To celebrate the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, we're running a series of features looking at a specific aspect — a theme, character, mechanic, location, memory or something else entirely — from each of the mainline Zelda games. Today, Gavin struggles to gather the necessary items to get his multiplayer quests going in the first place...
First up, let's preface things by saying that this isn't going to be some sad story about a 'Billy No-Mates' who couldn't scrounge up a few friends to play video games with. Promise.
I wasn't the most gregarious young adult, sure, but whipping up enthusiasm for kart races or deathmatches wasn't totally beyond me. Later, university housemates were easier to corral and we'd regularly gather around a GameCube and blast through rounds of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! of an evening — or, on occasion, a Tuesday lunchtime. Students, huh?! Tsk.
If rounding up three buddies wasn't the hardest thing in the world, even for a socially-inept teen like myself, the Four Swords games presented more significant obstacles: namely, finding three buddies that each owned a Game Boy Advance and a copy of the game and a link cable. That was a mighty challenge, and one I simply wasn't up to at the time. The result? A big old gap in my personal Hyrule Historia.
The first multiplayer-focused Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords on GBA, came bundled with a port of a little SNES game you might have heard of, so you could totally ignore the curious add-on adventure with multicoloured Links and slice through A Link to the Past on a portable. And so I did.
You see, my pals at the time had PlayStations (if they had a console at all), so having gone the N64/GameCube route, I was already isolated, gaming-wise. Still, the promise of a cool frosty beverage would have been sufficient to bag me three Links willing to take up arms against Vaati, but getting hold of the gear necessary to start the adventure in the first place was always the real issue. To this day, I've never played a multiplayer Zelda game as it's meant to be played.
Worried that perhaps I kept poor company and just needed a better calibre of Nintendo-phile acquaintance — people who came ready-equipped for an adventure! — I asked my Nintendo Life colleagues about their experiences with both the original Four Swords and the GameCube sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. A couple dozen people who write for a Nintendo-focused website should turn up some Four Swords faithfuls, no?
A quick survey around our (virtual) office revealed that, in fact, I wasn't alone. Even in our uber-fan-filled ranks of staff and contributors, only three people had managed to play Four Swords as nature (well, Nintendo) intended — with four people — and one of those was for a short while at a retro convention.
The whole notion of a multiplayer Zelda game feels like a contradiction to my perception of the series; a dichotomy I can't quite get my head around, perhaps because I've never properly experienced it. I've always been a little jealous of people who play through these games with their partners or friends, switching controllers periodically or having a silent partner along for the adventure — their own personal Navi (minus the shrill "Hey listen!", of course). For me, Zelda has always been about the lone adventurer off on an epic quest — myself and Link in the same boat — yet suddenly that wasn't an option; Four Swords didn't just encourage playing with friends, it required it.
Or it did initially. Nintendo would re-release Four Swords free for a limited time via DSiWare during the 25th anniversary Zelda celebrations (yes, an entire decade ago), and again in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance on the 3DS eShop (4 Swords, 4 Free, 4 Days Only!), which is when I finally played the game in enhanced form. Ported by Grezzo, the Anniversary Edition added a single-player workaround similar to that of the GameCube sequel, and multiplayer now only required three friends each with a 3DS! I burned through it solo, though — my only Nintendo handheld-owning buddy at the time was rocking a DS Lite. Or, more accurately, had a DS Lite in the back of a drawer somewhere. Useless.
Playing solo was fine, though obviously suboptimal; tellingly, I've forgotten almost everything about the game. To get the experience the developer presumably intended, the barrier to entry was far too high for Joe Gamer, or even... erm, what do you call someone with more knowledge and enthusiasm than a Joe? Tony? Yes, Tony Gamer. He had trouble playing Four Swords, too.
Having friends with Game Boys was just the first hurdle; they also needed a copy of the game each, and four players would need to daisy-chain three GBA Link Cables together. It's not the worst shopping list of requirements, granted — I'd managed to wrangle the expensive kit and enthusiastic friends for this type of thing before — but the likelihood of cash-strapped gamers buying duplicates and equipment they'll likely only use for this one game wasn't realistic.
