NS Review – The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)
Tri Force Heroes is nearly upon us with just two days until release, so it’s time I share my review of the game with you. If you haven’t already, you can read my preview article here. Note that this article remains the same in terms of player-count, platform, and portion of the game covered.
In my preview I noted that the audio and the visuals of Tri Force Heroes are mostly solid while the gameplay and story are somewhat lacking, and my opinions on this remain the same. I would say the greatest strengths of this game lie in its soundtrack and its visual style, though the latter isn’t unique to this iteration seeing as it’s carried over from A Link Between Worlds. Regardless, it’s still a beautiful style and it’s a pleasure to see it expanded on in this game. It also brings with it a handful of new pieces of 2D artwork similar to that of what we’ve seen in Wind Waker, Four Swords, Spirit Tracks, etc, which I think are worthy of praise. Things like the scrolling text being very jagged and framerate drops do unfortunately let it down a bit though in terms of visuals. It wasn’t actually until a considerable amount into the game that I started experiencing framerate drops, however once they started they made themselves at home and continued to appear more and more frequently. It’s worth noting however that they’ve never really interfered with the game too much and still only occur under about 10% of the time.
The music continues to be fantastic. The sound effects are simply beautiful, and very crisp, and the diversity of sound and layering that occurs when the player switches between different colors of Link and when performing the Totem is an excellent and unique addition to the game. Unfortunately the tracks are quite short and the necessity to constantly be stacking players on top of one another means you can’t really appreciate one specific type of the music unless you go out of your way to wait around just to listen to it. Strangely though there were times where the music felt like it actually belonged more in Super Mario 3D World than in a Zelda game. Said tracks are gorgeous and one of them is arguably my favorite in the game, it’s just odd listening to them and them not giving off a Zelda vibe in response. However I can only hope desperately that an OST of this game is made available and soon, and the Zelda Symphony will play some of the pieces this game gifts us should I see that show again.
It feels like the focus of Tri Force Heroes went almost entirely into the multiplayer aspect, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but the single player suffers as a result. Going solo in this game felt pretty flat and inconsistent, and makes me wonder if the game is only “properly” experienced when it’s played with two other people. It also makes me wonder how much of the enjoyment rides on the novelty of attempting to co-operate and advance with actual humans and how you interact with them using the game as a base, rather than the game itself providing the challenge and entertainment and your own experiences as players being the icing on the cake. The trailer alone for Tri Force Heroes raised some glaring questions when I first saw it, and they still remain to this day. Many of the puzzles involve using the Totem to gain height and reach a spherical switch which you must deal damage at to activate. The bottom of the switch is completely visible and it makes me wonder why your character is so incompetent that he can’t just aim his bow upwards and shoot the sphere instead to solve the puzzle. Something as simple as a guard around the base meaning that any arrows fired anywhere below a certain point wouldn’t strike the switch would make this situation far less confusing. When a player collects something of significance a status message rolls across the screen alerting the other players to the achievement. The problem is anything above 5 rupees is considered worthy of this alert and in situations where players are constantly farming items the message spam could easily block the player from seeing what is going on and inhibiting gameplay, and I’d also imagine this frequent barrage of text would be quite irritating.
The missions are rarely more than a set path littered with simple puzzles, with what feels like some enemies and pots/bushes thrown in for padding. There’s very little to explore and many of the challenges simply weren’t at all difficult to me. Bar from falling, Doppels cannot take damage so in times of danger there’s not much to stop solo players just exploiting the switch command and possibly rendering an intentionally difficult area easier and just repetitive at best. The boss designs range from nostalgic, to bizarre, to excellent, to recycled. Some of the fights felt very repetitive and were clones of something I’d just done not too long ago in-game, some were so painfully insufferable and felt like they hadn’t been balanced out properly, and some felt like the kind of boss that fits just right into a Zelda game. (Though I must commend Nintendo for somehow managing to make Moldorm even more obnoxiously insufferable than before.) Your character seems to operate on a field of eight directions. Up, down, left, right, and each diagonal in between, as this is how the analog stick functions. This would be fine if the entire rest of the game didn’t operate on a much more complex and expanded field, meaning while Link can only aim in these 8 directions, enemies can easily slink in between these areas rendering them impossible to hit unless you wait for them to come into one of the 8 points of direction you’re capable of facing. So combined with limited space and time some puzzles and landscapes will have you undoubtedly finding yourself attempting to aim in a direction that just doesn’t seem to exist within the game’s world. This also meant that there were times when the solution to the puzzle was so obnoxiously precise in terms of where I had to stand and face I wondered if I had indeed managed to advance in the way the game intended me to, or if I’d somehow managed to exploit something. The latter doesn’t make for very satisfying or honest gameplay.
In regards to the story, it’s still something I feel quite detached from. Different isn’t always bad and I don’t expect Nintendo to make every Zelda game super serious with the same old plotline of kidnapped Zelda and Ganon wants the Triforce and there’s Evil over Hyrule etc etc. The plot was a bold move and while it may not have been executed in the most technically brilliant manner I still believe at its core is a good idea. Another issue related to this is despite the game revolving around fashion the alternate outfits felt like they were so optional they were just mostly useless decoration. I can recall maybe one outfit I think I needed to actually finish a mission, so for a game that takes place in a fashion-obsessed world where each outfit can give you magic powers and is wonderfully designed in terms of visuals, that rewards you at the end of every level with material so you can make said outfits, why do the alternate outfits feel so insignificant? In terms of rupees gained there doesn’t ever seem to be enough by just progressing through the story without backtracking to afford these new clothes and I just can’t shake the feeling that the outfits really were not done justice in the way they were implemented into the game.
A lot of my frustration and disappointment comes from knowing that Nintendo is absolutely capable of creating something that is so much better, but they just for whatever reason didn’t with this title. It’s not awful overall and has many excellent inclusions. I want to see a lot of the themes of this game come back in future titles and I wouldn’t even object to a full revisit of Hytopia and its bizarre residents and customs. I’d still say this game is absolutely worth a go and while it does slack hard in some areas, it still doesn’t change how bright it shines in others.
Tri Force Heroes is out on the 23rd of October 2015, with the Nintendo Store doing an awesome shirt with the pre-order. Thank you very much to Nintendo for sending me a copy of this game to review.