Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tri Force Heroes – Den of Trials Review

The three Links in the Tri Suit going through the entrance hall of the Den of Trials with various Triforce portals

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2022 by the same author.

This Thursday saw the release of the first major update for The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, which includes one new area and two new costumes for free, next to some improvements. Well, let's look this gift horse in the mouth and see how it enhances the game.

Tri Force Heroes has been available for six weeks now and many players are probably done with the game already. As discussed in the review, the Drablands will get emptier over time, because there isn't really anything left to do once you've cleared all challenges and collected all the outfits. It doesn't offer the same type of longtime motivation as games like Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS or Mario Kart 7, which you can keep playing competitively. Well, there is the Coliseum, but it's not sophisticated enough to be as engaging. As a result, less and less people will play Tri Force Heroes online over time and it will become more and more difficult to find other players. And here it will be important that Nintendo offers more content to bring the players back.

It seems that for Tri Force Heroes Nintendo is following a similar strategy to Splatoon, where they are releasing the new contents for free to keep the game interesting. This apparently wasn't always planned like this, however, because some datamines have revealed texts for Tripini (the clown guiding you through the update) that spoke of new areas as paid DLC. But it was certainly a good call to not lock any new contents behind a paywall, because this ensures that most of the players will return for them, and not just the ones willing to pay.

In addition, owners of multiple Nintendo 3DS systems can use this DLC on all their systems without the need to buy it multiple times. And if the new additions required any payment, they probably wouldn't be worth it in the first place, because it's not that much. But let's go over it all in detail.

The Den of Trials

When Nintendo announced that the new area will contain "over 30 levels" this was reason to be excited – after all this area would have been as large as the entire main game. But unfortunately, this was a misunderstanding, because instead of "levels" they meant "stages", the basic floors. Normally, an area in Tri Force Heroes is divided into four levels with four stages each. But the Den of Trials is just a single level with a total of 40 floors.

ingame map showing the Den of Trials with a white circle marking it

On each stage you will have to defeat all enemies in order to continue. For Zelda veterans this should sound very familiar, because it's essentially the same as the Savage Labyrinth from The Wind Waker, the Cave of Ordeals from Twilight Princess, or the Treacherous Tower from A Link Between Worlds. You know the drill. So, the Den of Trials isn't a full-featured area with new puzzles, bosses, and all that, but more of a minigame to test your skills.

The downside is that this is just a short experience. If you simply want to play through the Den of Trials once, then this will take about an hour, which isn't much compared to the rest of the game. On the other hand this type of dungeon is usually quite popular with the fans, since it offers a different type of challenge and bit of replay value. And it's exactly this type of content addition that Tri Force Heroes may need to boost its online activities.

The 40 stages of the Den of Trials are divided into eight zones with five stages each. These zones are based on the eight original areas, so there is a Forest Zone, a Flooded Zone, a Scorching Zone, and so on. The fifth floor is always a safe room, where you can find treasure chests with materials from the corresponding area, as well as a fairy and a Squiddy to refill your life energy. The game gets saved here and you will also obtain the entry point for the next zone.

Yes, this is unlike the Cave of Ordeals and co., where the Den of Trials starts inside a giant hall with Triforce Gateways to all eight zones (see image at the top). Should you get defeated and/or start over, then you can make use of them, as long as all three players have gotten to the respective zone already. This means that the Den of Trials isn't so merciless to put you back to the first stage after a failed attempt. And in order to progress you will only have to beat four stages at a time, which keeps the motivation up.

The Link's playing whack-a-mole in the Frozen Zone

But it still might make sense to start over from the beginning or an earlier zone anyway, because you only get one fairy initially and you shouldn't underestimate the challenge in multiplayer. It's actually a good idea to collect more fairies by clearing the easier zones once more.

Part of the difficulty are also the dark enemies, which were nowhere to be found in the main game. Those deal double damage, take twice as many hits to defeat, and can neutralize you for a short time with some dark magic, which prevents you from using your sword or items. These enemies are especially deadly in multiplayer, where your hear meter can be erased within seconds.

This is also why the Den of Trials is a lot easier in singleplayer, since the Doppels are invulnerable and you don't have to coordinate with other players to perform totem attacks. Experienced solo players should be able to play through the Den of Trials in one go and the real challenge is found in multiplayer. But unlike with the other areas, the game doesn't take note whether you have beaten the Den of Trials in multi- or singleplayer, where some people may not even want to give this a try online, once they are done with it alone...

New Old Enemies and Sounds

The Den of Trials offers a small surprise with an enemy type from A Link Between Worlds, which hasn't appeared in Tri Force Heroes yet: the Gimos, living statues made out of stone, fire, or ice. This is a nice addition, but it would have been even better if they had imported a couple more enemies from the previous Nintendo 3DS Zelda game, e.g. the Mini-Moldorms, Goriyas, or even the Lynels. At least the new dark variants of the existing enemies offer some variety, because you will have to watch out for their altered attacks.

A special highlight also awaits the players with the final battle on floor B39...

Other than the music for the finale, the Den of Trials offers two new music tracks: a dark melody fills the hub area, making Tripini, the clown seem almost scary. And during the normal floors there is a catchy tune that will spur you on – very much perfect for this type of challenge.

New Outfits

The 36 costumes from the main game didn't really leave much to desire, which is probably why there are only two new ones in the update. And those are really playing the nostalgia card, where they are based on fan favorite characters from past Zelda games.

