The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords, known in Japan as Zeruda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Toraifōsu ando Yotsu no Tsurugi (ゼルダの伝説 神々のトライフォース&4つの剣, lit. The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods & Four Swords), is an action-adventure game co-developed by Nintendo and Capcom's Flagship and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance. The game is a modified port of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991) and the cartridge contains an original multiplayer-only game titled The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, which serves as the 9th installment in The Legend of Zelda video game series.
The game was released on December 2, 2002, in North America; on March 14, 2003, in Japan; and on March 28, 2003, in Europe and Australia. A remaster of Four Swords was released for a limited time on Nintendo's DSiWare service as The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition (known in Japan as Zeruda no Densetsu: Yotsu no Tsurugi 25 Shuunen Kinen Edishon (ゼルダの伝説 4つの剣 25周年記念エディション, lit. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords 25th Anniversary Edition)) on September 28, 2011, and includes new content, such as a single-player mode and additional areas.
A Link to the Past
The gameplay of A Link to the Past has changed very little from the original 1991 release; only slight modifications have been made. The game is an overhead adventure game, with the primary means of fighting and defending being a sword and shield. The sword can do a variety of things, including a sword spin, an energy projectile, and a secret technique introduced in the Game Boy Advance version called the Hurricane Spin. Link collects a variety of different equipment throughout his adventure, featuring series mainstay items such as bombs, a bow, the boomerang, and a lamp. It also introduces the Hookshot, the Magic Mirror, and the Pegasus Boots. Link's health is measured in heart containers, which can be replenished by collecting smaller hearts from enemies and bushes. Link also has a magic meter from which some of his items derive power; for example, the Lamp uses some magic meter to light torches. There are two kinds of area – the overworld and the dungeons. The overworld has varying locations, including buildings that house these several dungeons. These dungeons have a set of objectives and items. Dungeons feature a number of keys, one single big key, a dungeon item, a compass, and a dungeon map. The overworld changes drastically when players enter the Dark World, a distorted alternate version of the original overworld. Players may go back and forth using both the Magic Mirror, which allows access to the Light World from the Dark World, and portals scattered across both worlds.
Creating a file for the Game Boy Advance game will give players a profile in both A Link to the Past and Four Swords. A Link to the Past is single player, but Four Swords is for 2–4 players. Some features in the two games are linked. For example, when players learn a new sword move, it is transferred between games. Once everyone is connected, Player 1 chooses one of the four basic stages to play on. The gameplay is similar to A Link to the Past, though it is cooperative in that stages require teamwork to complete. All dungeons are randomized before play.
Four Swords is the multiplayer portion of the cartridge. Four Swords features gameplay similar to A Link to the Past, with a focus on multi-player; in it, two to four players must cooperatively work through a series of puzzle-laden dungeons, while competing to collect rupees. The player with the most rupees at the end of a level wins a special prize, though all rupees are shared together in the long run. All players are given respective colors – player one is green, player two is red, player three is blue, and player four is purple. Once all players are connected, player one chooses one of the four stages available to play on. All dungeons are randomized before play. The dungeons have three levels to them, with a portal at the end of each level; the first to reach it will be rewarded with a Heart Container, an item that increases the player's health meter. The third level is not a traditional dungeon, but rather a boss battle. Once defeated, they will return to the hub area.
Unlike in A Link to the Past where Link may have an inventory of items he has collected, Four Swords only allows a player to have one item at any given time, switching them out at item pedestals. An original item called the Gnat Hat appears, causing Link to shrink and be able to access areas he could not normally reach. This was featured in a later game The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, though it was in the form of a talking hat named Ezlo. Somet is transferred between games. Another link between the two games is that, when both are beaten, players may access a dungeon called "Palace of the Four Sword" in A Link to the Past.
A Link to the Past
The intro to A Link to the Past reveals the back story of the game, showing that series antagonist Ganon was sealed away after his bid for the Triforce. However, the seal has grown weak, and a wizard named Agahnim has taken over the throne of Hyrule, and is kidnapping the seven descendants of the Sages who sealed away Ganon, which includes Princess Zelda, another series mainstay. The game opens with series protagonist Link receiving a message from Zelda, telling him to come save her. Following his Uncle, he finds him near death, and is tasked by his Uncle to find and rescue Zelda, giving him his sword and shield before dying. After Link reaches the dungeons, he frees Zelda from her cage, and takes her through a hidden sewer into a Sanctuary, where she remains hidden. The man in the Sanctuary tells Link of Agahnim's plan to break the seal the Sages placed, requiring Link to obtain the Master Sword. Link travels across Hyrule, aided by a man named Sahasrahla, collecting three pendants from the three dungeons, using them to unseal the Master Sword in the Lost Woods. Link returns to Hyrule Castle with the Master Sword after Zelda is kidnapped. When he meets Agahnim, he finds that he is too late, as Agahnim teleports her away.
