Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 05/16/2022 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
One of the very few Zelda games that I’d never played before was Four Swords Adventure simply because it’s so hard to find four people willing to commit and enough hardware to actually play through it. Thankfully, though, I found a local retro gamer group on Facebook and was able to meet up with my friends Heather, John, and Brandon several times between January and May of this year to play through the game, and it was a great time both as a game and socially in general. It got this old hermit out of his shell.
The game feels a lot like a typical 2D Zelda adventure just with support for four-player co-op. Your adventure takes you through 24 stages spanning eight areas and 10 boss battles. Most of the game’s enemies and weapons are familiar to longtime Zelda fans, but there’s enough new that keeps the game fresh and exciting even for veteran players. While it’s not nearly as good as Link to the Past from the SNES era, Four Swords Adventures is very reminiscent of that game and feels very much like an homage to it. The game’s graphics look like what I imagine Link to the Past being if it were made on a stronger 2D system, and while I think the sound design isn’t as good as games like Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, or Breath of the Wild, it’s still a Zelda game which means that the soundtrack is fantastic.
What makes the game totally unique is that it requires Game Boy Advance systems and Gamecube link cables to play. The Gamecube is playing the game, but the connected GBAs are used to control your character, and within certain parts of dungeons, you use the GBA screen to see your character. Most of the action stays on the main screen, and every player has to be together at the screen’s edge to move to the screen to the next area, but the shift from the main screen to Game Boy Advance screen is an extremely cool way to structure a multiplayer Zelda even if it does get costly to make sure everyone has a GBA and cable to link to the Gamecube.
It’s a shame that this game is so cumbersome to play in 2022 because it really is a fantastic co-op experience. There just aren’t that many people that have a Gamecube, the game, four GBAs, and four link cables outside of groups of retro gaming enthusiasts. I wish Nintendo would re-release this game – even if only digitally – on Switch and allow for online multiplayer. It would give this game a new lease on life with an infinitely more convenient way to play. Still, though, cumbersome logistics aside, if you find a group of friends with the needed hardware and have the opportunity to play this game, I strongly recommend it.