of different buffs to take into any quest.

Garments like the Goron Garb, which endows invulnerability to lava, make traversing the volcano area much more painless, or the Torrent Robe, which expands the radius and size of the water rod pillar, a boost that significantly reduces the challenge involved with traversing the Riverside area, will completely change up the factors of dungeon crawling for the better.

There are numerous outfits to craft and purchase, and not only does it add incentive to replay levels for the materials that are needed to make them, the costumes can also help balance out any tricky obstacle or circumstance for the more difficult areas of the game.

Aside from the costumes, Tri-Force Heroes is also different in that equipment is now only contextual to the dungeons they’re used in, and there’s no Overworld, sidequests, or set course of action. Just a series of delineated levels that resemble the dungeons and temples that the franchise is famous for,  free to be tackled in any order that you and your team can democratically decide upon, or randomly if everyone can’t meet on the same page.

And that’s where the neat ideas begin to fall apart; most of these mechanics are solid on paper, but the follow-through in the gameplay’s execution is just clumsy, and awkward—at least online anyway.

Addressing the core multiplayer issues first (because, let’s be honest, by virtue of design, the single player option is disadvantaged by the inherent flaws of filtering team-based dynamics down to watered down solo alternative) the scheme that dictates the gameplay is imbalanced; relying a bit too much on team synergy.

Everything from the strategies involved with puzzle solving to the shared health pool between the three Links, the term “attached to the hip” has never been more true, gameplay restricts players into being TOO dependent on each other, which can result in the teamwork endeavor turning into one giant escort mission.

Being as the limited set of the 3DS’ online tools lack any sort of proper matchmaking capabilities when player pairing outside of your friends list, you’ll likely get stiffed with someone who’s skillset will jeopardize the success of the quest, or some nonresponsive maverick who doesn’t comprehend the idea of cooperative play, or socializing for that matter. Whether you have a player that decides to go against the grain, or fall behind the difficulty curve of the stage, these setbacks really do a number on souring the enjoyment of everyone else involved, and it’s mainly because of the strict “three’s company” foundation won’t yield to anything less, without any compromise.

The shoddy online performance and connection reliability of the 3DS online functionality only goes on to exacerbate this stiff outline, with laggy gameplay, and disconnection—the latter of which will end the session for everyone else automatically, and ruin any progress made within the area for those players.

More often than not, you’ll encounter a disconnection notice with some sympathy rupees for your trouble, or a shitty player that will hold the team back, and grief the rest of the group by picking players up and throwing them to their deaths, or killing themselves off, draining the precious stock of hearts that everyone shares in the process. Without any way to report this sort of nonsense, these issues are hefty enough to drag the online experience through the mud; playing with friends is almost the most practical way to go here. Sadly, the local connection method is the better option for Tri-Force Heroes’ multiplayer, despite the improbability of getting together with a bunch of friends that have their 3DS, and game in hand now ‘a days.

Boiling down to the game at it’s very core though, the puzzles and obstacles offered in this entry are a bit too shallow to be enjoyed for long, all hinging on the “totem” gimmick that your player of link can use, in terms of stacking between two Hylian heroes, or all three. Granted, the 3D visuals and capabilities of the hardware do lend a great detail of effect from this design, but the mechanic gets to be a bit droll after the initial hour of play, and ultimately pales in comparison to the wall-merging mechanic of Link Between Worlds.

The hard truth is; The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes is ultimately a neat idea with lousy execution, and quart short on the gas needed to fuel whatever drive the appeal of its mechanics had to offer for more than a couple of hours.

Nintendo hasn’t really treated us with anything particularly remarkable for the 3DS in 2015, other than a questionable upgrade in hardware, this Zelda spinoff certainly doesn’t do anything to discourage the sentiment either— only hardcore Zelda fans need apply, and even then, I’m sure they’ll be disappointed too.

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