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This weekend ZeldaPower members Kao and Legend of Shadow set out to their local Best Buy to demo the upcoming handheld co-op Zelda game, Tri Force Heroes. Here’s their report:

Hey all, Kao here. Legend of Shadow and I were super lucky and had a chance to get our hands on The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes this weekend. As you probably know already, Tri Force Heroes is a top-down co-op Zelda title for 1 or 3 players with a heavy focus on battling enemies and solving puzzles via cooperative efforts with your fellow players. You work together to clear an area of enemies and puzzles, and then all stand on a Triforce symbol to warp out to the next section in the level.

Legend of Shadow and I, along with another event attendee, got our mits on the demo units and played through the 1st of 5 or so demo levels available to us. The level we chose was the easiest, and was simply named “Forest.” The Nintendo representative informed us that the final level on the list, “Lava,” was so difficult that nobody had beaten it all day.

Both Legend of Shadow and I agree: the game is a lot of fun! If you’ve played Link Between Worlds (or really any top-down Zelda game), not only will the visuals be immediately familiar to you, but the controls and gameplay mechanics will be too. Compared to the other co-op Zelda titles, the Four Swords games, this game felt a lot more like a traditional Zelda experience, but just with cool co-op elements added in. As Legend of Shadow noted, the game also feels a lot more collaborative rather than aggressive and competitive like Four Swords did. For example, there is no final ranking assigned to players at the end of levels, and all players share one heart meter, so it’s not in anyone’s interest to, say, throw another player into a pit.

Communication in this game is absolutely key. If players aren’t communicating and working towards a common goal, you’ll quickly find each other inadvertently working against one another’s progress. For example, the new “totem” mechanic in this game (where all three players can stack up on one another to access out-of-reach switches or attack tall enemies) requires considerable coordination between players; the player who ends up on top will be charged with shooting arrows at enemies, while only the player on the bottom can control the position of the totem and the direction all three players are facing.

During our first attempt at this mechanic, we simply were not communicating well between one another at all, and ended up being felled by a lowly pair of Deku Scrubs! Our second go at it went much better, specifically because we were calling out instructions and helpful tips to one another.

Tri Force Heroes will feature both local and online multiplayer, and while Nintendo has once again shied away from providing voice chat functionality, they are supporting emoticons and preset messages such as “Over here!” and “Totem time!” Still, without the benefit of direct communication with your fellow players, Legend of Shadow and I have concerns that there may be more miscommunication and frustration than there need be.

It’s also important to note that this game is for 1 OR 3 players. That means no two player mode. You can either play on your own with dummy stand in players that you can control, or you find two other players to play with. If you’re like me and Legend of Shadow and planned on just playing together, you’re unfortunately going to have to open up your session to a random person using the online multiplayer functionality. Both Legend of Shadow and I found this news to be surprising and disappointing; surely Nintendo realizes that most people will want to either play by themselves or with 1 other friend. Seems like a strange play mode to omit.

Overall, Legend of Shadow and I had a blast playing Tri Force Heroes. The game is fun, familiar, and a great co-op experience–so long as everyone is communicating and working together. Our biggest disappointment for this title at this point is the lack of two player support, which we hope Nintendo will reconsider before the game is launched this Fall.

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