Tri Force Heroes Wrap-Up Post

Tri Force Heroes by bellhenge

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 )

Tri Force Heroes – Grinding for Outfits

Shifuku ga are na yūsha kōho by Anri

In order to get all of Link’s outfits in Tri Force Heroes, the player needs to grind for both rupees and materials.

Grinding for rupees becomes significantly less of a problem after Link puts together the Rupee Regalia, which allows him to pick up between 300 and 500 rupees in about 60 seconds just by cutting the bushes around town.

The materials are more of a problem. There are two types of materials: those that the player can win at the end of a level, and those that must be won through competitive play via the game’s Coliseum feature.

At the end of each successfully completed level, the player is offered a choice of three chests whose contents are predetermined based on the level and any challenge the player has applied to that level. If the player is looking for a specific material, there are stages and conditions in which two of the three chests will hold that material. Still, because the placement is random, there’s no guarantee that you won’t open your chest at the end of the level to get the 1/3 probability material over… and over… and over…

There’s a street peddler in town whose wares change every day, and it’s possible to buy materials from him. There’s also a free random treasure chest game in town from which Link can win materials. You can’t get every material in this way, though, and the daily selection is random.

A subset of the materials can only be won by going into the Coliseum area, connecting to other players via wi-fi, and then beating the shit out of them. You only have a chance at getting your hands on one of the Coliseum-specific materials if you win the match, but there’s no chance that you’ll get the rare material even if you do win. Moreover, each material is connected to a specific area, and there’s no guarantee that the other two players won’t choose to play in a different area.

Each match in the Coliseum is very short – only about three minutes – but you have to be prepared to play a lot of them in order to get the materials you need to put together all the outfits. What happened to this game being meant to inspire cooperative play?

In addition, there are the two outfits that can only be bought with friendship tokens. You don’t get friendship tokens by playing with strangers or registered friends over wi-fi, but only by connecting with other players in the same physical proximity via the Local Play feature. What this means is that you have to have a certain number of (a) friends (b) who have 3DS systems and (c) will agree to play this game with you. Either that, or you need to arrange some sort of meetup with a local geek community or at a geek convention. This all sounds fine in theory…

…but bros I am a grown-ass woman and don’t have time for that shit.

The point I’m driving at here is that Tri Force Heroes seems to put a lot of emphasis on grinding for materials, which is neither enjoyable nor strictly even possible unless you the player put in the time in your real life to grind for friends to play the game with.

I suppose I could be less of an introvert and use this game as an excuse to go out and find my local gaming community, but let’s be honest – I have to deal with other people all day as part of my job, and when I get home I just want to have a glass of wine and sprawl out on my couch and play some video games.

What I’ve always enjoyed about the Zelda games is that they give me a sense of completion and progress that I don’t always experience in my real life. In a Zelda game, there are a finite number of things to do and collect, and once you’ve done and found them all you are the master of your own little digital domain. With Tri Force Heroes, I feel like I am never doing or collecting enough. This makes the outfit construction elements of the game both addictive and repetitive – so all about grinding, basically.

I understand that there will be a DLC update in early December that will give the player an outfit (modeled after Linebeck, one of my favorite characters!!) that will allow her to see the contents of materials chests before she opens them. After I complete the main portion of the game, I think I might wait until this update to dig my heels into the project of getting all the outfits.

( Header image by Anri on Twitter )

Tri Force Heroes – Connectivity

Triforce Sanjūshi by lulu

Sometimes this game is so frustrating that I feel like I’m being punished in some way.

Here’s the deal:

You can play the game in single-player mode, but it’s clunky and repetitive.

In order to get all the outfits – or any of the outfits, actually – the player needs to grind for both rupees and treasure. There is very little fun involved in this in single-player mode. Replaying a Zelda dungeon once is okay, I guess; replaying a Zelda dungeon over and over and over in the hopes of getting a randomly generated treasure at the end is a waste of life on this earth.

The game really shines when you’re playing with other people, even if they’re strangers. There is an obvious joy in working together, figuring out puzzles as a team, and communicating via messages of support and encouragement.

HOWEVER.

