Four Swords was a small multiplayer adventure added onto the Gameboy Advance port of A Link to the Past. It represented a new direction for the series, allowing gamers to link GBAs and work together to defeat the evil wizard Vaati. The game was successful enough to warrant a full-fledged console sequel in 2004: The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. The GameCube iteration took most of the elements that made Four Swords a fun multiplayer experience and expanded them, incorporating a (slightly) more complex story and a longer quest.
Unlike most of the games that get the spotlight in Born for Wii, Four Swords Adventures isn't one that needs a radical Wiimake or some fancy-pants new integration. In fact, it's just the opposite. Four Swords Adventures was unfortunately crippled by the required Gameboy Advance and GameCube-Gameboy cable. Of course, people still played the game, but its audience was severely limited by the necessity of additional hardware for each player.
But with WiiWare, Nintendo could make up for their past failings. Well, not all of them. But they can fix this one. The solution? A budget-priced, WiiWare release of an all-new Four Swords Adventures game, played with the classic controller. By striving towards three simple goals, Nintendo could make a multiplayer Zelda game so awesome it might only be playable in small doses, lest your face be rocked entirely off.
If you've played Four Swords Adventures and are even slightly into adventure games in general or Zelda in particular, chances are you had a grand old time. The game was smartly designed, with familiarly-styled puzzles, classic items, and a decently lengthy quest. The problem? For a game focused on multiplayer, there wasn't a huge incentive to replay the quest over and over again. How can Nintendo remedy this situation and make a game that you'll want to play forever?
Three words: randomly generated levels. Bam.
Four Swords Adventures was broken up into eight distinct levels, each with three sections. Imagine a game in which each of these unique regions of Hyrule, from Lake Hylia to Death Mountain, was different every time you began a new quest. Of course, this can't be a hack-job. There needs to be a wealth of different puzzles and landscape configurations to ensure that, while some areas of each level may be familiar to players the 2nd or 3rd time, the experience is still fresh and different each and every playthrough.
A competitive Shadow Battle mode complemented the Hyrulean Adventure, allowing players to whallop one another with traditional Zelda weaponry on a variety of small stages. Not much needs to be done to this mode, really -- a few more maps couldn't hurt, but it was already a fun, simple experience that worked well as a distraction from the main adventure.
A feature that would have been wonderful in 2004 is critical in 2008. Simply put, a game that lives and dies by its multiplayer involvement needs online support. Online play for up to four people, playing locally or over the ether (or a combination of the two), would make Four Swords Adventures on WiiWare far more accessible than its Gameboy-restricted predecessor.
The original game had an unusual reason for requiring the Gameboy in the first place -- when players moved their individually-controlled Link into a house or a cave, the screen was transferred to their Gameboy, while the overworld continued to be displayed on the television, sans them. It was a fun trick, but not a good enough reason to make the system an absolute requirement. There are three easy solutions to this problem.
For online-only play, there really is no conflict. Since you only need to be able to see your character, the screen can merely transition in a normal manner, much like Four Swords Adventures did with a single-player quest.
For local or mixed online and local play, the solution is less ideal, but still practical. Instead of forcing gamers to have their own tiny screen for a part of the game that is less-than-critical, a small cutout of the main action could pop up in the corner of the screen, following Link in all his cave-dwelling glory. Unfortunately, for the Shadow Battle mode, this would make it harder to hide from your opponent. But, much like the maligned act of screen-looking in first person shooters, it's a better solution than requiring separate hardware.
The last solution is a more far-fetched one, and more in line with the original game's vision. Why not allow the Nintendo DS to be used as a controller? It wouldn't need a silly cable to get the job done, and these days, who doesn't have one? But, of course, this would be optional, not required. Making the game as open and available as possible is critical.
Let's face it -- Four Swords Adventures was not a game that appealed to a casual crowd. The hardware requirements saw to that. And while it's important for the game to remain accessible, Nintendo needs to take square aim at their audience and provide them with exactly what they want. For Four Swords Adventures, this means a greater challenge. Selectable difficulty and scalability based upon the number of players should be key components of a WiiWare remake.
In the original, it was pathetically easy to amass 99 fairies and never worry once about dying. Why not introduce a little risk into the series? Zelda games have been notoriously easy for a long time, but it's never too late to fix the problem. Tougher enemies, more enemies on screen, massive bosses that require precise teamwork -- all of these, along with trickier puzzles, would push Four Swords Adventures in the right direction. Selectable Easy, Medium, and Hard modes could control the number of enemies that attack in every encounter, their toughness, and the amount of damage they dish out. More importantly, these factors should also be affected by how many people are playing at once. One player may get off easy by fighting only a few enemies with his cadre of Links; but with the addition of two or three more gamers, the enemies should be tougher and more numerous.
So there you have it -- three simple steps to make an all-new Four Swords Adventures funtastic. It's a simple game that needs no special treatment on the control front -- the Classic controller will do the job admirably -- and for a WiiWare title, the Link to the Past-style overworld, colorful sprites, and Wind Waker explosions and effects are more than competent. Can you think of a much better way to drop $20 for a lifetime of entertainment?