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Favorite Games

Spark the Electric Jester 2
Spark the Electric Jester 2
Doom 64
Doom 64
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64
Elden Ring
Elden Ring
Super Hexagon
Super Hexagon


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Modern versions of the game put aiming on the right stick by default, and it very, very obviously feels wrong. Put that shit on the left stick where it belongs.

I'm not particularly eager to actually play all the way through this game, virtually every aspect of its presentation is extremely plain. That said, the first few missions I've played have me floored. I don't think any series has dodged "first game syndrome" as well as this. It's all here, every fundamental feature of the Ace Combat form can be found in its first installment.

Sometimes you play a game and think "they just don't make them like they used to." Sometimes they barely made 'em like that in the first place.
Breath of the Wild is the best-selling game in the Legend of Zelda series, selling about three times as many copies as the game in the number 2 spot; it is also easily the most open-ended game in the series. Four Swords Adventures is linear to the point that it's split into discrete stages that must be completed in a set order, so maybe it's not surprising that it's believed to be the worst selling game in the series. Some even call the game a spin-off, but I don't think there's really a compelling argument to be made there. Oddly enough, if you go to Zelda Dungeon, Age of Calamity, a sequel to Hyrule Warriors that sold ridiculous numbers for a game in its genre for basically no reason other than being a Breath of the Wild spin-off, is right at the top in the main banner, as if was a main entry. Maybe sales, relevance, and potential for engagement is all it takes to be a "real" Zelda. Four Swords Adventures is one of very few Zelda games to have never been re-released in any form, no longer representative of the brand.
After playing Breath of the Wild in 2017 I found myself spending a few months revisiting nearly every Zelda game I could, and with that game's sequel looming only a month and some change away, I figured I'd finally go back to this one. I haven't played through Four Swords Adventures since I was pretty young, at that point I had watched my dad play through Ocarina of Time, and I had rented Wind Waker and the Oracle games but never got further than a couple dungeons in until I owned them many years later. I was kind of surprised how often I reached areas I recognized, remembering them as being particularly frustrating, only for them to be pretty manageable. Infiltrating Hyrule Castle at the end of world 4 was much easier and shorter than I remember, and the Ice Palace had a couple puzzles that I could definitely understand a kid having trouble with but really wasn't that bad. I guess just keeping in mind how little experience I had with the series at the time explains it.
Although, strangely enough I remember World 5 somewhat fondly despite it's setting being one of the more treacherous in the game, a Lost Woods about as hostile as the one in Twilight Princess, and a Kakariko Village that looks a lot more like Thieve's Town. A deku scrub in the last level of the area reveals why; Ganondorf actually has given his minions a direct warning to be on the lookout for "four travelers", but they've all assumed that a group of kids couldn't possibly be the people he's talking about. The more straightforward traversal gauntlets and dungeoneering are broken up by stages that consist mostly of the type of exploration and character-interaction-driven gameplay you would expect from a typical Zelda game's side content, and thanks to the premise of this area, we get two of these back to back, a surprisingly chill chapter of the game.
If there's a common problem I have with both of the two most recent console Zelda games, it's their pacing. Breath of the Wild and Skyward Sword are both a single consistent stream, with the former feeling like an endless sandbox (for better or worse), and the latter just feeling like one big dungeon. The more traditional Zelda structure adopted by A Link to the Past allows the player to split the game into play sessions of more or less equal size and congruent curves of rising and falling tension. Do the necessary steps to get to the next dungeon, beat the dungeon, see what the characters in the world have to say about that, see what your new item can do in the world; it'll take about an hour or two, and you can confidently assume that repeating the process with the next dungeon during your next session will take about the same time. Translating this rhythm to strictly separated levels works quite naturally, and is honestly really refreshing. I think it's a shame more "adventure" themed games don't go for a more focused structure, I think the game that gets closest to scratching the same itch is Half Minute Hero.
