History of Zelda: Part 11 – Four Swords Adventures

History of Zelda – Part 11

The Legend of Zelda. Indeed, this name is as recognisable in Video Game fame as Mario, and even Final Fantasy. Close to thirty years ago, Nintendo hired a man who would, of all things, design concepts for toys. Little did anybody know that this man would write history, influence hundreds of games, oversee the development of even more and define an entirely new genre. Shigeru Miyamoto devised the first iteration of The Legend of Zelda in the mid 1980s, and since then, The Legend of Zelda has become one of Nintendo’s very best properties.

This series of articles will look at each Zelda title in chronological order of release, describe the groundbreaking achievements and show the essence of the Action Adventure RPG.

Chapter XI – Four Swords Adventures (GCN)

The relationship between Nintendo and Capcom has flourished. The fruits of Capcom’s Flagship in recent times with the Oracle duo and the remake of A Link to the Past including the debut of Four Swords had been nothing short of exceptional. When there is a system, Flagship seems to know how to exploit it to its full potential. GCN to GBA connectivity was a dud. But if it was utilised to exceptional standard, then it’s hard to wonder why it never got off the ground. In the vein of Crystal Chronicles, an outstanding example, Nintendo/Capcom’s Four Swords Adventures built on the mechanics of Four Swords, a tale of Link, the Four Sword and a disastrous wind mage that seeks ultimate power. It became a new legend on its own, complete with heated disputes, spiteful acts and the realisation of just who your real friends were. This was a demonstration of just how the handheld to console connectivity could have panned out. Nevertheless, welcome to the carnage of Four Swords Adventures.

Four Swords Adventures, like The Wind Waker, reinforced a new emphasis on a historical story, providing new depth to The Legend of Zelda. An introductory tale tells of the Four Sword, how it is the key to a lock placed on the evil Vaati, a wind mage. Over the ravages of time, this lock had begun to weaken. The sacred shrine protecting this lock was only accessible by the seven maidens, including Princess Zelda herself. In the process of unlocking the portal to the shrine, an evil, sinister Shadow Link appeared. He encased each maiden in a crystal and dashed off. Not to be turned off by an adventure, Link followed. In an attempt to stop the taunting Shadow Link, our hero drew the Four Sword, releasing Vaati along with it. And so his courageous quest began to recover the seven maidens in order to seal Vaati away once more.

The adventure was built on the multiplayer mayhem introduced in Four Swords. Familiar items at Link’s disposal included the bow and arrows, bombs, hammer, Roc’s Feather and fire rod. Obviously, Link’s main weapon was a sword, with the Four Swords making a return. But the main tool that was to aid gamers in their progression? Collaboration with one another. Collecting enough Force Gems infused the blade with the power of light once more, enabling a gripping battle of Link x4 and an end level boss. Four Swords Adventures continues the absolute necessity to work with each other in order to overcome the faces of evil. One of the most creative ways of battling bosses is displayed in this chapter of the series. The boss, whatever it may have been, may have split into four smaller parts. Each part continuously changes its colour, or element, matching the colours of the four Links. Link then had to hit/attack/assault the corresponding colour of his tunic. This prompted each player to communicate vigorously with each other, detailing where and when such opportunities came up. This displays the progressing strategic elements within the series as strategy was always involved with puzzles and dilemmas, each an essence of The Legend of Zelda. Four Swords Adventures made it chaotic.

Not to detract from the Zelda experience were the enemies and foes along the way. Tektites, Leevers, Hylian Solders converted (A Link to the Past), Octoroks and Wizrobes, all featured traditional attacks. However, due to the multiplayer aspect, enemies often appeared in vast numbers. Furthermore, the game borrowed heavily from the artistic presentations of both A Link to the Past and The Wind Waker. Link resembled his cell shaded self, while the world of Hyrule was presented in marvellous 2D. Old school at its best. Graphical 2D upgrades saw bombs blow up in The Wind Waker fashion, while fire makes for a heated visual display. These are the little tweaks that are made to the series over and over, refreshing it each and every time.

Musically, remixes of themes from all past adventures, including The Adventure of Link, Majora’s Mask and each Game Boy title added a sense of nostalgia. These themes were midi-ised, but for a game that resembles a 1992 work of art, it didn’t matter. From the gloomy, irritating themes of dungeons to the bright and cheerful Overworld Theme in Hyrule Field, recognisable tunes were present along the way, strengthening that Zelda immersion, which results in the player humming these tunes for days on end.

However, just because Four Swords Adventures was a GCN game didn’t mean Four Swords had left the GBA. Creative use of the gimmicky connectivity saw the action transfer from the big screen to the handheld when Link entered a house or cavern. This prevented each other player from witnessing what that particular Link was up to, allowing the player to find invaluable treasures such as additional heart pieces and Force Gems. Such a competitive and secret system was introduced by Four Swords, and has been given a new element with the GBA as that additional game screen in Four Swords Adventures.

The competitiveness didn’t end there. An award ceremony really tested the players’ patience at the end of the level, awarding each for the number of enemies slain, Force Gems collected, number of times died etc. The winner gained the right to brag. The loser, plain embarrassment. But the final battle is a struggle against the wind, and in order to be the mighty wind break, all Links had to overcome any grudges and combine efforts to defeat it. A true allied force.

Four Swords Adventures continued the tradition of the series by gripping the gamer and placing them on the edge of their seat. The adrenalin pumping action of battles with low health and little ammunition reserves shines through, with a very clever competitive twist. Four Swords Adventures demonstrated that the four player formula not only works well for an adventure game, but is immensely enjoyable and fitting to the Hylian legend. The Legend of Zelda is no longer a one player wonder, but also a four player extravaganza. If you have to borrow the necessary equipment just to experience it, it would be well worth the adventure.