It’s no secret that I love me some Zelda. From the tattoo on my chest to the shrine in my room and all the framed posters in between, I am a hardcore fanboy. As such I have to get myself into a certain mindframe in order to review a game like this, and approach the title as though I am a new player. Thankfully, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes strikes a fantastic balance of new and old culminating in a fun experience for both returning fans like me and new players, like I was pretending to be.
Unlike most Zelda games which start with an artistic rendering of lore describing battles of the past and our hero in green conquering the forces of darkness, Tri Force Heroes does away with that. While bearing the “Legend of Zelda” title and adorning the “Toon” graphics of the wind waker timeline, this is very much a spinoff. Albeit, a spinoff full of Zelda-y easter eggs and witty humor.
Taking place in Hytopia, a city obsessed with fashion, an evil witch named simply The Lady has taken Princess Styla’s sense of fashion and forcing her into a un-removable bland black bodysuit she wouldn’t want to be caught dead in. After meeting the hilarious criteria of a Tri Force Hero (Pointy Ears, Side Burns and Side-Parted Hair), you’re enlisted by King Tuft to set out into the Drablands in a team of three and conquer The Lady, restoring his daughter to her stylish self.
Tri Force Heroes centres around two key mechanics, both of which are new to the series. The first is Totem Time, in which you and your companion links stack on top of one another to solve puzzles or reach certain areas. This mechanic works quite well as it requires coordination between all players to build a totem high enough, aim in the correct direction, time which link throws who and which link is on top (as their special weapon will be the totem’s primary). This adds a new dimension to not only puzzle solving but boss fights as well, with each foe generally designed to be combated with the level specific items and variations of totems.
The second mechanic is Fashion. Given the overall theme of the city and story, this comes as no surprise. You will eventually be given the chance to order new outfits for your hero by providing certain materials, with each fashion piece granting it’s wearer special abilities to aid in your quest to save the princess and gather more materials. This could be the Legendary Dress, a garb not unlike that of a princess which grants it’s wearer more frequent heart drops, or the Bomb suit which lets you make bigger bombs. They can also ramp up the difficulty, with some outfits granting you less life or taking double damage to give you a new challenge.
Each level is split in four with the final usually being a swarm of enemies or a boss. Once you complete the temple at the end of each level, you will unlock bonus stages to complete for each previous area. These add to the game’s replay value and also allow you to obtain rarer materials for your outfits, some of which cannot be obtained outside of this gameplay.
After trying all different configurations of play style on Tri Force Heroes I can tell you the best way to play is locally with two friends. This ensures a consistently smooth gameplay and gives you an easy means of communicating with your companions to solve puzzles in the drablands and unlock materials for new outfits. To help accommodate this, a full download play is made available. This is in my opinion an underused feature nowerdays for the 3ds but a welcome addition as it allows players without the game to join in on the frantic fun.
Venturing outside of local play is when things get a little annoying. Online multiplayer is a welcome addition but it was in most part a very laggy experience. Also without voice chat capabilities, you must rely on small emotes to relay information to your companions which, while cute, are difficult to use as a means to communicate the execution of a complex zelda puzzle.
Then there is the single player mode which adds both challenge and frustration to the mix. You set out into battle with soul-less “Doppels”, which you can chop and change between on the fly. However in my game time, I don’t believe this gameplay is as balanced as it could be. Instead of streamlining the switching between Doppels to a button, the developers have opted to use the touch screen. This means having to constantly avert your sight from combat to ensure you are switching to the right Doppel. I often found myself playing as much as possible with one link then having everyone else play catchup. It’s also unfortunate you cannot dress the Doppels in outfits as well so as to help make up for the lack of human input at all times.
Finally, the soundtrack is a beautifully orchestrated medley of Zelda scores new and old, with little Easter Eggs planted in the world to trigger even more songs from the Zelda history of music. As with most titles in the Legend of Zelda series, it’s easy to lose yourself in the instrumental magic of the score.
Awkward gameplay twitching aside, Tri Force Heroes is a quirky fun addition to the Legend of Zelda family. If you are a lover of sift challenging puzzles and adoreable, over-the-top fashion puns and tropes, this game is right up your alley. And if not, well it’s a great game regardless. I’d still give it a go.