|What a misbegotten game. Thank goodness it tanked, and hopefully took Nintendo's cash-laden dreams of "connectivity" with it. I was scared there, for a little while.|
As so cleverly implied in the name, TLoZ:4SA was designed to be played by four players, together. All on one screen. So far, so good--doesn't everyone like a nice hack-and-slash co-op adventure? And one in the fabulously successful Zelda franchise, with that hot elf-boy, Link? And one with retro-riffic 2D graphics, at that? Well, sure. I mean, I don't really like the Zelda games and their endless block puzzles and silly exploring and burning bushes with candles to reveal hidden caves, but still, the other stuff was all sounding good.
Then came the doozy, the masterstroke: to play, each player needs a GameBoy Advance, and a GC-GBA link cable. Son. Of. A. Bitch. The two friends I have that I usually play co-op slashers with do not have GBAs or link cables. This game was straight out.
But, years later, another friend of mine has the game, and several GBAs, and a couple other people who have GBAs. So, we finally try it. It is awful.
Not that it is a bad game. But I tell you this now, as fair warning: this game will make you hate your friends. It is to you and your three other friends as Yoko was to John's Beatles.
How so? Well, imagine this. After agonizing over link cables and GBA battery charges and squeezing together so you can all link up and see the main screen too, and after sitting through a really long and boring and unskippable couple of intro sequences, you four find yourselves plopped down in a dark field. You each have a sword as long as you are tall. You can hit the others with this sword. You can also pick them up and throw them. Imagine now, what happens, even among the best of friends.
Utter mayhem. Brother stabs brother. Screaming commences. "What are we doing?" "Put me down!" "Damn it! Stop chopping the grass and get over here, Purple!" Everyone has to run against the edge of the screen to move into the next screen area, you see. This becomes agonizing, particularly when one of the bunch gets frisky with a fire wand, which sends everyone's little Link scattering madly around the screen with his butt on fire, catching the other Links on fire. It never seems to end.
Again and again, the game will test your friendship beyond its natural limits. Let's get everyone to stand on a button to open the next gate! Again! Oh, but there's a pit, so you have to throw your buddy over. Oops, did he fall down the pit? Or, in a boss sequence, where each of you has to deflect the boss' fireball in turn, and one guy misses, allowing the fireball to explode, showering everyone else with deadly shrapnel. Or, worse, when one of you dies in a boss battle, dropping most of his crystals, and the game LETS THE PLAYERS STEAL THEIR DEAD FRIEND'S MONEY as he lies there on the ground waiting to respawn. As if to illustrate that your friends are bastards, the game will show the GBA screen of the last guy lagging behind in a dungeon, while everyone else waits for him up on the surface. "Look, here is your 'friend,' keeping you mired in inaction as he loots the lingering treasure gems from yet another brownish, formless dungeon," it says. Hell, the game even puts you all on pedastals that go up and down at the end of each world area, rating you against each other in gem collecting, monster-smashing, friendly fire, and other more mysterious categories, all for no real reason whatsoever other than to make you all hate each other.
It didn't have to be this way. There didn't have to be friendly fire. Or fighting over crystals. No, there certainly did not. Nintendo hates you.
So my friends are bastards, all right, you say, but what about the game itself? Is it otherwise good? Well, I don't know. I don't like Zelda block puzzles or mazes or pits that open right beneath your feet and cast you back down into the dungeon you just worked your way out of. But maybe if you liked that stuff you would try to like this, too.
But aside from so-called friends, there is that damned connectivity thing in the way of your enjoyment, too. See, each time your character goes into a dungeon, or house, or whatever--or even when they just stop and talk to someone standing outside, or get a message from the game after getting some treasure--your character stops and says "GBA" on the TV screen, or just disappears into the cavern, and you have to remember to look down at your little GBA screen and take control of him there. This is... I don't see how this adds up to fun. In fact, all it really does is let the players get lost in separate caverns, and then the shouting ("Where the hell are you guys?") begins again. A particularly annoying minigame illustrates this well: it's a horse race, and it of course has to send you under caverns and things where you have to switch suddenly to the small screen, and then back to the big one. Between trying to locate yourself between the two screens you inevitably lose track of where you are going, and ram your horse straight into a wall. And this is what Nintendo thought would be gobbled up by their whorish Zelda fans?
The game doesn't even look very good on the GC screen. Most of the sprites are low resolution, but a filtering is applied to them on the high resolution screen, making them blurry (I was playing this in progressive scan). Just to make sure you really are blurry, you can hold the left shoulder button to zoom your character view up in a circle on the main screen, usually blocking everyone else's view. But they're dicks, anyway, so screw 'em. Some of the effects, like smoke swirls, are high-res sprites, and these look nice, but out of place against the low-res stuff. And then, the designers thought they'd show off some cutting edge 2D by putting moving cloud shadows over the landscape, so everything outside tends to be in this murky half-light. Oh, and the indoor areas look like 8-bit stuff. As if to remind you that Nintendo is merely pimping out their former, 8-bit greatness, they also recycle music from the old games. Why write new stuff when the old stuff was popular?
This game spreads hate. It appears to be fairly lengthy, but you will have stopped associating with your former friends long before you get anywhere near the end, I suspect.
Oh, and this just bugs the snot out of me: in the game, the object (don't ask me about the story, I formatted my memory of it) is called "The Four Sword." This makes my head hurt.