The Legend of Zelda is not new to the idea of introducing other maidens into its universe. Games as early as A Link to the Past had other girls Link was meant to save, and even the ever popular Majora’s Mask had a lack of Zelda completely. In that sense, Tri Force Heroes is by no means unique. In every other sense, though, it’s definitely one-of-a-kind.

Playing dress up

For the first time in a Zelda game, players have been given the option to change Link’s outfit extensively. Sure, we’ve had options between the Goron and Zora tunics, and the Magic Armor from Twilight Princess, but what if Link didn’t want to wear a tunic at all? Set in the kingdom of Hytopia, a land whose citizens are obsessed with style and fashion, Link is finally given the opportunity to do some shopping and wear some other clothes.

Of course, in order to do this, you need the rupees and the materials, which means you’ve got to play in your classic tunic for a little while.

Each of Link’s new costumes gives him a new ability unique to that specific set of clothing, with some sets being upgrades to others that are easier to make. And while some are quite practical and don’t seem too out of place, such as the Goron Garb or Kokiri Clothes, others can get quite silly, like the Cheer Outfit or Cheetah Costume. Despite the fact that some of these outfits see Link in a much more playful role than in other Zelda games, each one has its own benefits nonetheless.

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A cursed princess

As you might expect from a game that has the option to dress Link in Zelda’s traditional clothing, the overall plot and setting of this game takes on a much sillier, non-serious tone compared to others in the series. While we’ve seen cursed princesses before (we’re looking at you, Midna), we’ve seen it in a very dark setting that’s almost depressing, and creates a sense of urgency in saving them. Tri Force Heroes takes the opposite road, one of pure vanity, in which the princess of Hytopia, Styla, has been cursed to wear the ugliest, most uninteresting outfit in all the land.

Constantly hearing the princess cry over her outfit, as cute as she is, does not give me any feeling that she absolutely needs to be saved. Of course, by cursing the princess, the main antagonist, Lady Maud, has successfully scared the rest of the kingdom’s inhabitants into also believing that they’ll be cursed, which means saving the princess saves the whole kingdom. And while it’s quite a departure from Link’s previous task of restoring Lorule’s Triforce (yes, it’s the same Link), we all know he still feels a sense of duty in helping those around him.

Gameplay

Similar to Four Swords, Tri Force Heroes is meant to be played with co-op partners. It’s specifically designed to cater to three players, and while it is possible to play just by yourself, it’s significantly less rewarding. Much of the gameplay revolves around the use of the “Totem” ability, a new mechanic that allows the three Links to stack on top of one another to reach new heights.

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If you’re playing by yourself, you take on a Link and two “doppels,” dolls with hollow masks that resemble Link. In this game mode, Link can transfer his soul between the three doppels and take control of any of them, but only one at a time. Immediately, this is a drawback compared to those who are playing with others, as some of the puzzles proved difficult when having to switch back and forth between Links on the touch screen. With three co-op players, all three Links can be in control at once, and have much more flexibility in terms of what they can do. That being said, beating the game on your own is not impossible, and still fun either way you decide to play.

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The Totem is an interesting and actually well executed new mechanic. With three Links stacked and able to throw each other around, new areas, heights, and even enemies, are reachable that wouldn’t be as a single character. On multiple occasions, I was stumped on a puzzle only to realize that it required some skillful maneuvering of the Totem to solve. In this aspect, I’d almost say that playing single player is easier. With a lack of proper communication aside from a few preset buttons on the touch screen in co-op, trying to solve puzzles by cooperating in a Totem could prove troublesome.

The only other significant change in gameplay is the shared hearts. While frustrating to find out, I didn’t find them to be too much of an issue, so long as your partners are as smart about playing as you are. And while the costumes are fun and an interesting way to play, they are by no means necessary to play through or beat the game. The rest of the gameplay runs smoothly and exactly as you would expect, playing very similarly to A Link Between Worlds.

