I was lucky enough to be selected by Nintendo to preview The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes before it’s released. No, not a full game, just a multiplayer demo that had an online component available this past weekend at select times. So what was it like? Read on to find out!
I first saw this game back as part of the E3 announcements this past summer. It looked decent, similar to the Four Swords game that came out back in the GameCube. However I never played that game so I can’t say how fun it was. So it looked good, but already having a back catalog of games and only one friend who owns a 3DS that lives near by I quickly wrote it off thinking about how playing cooperatively online was probably going to be nonexistent or not enjoyable thinking about how difficult it would be to work together.
So then last week I received an email stating that I was picked(my Nintendo account) to demo the game before it’s release. I was excited. Mainly because I haven’t had any opportunity like this before where luck was involved with being selected, and secondly because I had almost forgotten about it and now had a chance to play it first hand. I love the Zelda franchise so I was very eager to see what it was like than to let my judgement go unfounded. I mean, even though I thought it may only be fun with friends, it is a Zelda game and it is made by Nintendo. I buy Nintendo consoles for their first party games because I can’t say I can think of a time when a first party game was bad.
Friday October 16th, 8PM rolled around and my 3DS was booted up and I was waiting in the matchmaking lobby. Er, well the lobby. The demo starts you in a lobby where you pick local or online coop. You get to speak to an old wise man to pick which way you want to connect. I selected online and was immediately dropped into the lobby again, but this time with two others. I was immediately intrigued by the communication tiles that are available since there is no text or voice chat. We all tapped ‘Hello!’ followed by a few ‘Let’s go!” and we made our way over to the Triforce on the floor and were teleported to (a menu screen to pick options for…) the first level.
Before the game began we each picked an outfit that could give us abilities as shown in the E3 trailer. We all first picked the tunic which grants 3 arrows per shot in a spread pattern. With that we then picked a dungeon, a unanimous Buzz Blob Cave vote. With that we were off on an adventure.
Fun With Strangers
Adventuring with two strangers was actually incredibly fun. More fun than I thought it could ever be. The communication tiles on the bottom screen were enough to help solve puzzles but not enough to make it obvious or easy to get the others to figure out how to help advance. This may seem counter intuitive but it actually made things more fun compared to when I got a chance to play locally with friends later in the weekend. There is something to be said about the joy of rediscovery when you are working with a stranger and trying to get through a puzzle and having them figure out the missing piece without being able to just blurt it out. It’s a similar feeling of getting guesses right in Charades or Pictionary.
The other thing these tiles do right is that they contain mostly positive emotions. The two that are more negative are also conveyed in a way that makes it appear more like personal frustration or sadness than being upset with the others. This seemed to me to keep the mood positive and enjoyable at all times, even if one of us continually failed at a task.
However, the greatest emotion/communication tile has to be cheering. Link holding pom poms that alternates left and right arms when repeatedly tapped is nothing short of giggling at no matter how many times I have seen it. It was an instant mood and moral boost and generally found it to be used in a very encouraging and team building fashion. I found it to be my favorite way to help the team in times of repeated failure.
The dungeons were what I would expect from a Zelda games. Treasure chests, rupees, enemies and the usual assortment of weapons. The levels were well designed and everything just felt correct and complete.
Matchmaking was surprisingly smooth. Nintendo seems to have ramped up their online play significantly over the years with mostly responsive experience. Most players seemed to know what they were doing or were apt to experimenting with the puzzles so it wasn’t like trying to heard cats. There were a few later games where I encountered terrible lag and some players who just couldn’t seem to figure out where to go next, but generally even these times were still enjoyable so long as you weren’t in a rush to finish a dungeon if something came up that you needed to duck out of online play.
This is important as in the demo quitting a dungeon meant everyone quit and was reset to the lobby. No way to have someone drop in, but it makes sense. So it will be interesting to see how that is handled in the final game and how often that may occur. It did happen on occasion, but not enough to be a deal breaker for me. The dungeons are short enough that it’s not to bad to have to replay them. Although repeated events like this can quickly get on your nerves.
Fun With Friends
I did get a chance to play with friends on Sunday. However, this go around was much faster and shorter than my Friday evening stint. This is because for local co-op, they limited it to only a single dungeon. And being able to play with friends and a stranger online was disabled too. This was incredibly frustrating because I really wanted to try the full experience with those next to me. It’s not like the content wasn’t ready ether, it was there, I had played it with people online! It was just locked behind an arbitrary in game rule.
I can see that they may have wanted to encourage online play, but with only a single dungeon it made the play through with friends all of 5 minutes because you could talk through the puzzle. I had the most fun on the second and third dungeons too, which made the first dungeon being the only option feel like we were shorted. I really don’t understand why they would cut that part so short. It limited the full experience to online only and during specific times when the servers were up. I hope this is demo specific because the options were just greyed out, but I still don’t see why it needed to be. The demo time spans were short enough at only 3 hours each, and if you couldn’t make it online then, you basically couldn’t experience 2/3 of the demo.
Aside from the jarring lack of local play on the same dungeons, it was just as fun. I encouraged everyone to not talk and play with communication tiles only to help get the full experience in our first go and it went pretty well. We then played it again, but this time talking, but as we knew the puzzle it wasn’t really anything to discuss anyway. Short lived, but still the same fun.
This demo was the most fun I have had playing games in a while. Being able to solve puzzles with strangers and limited communication is a terrific feeling. There is plenty of replayability by playing online and hoping you get to help some new hero through the dungeon and show them some tricks that they may be able to pass on. I originally thought I would pass entirely, but having now played the demo, I am strongly considering to pick this up. If only my back catalog of games weren’t already so long.
If you are interested in this game and have seen the videos of the gameplay, I strongly encourage you to pick up the final game. This is of course assuming the final game is like the demo. Without even knowing what the single player campaign is like, I think that it would be worth the full price so long as there are sufficient enough dungeons to play online. Bottom line: Check it out if you can! It seems like it will be a great Zelda Puzzle game to play with friends and strangers!
Did you get a chance to play the demo or are looking forward to this games release? Let me know in the comments!