The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures | GC (2004)
A nearly unnoticed GBA side project becomes its own full-fledged game, dragging Zelda into multiplayer territory. And you know what? It friggin' works.
The legend: The seal surrounding a powerful wizard has become weak, so Link, Zelda and a group of maidens investigate. When they arrive, Shadow Link abducts the maidens and tucks them away in crystals a la Link to the Past. Link then obtains the Four Sword, which splits him into four separate Links and also releases the aforementioned wizard, Vaati. After a long trek through an abridged Hyrule, the four Links stop Vaati and his master - yup, you guessed it, Ganon.
Master swords: This is more of a time killer than a true Zelda adventure. As such, most of the graphics, items, sound effects and enemies are recycled from previous games. The emphasis was put entirely on the multiplayer aspect, with each Link responding to a different player. Up to four could play at once, each trying to beat more enemies and collect more Force Gems than the rest. Sure, you had to team up to move large boulders, solve certain puzzles or tackle stronger enemies, but the atmosphere inevitably turned competitive, with green Link tossing blue Link off a bridge or into the drink.
The Force Gem hoarding wasn't just about points though. If you hadn't collected a set amount by the time you got to a boss (every three stages), you had to take a step back and try again. This became a huge nuisance once the levels started ballooning into multi-stage escapades, though the ability to split up did alleviate some of the backtracking troubles. For example, one Link could enter a house or proceed through a dungeon while the others fought on the overworld - the spelunking Link would appear on your connected Game Boy, while the rest would be on the main TV. It was one hell of a sight to see, and even more fun to play. We never would have imagined a multiplayer Zelda could work, but here it is, nearly forgotten to time.
Best Moment: Getting four people (with four GBAs and four Link Cables) together for a multiplayer brawl.
I AM ERROR: Um, yeah... all that cool stuff up there? The multiplayer bit with the pushing and shoving and stealing of Gems? Doesn't work with one person. The game kinda loses its appeal when played all alone, as the controls really weren't designed to handle four Links at once. But even having four willing bodies isn't enough, as each person needs a Game Boy Advance and a Link Cable. What are the odds that all those criteria will be met? We managed to tear through the game as it was meant to be played and loved it, but we sincerely doubt that was the case for everyone else. It was possible to play with just two people, but it's just not the same. The graphics are two generations behind the GameCube, but we aren't holding that against Four Swords Adventures - we love all the extra effects and huge amount of enemies displayed at the same time.
It's a secret to everybody: Four Swords began as a bonus game attached to the GBA version of Link to the Past. Most everything here got its start on that cart two years earlier - The villain Vaati was practically an unknown when he appeared here. His only prior appearance was that same GBA cart - In an effort to encourage multiplayer games, it came packed with a bonus Link Cable - Though there's no direct connection to Wind Waker, this game borrows many visual cues from that 'tooned-up adventure.
Hero of time? No way. We love it, respect it and applaud it, but calling this the best Zelda ever is misunderstanding what the word "Zelda" means. 8/10