The Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes is the newest entry in the Legend of Zelda series. This series contains some of the greatest video games ever made, so every Zelda title launches to an insanely high amount of expectations. TriForce Heroes channels the co-op gameplay first introduced in Four Swords, and focuses on small stages instead of one giant adventure. The result is a fun multiplayer experience that, unfortunately, is much less entertaining when played solo. It’s a game that’s worth picking up, but not every Zelda fan is going to enjoy their time with TriForce Heroes.
Audio & Visuals in TriForce Heroes
The visuals and audio that we see in TriForce Heroes come straight out of A Link Between Worlds, which is not only one of the best Zelda games, but also possibly the best game on Nintendo 3DS. The audio and visuals are fantastic, but we’ve seen all of this before – if you’ve played A Link Between Worlds, it’ll immediately feel like you’re playing a new game mode for A Link Between Worlds rather than an entirely new game. While the way that A Link Between Worlds feels and sounds is nothing short of amazing, there’s something less exciting about experiencing these elements in TriForce Heroes. The game runs at a smooth 60fps, just like A Link Between Worlds. There’s nothing to complain about here, but there’s nothing particularly exciting, either.
The Story of TriForce Heroes
As far as Zelda games go, the storyline of TriForce Heroes isn’t especially compelling. The game takes place in Hytopia, a kingdom obsessed with fashion. King Tuft and Princess Styla rule over Hytopia, but Styla has a problem – she’s been cursed by a witch. Previously a fashion guru, Styla is now fated to wear the same unfashionable jumpsuit every single day – that is, of course, unless the TriForce Heroes can go into the Drablands (the dungeons and puzzle-filled areas of the game) and overcome all of the challenges there.
Since Styla’s unfortunate experience, the citizens of Hytopia have become afraid of fashion, thinking that they, too, might be cursed. King Tuft is horrified at his daughter’s fate and the declining state of his kingdom, so he puts out a call for heroes. Three heroes, to be precise, who have pointy ears, parted hair, and sideburns. Luckily, you and your friends meet these qualifications and are destined to save Hytopia. You’ll also be the leading fashionista in town, working with a local stylist to create and wear a multitude of costumes that provide bonuses in the Drablands as well as inspire the citizens of Hytopia to get back into fashion. It seems a bit weird at first, but collecting materials and rupees for different costumes quickly became the main reason that I started replaying stages. It’s addicting, and there are a lot of cool costumes to check out.
It’s a simple, silly story that does little more than give you a reason to head into the Drablands to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. It’s not emotionally compelling like previous Zelda stories, but TriForce Heroes is much more concerned with three friends having a good time than telling a story that you’ll remember for years to come. If the traditional Zelda-style of storytelling and world-building is what you’re looking for, you won’t find it in TriForce Heroes. The story is an afterthought here, and focus is put entirely on co-op gameplay – which is great for the gameplay, and devastating for the game’s plot.
Gameplay – Multiplayer
Co-op multiplayer is where TriForce Heroes shines. There are three of you, and every single player is necessary to solve the puzzles in each stage. Some bosses are impossible to defeat without the totem mechanic (in which players stack on top of one another to create a single entity that’s three Links tall), and there are stages that require each player to pick an item. There might be a bow, a water rod, and a hookshot. Each item is necessary to finish the level, but only one item can be equipped by each player. You’ll have to work together and help each other out with your items in order to get to the triforce-shaped portal at the end of each stage. Each player can also pick an outfit at the beginning of the stage, and the bonuses that each costume provides can make different combinations really helpful – and other combinations don’t work well at all. There’s more to think about here than which costume looks the coolest, and that’s a nice touch. The puzzles in the Drablands are simple but fun, and the bosses would seem at home in A Link Between Worlds. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, especially if you’ve got a good team.
You can play the game online or through local multiplayer (including Download Play). The best way to experience the game is to find two friends with 3DS systems and sit down together to play through the game. Being right next to your partners allows you to communicate outside of the eight pre-selected messages that you can send. In the picture above, you can see these messages – obviously, they’re not exactly desirable for strategic planning. They’re more for spamming the one player who just doesn’t understand that they need to use their water rod in order to move on (“Item! Item! ITEM!!!”). Talking with your friends is much more fun and effective, and it’s the best way to play the game.
On the other hand, the online multiplayer actually works pretty well. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, you should be able to knock out a few stages with your team. You can drop out at any point, but it does ruin the game for the other two, so try to wait until you finish a stage before you do so. You’ll occasionally get teamed up with people who want nothing more than to pick you up and throw you to your death, but most of the matches I’ve played have been relatively successful. Though they are limited, the message options tend to get the job done most of the time, and playing online (even with a party that’s less than great) is a whole lot better than playing solo.
Gameplay – Solo
Generally, Zelda games are solo affairs. Four Swords used to be the only exception (in the core series), but now we have TriForce Heroes. You can play the game solo, as Nintendo has been extremely good at mentioning whenever they can. However, the experience is much less exciting. Instead of two other players, you’ll be playing alongside two Doppels. They’re totally inanimate when you’re not controlling them, so that means that you have to do three times the amount of work you’d be doing in a multiplayer session. It would be nice if you could command your Doppels to move without switching over to their perspective, but you can’t. You have to manually move each of your Doppels around, and while it’s nice to have total control over what’s going on, it does get obnoxious when you all start in the same area and you have to walk a small distance forward three times in a row before you can even start the puzzle. It’s a small complaint, but I’d also like to be able to switch between Doppels with the triggers, but you have to use the touch screen, which can be frustrating during boss battles. I understand that the triggers are used for sprint dashing, but dedicating just one of the triggers to switching characters would make Doppels a lot easier to use.
Barring the large amount of effort it takes to get your Doppels to do what you want, everything else depends on your play style. If you can get used to the odd way that the Totem system works when you’re doing it all by yourself, it shouldn’t be too hard to get going in solo mode. The one positive part about solo mode is that you have control over all of the items in the stage, so if you need to use a bow and your current character has the hookshot equipped, you can just switch over to the Doppel with the bow and do whatever you need to do – instead of hitting the “Item!” icon on the touch screen over and over until the player with the bow makes their way over to your location.
Overall, the solo experience is not the full TriForce Heroes experience. As I said before, the best way to play the game is in the same room with three friends. The next best way would be to play an online session, and, finally, the last resort is to play solo. The game realizes this, as it rewards you with Friendly Tokens for playing in multiplayer sessions. These tokens can be used to make special outfits – some of the best costumes in the game, actually. So it’s clear that TriForce Heroes was made to be a multiplayer experience. It’s best said like this: TriForce Heroes is a multiplayer game, but you can play it solo if you absolutely have to. We recommend that you don’t play solo mode too often, though, because it makes the game seem much less fun than it actually is.
Hardcore Zelda fans are going to pick up TriForce Heroes no matter what, and that’s good. I’m one of those people – I initially intended to spend most of my time with the game on solo mode, and I wanted the game mainly because it’s a Zelda game. Now, though, I appreciate it as a great 3DS multiplayer game, even though I’ve experienced a bit of disappointment when looking at the game through the eyes of a Zelda fan.
TriForce Heroes is an interesting entry in the series, and it’ll be enough to hold us over until the next game. However, this time you’ll want to make sure you have some friends who are ready to play along before you embark on Link’s newest adventure. If you’re stuck without an internet connection and none of your friends have a 3DS, solo mode is worth a shot, but you’ll quickly find yourself itching for the more realized experience that the game’s multiplayer mechanics provide.