Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Four Links for the price of none

In the hubbub, hype and over-excitement of E3 2011, some gamers would have been particularly delighted by a DSiWare announcement from Nintendo: while that seems unlikely, it does reflect the dedication of fans and their love for the Zelda series. After a relatively short wait, the much anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition is now available for free download on the DSi or 3DS.

This Four Swords anniversary edition is a remake of the title that was included with the Game Boy Advance version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: it was an additional multi-player only game that utilised the GBA link cable and played with the same 2D top-down perspective as the main game on the cart. It must be clarified that this new edition is not a simple port, but a new version with additional stages and a single-player mode. The developer given the task was Grezzo, that brought us The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, and this is another example of a remake constructed with loving care, attention to detail and quality craftsmanship.

In terms of the storyline of this particular entry in the canon, an evil wind mage called Vaati escapes his seal in the legendary ‘Four Sword’. Naturally his first action is to kidnap Zelda with the purpose of marrying her, and once again Link is tasked with rescuing the Princess. It’s standard fare except for the twist that Link, in order to complete his mission, utilises the power of the sword to separate himself into four parts. It’s a fun little storyline but ultimately inconsequential, with the plot acting as a means to set up the main gameplay mechanic of a team of Links working together.

The campaign itself is relatively short, clocking in at around two-three hours to work through the four main stages – as well as a very thorough training area – with each stage including three levels. Each stage has a specific theme, whether it’s woodland, icy terrain or the ever-present Death Mountain, and you’ll see each area more than once. This is a title that requires you to play-through on multiple occasions, on each occasion gathering rupees to gain a different coloured key. Unlike other Zelda titles, the focus is on accumulating as many rupees as possible, with each play-through demanding bigger treasure hauls from more challenging versions of the stages. Beating the game first-time around also unlocks the ‘Realm of Memories’, exclusive to this anniversary edition and including three new stages based on previous releases in the series. We won’t spoil which areas from which games are reproduced, but fans of the series are likely to be swept away by nostalgia.

It’s likely that most will spend a lot of time on the single player story mode. Rather than the full contingent of four heroes, the single player mode sets you on your journey with two characters. While it may seem, in principle at least, daunting to control multiple characters, the implementation of level design and controls makes it feel intuitive and natural. In terms of the controls, there is the standard movement with the D-Pad, while all four face buttons are used for your sword, equipped item and actions such as opening chests and pulling blocks.

The X button is particularly important, however, as it is used to summon your other Link with a shrill whistle. While the two Links move together by default, it is possible to select one or the other with either of the shoulder buttons. Taking into account that each Link only carries one item, which includes series favourites such as the bow, boomerang and bombs, it becomes a tactical process to decide which item to equip to your characters. Throw in the ability for one Link to throw another over pits, and you have a set of puzzles designed to make you manage your items, switch characters and, at the right moment, summon the other Link with a whistle. It’s actually possible to get yourself stuck permanently, though most will avoid this, forcing you to restart that section of the stage. Considering each level is 10 minutes or under, this isn’t typically a major problem.

This tactical play, combined with the classic 2D Zelda sword-fighting mechanics, offers an engaging and enjoyable experience most of the time. While most stages have been redesigned and tweaked to suit a single player, there are occasional moments, particularly boss fights, when colour-coded attacks or actions are needed from each character and the gameplay mechanics feel a little cumbersome and awkward. It doesn’t happen often, but when these imbalanced sections occur they may frustrate less patient gamers. Aside from these moments the difficulty is actually quite low, with healing fairies in bountiful supply. Purists of the series only need to work through the second and third batch of campaign levels, however, to come up against a stiffer challenge.

Considering that the single player is an enjoyable experience on the whole, it should be no surprise that the multiplayer component is a blast: this, after all, is how this title is supposed to be played. Using local wireless from within the title, it’s a simple process of each player selecting their profile – of which you have three in total – and choosing the multiplayer option. One player sets up a session and the other joins, with the whole process being quick and seamless. It’s local only with no online play, but considering that this title is free until 20th February 2012, it would be petty to complain. In our experience online wouldn’t work sufficiently anyway, as communicating with the other players quickly is necessary and adds to the fun, so local play is a perfect fit.

We completed a playthrough of the game in around three hours in multiplayer, with one player using a DSi and the other using a 3DS. In terms of the performance of the game, it was excellent overall. On a couple of occasions there was a brief moment of lag that quickly passed, while the music between the devices would occasionally go out of sync. That aside, it was smooth running, and it's clear that the levels work best in the multiplayer format. Not only were some stages slightly different and, in some ways, more engaging, but those frustrating boss fights from the single player were easier to defeat. This is, simply, the best way to enjoy this title.