In order for this type of play to work, all three players need to have a stable connection. If one of the players loses the signal – let’s say they’re using wi-fi on a train that enters a tunnel – everyone gets kicked off the game and all progress is lost, no matter how long your team has been playing together (and some of these levels take a long time). Also, if one person’s connection is spotty, then everyone’s game is going to be extremely jerky, which makes it difficult to perform complicated maneuvers like walking in a straight line.

So far I’ve spent about six hours in online play, and I’ve only had three completely smooth sessions. I performed a few diagnostic tests on my wireless connection to make sure that I’m not the problem, but who can say. I wonder if part of the issue lies with Nintendo’s servers, which were more than likely bombarded with a sudden influx of cosplaying Links these past few weekends.

There was obviously a lot of love put into Tri Force Heroes, but for me it’s almost painful to play at times.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has felt this way…

“It’s really too bad. Many of these unavoidable issues – lag, disconnects, bad teammates, etc. – are exacerbated by some baffling design decisions…”
(from the Kotaku review)

“For each wonderful moment there’s an equivalent frustration, however, with difficulty spikes that deplete a team’s shared life bar before you know what’s happening, or dungeon designs that are simply B-list in execution. There are even poor calls made in implementing lobbies online…”
(from the Nintendo Life review)

“But be warned: we encountered a few bouts of lag both locally and online, which is always a pain in puzzles that require careful timing. We couldn’t pinpoint the reason for the slowdown… Playing online was a much worse experience.”
(from the IGN review)

“You’d better hope your partners have a solid Wi-Fi connection, though. If not, the game will slow the frame rate to a crawl to ensure that everyone remains in sync at all times. There were times in my tests where I could literally count the frames per second on a single hand as the game chugged and buffered nearly unplayably. It’s hard to say how much Nintendo’s own server infrastructure is to blame for this kind of performance…”
(from the Ars Technica review)

“By choosing to play by yourself, you invite a level of micromanagement that transforms otherwise clever dungeons into heavy slogs.”
(from the Gamespot review)

“The game is challenging, multiplayer or not, and I cannot tell you how happy I am that this is the case. But on single player, it goes from challenging to just utterly annoying/frustrating.”
(from an editorial on Zelda Dungeon)

( Header image by lulu on Pixiv )

Tri Force Heroes – First Impressions

Triforce Heroes by Icy Snowflakes

Tri Force Heroes has been out for two days shy of three weeks now, and I’m only about halfway through it.

This is because I’ve been treating it like homework.

The game has eight worlds. Each world has four areas, and each area has four stages. Unless you’ve played an area before and know what you’re supposed to do in each of its stages, one area generally takes about fifteen minutes to complete. Some areas take significantly longer, however, and most of this time is spent trying to get a certain game mechanic to work properly.

For example, in the third stage of the second area of the ice world, there is a bomb throwing puzzle that made me so mad that I started yelling obscenities at the game, which is something I almost never do. This is how the puzzle goes:

Link A needs to pick up a bomb flower. Link B will then pick up Link A, and Link C will pick up Link B, forming a three-Link totem. Link C needs to be perfectly positioned before the player switches back to Link A, who will throw the bomb at a cracked block suspended over a chasm with the correct timing for the bomb to explode in midair.

If the player throws the bomb too early, it won’t hit the cracked block, and the player will need to disassemble the totem and do everything again. If the player doesn’t throw the bomb quickly enough (or doesn’t make the totem or the transition back to Link A quickly enough), it will explode in Link A’s hands, causing damage. To make matters worse, this all happens right next to the aforementioned chasm, so if one of the Links falls for any reason – if the totem is knocked over by an unthrown bomb, or if the player has one Link throw another Link off the totem carelessly – the damage is compounded.

It’s a huge pain in the ass, and there are several puzzles like this. (There’s one particular sequence involving bombs and water columns in the river world that made me rage quit the game for three days, but it’s still too soon for me to talk about that.) One might argue that the game works better with three players, but I can’t even begin to imagine how three people would coordinate the precise actions needed to solve these puzzles, especially if they’re not sitting next to each other and can only use the lower-screen buttons to communicate.

I’m only playing through one or two stages every day, if I can bring myself to play the game at all. I actually schedule time to sit at my desk with the game for half an hour, as if I were setting aside time to respond to email. In other words, playing Tri Force Heroes has been kind of a chore.

The game has been growing on me recently, though. We’ll see how I feel after another week.

( Header image by DaYo on Tumblr )