Linebeck's Uniform in the dressing room

First we have the uniform of the infamous seafarer Linebeck, who had a main role in Phantom Hourglass and whose descendant sold you the train cars in Spirit Tracks. As a good fit for the character this outfit is mainly for your self-interest, because it shows you the content of closed treasure chests.

This is of good use in singleplayer, because will give up the advantage that you may have with other costumes, but it guarantees that you will get the material you want at the end of level. In multiplayer everyone will see the contents of chests as long as someone in the team wears the new outfit, so it won't make you completely unpopular. It also works with normal chests, so that you strategically can save the ones with hearts for later. But that's not a huge advantage.

Curiously, the outfit also has a secret perk in challenges with a time limit – you will get ten additional seconds at the beginning, which could even be a reference to the Temple of the Ocean King and its time limit. The abilities of some other outfits, like the Cheetah Costume, will give you a bigger time advantage at the end, but at least Linebeck's Uniform has something else going for it. You also will use a telescope as a sword for a nice detail, but that's just a visual effect.

Fierce Deity Armor in the dressing room

In any case, it most likely won't be as popular as the Fierce Deity Armor, which you get as a reward for clearing the Den of Trials once. If you don't count Hyrule Warriors, this is actually the first time since Majora's Mask where you can slip into the form of this dark and mysterious god.

In Tri Force Heroes this transformation will grant you double damage and sword beams at full health, which are fired in four directions simultaneously. In addition, you can fire these sword beams with a Spin Attack, even when your heart meter isn't completely filled. These sword beams are normal sized and the sword has also only the normal reach, so it doesn't make the mighty Sword Master Suit obsolete, even though it could have. The Fierce Deity Armor is more of a solid alternative, where the players will have to decide for themselves which of these two outfits is better. And that's good.

It also comes with an additional perk: it increases your steadfastness, so that enemies won't knock you back as easily (similar to the Steadfast Ring in Oracles of Ages & Seasons). This is very useful against those pesky Hardhat Beetles, which otherwise will easily send you right into the next abyss. But your opponents in the Coliseum also won't be able to push you back, which can give you the edge.

However, the sword beams are causing some issues with the sound. Especially when all three Links are using the Fierce Deity Armor and its beams at the same time, e.g. while juggling the Lucky Lobby Ball, this creates some unpleasant noise in the speakers of the Nintendo 3DS.

Other Improvements

Thanks to Miiverse, Nintendo has a much better insight on what the players like and what not about their games. Certain problems get regularly posted in the communities, where it's not a big surprise that Nintendo has addressed some of the concerns with this update.

For starters, you can now purchase Friendly Tokens for 2000 Rupees each from the Street Merchant. You won't get this offer before finishing the game, but at least this guarantees that every player now can obtain the two outfits that required these tokens, whether they prefer to play alone or online. This also prevents these outfits from becoming unobtainable by selling your Friendly Tokens, of which you can only get 15 in total. It's a simple solution for this problem, but it works.

Linebeck Link standing before a Friendly Token offered by the Street Merchant in Hytopia Castle Town

While the Friendly Tokens appear quite often in the shop, it's part of the random selection and not available every day, unlike the Frilly Fabric. It also has no effect on the faux hero in front of Hytopia Castle. He still counts how many Friendly Tokens he has given you, where the goal of collecting all 15 remains. But of course that's not as important as getting the actual outfits which require them.

Next is an issue that has plagued the online play: quitters. Both in the main campaign, as well in the Coliseum people were a problem who just quit the game for whatever reason. In the Coliseum you can simply not quit anymore, which is okay for the short match duration of 90 seconds. Otherwise you are now always able to put players on the Blacklist, even when they have quit the game. And this should discourage those who drop out of a party whenever something isn't going their way.

(Update: Of course this problem wasn't solved as easily after all, because you can still end a game by turning off the Wi-Fi of your Nintendo 3DS in order to disconnect. As an additional measure "Hero Points" got introduced in version 2.1.0, which encourage the players to finish a level even when they didn't get what they wanted.)

The matchmaking for playing with randoms was also refined a bit with an additional question. In the main game you can now state if you want to go slow or fast – either you want to take your sweet time or you want to make quick progress. However, this should often coincide with whether you want to play challenges or not, where this additional choice may be redundant.

At least the choice in the Coliseum makes more sense, where you can pick between budding and experienced. But it won't prevent experienced players from saying they are not, unless they are wearing the Sword Master Suit. And overall these options might split the already shrinking community even more, so it may not be the best they could have done.


To enrich Tri Force Heroes it needs new attractions, which stand out from the game's normal areas and offer some more long-time motivation. While the Den of Trials goes into the right direction, it's too short-lived and will only keep those busy for longer who are willing to seek out self-made challenges.

It would be interesting if the Den of Trials were to get expanded by additional level of a different kind, like a boss rush. And there is still space for another area, where hopefully Nintendo and GREZZO will come up with something interesting. At least it's fantastic that they are keeping it free, so that the entire community will make good use of the additions.

The improvements also struck the right nerves, where hopefully this won't be the last update to address some of the biggest concerns, like the singleplayer mode.

The Good:
  • Free
  • Classic endurance dungeon
  • New enemies and music
  • Nostalgic outfits
  • Some first meaningful improvements
The Bad:
  • Short-lived
  • Some noise issues with the Fierce Deity
  • New matchmaking options don't seem helpful

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