The overall presentation of this title is highly polished, with menus and a user interface that fits perfectly with the vibe of the GBA original. These are classic 2D Zelda graphics, with bright pixel animations and environments for retro gamers to croon over. The new Realm of Memories stages are a particular delight, with some stylistic touches that reflect Grezzo’s respect for the source material. The sound is excellent, with blasts of classic bit-tune Zelda music that are wonderful to hear.


Not only has Nintendo provided a free Zelda title to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the series, but it’s a game that has hours of replay value and a multiplayer component that is a joy to play. The occasional touch of lag or out of sync music don’t distract too much from the experience. The single player is also an accomplishment of thoughtful design, with just a few points where the balance of play doesn’t quite suit the mechanics. Overall, however, this is a terrific new version of the Four Swords adventure, lovingly crafted and full of content: if you haven’t already done so, download it now.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

In the second of two videos, Robin Williams once again bets his beard he can beat his daughter, Zelda, at Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edit

User Comments (72)



Spoony_Tech said:

@Sir_Dragon What does the fact its free have anything to do with the rating of this game?!

I for one have only played a little bit and so far like what I see. I would gladly pay money for this game as it has more content then half of what's offered on the dsi shop channel!



Adamant said:

You're being awfully kind to the single player mode. Yes, it's nice of them to add it considering this is a straight remake of a game that originally didn't have one, but the game is clearly not designed to be played this way, and the mode suffers as a result.
The GC Four Swords game was intended to be played in both single and multiplayer from the get-go - play a couple stages from that in single player with the Dsiware game fresh in your mind to see what a huge difference that makes.



Tethers said:

I'll have to admit to Adamant that the singleplayer mode of the GameCube version of Four Swords is a lot better than this DSiWare edition. Because of that I would give the game a 7 or 8.




as a free dsiware title of this quality definately a 9/10. However, overall an 8/10. Not one of Zelda's better games (as they're all 9 or 10) but STILL a very good game.



Geonjaha said:

Seeing as Pop Island Paperfield got a 9/10 and its not free, then yes this definately deserves a 9/10 at least. Theres me hating on Pop Island again :3



MrMagpie said:

I was always annoyed that the game included on the LTTP cart never had single player. This solves the problem nicely



ElReminator said:

The stages change upon multiple playthroughs?

I didn't know that!!! I'll go right back in then!



Aqueous said:

You forgot to mention the extremely difficult Hero's Trail, it takes 30000 to get to it or from what I hear 5 medals, warning it makes things very difficult. Also you didn't mention the power ups, they are under help/manual. Great review though, 9 fits well with the writing. Though I think it's perfect.



MakeMyBiscuit said:

Thanks for the review. In my book it scores 10/10. It's free! This is a game I would have bought anyways.

This game makes me glad I did not get rid of my DSi XL when I got my 3DS. I downloaded it for both systems for instant multi player action!

Thank you Nintendo



Milkman-123 said:

im stuck on the 2nd realm of memories stage ): .i cant get past the second part of the links awakening level ): . help me with links to the internet, anyone?



warioswoods said:

I've downloaded it on my old DSi and my 3DS, which makes for a great ready-made two player setup... but when I convinced a friend to have a go, we ran into an unfortunate problem. We played through a long level, having a great time, and then a 'communication error' occurred and destroyed all our progress, straight back to the menu as if we hadn't been playing : /

We were sitting side my side, but I wonder if having the systems too close could actually cause a wireless error; I believe I was leaning in to see her screen and had the systems within a few inches when the error came up. Oh well.



JayceJa said:

to be honest, i didnt get through the tutorial because the single player doesnt seem to play well at all for me, i may give it another shot at some point, but itll probably gather virtual dust since noone i know has a 3ds/dsi who uses it



ThomasBW84 said:

@Aqueous - You're right on both points The power-ups are useful for improving the speed, defence and power of the Link characters, though I suspect most will just grab them automatically alongside the rupees without thinking twice about it!

@warioswoods - That's unfortunate, I didn't encounter any issues when I tried out multiplayer. I understand from comments on the forums that the wireless can struggle if there are a lot of signals bouncing around, but our phones and wireless router didn't seem to cause any issues. We were sitting right next to each other and, apart from a couple of moments of lag, it went off without a hitch. Unless you had the game paused or in suspend state for a long time I guess it was down to a technical hitch and bad luck

I've thoroughly enjoyed this game, particularly in the multiplayer. Opinion will vary, but I personally think it's pretty generous of Nintendo to give this away for free, as it has a lot of play-time as well as the gameplay being top-notch. A real step-up from previous freebies such as the Excitebike 3D Classic.



