When Tri Force Heroes was announced at E3 2015, it was a surprise to everybody. Some felt let down, as this wasn’t the Zelda game they were looking for. Tri Force Heroes is somewhat in the vein of the Four Swords games because of its multiplayer component, but at the same time it is very different, focusing on cooperative play rather than competitive play. While it’s not the Zelda game so many looked forward to, the game still has its charm and lives up to the quality of the Zelda name.
The story for Tri Force Heroes is incredibly simple. A Princess has been cursed in the land of Hytopia and the King sets out to find three “Tri Force Heroes” to break the said curse. The kingdom is obsessed with fashion and the Princess was the fairest of them all until she was cursed by a witch and confined to a black jumpsuit. Link must wear numerous outfits in order to traverse through dungeons and collect materials, which in turn allow him to unlock more outfits, in order to lift the Princess’ curse. The game’s story may sound incredibly simple, but story isn’t the focus of the game.
Tri Force Heroes’ main game mode allows you to play online, through local wireless play, or the 3DS’ Download Play function. The Download Play function allows you to play all 32 stages with a single game cart. You go into a lobby in the castle and pick which way you’d like to play the game and it automatically connects you. While I thought that playing online would be a hassle, I was pleasantly surprised as players cooperated and didn’t constantly throw me off of a ledge just for fun. Playing with friends in person is always preferable though, as it allows you to communicate more efficiently. While playing Tri Force Heroes, all the players need to be on the same page if your team is going to traverse through each stage successfully, especially the harder ones. If even one player isn’t in sync, the team as a whole will not be successful.
The lobby for Tri Force Heroes
Like A Link Between Worlds, the game makes great use of the 3D functionality of the 3DS and has a number of fantastic vertical puzzles. It is a game that should be played in 3D due to the depth of field effect; there is so much that can be missed from playing in a fat, 2D view. Tri Force Heroes is definitely a puzzle-oriented game and that is what Zelda has always been about to me. While playing online, it can be difficult to communicate with players regarding how to solve these puzzles, but thanks to the emotes set in place it actually works much better than expected. While it is preferable to play with two of your friends in the same room in order to communicate, online play is a lot of fun. The only downside is that someone can quit out of nowhere, taking the entire team back to the lobby. In one of my playthroughs, we were almost at the end of a stage when someone decide to just up and leave. This was incredibly frustrating, especially because there are no consequences for just quitting a match. I understand that people disconnect from time-to-time which is out of their control, but, quitting out of the blue should net some kind of punishment if done enough times.
The new Totem mechanic is made for the puzzle solving nature of Tri Force Heroes and it works magnificently. Each “Link” picks one another up to form a Totem, which in turn is integral in solving the vertical puzzles of Tri Force Heroes. This mechanic especially becomes important in boss battles, as these fights usually enter three stages: one where you don’t need to Totem, one where you only need one additional person, and then one where you need all three players to Totem and damage the boss. It is a repetitive cycle, but it forces players to cooperate with one another and the formula is not without a few twists. In the Abyss of Agony stage, the player with the Bow initially hits the boss, but eventually he goes underwater. The players with the Water Rod must then bring it to the surface and the team must ultimately Totem, as the boss has grown in size. Boss battles aren’t simply damage the boss, Totem, damage the boss, and Totem some more; there is a bit more depth behind it and some bosses can be rather tricky, which makes their defeat all the more rewarding.
It’s Totem Time!
Single player mode is a nice edition, but for certain levels it is incredibly difficult and doesn’t quite work. In single player mode you switch “doppels”, which are copies of Link made into stone. Switching between characters is easy enough, but there are some puzzles that are near impossible by doing this alone. One such moment comes in Riverside’s Secret Fortress, where two players must use the Water Rod to carry the third player across who has a bomb to blow up an obstacle. Simply put, switching between doppels and getting the bomb across is near impossible. While single player is enjoyable to extent, it is clear that this is a multiplayer game and there are certain aspects of the game that simply don’t translate to the single player mode.
The emotes help a great deal in communicating with players online
The outfits in Tri Force Heroes are an integral part of the game, as they enhance the ability of a lot of Link’s weapons and gives him additional attributes to help him along his quest. They have a “gotta catch ’em all” feel to them from the Pokemon series and while it is a bit addictive, they aren’t as easy to collect as one would think. You must first collect the necessary materials to craft each costume, and those come from completing dungeons. Collecting each costume is a lot of fun and adds a new aspect to Zelda.
Link inquires about buying a new costume
The game also has a lot of replayabiity in the form of challenges that can be completed for each stage. These challenges include evading Wallmasters for an entire stage or popping all of the balloons on a stage. The challenges are well worth it, as they give you rare materials which will allow you to purchase better outfits.
Tri Force Heroes is not the Zelda game people were expecting when they walked into E3 2015, but it is an endearing and charming title which emphasizes cooperation and puzzle solving. As far as venturing into multiplayer, this is Zelda done right. The Totem mechanic takes advantage of the 3D functionality of the 3DS and provides some fantastic vertical puzzles. Some stages are relatively easy, while others are much more challenging. The game definitely makes you think as a team and all the players need to be on the same page or it simply won’t work, which is why local play is definitely preferred. While the story leaves a lot to be desired, this game isn’t about the story: it is about the puzzle solving and cooperative play, which the game succeeds at immensely.