Nintendo has always had a knack for introducing gameplay ideas that are just a little ahead of their time. Consider The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords for the Game Boy Advance, for instance. Released in 2002, in order to get the most of out it, one needed to have three friends, four Game Boy Advance units, four copies of the game, and a link cable to tie it all together. That's a lot of stuff to procure and produce just to play a game. The connectivity requirements make much more sense today in the era of the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS when local multiplayer is easier to do thanks to wireless connections. Considering that few played Four Swords the way it was intended to be played a decade ago, Nintendo has revived the game and given it an upgrade for its modern family of handhelds. Available as a free DSiWare download for the DSi, DSi XL, and 3DS through the end of February 2012, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition combines the game nobody played with a handful of new additions and upgrades that make this adventure required playing for Zelda fans everywhere.
Four Swords features an interesting gimmick. When Princess Zelda is kidnapped by the evil Vaati, Link uses the legendary Four Sword to rescue her. However, touching the Four Sword splits Link into up to four separate Links depending on how many people are playing the game. Team Link must work together to solve the various puzzles across four realms to confront Vaati and rescue the princess. It's standard stuff with a multiplayer twist as players will have to attack targets simultaneously, toss one another across gaps, and solve unique puzzles. There are cooperative and competitive elements spread all through the game, but in the end the four Links really must work together to accomplish anything.
I only just played the original Four Swords last month when my girlfriend and I bought a pair of used GBA SPs and copies of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past which includes Four Swords as a bonus side-game. Working as a team, we completed the game's four worlds in about four hours or so. Since I was just coming off of the Four Swords experience, I was interested in seeing just how the Anniversary Edition changed the adventure. The most important alteration is the addition of a single-player mode that allows one player to control two Links as both separate characters and as a pair (with the second Link playing follow-the-leader to the first Link). The Link that follows behind shadows the lead Link for some actions, although sometimes he'll engage in actions on his own when the game senses that the primary Link needs some help. For instance, some enemies are defeated by being pulled in opposite directions by a pair of Links. When a following Link sees the primary Link grabbing on to an enemy to give it a yank, the secondary Link to automatically grab the opposite side of the foe and start pulling. However, if the pair are broken up into separate Links, the Link currently not in play will just sit and wait for the player to return to him. It's important to know when to keep the Links paired and when to break them apart, and I found that playing Four Swords alone was a completely different experience. While the single-player mode was fun to explore, this game is much more fun to play with someone else (significant other recommended!) than alone. Four Swords is very much a social game.
The other big addition to the original game is the new Realm Of Memories area that opens after Vaati has been defeated. This area features three new sets of levels that are based on previous titles in the Zelda franchise and follows on in their original visual style. There's a section based on Link to the Past with its 16-bit clarity, a gray-and-white reimagining of Koholint from Link's Awakening, and a gloriously 8-bit recollection of the original Nintendo Entertainment System Legend of Zelda game that started it all. These areas are the perfect addition to a title that has been revamped to celebrate the Zelda franchise's twenty-fifth anniversary and a great stroll down Memory Lane. The Realm of Memories is an absolute must-play for long-time Zelda fans.
It's impossible not to recommend The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition. It's a top remake of a game that, while obscure, was plenty of fun in its original incarnation and is even better now. Now that it's free to download and playable alone, there's no excuse to miss out.