Four Swords Adventures dialled that probability down from 'unlikely' to 'impossible'. I remember looking longingly at footage of four GBA's connected to a single GameCube via four separate (and bespoke) GC-GBA Link Cables and being wow-ed by the possibilities of off-screen play. Remember, we were many years away from Wii U's asymmetrical gameplay back in 2004 (2005 in Europe), and the potential of a joint experience unbound by a single screen was mind-boggling — it still is, in fact.
Yep, Four Sword Adventures sure looked neat-o... just absolutely, thoroughly impractical, is all. I never even owned the GameCube entry until a couple of weeks ago. My few GBA-owning pals in 2005 didn't need a copy of the game this time, but none of them were going to buy a GameCube-GBA link cable just to play a one-off game on their mate's console. We were poor students! Even with Tuesday lunchtimes free to watch Neighbours and Countdown (when we weren't burning around Baby Park), wrangling the kit to get a Four Swords Adventure off the ground just wasn't going to happen.
Okay, but where's the bit where you talk about the games and how great they were? Sorry, friends — this is it. Yes, a single-player mode was included on GameCube, but I haven't played that, and I'm not going to. Come on! Playing Four Swords with a single sword? That's just depressing.
This multiplayer pair remain for me a beautiful idea; a dream that's too impractical to make real. When I asked around to see who had played them properly, Zion — one of our Triforce of lovely NL video producers — told me of his ultimate god-tier experience with Four Swords Adventures: played using five TVs with five GameCubes (four of which were paired with Game Boy Players) at a retro gaming convention several years ago. Can you imagine? You wouldn't even have to worry about your GBA running out of batteries and booting everyone back to the title screen. Now that would be living the dream.
Later Zelda games would explore more accessible multiplayer thanks to online play, but as with many a dream, I've been fascinated by the ‘impossible’ GameCube entry for years. Thanks largely to Zelda's 35th anniversary and the GBA's 20th birthday, I've recently taken to acquiring the consoles and cords needed to host a full Four Swords blow-out and I'm just one GBA and a cable away from the Full Monty™. I fully intend to plug this gap in my series knowledge as soon as possible...
Unfortunately, current restrictions and social distancing rules mean that embarking on my bonafide multiplayer Zelda adventure is more difficult than ever. Yep, it's definitely COVID's fault — I've got dozens of close friends positively itching to play through a fuzzy-looking 2004 local multiplayer game, honest! They definitely wouldn't rather play Overcooked.
Hmm. Back to Breath of the Wild, I guess. The beauty, the isolation... who needs people, right?!
Me and a friend started this just as we were about to go into tge first lockdown. With this current lockdown nearing it's end, we are praying that we can finally get around to finishing. Over 2/3 through, we need to see it out.
I loved the 3DS port they made, it was much easier to play! And the new features they added were pretty great. Sadly I lost that SD Card so I don't have the game anymore.
I had the privilege of experiencing Four Swords Adventures the way it was intended, with 4 people in the same room connected with their GBAs to a GC (we played Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles as well that same day) and it was glorious. We never completed either of those games because we didn't have time for it, but the idea behind those experiences was brilliant, if hard to fully organise in real life.
I eventually completed Four Swords Adventures in solo, later on, but it just wasn't the same.
loved it on my GC, my brother and my two friends who had a SP so when we got 4swords, well... it was mayhem... tossing friends off of ledges, stealing ppls gem because they stole our gems after we sacrificed ourselves for the greater good... friends pushing friends in lava... boy, I hate my friends...
I knew like maybe 2 other people with gamecubes in 2004. Video games then were so dominated by PS2, I sometimes forget how few people were actually playing nintendo games in comparison. so no, i never had other people to play this with lol. That said, it's still a great single player game
Best i could manage of the first four swords with aLttP was two player with one of my brothers, we managed to clear the game no problem. Had a much easier time playing F zero and advance wars with my college mates, as those required one cartridge for a "basic" mode (it was actually really competitive at break time on rainy days, jokingly swearing at each other as mates do haha).
The Gamecube Four Swords Adventures we had two GBAs and two Gamecubes. One Gamecube had a portable monitor and GBA player plugged in, so me and two of my brothers got a 3 player going. We had an identical set up for FF:Crystal Chronicles.
I never met anyone else who had that luxury though.