Luffymcduck said:

This is my favourite DSiWare title, even in single-player. And multiplayer is great fun even though not as good as Four Swords Adventures on NGC. Better than Shantae RR and free.



pntjr said:

9/10 is too much, maybe an 8. ARe you guys just giving first party games 9s and 10s? What's going on?



TourianTourist said:

Yeah, the Hero's Trial should be somewhere mentioned in this review. This is the hardest **** in any Zelda game yet! Even Zelda II is a walk in the park compared to this stage. It blows tons of enemies at you with the nastiest combinations (Ice Wizrobes and B+C Troopers, anyone?), it's cheap, it's cruel, it's never ending and it will kill you many, many times. I haven't even cleared all of the Hero's Trial yet, but I already need therapy. Zelda fans were asking for some challenge since years now and this one offers enough challenge for a life time.



Aqueous said:

@ThomasBW84 - I was thinking along the lines of the master sword and hurricane spin (which I am yet to get despite clearing everything else, that last part of the hero trail's third level is extremely difficult) power ups, but those help too.



Raylax said:

I agree with the score - the single player is a 7 or 8 out of ten, and the multiplayer is a definite 10/10. Which is why it spawned Four Swords Adventures, which I'd also rate 9/10 - that had stronger single player, and whist the multiplayer was simply unmatched, it did come with quite a heavy hardware price tag (even if all your friends had GBAs, they still needed the GBA-GCN cables). So Four Swords DSiWare definitely gets a 9/10 from me too.



StephenYap3 said:

Excellent review, Whitehead, but I'm going to have to give this game a 7. In my opinion, Four Swords 25th is great, though I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to. It was free for the least part.



LordJumpMad said:

Great review Master James.
Free + Zelda is always a sweat mix
Don't know why people are butt hurtting over free game. :/



TeeJay said:

Wow, People are actually arguing over the score of a free game? The internet never ceases to amaze me.



Bass_X0 said:

They're arguing over the quality of the game taken seperately from it being free. I wouldn't score Superman 64 highly even if that was given away free.



ville10 said:

Great review, agree with mostly everything.

Single player worked much better than I expected it to, I haven't had the problems with the bosses you mention. My problem with the mode lies in the competitive nature of the level design, it simply doesn't make sense to lone players.

I guess the fun increases with the number of players. Having played the game with only my brother, I would probably have given it an 8, but if I had more players available I could see myself giving it a 9 or even a 10.



grumblegrumble said:

Even if it wasn't free, even if I'd paid $5 for it, I would have given it a 10/10. Great game! A great example of what Nintendo has to offer, and it's even more wonderful for FREE I actually love playing it by myself, it's a great game either way.



Luffymcduck said:

Yeah it´s wierd Hero´s Trial isn´t mentioned in the review. It was challencing enough for me at least.



HanuKwanzMasBif said:

Short, but otherwise pretty much perfect. I had a great time going through the single player mode, and multiplayer is superior.



Expa0 said:

It's funny when a joke of a game like this gets a 9/10 just because it's a Zelda game. And it's maddening to think that a masterpiece like Breath of Fire 2 only got a 8/10, which means that there really are idiots who consider this the better game? Just no.



Crystalking18 said:

It's a very good game for what it's worth. The single player is a very nice touch and it just goes to show that Nintendo will sometimes go the extra miles for its fans (sometimes....). And yes, the Hero's Trail made me rage quit quite a few times, and that's something I NEVER do. I want to see the person that was able to beat all of it, because he is clearly a massochist



Radixxs said:

Having never played it before this week and only having played single player, I'd give this game a 6. Compared to other brilliant Zelda games (see Minish Cap and the DS series) the level design wasn't too great and the first play-through was almost mind-numbingly boring. The only reason I even completed the first play-through is because I have nothing else to play on my 3DS. Even if the stages change or increase in difficulty, there is no real incentive to continue. I imagine this game would be much more fun with co-op, but I don't have the means for that. Overall I think this may have been great when it was released, but if it hadn't have been free I would be very dissatisfied with the download.



timp29 said:

I love the little baddies that you tear in half. lolz

I understand why some people are questioning the score, this title probably doesn't have the story element of other zelda games, it's basically just hack and slash. But still good fun none-the-less, I wish I could experience it multiplayer.

I would probably score it a tad lower, because 1) no online multiplayer (really kills the multiplayer experience for most) and 2) no save state on going to the home menu for single player people. With those 2 features this would be a 9 or 10, but either way, it is still a great game, AND IT'S FREE!