After battling and defeating Agahnim, he takes Link into the Sacred Realm, which has been corrupted and transformed into the Dark World by Ganon. He is tasked with rescuing the seven Maidens who have been sealed away in crystals, as well as finding magical items called the Silver Arrows. Link eventually rescues Zelda, and uses the Maidens' power to break into Ganon's Tower. After fighting and defeating Agahnim for the second time, Ganon flies from Agahnim's corpse into the Pyramid of Power. Link follows, doing battle with him. He eventually defeats Ganon, and finds the Triforce. After the Triforce speaks to Link, Link uses it to wish for Hyrule to return to normal. Afterward, he returns the Master Sword to where he found it. If the player has completed Four Swords, they may find an alternate ending by beating a secret dungeon. This dungeon features four Dark Links, in reference to the four Links in the Four Swords game. After defeating them, an ending showing the inhabitants of the Dark World and the various bosses is shown.
The game is set before the events of Ocarina of Time. The prologue shows Link and Zelda approaching a sword in a pedestal, called the Four Sword. After Zelda explains its history and the creature sealed within it, the creature named Vaati breaks free, capturing Zelda to marry her. Link is encountered by three fairies who instruct Link to pull the Four Sword out. Link then pulls the Four Sword out, inadvertently creating three copies of himself that fight alongside him. As the game begins, the four Links are tasked with finding four Great Fairies, who together will grant them access to Vaati's palace. After finding the four Great Fairies and entering the palace the Links battle Vaati. After Vaati is thoroughly weakened, he is trapped in the Four Sword. Zelda and Link then return the Four Sword back in its pedestal.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords was a collaborative development effort between Nintendo and Capcom, the process supervised by Minoru Narita, Yoichi Yamada, Takashi Tezuka and Yoshikazu Yamashita from Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development. The A Link to the Past portion re-used the art assets from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System version. Alterations include tweaks to item locations to prevent exploiting the game, a reduction of the viewable playing area, and the inclusion of voice samples from Ocarina of Time. Capcom had begun development of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap in 2001, but temporarily suspended it to free up resources of the Four Swords multi-player component. The company designed the multi-player portion to force cooperation between players in order to progress. The developers designed the levels to adjust the puzzles to the number of players participating; if two or four players are connected, then a puzzle will require two and four characters, respectively, to complete it. Four Swords differs graphically from the other portion and features a style similar to The Wind Waker, which was released around the same time. Though Four Swords was not initially planned as the first title in a subseries, the story, intended to be the earliest in the series' chronology at the time of its release, was already considered to influence future games.
The game was first revealed at E3 2002 by series developer Shigeru Miyamoto, who demonstrated the multi-player mode along with Capcom's Yoshiki Okamoto, Bandai Namco's (formerly Namco) Kaneto Shiozawa, and Toshihiro Nagoshi of the now defunct Amusement Vision. It was tentatively titled The Legend of Zelda GBA. In January 2003, the game was on display at the Osaka World Hobby Convention as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords. It was initially released in North America on December 2, 2002, while it was released the next year in Japan and PAL regions, on March 14 and 28 respectively. Shigeru Miyamoto made a public appearance in Europe on February 21, 2003, in which he signed any Nintendo products. During this appearance, he gave away ten signed copies of A Link to the Past & Four Swords, a month before it came out in the UK. Following the Japanese release, Nintendo displayed the game at TV Kumamoto's TKU 15th Day (第15回TKUの日 Dai Juugoe TKU no Hi ), an annual event hosted by the Japanese TV station in Kumamoto Prefecture.
In 2006, It was re-released in Nintendo's second run of Player's Choice titles at a reduced price.
Nintendo World Report's Max Lake called the announcement of a multi-player mode "exciting." In IGN's Best of E3 awards for the Game Boy Advance, they named it the runner-up to Best of Show below Metroid Fusion, calling it a "close one." They ultimately gave it to Fusion due to it not being a remake. They described the multi-player component as resembling Diablo or Gauntlet. They also gave it the award for Biggest Surprise, citing its multi-player mode, calling it a "brilliant addition" and "well worth the price of four Legend of Zelda cartridges." IGN's Craig Harris, in his preview of the game, called the port of A Link to the Past "faithful," though he noted that the ability to control the game will be reduced, due to the lack of two buttons that were both used in the Super NES version. He found the fix to make this work to be adequate, however. He praised the visuals for holding up as well. IGN reported that based on their then new wishlist tool, A Link to the Past & Four Swords was consistently the second most anticipated Game Boy Advance game for the five weeks before its release.
