Unite with others and take on the guardians of Hytopia as a team in The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes. Keeping the mood light with a tongue-and-cheek storyline and the fantastic addition of costumes, there’s enough on offer to keep your sword slashing. Just remember it’s dangerous to go alone.
Taking its inspiration from Four Swords Adventure and blending the charming art style from A Link Between Worlds, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a spin-off at heart. Designed as a pick up and play title by Nintendo’s EPD team and Grezzo, it was never intended as a core Zelda experience, rather poking fun at itself as a fashion accessory to the main series. Tri Force Heroes dares to be bold, removing solo exploration in favour of teamwork and the ability to form a totem pole in order to solve puzzles, while keeping the game fresh with 128 challenges across eight different in-game areas. Of course, the game’s major draw is in its online play – though it’s never a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, rather three is the perfect crowd.
A town of simplicities, Hytopia was once a fashionable place until Princess Styla fell victim to a horrid curse. Forced to wear a black jumpsuit, the princess remains locked in her castle, utterly appalled by her state of dress. But Styla’s father, King Tuft, refuses to give up hope and asks for three heroes with pointy ears, thick sideburns and a side parting to help lift the dreadful curse. As fortune would have it, Link is tasked with saving the princess and bringing back the beautiful Hytopian fashion. By travelling across eight classic Zelda areas, ranging from the luscious woodlands to the tranquil sky realm, Link will have to fight tooth and nail to defeat the guardian of each realm.
As the eighteenth instalment in the series, Zelda fans can revel in the spotlight and venture on their own in single-player mode. Though arguably the easiest option for blasting through the game’s 32-level story mode, it’s also the dreariest. By using two doppels and the ability to switch seamlessly between each coloured hero and the items they hold, players can traverse the four levels per area in a linear fashion and are able to work out each puzzle in their own time. With no puzzle or area impossible in single-player mode, rather only seen as more testing and difficult, it’s a real credit to Nintendo’s design team to get the balance just right.
Throughout the game’s levels, players can take up the bow, bombs, boomerang, fire gloves and water rod among other items for aid. Each level has its own quirks, as Zelda fans would expect, and are designed superbly. Some of the best levels are featured within the spooky Ruins with illusion colour-coded floors and in the Sky Realm with cuccos making an appearance. Once the guardian is defeated, bonus challenges are then available and include such quests to pop all balloons, adventure in the dark and escape the wallmaster. These bonus challenges – which are available in online mode as well – are a great addition to the game by breaking the linearity and bring longevity, whilst giving players extra challenge and rarer rewards.
There are, however, moments when the game falls short in single-player mode. Boss fights often require a helping hand from another, particularly when facing The Lady in the Fortress, where the wooden doppels are a considerable hindrance. Though it’s not impossible, fears of losing all four fairies in frustration can test even the mightiest of Zelda fans’ patience. Luckily, there is a skip option available if it gets a little hazy. Hand over your spare fairy and bribe your way to the end – though it will cost a quest item choice, three of which normally appear at the end of each level in chests. A neat addition for young or new players to the franchise, the skip option is easy to use but never blatant.
While single-player mode is enjoyable in its own right, moving the doppels can become time-consuming and monotonous, leaving you with little more than one measly quest item and a sack full of rupees as a reward. And let’s face it, nobody wants to be left hanging following a high five with a dead lookalike. On the upside, single-player mode gives access to items quicker, allowing players to unlock the quirky in-game costumes.
With up to 35 costumes available in Tri Force Heroes, Hytopia is certainly a town for the on-trend fashion-conscious player. Varying in style and colour, each costume gives Link the ability to power up an item or deliver a better range of attack. Their cutesy, adorable appearance elevate the game to new heights. Giving players a challenge to strive for, unlocking all of the costumes is no easy feat and will likely take hours of dedication and a touch of luck. By gathering materials from quest areas, the talented seamstress Madame Couture can stitch up some real treats for players to use within the game.
Ranging from 100 to 2000 rupees, you’ll be able to purchase the famed Kokiri Clothes for access to a bow upgrade, the Cosy Parka for more security on the ice, the Jack of Hearts for one extra heart, and the Sword Suit for a particularly suave beam upgrade. Similar to sale season on the highstreet, Tri Force Heroes’ costume purchasing is so addictive, you’ll want to keep coming back for more.
Other than the main quests, the quaint town of Hytopia feels eerily quiet. Aside from Daily Riches as a luck-based minigame, a Miiverse Gallery where you’ll pick up a camera, Madame Couture’s and a Street Merchant, there isn’t much else to do. Style over substance seems fitting for the storyline but – as a Zelda title – Tri Force Heroes just lacks depth. Situated in just one town, characters are oddly forgettable and cycle through the same conversations. Groundhog Day never felt so real.
As it’s dangerous to go alone, Tri Force Heroes is best played with others. Connecting with two heroes in the online multiplayer lobby will take you to the destination selected by the team. Based on the criteria previously selected, players can venture to all eight of the areas, depending on how much other players have unlocked. And if you’re struggling to find extra players, you can pass the time by playing keepy-uppy with a ball which plays classic tunes from previous Zelda titles – another little gem from the game.
Tri Force Heroes doesn’t just shine in its online mode, it dazzles. Working together as a team and helping each other by using the touchscreen buttons to totem, the need for an item such as a bomb, boomerang or arrows to hit switches, and the cute cheers are a great way to engage with your fellow adventurers. Although communication is limited, the game doesn’t suffer from a lack of voice chat at all, though it could benefit from additional touchscreen buttons for puzzle communication. Boss fights in this mode are an absolute joy to play. There’s nothing more satisfying than taking down a boss together, as each player has their own unique part to play. It’s pure, simple fun.
But online mode isn’t without flaw. Bar from a big side step from Nintendo with the game’s region locking, some players may suffer from communication errors part way through a quest, problematic lags and considerable frame rate drops. These communication stutters though are less apparent in the game’s battle arena, The Coliseum; a quick, fun and heated battle mode between heroes but one that doesn’t feel fully fleshed out.
Tri Force Heroes is not without fault, seemingly missing that quirky appeal from previous instalments. Yet with some ingenious and occasionally tough challenges, it’s a game that no Zelda fan will want to miss – just bring a few friends to the party first, especially if they have wisdom and power.
7.5 / 10