The mechanics of this game are kind of crazy. There are ideas in this game that feel like band-aid fixes to make it work in both singleplayer and multiplayer, or individual level gimmicks to keep things from getting stale, and some of those ideas could have carried an entire game on their own. The formation system has a bizarre effect on basic combat. The horizontal line formation will always stretch to the right when activated, and the vertical line formation will always stretch downward; since the square and diamond formations keep the four player characters pretty close together, the player is put at an unusual disadvantage if an enemy is up and to the left of them. The way that the dark world works in most Zelda games is more or less like a completely different screen, here it's actually concurrent with the light world, with objects in one appearing as shadows in the other. 2D platforming did exist in the handheld games in small amounts, but here there are a couple late game areas that mostly consist of side-scrolling. There is like, one time in the game that you can upgrade the Fire Rod and it gets the same utility as the Cane of Somaria. If you shoot a projectile through a doorway on the GBA screen, it will keep flying into the TV; I assumed at first that this only worked in specific areas, but later in the game I found myself shooting sword beams through doors by accident, so it is just a consistent system in the game.
There's a very late puzzle in the game that requires you to go into the dark world, and pick up a Link that's in the light world and carry him around. I have no idea if this is something you could always do, or if this inexplicably only works in that room, but if that's just a consistent thing throughout the game, that's crazy. If it weren't for the fact that literally nothing carries over from one level to the next, meaning there's definitely no meaningful rewards to be gained from replaying a level and finding hidden things you missed, I would have gone through quite a few levels to see what kinds of shenanigans you could get up to with this cursed knowledge.
The core gamefeel is top-notch for 2D Zelda. You can do a "smash"-style input to do a leaping slice, you can do a Zelda 2-style downward stab in midair. If you have the Pegasus boots, you're not locking into a single direction, you have a relatively wide turning radius compared to normal movement, but you can drift around. It's honestly really frustrating that the game limits you to a single item at a time; I really want a game with this exact core movement that would let you use both the Pegasus boots and the Roc's feather, or both the bombs and arrows in the same way that the handheld games do. Hell, the final level of World 7 makes we wish we could get a new game in the style of Zelda 2, I think they could make it really work this time.
And I haven't even touched the multiplayer-only Shadow Battle mode, since nobody has ever actually played the multiplayer of this game because its absurd hardware requirement. With how much game there is here it's shocking that the Japanese version has an entire third mode.
The visuals are generally pretty appealing. The use of shaders in particular could be described as "economical" (both in that a lot of the effects are relatively simple, and that a lot of the particles and things seem to be lifted from Wind Waker), but effective. The assets in the game could be split into a few different categories. A lot of sprites and environment tiles are ripped straight from Link to the Past, a game that I personally think has spritework that is serviceable at worst, and merely neat at best. The stuff that was created specifically for this game typically looks pretty good, though some of the bosses definitely look unusually "gamey", even for Nintendo. I think the Four Swords/Minish Cap design is the best Link has ever looked in 2D. Some of the NPC and boss sprites are seemingly scanned from the 3D games, and these are typically the worst looking things in the game.
Outside of a handful of trickier puzzles, the game is extremely easy. You get as many as four extra lives every time you finish a stage, in addition to the handful you can usually find hidden in jars. I probably died less than 5 times throughout the entire game, and maxed out my lives right at the end of the game. Each stage requires you to collect at least 2000 force gems, though the second level is literally the only time I got even close to not having enough. I don't know if it's just because later levels have higher numbers of more powerful enemies that yield better drops, or what the likelihood is that the game is balanced with multiplayer griefing in mind.
The audiovisual theming is typically derived from prior games. Most of the music is from Link to the Past, though we do also get a few new songs, and some cool remixes of infrequently reused tracks like the final dungeon theme from the original Zelda. The final area is accessed by a rainbow bridge that Zelda herself conjures up, and is punctuated at the end by a escort/escape sequence, just like Ocarina of Time. At times it might seem like the game is lacking much of its own unique identity, but it's a lavish time capsule of everything that The Legend of Zelda was at the time.