I completed all of the levels and beat the game. I did a few level challenges, but not many. I won a few coliseum battles, but I lost a lot more. I completed a handful of levels with strangers over wi-fi, but this experience was frustrating. I got a bunch of the outfits, but not all of them.
I feel like I need to try to say something positive about Tri Force Heroes. Let’s see…
The graphics and music and sound effects are wonderful, and they work together to make the game surprisingly atmospheric. For example, in the snow world, the quality of the light and the muted music and the sound of snow crunching under Link’s feet all come together to evoke a palpable sense of winter cold.
Some of the puzzles are very well designed. It’s good to get more play out the of A Link Between Worlds engine, and the totem mechanic was confusing at first but grew on me very quickly.
The outfits were actually useful. Being able to throw bigger bombs or walk on sand without sinking really comes in handy on certain levels. I appreciate how effective the outfits are in making the gameplay much smoother and more enjoyable.
The endlevel fights are a lot of fun. One fight in the “ruins” (haunted house) level has the player chasing ghosts through a dimly lit library. I enjoyed this battle, as it privileged quick timing, teamwork, memory, and navigation through a creepy setting. The occasional large boss monsters are gorgeously drawn and animated. There’s a giant snake at the end of the snow world whose tiny individual scales glisten in a way that had me staring at the screen and being like, Why is this so beautiful?
The town of Hytopia was interesting. Even though it’s small, it’s filled with touches that make it more real to the player, like the cicada tree in the southeast corner of town. The localization gives all of the characters great dialog, and the noises some of them make are priceless.
The game is refreshingly nonjudgmental concerning Link’s presentation of his gender. Just outside the dressing room of Madame Couture’s shop is a woman who gives Link cute compliments no matter what he wears. If he wears a dress or a pink cheerleading outfit with a miniskirt, nobody cares or makes any stupid jokes. There aren’t any “positive messages” regarding gender presentation either – it’s just completely normal that Link can dress however he wants. He’s cautioned against wearing his teddybear jammies into battle, but that’s less prescriptive and more of a silly statement regarding fashion.
It’s not a bad game, it just…
It just doesn’t have any of the things people love about the Zelda series. There’s no exploration, and there’s no gradual building of skills or opening of the game. There’s no clever dual world structure, there are no sprawling dungeons whose puzzles all fit together neatly, there’s no thrill of discovery, and there’s no story. Instead, there’s grinding for materials and beating up strangers over wi-fi, neither of which is particularly satisfying to me personally.
Tri Force Heroes works reasonably well as a multiplayer game, and I assume the “grinding for materials” aspect is supposed to reward the people who play for friendship instead of for the game itself. I can imagine a bunch of kids sitting around on Thanksgiving and completing the same set of stages over and over because they’re kids and that’s just how they interact with each other.
It’s therefore unfair to compare Tri Force Heroes to “a Zelda game,” but it’s also unfair not to expect people to make the comparison. I kept thinking that, if this weren’t marketed as a Zelda game, but rather as the first game in its own franchise, then people would have been a lot happier with it.
In the end, I had fun, but I’m not sad to put Tri Force Heroes down for the time being. At least I know I can always come back to it right where I left off.
( Header image by bellhenge on Deviant Art )