I loved A Link to the Past, and I played this little cartridge to death. But I never had the capability to try the multiplayer game. The only other person I knew who had a GBA was my girlfriend (later, wife), and she has had no interest in playing anything Zelda-related.
(It's our acceptance of each other's differences that makes our relationship work.
Because we had Four Sword Adventures in college where I provided all the link cables and copies of the game (and even a second gba as I upgraded to the SP), we had a steady group of 4 (five technically, two guys alternated on the loaner gba) and played through the entire game over a little less than a month by getting together regularly and doing it.
Was probably the best zelda experience of my life. And having the full foursome so stages ended with votes that mattered on “who helped” and “who hindered” really did make it.
Everyone had one item they weren’t allowed to use after an “incident”. For one buddy it was the boomerang, because he kept boomeranging folks into pits. For another it was the hookshot... because he kept getting revenge. For me it was the bombs... because one time when I got them upgraded I just figured it was too much fun to put bit bombs everywhere. And for the final buddy it was the roc’s feather... he didn’t do anything wrong with it; but the rest of us lost something and that was his preferred item, and as established, the rest of us were kinda jerks.
As for the original, I had it. Tried it like once or twice with my brother and link cables. Didn’t beat it till the anniversary edition on dsi/3ds let you play solo. The link’s awakening level was neat.
I would love to see them revisit this but bring it online on the Switch.
Probably my favorite multiplayer experience of all time. I’d love to see them bring this to Switch with local and online play. It’d be great to revisit and more people need to experience it!
I splurged back then so I could play with my son and daughter. Son already had a GBA so just had to buy one for the daughter and three copies of the game and the cord. Fun stuff!
I have the gamecube big box version but only managed to play with one other person. It was a great concept and game but required a bit too much for most people at that time.
Loved playing the GameCube game with my brother. Utilised the Game Boy Advance connectivity perfectly.
I've never played any of the four swords games simply because they are multi player focused. Sure I'd like to try but who has four friends who like zelda? I certainly don't.
It was like being a fan of star wars as a kid. You were lucky if anyone wanted to watch it with you.
The GBA Four Swords is great, but pretty boring without friends. The new A Link to the Past dungeon is fun, but locked behind beating Four Swords and A Link to the Past (not sure if there’s a hack that lets you get in without Four Swords).
Four Swords Adventures is still fun with only one player, though obviously better with at least 2 (never done it with four). It would be a great candidate to be put on Wii U (probably the only console where it would work) with online multiplayer.
Meh. I played solo. Too much time spent trying to keep the dude that wants to chuck you around everywhere on target.
I played the Anniversary Edition that came out for DSi/3DS several years ago and loved it! The single player mode was much, MUCH better than the mess in Tri Force Heroes. I also got the ALttP/Four Swords cartridge after the fact but never have experienced the original game as nature intended.
Four Swords Adventures is the only Zelda game I haven't played at all. I didn't own a GameCube, nor did I know anyone who had one.
Played it with my brother on gamecube was great fun.
Being trying to organize playing it with some mates for awhile now but lockdowns put a big stopper in it.
Seems perfect for ds or switch
This would be the perfect game for Nintendo to celebrate the year of Zelda with. Add it to the Switch, with online play, possibly drop in/drop out play.
I got to play Four Sword Adventures with a buddy and barring the inconvenciences that come with its design I honestly do think its one of the best games in the entire series.
I need to get back to playing this game soon. I really like what i have played so far of it a few years ago.
I really loved all the things they tried with the Gamecube back in the day. The Game Boy player, the connection cable between GBA and GC and the different ways they took advantage of those devices.
Very recently I replayed Pokemon Emerald, Leaf Green and Collesseum and made use of both the player and the link cable. You know it's still possible to bring Pokemon all the way forward from GBA/GC to Switch/Pokemon Home?
I played 4 swords several times back when eoyu 3 others all on our own gba and gc systems. Great experience. I loved when they did Wii ff echoes with ds/Wii support. I was one of the few who played and enjoyed tri-force heroes. Heck, I loved Metroid fed force. They are different experiences and not every game needs to be a numbered sequel no different then the previous game.
Fed force should have not have had Metroid in the name, no it wouldn’t have been hated for not being prince 4.
