Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Replaying Four Swords Adventures

It's the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise and I celebrate by (re)playing as many Zelda games as possible this year. Next one is Four Swords Adventures.

I like to praise Four Swords Adventures for being a "Zelda for in between". You know, if you feel like playing Zelda, but you don't have too much time, then this can be a problem. Even for a short game like Link's Awakening I would at least need four hours, so replaying a Zelda game is not an option then. However, replaying a level of Four Swords Adventures doesn't take as much time and can still be satisfying. It offers a small dose of Zelda gameplay for those who need it. So, as it happens, I replayed each level of Four Swords Adventures at least once over all the years, some of them even many times. Naturally you play the levels you like more often and avoid the levels you don't like. However, I never replayed the entire game from scratch. So, this was the first time for me to create a new save file for Four Sword Adventures playing all levels from start to finish and going through all of the story again.

And while replaying single levels for the sake of playing a short session of Zelda can be fun, replaying the entire game feels dull. One of the most important elements of a Zelda game for me is not the story or the fantasy setting or sword combat - it's exploration and finding hidden secrets and items. I love exploring all of Hyrule and one of the best parts of a dungeon is finally getting a long awaited item that let's me progress in other parts of the world. As a kid, when I played Zelda for the first time, Link's Awakening to be exact, all I wanted to do is explore all of Koholinth. I didn't want to play the dungeons and when I finally got a new item from a dungeon, I would leave the dungeon immediatly to explore new areas on Koholinth. By now I enjoy playing dungeons a lot, but still exploring and finding new items are what I enjoy most about Zelda games.

And Four Swords Adventures just lacks this. There's a lot to explore in each individual level and there are many hidden Heart Containers, Blue Bracelets and Force Fairies to discover. And I enjoy that during a level, but in the end it all doesn't matter. As soon as you finish a level, it doesn't matter if you've discovered all of its secrets, it will reset and you will start from scratch again. There's no reason to fully explore a level, because nothing is saved. A completion score for example would be nice, whether I found everything in a level or not. Another possibility would have been some collectibles like in modern Jump'n'Runs. New Super Mario Bros. (Wii) got the large gold coins, Donkey Kong Country Returns got the puzzle pieces and Kirby's Epic Yarn got furniture to collect from each level. And something like that is definitely missing in Four Swords Adventures, collectible items have been an important feature in the Zelda series ever since A Link to the Past introduced Pieces of Heart, but Four Swords Adventures doesn't offer any of this.

But what I really like about Four Swords Adventures are the mass enemy fights. You don't get something like that in any other Zelda game and it's just fun to hack yourself through dozens of enemies at once. I also checked out Shadow Battles and the Tingle Tower minigames a second time by using two GBA systems and there especially the Monster Hunt stuff looks like lots of fun. And during my playthrough I noticed that the L-2 Roc's Feather is never really used during the entire game. You can built it in certain levels and it also appears in Shadow Battles, but there's no direct use for it anywhere. Each other L-2 item gets at least used once during the game, but not this one. And it could have been used for some puzzles in the platforming areas. But whatever...

As a conclusion all I can say is while the individual levels of Four Swords Adventures have great replay value, the game in its entirety does not. It's fun to pick a level and replay it in between for a short Zelda session, but replaying the entire game from start to finish isn't as satisfying.

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