The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes Review: Three's a Crowd [Update: Final Thoughts and Score!]

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes Review: Three's a Crowd [Update: Final Thoughts and Score!]

After ten years, Nintendo finally gives us another multiplayer Zelda. But was it worth the wait?

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Lead Reviewer: Bob Mackey Senior Writer

With my initial attempt to evaluate Tri Force Heroes, I chose to withhold my final review score until a later date, if only to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt. With any luck, the issues with lag in both local and online multiplayer would be patched out soon after release, making my rough ride with TFH an experience the majority of users simply wouldn't have.

It's too bad this ideal scenario never came to pass.

As I said earlier in this review, I'm aware others aren't necessarily having the same technical issues as me. When I complained about my ongoing problems with Tri Force Heroes last weekend via Twitter, some helpful people took it upon themselves to troubleshoot what could have very well been an issue with my modem or router. Everything checked out on that end, so I dropped into a quick online game of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and saw none of the catastrophic frame drops and annoying pauses that kill any possibility of fun in Tri Force Heroes. So, let me assure you: Everything should work as intended. I guess I just happen to keep pulling the short straw when it comes to being paired alongside other people with lousy connections.

That's not to say every minute of online play has been unbearable; at its best, what Tri Force Heroes wants to be shines through sessions I'd charitably call "less laggy." Even so, TFH seems designed with an ideal online environment in mind, as many of its challenges have a margin of error too small to account for potential lag. And while I'm willing to throw myself into a puzzle over and over again until I get things right, "failure" in this case often entails losing hearts, and because your entire team shares a single health meter, it's entirely too easy to find yourself going from full health to an untimely death.

One particularly annoying challenge forced us to totem our Links to shoot lofty switches while avoiding fiery boulders raining in from the heavens. Getting hit with one of these meant all three of us suffered combined damage, so it only took a few mistakes before we found ourselves back at the beginning again—another huge problem with Tri Force Heroes. After getting your butt handed to you by a particular puzzle or encounter, there's nothing more demoralizing than having to go through the tedium of repeating those earlier steps all over again.

When Tri Force Heroes director Hiromasa Shikata told me in a recent interview the game's emote-based communication system was meant to be a challenge in and of itself, I had a greater appreciation for a mechanic that initially felt like a perfunctory solution to communication. And while I understand his intent, the few communication options available don't serve Shikata's goals very well; the entire bottom row of the emote grid, for instance, is completely occupied by two variations of both "happy" and "sad." If Tri Force Heroes eliminated these superfluous emotes, it would make room for two additional ones that could potentially hold a lot more meaning. Many times, this Legend of Zelda interpretation of charades utterly failed me, no matter how much I struggled to use my limited vocabulary to instruct my teammates. I don't think Tri Force Heroes needs voice or text chat, mind you; I'm the type who prefers not talking to strangers on the Internet if I can help it. But what's provided here isn't nearly useful enough to work effectively.

Tri Force Heroes also throws up strange restrictions for multiplayer sessions, which honestly killed my hopes for playing locally. I planned on going through the game alongside my girlfriend via Download Play, but you simply can't team up with only one other person—strange, since the levels are potentially beatable in single-player. TFH also didn't bother thinking up a safety net if one player drops out; instead of pausing the session and waiting for another player to fill the space—as would happen in any other reasonable online game—you're booted from the current level and your progress is completely wiped. If something like that happened, say, at the end of a Final Fantasy XIV dungeon, I'd probably hurl my PS4 across the living room like some kind of potentially fatal discus.

Just a few weeks ago, Tri Force Heroes stood as one of my most anticipated games of the fall; as of this writing, it's hard for me to think of anything else released this year that's made me angrier. And the most frustrating thing is, as Jeremy said, the parts of a great game exist within Tri Force Heroes, but they're way too undercooked to deliver on the premise's potential.

It's especially disappointing because, after Splatoon, it seemed as if Nintendo was on the right track in regards to online play; Tri Force Heroes takes some major steps back to the point where it feels like some of their developers were intentionally withholding information from one another. But it's more likely a case of Nintendo not fully thinking out the logistics of online play and the potential problems of their intentional restrictions. With any luck, it won't take another ten years for us to see another take on this honestly great idea once again.

Link controls as he should, but your array of limited communication options are, frankly, too limited.

Lasting appeal
Tri Force Heroes is built on playing and replaying the same levels over and over, but in its current state, that doesn't stand as the most appealing proposition.

Probably the best part of Tri Force Heroes, chock-full of silly, melodramatic vocal flourishes.

Functional, for the most part. Tri Force Heroes puts you in control of a Wind Waker-style Link, yet the world and characters around him don't fit with this visual themeā€”or any, for that matter.

Nintendo had a fantastic idea with Tri Force Heroes, but the premise is underserved and undermined by some fundamental design issues and shaky online infrastructure. It's nothing short of a tragedy to wait a whole decade for another multiplayer Zelda and receive what feels like a largely unfinished idea with great potential.


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