When I first heard the Nintendo was bringing FOUR SWORDS ADVENTURES to the GameCube, I didn't think it could be all of that great. How much of an adventure would there actually be? Wouldn't it just be a gimmicky title touting the underused Connectivity feature between the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube?
It turns out that FOUR SWORDS ADVENTURES is more than fitting to be called a ZELDA game. This is mainly due to its long quest, and excellent multiplay (with some fun competition). Be forewarned while one person can enjoy FOUR SWORDS, it is going to be best with four, and I highly recommend you round up your friends. Thankfully, the game comes with yet another GBA link cable, so many owners of GameCubes should have two or three by now. Hopefully the Nintendo DS will connect wirelessly with the new console.
To start things off, the game revolves around Link being split into four separate Links, while trying to save the princesses (and finally princess Zelda), while fighting many shadow versions of himself. The gameplay is drawn from LINK TO THE PAST, along with the graphics set. Everything is simplified though; you have your sword (which can be charged) as well as one additional item (such as the feather, Pegasus boots, bow and arrow, etc.).
The gameplay for more than one player requires Game Boy Advances to be used as the controller. This is because any cave, hole, or house that a player enters is displayed on their own personal screen. This allows for a lot of players to be doing different things while not screwing up all the action. Some might scoff, but it is used really well in the game.
The game has been compartmentalized to cater to the multiplayer gameplay. The best way to describe it is like this. Say Link has just rescued the third princess and now must go to a certain dungeon in the Lost Woods. The whole process of rescuing the next princess is broken into three sub-levels the first heading towards the destination (generally a town or other level), the second nearing it (running around the lost woods) and the third being the actual dungeon. This works really well, and gives the ZELDA taste, minus the whole side-quest and exploration thing.
The other facet is that there is no long-term character growth. Each time you start a level it is back to four hearts, and back to the plain-old sword. Collecting the force-gems in the level increases the party's attack power, and is also used in deciding the "winner".
While the switches and other puzzles in the game generally require the team to work together, the game encourages some competition. Many force gems can be found, and dying drops half of them on the map for other players to steal. At the end of a level, rewards are given based on life left, deaths, enemies defeated, and player votes. It works well and adds an extra dimension to the game.
The last element of the game is Shadow Battle essentially a free-for-all fight. This is fun, but it doesn't hold the same appeal of the story mode in the game. I'm a bigger fan of cooperative than head-to-head gameplay.
The story mode offers over 10 hours of gameplay, maybe even close to 15. That's really impressive considering that there are no real sidequests in the game. I'm really impressed with this adventure.
One word of warning, don't turn off any Game Boys until after you have saved. If the 1-player quits, the game doesn't like it.
The graphics and sounds are slightly better than SNES graphics. Some nifty effects have been added to keep the look of the game consistent with WIND WAKER, but that's about it. Otherwise, the game looks like LINK TO THE PAST. The sound is also nothing really to write home about, but it does have all of the great Zelda music in it.
Essentially, for any fan of the ZELDA games, especially the older ones, this is a must-play. It has so much classic gameplay that is just can't be overlooked. It is best with four friends though: my girlfriend, two other friends and I discovered this after we lost 10 hours of our lives in one sitting. If that doesn't say something about this game, nothing else will.