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Given the impending announcement for The Legend of Zelda at E3 in a few days from now, let’s review one of their latest additions to the Zelda franchise.
As a character in the photo booth mentions in the game, kids today want things fast. Triforce Heroes represents a solid effort to deliver a multi-player experience to a franchise that’s known to embody a knight’s lonesome journey.
Made up of four moderately-sized stages, each level in the game relies heavily on co-operation to get every puzzle solved and every treasure chest opened. Featuring creative design and inventive gameplay, Triforce Heroes utilizes 3D to make the world dynamic and the platforms alive. The textures show an effort to reuse A Link Between Worlds‘s settings to expand the narrative into a different story.
Taking a brave departure from the usual world, Triforce Heroes takes place in Hytopia, a kingdom ruled by King Tuft, whose daughter, Princess Styla, has been deprived of her lush appearance. Condemned to wear only a black leotard, Link must enter the Drablands along with two heroic buddies. At its heart, the story takes the approach that’s probably the best one for a children’s game whose very premise is shallow: a person’s chosen appearance reflects their soul. Losing an outfit is on par with losing part of one’s identity, and the mark of the hero in Hytopia is an aesthetic one: sideburns, parted hair, pointed ears. Thematically, the story divides its elements into threes elegantly, and the characters show a burning desire to understand why things happen. A particularly helpful character wants mostly to find out the reason why a theft of style was the path taken, and with little more than a prompt to action, Link embarks on an adventure of frustration like the franchise hasn’t seen in years.
This game can’t be faulted for being easy. Because it’s not. Its levels may be short and simple, but the execution of every move requires some patience, well-thought timing, and, of course, style. Along the way, you’ll collect different materials that Madame Couture can use to stitch up a new suit for Link to wear. Each costume has a function beyond its aesthetics, such as enhancing items or performance. And this helps the game stay fresh. Its biggest source of staleness would be playing the same levels again just to complete every challenge, but the game is smart enough to change things around so that it doesn’t feel like Groundhog Day.
The game itself is quite fun, as Hytopia has moving characters with their own motivations, dreams, and fears. The place feels alive in many ways. The shop items change every day, children play game and share secrets, townsfolk tell stories and bards leave diary pages in the open so the plot thickens further. Even Styla leaves her room when her admiration for Link overrides her shame for feeling undignified.
Overall, Triforce Heroes possesses a quality that defines a Zelda game beyond all: it keeps you coming back. The challenge level guarantees that you’ll try most levels at least twice. And each enemy can be overcome in more than one way, forcing you to get creative with your play style. Some items are pretty tough to beat in single player mode, so Nintendo keeps its servers busy, allowing you to join strangers in the cutest communication mode I’ve seen in an online multiplayer mode: a set of emoticons Link can use to express ideas. You can either call the other players to join you at your location. You can tell them to use their item (only one item per player, you can’t finish a stage until all three players have their item). You can ask them to pick other players to form a totem. You can request for them to throw you so you can move on your own. You can warn them that what they’re doing is wrong or it’s taking them nowhere. You can cheer the team when morale is low or simply because you feel like it. You can celebrate when something’s done right. You can complain that something is frustrating you. And you can use your Zelda skills to traverse the varied landscapes that lead you to the Princess’s freedom.