Puzzles & dungeons

Nintendo was quick to brag about the fact that Tri Force Heroes boasts a whopping 128 dungeons, however this isn’t entirely true. The dungeons in this game are organized very untraditionally, and are more like the stage setup of a classic Mario game. There are eight Areas (or Worlds) and within each Area are four levels, for a total of 32 different dungeons. Nintendo pulled the 128 from the fact that each of the levels has three additional challenges along with the regular style of play, which means that for all intents and purposes each dungeon can be played four times, with a different twist each time.

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That being said, each dungeon is interesting in its own right. The use of slight game changes depending on the Area you’re playing in is clever, and the different environments serve as a nice change of pace. The design and layout of each one is unique as well, albeit short. Unfortunately, it’s a huge departure of the open-world feel that Zelda fans have come to love, and it definitely serves as a setback. Even though they feel limited, though, they’re hardly comparable to other dungeons in the series, because of how different they are.

Something else we’ve never seen before in a Zelda game is dungeon exclusive items, which means that items are given to you at the beginning of a dungeon and then taken away at the end. This leaves you with a limited arsenal at your disposal for each dungeon, and if you’re playing with partners, an even more limited arsenal of one weapon total. Basically, if you’re playing with random people online, you better hope you can trust them and that they know what they’re doing, or it’s going to be cause for a lot of frustration.

The puzzles in Tri Force Heroes don’t prove to be too much of a challenge, often requiring just a minute of thinking before figuring out the moves you need to make. There are exceptions, of course, and the use of easy puzzles isn’t an issue in this case. With so many dungeons to travel through, you might find yourself thankful that you don’t have to spend a half an hour just figuring out what you need to do, and then another half an hour executing it. The game is fast paced and the puzzles definitely reflect that feeling, and while there’s not as much of a sense of reward that comes with solving them, there’s something fun about being able to zip through three or four puzzles in fifteen minutes.

Graphics

If you were a fan of the way A Link Between Worlds looked, you’ll like the way this game looks, too. The same Link from our previous 3DS Zelda game makes a return here, and so does his graphical style. We see more of the overworld, classic-like style that’s becoming popular again, and while the official artwork depicts our green, red and blue heroes as similar to Toon Link, this game’s graphics are distinctly different from those of Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks.

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Because they’re so unique, there’s not too much to say about the graphics. But in true Nintendo fashion, they’re definitely adorable and they look super smooth for what they’re supposed to be. Plus, it’s nice to see this classic style of Link making a return, and the characters even frequently reference this Link’s iconic look.

Music

While nothing special, the music does stand out as being very obviously music from a Zelda game. The soundtrack is cute and fun, which matches the tone of the game, but I found no issue with playing the game with the volume turned down. However, worth mentioning is the song that plays when you step into Madame Couture’s shop, which is where you buy your new outfits. Hilarious and oddly pleasing to the ear, I found her main theme to be the highlight of the soundtrack.

Final thoughts

Tri Force Heroes was an interesting path for Nintendo to take the Zelda series down. While some die-hard and dedicated Zelda fans may have been, or may still be, hesitant about this game’s silly and playful, almost carefree attitude and style in comparison to the rest of the series, I never once felt that this game was out of place while playing. Despite some of its big deviations from core mechanics, the game still felt complete, rather than an experimental demo, and for that I give Nintendo credit. And with the extra challenges attached to each level, I’m finding even now that there’s a fair amount of replay value packed into it. If you’re looking for a Zelda game that doesn’t require immediate emotional investment, this is the one for you.

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7.5
  • Fun outfits that add interesting gameplay changes
  • Smooth gameplay, fits with the series
  • Lots of variability in dungeons and puzzles
  • Lacking in story and setting depth
  • Very limited item arsenal
  • No open world, limited mobility
  • No Princess Zelda

Written by George Comatas

As a wannabe social media personality and professional in the world of sarcasm, George does his best to always adapt to the changing world around him. He considers himself a maverick: a true-to-heart gamer with the mind of a pop star. Whether this makes him revolutionary or a setback, he's yet to find out. But one thing’s for sure; he's one-of-a-kind.

George Comatas

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