Since its release, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords has been met with highly positive reception. It holds an aggregate score of 91.70% and 95 at GameRankings and Metacritic respectively.
The game was a top seller in Japan following its release. It was the second highest title in number of sales the week of its release, and was number six the following week with 0.04 million units. It sold 1.63 million copies in North America, and 0.29 million in Japan. GamePro's Star Dingo called it a "masterpiece," as well as an "important part of the Grand Renaissance of the Second Dimension." He also praised the overworld for its secrets and "quirky random characters," adding that playing it required patience and exploring. G4TV praised it for being good for anyone anticipating The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. IGN's Craig Harris praised the game, giving the gameplay and lasting appeal perfect scores. They praised both modes' puzzle designs, calling the Super NES game the best 2D video game ever, while praising the replay value for offering unlockables to keep players playing.
IGN included it in their Game Boy Advance Holiday Buyers Guide for 2002, calling its inclusion of multiplayer a "big deal" and that it was the most requested Super NES port for the Game Boy Advance. IGN named it the third best Game Boy Advance game, praising the Game Boy Advance for handling the game so well. However, they cited the multi-player component for making the game "truly awesome." They also included it on their list of most-wanted Nintendo DSi Virtual Console games, a hypothetical service that in IGN's view would offer handheld games similar to the Wii's Virtual Console. They once again praised the multi-player mode, questioning why Nintendo has yet to make a follow-up game on the Nintendo DS or DSiWare. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell praised it, commenting that the port held up over the years, calling it "amazingly deep" and a "gateway drug into the genre." In reviewing the multi-player component, he commented that while it would not be as good as A Link to the Past, it was still remarkable. However, he found fault in the difficulty of finding three other players with Game Boy Advances and copies of the game to play it with.
GamePro's Star Dingo praised the port of A Link to the Past's ability to retain its visuals. He specifically praises its "clean sprites," calling its overworld a "colorful, happy place," sarcastically calling it kiddy. He also questioned how the series' cartoon style was abnormal for the series. While the graphics for A Link to the Past were described as not having changed from the original version in IGN's Craig Harris' review, he praised Four Swords' visuals. However, he gave praise to the presentation, praising the Game Boy Advance for recreating the original game. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell commented that while the graphics do not stand up against fellow Game Boy Advance game Golden Sun, they were a better precursor to the upcoming The Wind Waker than visuals similar to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, citing its cartoon lining. He also praised it for ensuring that the changes to adjust to the Game Boy Advance's smaller screen were unnoticeable. GamePro's Star Dingo called the sound effects "indelible," though he noted that they were "a little dated." IGN's Craig Harris called The Legend of Zelda's overture "breathtaking," praising the GBA for recreating the soundtrack of the original. He gave praise to the music of the multi-player mode as well, calling the compositions of A Link to the Past's music superior. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell criticized the audio, calling the sound tinnier than the Super NES version. He also calls Link's yelps "contemptible."
Four Swords was followed in 2004 by a GameCube sequel, Four Swords Adventures, which continued the story and expanded upon the gameplay concepts while including a single-player adventure. In 2005, the Four Swords prequel The Minish Cap for the Game Boy Advance became the next handheld Zelda game, also co-developed with Capcom. A sequel was announced for the Nintendo DS entitled The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords DS. However, this was cancelled and replaced by The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition on DSiWare as a free limited-time only download for the Nintendo DSi and 3DS users between September 28, 2011, and February 20, 2012. The game was later also briefly available for download in North America for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS between January 30, 2014, and February 2, 2014.
Developed by Grezzo, this enhanced port of the once multiplayer-only game includes a new single-player mode where players have the ability to control two Links and switch between them to progress through the levels. There are also two new areas that can be unlocked: the "Realm of Memories", which features levels resembling those in The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, and Link's Awakening, and the Hero's Trial, which features harder difficulty.
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- Title=Interview with Eiji Aonuma and Hidemaro Fujibayashi – The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap |journal=Nintendo Power |issue=189 |page=73 |date=March 2005 |publisher=Nintendo of America, Inc.