WiiLovePeace said:

Wow I'm seriously suprised this didn't get 10/10 simply because it's free. They're giving it away, I don't see how we can demand more from Nintendo. & the fact I've encountered no bugs in any of my playthrough, it's perfectly awesome in my eyes



Zach said:

To those who argue that this only got a 9 because it's a Zelda game, did you know that we game Twilight Princess an 8?



Linkuini said:

I had the same problem that warioswoods did. The communication cut out right as my brother and I were about to finish the boss of that ice level and we had to do the whole level again. It wasn't so bad, though, since the dungeon we went through on our second try had a completely different layout. It didn't happen again for the rest of our play time, which consisted of 3 other levels.

I haven't played in single player at all, and don't plan to. I figure that the game being free will mean that more people will have it and be able to play. So based on the multiplayer alone, a 9 seems right to me. The way that the Zelda mechanics I know and love have been translated so naturally into a multiplayer game is just ingenious.



Sh00kst3r said:

Oh Activision and Bungie, why did thou make us only want online?

Seriously, though. Online would SUCK here. If you say this game needs it, you obviously haven't played multiplayer yet. I've gotten my two cousins, sister, and I to play it together. Them hearing you scream "STAND ON THE FREAKIN' BUTTON" is vital.

I'd score it 10/10 overall, though. Singleplayer is still pretty sweet.



bezerker99 said:

This game, in my opinion, is excellent! Best Zelda game to come out in a looooong time!!!!



Tigus said:

Epic game glad I waited sooo long to play just the original version on gba and this was even better great reviews as always.



TeeJay said:

@expa0 How exactly is this a "joke" of a game? You seem to be the only person here who thinks this.



Teh-Ray said:

People who think it deserves less than a 9 obviously haven't played the multiplayer, or have at least played multiplayer with some really bad teammates.



Linkstrikesback said:

4 swords wouldn't work online, being able to scream and shout at the person next to you for being an ass is the most key element of the multiplayer mode.



phoenix1818 said:

Good review! Here's hoping for some more free game remakes and re-releases in the future!

Also, as a general rule, a game's score should not be influenced by its price. So you guys should stop arguing that the score should be higher or lower just because this game is free.



XCWarrior said:

I gave the original 4 Swords a 5/10, so I doubt they fixed all the problems it had to make it a 9. But I know I'm in the minority. It's a free download, so I won't complain, and I'll start playing it eventually. Glad it doesn't cost money though.



LztheQuack said:

@phoenix: I disagree. A higher price should mean higher quality. If this were $15 I'd give it a lower score based on my expectations for a typical $15 game. Since it's free I have very little expectations yet it was still fun and worth the no price tag



LordAndrew said:

@expa0 It's maddening to think that there are idiots who whine about the difference between an eight and a nine. What's the next score after 8? Here's a hint: it's 9. Both mean the reviewer considers it a great game.



Bloodysaber said:

I'd have given this a 7 or 8 because of its lack of online play... But it was free, they added new levels, and it was all kind s of fun.



lalalalalalal said:

I'm stuck. On every level I try to play. I don't understand!! I'm amazing at OOT 3D, Twilight princess, Links awakening DX, The adventures of Link, And mostly all Zelda games! This is confusing!!!



TeeJay said:

@61 You're most likely forgetting that you can pick up a Link and throw it across pits. I forget sometimes.



SaKo said:

For all those people saying that the key element of the multiplayer mode is shouting at people and telling them what to do, The dsi/3ds has a microphone...



Mr-X9000 said:

4 links for the price of none=rofl
does anyone know how to save their progress in this game?



HugoSmits said:


it saves automatically after you beat a dungeon/level, however the 'chamber of insights' doesn't count!

So the first time (especially as a new comer) you need to play for like 1 hour to get to the save point. It's really horrible in design. Even more so if you consider this is a handheld title, meaning most game sessions consist out of little bursts.



LuigioverMario said:


I use it and it is awesome! Also, I am stuck on the deku tree in ocarina of time 3d.Can someone plz help?



TikiTong said:

For some reason ,I cant beat vaati, i spent 20 minutes throwing bombs at him and damaging him, and he didnt DIE!!!!!! I really like this though, its nice since io never played the original 4 swords.



Geonjaha said:

@70 Haha! I played with my brother and sister and we had trouble when we fought him. It was fun until the end though and we made it work. >:3



SonicTheBluBlur said:

@LuigioverMario You're SERIOUSLY stuck on THAT? You must be HORRIBLE! I got through it on the first try WITHOUT consulting the Internet, magazines, OR other people! You suck! Also, you do know you can pause the game to check the Internet, then go back to playing, right?



Mus1cLov3r said:

Ah, the game that got me into one of my favorite game series's of all time. I'm super glad that it was free, otherwise I would've never gotten it.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...