Nintendo brought several key franchises back in unique ways at this E3. I don’t think anybody was expecting Metroid Prime: Federation Force. But, there were some real nice surprises among the line-up this year, one of them being The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes. This is a very cool spin on Four Swords gameplay, although it’s using the Link Between Worlds engine, albeit retaining the Four Swords/Wind Waker art style.
Characters are now customisable, so you can play as Link, or even Zelda, decked out in any number of costumes. Rather than just a game of dress-up, costumes also come with unique ability boosts, such as increased area attacks. It’s a smart way to keep players visually distinct, but make each player a unique part of the team.
The dungeon I tackled with two others in my demo was ranked at about mid-difficulty. There were a number of rooms that relied on the new ‘totem’ technique, where players stack up on one another to reach higher levels (such as reaching high torches to fire arrows through). Other rooms were more conventional, requiring one player to use arrows on specific bad guys, while another with bombs had to focus on throwing them on platforms to clear others.
The hardest room I encountered had a barrage of arrows coming from one direction on a narrow path. The only way through was to use pushable stones as shields. Unfortunately, this was the point at which we were unable to work together, partly due to one of us heading forward too soon and leaving the others open to the barrage of arrows, also possibly partly due to the fact I would pick up other players and throw them down pits. Who can say? This also highlighted a new addition to the gameplay from Four Swords, in that every player shares a single health meter. It’s great incentive not to murder your comrades (well, it would be to other, saner individuals), but also makes teamwork essential when facing waves of enemy attacks. You also need all three players on Tri Force shaped pressure pads at the end of each dungeon level to progress – so leaving your slower team-mates behind while you rush forward really won’t get you very far.
Tri Force Heroes is an unexpected, but welcome, follow-up to Link Between Worlds. It’s unclear at the moment whether you’ll need to play through the entire game with others via local or online play, or whether AI will be available for single-player. According to statements made by the game’s director, the focus will also be on the game’s dungeons, with an overworld omitted for a lengthy dungeon crawl. Either way, it’s definitely going to provide a fresh experience on the 3DS, when the game is released later this year.