Hands-on impressions: Tri Force Heroes charms its way to the 3DS


Nintendo announced a brand new Zelda game at their Digital Event this year titled Tri Force Heroes, a multiplayer-focused game for the Nintendo 3DS. At first glance, Tri Force Heroes seems to be very similar to the competitive Four Swords games, but the similarities end with the multiplayer experience. Tri Force Heroes is not a competitive game, but rather a three-player co-op experience that requires coordination and teamwork in order to solve puzzles and advance through dungeons. Another twist that Nintendo has added is that the entire team shares the same health bar, which makes communication even more pertinent because stages can become incredibly hectic.

When the demo starts and each player is connected, it immediately takes you to the stage selection screen. The stages in the demo go in order from easiest to hardest, and I was fortunate enough to play all four of them! The game also allows you to choose from six different outfits, including a frilly Princess Zelda get-up. Each outfit also has its own attributes. In one of my playthroughs, I went with the Kokiri Clothes, which allowed me to shoot three arrows at a time, similar to the weapon upgrade found in A Link Between Worlds.

IMG_0164Which stage should I choose?

In the beginning of each stage, each player has one item to select. For instance, on The Forest, there are simply three Bows to select from, while on The Volcano, there is the Gust Jar, Bow, and the Boomerang. Each character selects one weapon, although you have to choose quickly — if you snooze, you have to pick last!

Tri Force Heroes is definitely a puzzle-oriented game, with many of the puzzles focusing on the brand new Totem mechanic. This really excites me as puzzles are my favorite aspect of the Zelda franchise. The Totem mechanic allows the players to stack on top of one another by way of lifting the other players onto your shoulders. For instance, there may be a switch that is too high up and is inaccessible due to Link’s short stature. To reach it, you can Totem with either one or two additional players to solve the puzzle. It can be tricky, though, because if an item is required to solve the puzzle, you need to figure out how to get that player with the specific item at the top of the Totem.

triforce-heroes-lavaThe Volcano — this level was hard!

There are also some incredibly clever standard puzzles. On the Volcano stage, there was a puzzle where all three players had to go across the lava onto a platform. It took a while to figure it out and coordinate, but we figured out that the Gust Jar would push both of the other players across the ledge to the other side, while the Boomerang would retrieve the third player who had the Bow. It may seem simple once you discover how to do it, but it stumped quite a few players.

The game uses the same graphical style and control scheme as A Link Between Worlds, as well as the game’s vertical nature and depth of field effect. Playing the game in 3D really helps to distinguish whether or not you’ll need one additional person or all three players for a Totem. This is pivotal when playing the game because of the vertical nature of the puzzles, and almost all puzzles rely on this formation. It can be very difficult playing in 2D and recognizing whether or not a switch or a ledge requires everyone to Totem, but in 3D it becomes fairly obvious. This goes for bosses as well. I loved A Link Between Worlds and played the entire game in 3D, and I plan to do the same for Tri Force Heroes.

triforce-heroes-directionsThe kiosk where we played the game, with directions!

Team cooperation is also a huge part of Tri Force Heroes. If your team is even slightly out of sync, it can be incredibly difficult to get through any given area. At E3, with so much noise, it was hard to clearly communicate with my teammates and figure out who was who in order to solve these puzzles. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to play with some competent players my first three go-arounds, and we managed to finish each stage except for the most difficult dungeon, The Volcano, which was incredibly challenging. Playing with an inexperienced Zelda player during my last playthrough really taught me how integral communication is with other players while playing the newest 3DS Zelda title.

My last playthrough really taught me how integral communication is with other players

Bosses, like puzzles scattered throughout each dungeon, require players to use the Totem mechanic for the most part (I believe the boss in The Fortress did not require this). In each boss battle, there is a point where you have to Totem with just one additional player, and when the boss becomes weaker, you are required to Totem with all three players in order to hit the boss, using either the sword or various weapons that are assigned to each player. Again, it can be hard to tell whether or not you have to Totem with one other player or Totem with everyone, but the 3D effect really helps distinguish this.

tf-heroes1In line for Tri Force Heroes!

It will be very interesting to see how online play works out, because there is no voice chat (Nintendo found in play tests that implementing voice chat would cause more-experienced players to boss less-experienced players around), but playing amongst your friends will be a complete blast and the Nintendo representative I spoke with told me that there will in fact be a single-player mode.

I don’t know about you, but I am extremely excited for Tri Force Heroes! Having so much hands-on time with the game, I think it will be a fantastic addition to the franchise that the Zelda community will embrace with open arms, despite the fact that it’s not the much-anticipated Zelda Wii U. The game is simply that much fun!


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