They actually released a standalone version of it on DSi ware, but for a limited time only. I have it on my 3DS, but again, no one to play it with. Maybe a free download on Switch for the anniversary, and LOCAL play support? Not only paid online. Ah wait no, they're printing money again, so nothing is free.
I did eventually get to play the Gamecube game in multiplayer though, and it was great, but I already enjoyed that one a lot in single player. And no, that's not with a single sword, you control four Links, individually, following, or in formations of four. I always loved squad based tactical games, and controlling a wall of Links crossing a bridge as one, with four differently pitched voices all yelling and swinging their swords in perfect synch while hoards of enemies were defeated within seconds,, or in a cross formation doing a MASSIVE spin attack, was a real joy.
I count myself lucky that I had a schoolmate to play through the GBA LttP Four Swords game, and enough friends who caught the window to download the 3DS remake. But the GameCube version still eludes me. I'm hoping for a user friendly online remaster for the Switch, just so I can finally say I've beaten every Zelda game. (Except those games, if course)
Only time I ever played it was with a friend who rode the same bus to elementary school everyday. Decent game, but nothing really memorable.
I'm more amazed that Nintendo committed this hard to such an obscure and difficult concept. It's telling that almost nobody out there got the intended experience; how could you expect kids to get together several copies of the game plus the hardware to pull it off? Even if you could, Zelda just doesn't work that great as a multiplayer game.
Pokémon required multiple Game Boys, a copy of the game for each player, and a link cable. If they can do it with Pokémon, why not Zelda? The GameCube one is another story, of course.
@fox_mattcloud Apparently it can be done on PC as well. I still have an SP and my Gamecube with a gameboy player for my controller, I uae a Wii to actually play the game. It is quite a setup lmao.
Loved Four Swords. A friend and I played two player of this and FF:CC whenever we met up, roping in other siblings and friends as we were able to. Really brilliant stuff.
The biggest crime though is why the Wii U had neither Four Swords Adventure or Crystal Chronicles ported to it. It could have been the most accessible version; wireless, working using both DS and 3DS, with the console itself shipping with a screen in the controller!!!!
The whole idea behind Four Swords was selling more hardware. It was Nintendo's version of the gouging, increasingly draconian business models that their competitors used online functionality as a Trojan Horse for. Corporate greed has, over the years, ruined countless good things about this great hobby or quietly eliminated them altogether.
Four Swords Anniversary edition was first made available back in 2011 to celebrate Zelda's 25th. They kept it around for a few months the first time. It's the reason why I finally picked a 3ds.
Ah...the most forgotten Zelda game to have ever existed and also the hardest to legally access. Nintendo shot themselves in the foot with this one. I really hope there is some form of re-release on the Switch to celebrate the 35th Anniversary.
A friend and I played Zelda: Four Swords quite a bit on GBA when we were in high school, good times. Played it just about every week at one point, in addition to other GBA multiplayer games.
I played this game with three (3) friends once long ago! Like... twice. I'm pretty sure we didn't get to the end, though I sort of remember it being fun while it lasted before we all moved away and never saw each other again (or whatever happened... that was what, 20 years ago??).
I was fortunate enough to get to experience this with 2 other friends and it was some of the most fun I ever had in a game. It became a competitive game of placing bombs outside doors and shooting arrows from another room over and scooping each other up to throw one in the abyss below, all for the sake of glorious gems and the sound of eachothers cries. Yeah we were a despicable bunch but really this game just made it so fun to set each other up. I’d love to see a return to this on the switch with a less cumbersome approach.
I managed to get my hands on the DSiWare version by buying an old DSi for $40 with a couple other DSi games on it, transferring them to my New 2DS XL, then trading in the DSi at GameStop for $20. I also have FSA
I own four swords adventure, 4 game boy advances and 4 gba to gcn link cables. One of the gba to gcn link cables is still unopened in its original packaging brand new and will forever serve me as a reminder of all of my ***** ex friends that wouldn't play with me, despite me having all the equipment necessary.
The Four Swords games are the only Zelda games I haven't played because they're just so darn hard to. If I had to pick a single game (out of any series) to be remade on Switch, it would be Four Swords Adventures.
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