Link has gone down a very wrong path in his latest adventure.
With the addition in recent years of such supremely enjoyable multiplayer games as "Mario Kart 8," ''Super Smash Bros." and "Splatoon," Nintendo seemed to have finally figured out fun ways for modern gamers to play together online. That can't be said of the newest entry in the "Legend of Zelda" series. It's possibly the worst "Zelda" to date.
The inane plot of "The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes" ($39.99 for the Nintendo 3DS) finds the series' spikey-eared protagonist is no longer a lone star. As the title suggests, Link must now be part of a trio of look-alikes who are tasked with taking down a witch who's cursed the kingdom's princess with a bad sense of style.
The frivolous focus on fashion extends to Link's new ability to commission and wear custom ensembles that grant him different powers. Putting on a parka will keep the little guy from sliding around in ice caverns, while donning a cheerleader outfit will boost the energy levels of his pals. It's a cute touch for a game filled with frustrations.
While "Tri Force Heroes" looks like a "Zelda" game, it certainly doesn't have the spirit of one.
Instead of a fantastical world to explore, this Link is confined to a tiny village and must choose from a list of monotonous dungeons to tackle. Because the art style of "Tri Force Heroes" so closely resembles 2013's captivating "A Link Between Worlds," this entry feels more like a downloadable extra than a true stand-alone "Zelda" adventure.
"Tri Force Heroes" is intended to be played locally or online with two (but never one) other players. Several of the game's puzzles require the threesome to stand on each other's shoulders to reach keys or conquer creatures. Besides a sword, they are each bestowed with a second tool at the start of each level, which they must use to overcome obstacles.
In the vein of past "Zelda" games, there are several stimulating spatial puzzles to solve along the way. However, "Tri Force Heroes" just doesn't make it easy to play well with others.
There's an option to singularly play through levels with a solo Link who can swap bodies with lifeless clones. It's colossally clunky. Unfortunately, teaming up with others isn't much more satisfying. Because a group shares resources, the group can only be as strong as the weakest Link.
As with most multiplayer Nintendo games, the ability to speak with other players isn't included. Instead, the only method of communication is to bizarrely tap on different emoji-like icons on the bottom screen of the Nintendo 3DS. Unless players are completely in simpatico, they're doomed from the outset.
Most maddening of all, if anyone happens to be disconnected in the middle of battle, the remaining players are booted bounty-less back to the beginning of the level.
For the usually flawless "Legend of Zelda" series, three is not a magic number. Despite providing Link with a glamorous new wardrobe, another charming musical score and a new way to join other adventurers, the awkward "Tri Force Heroes" doesn't stack up when compared with previous "Zelda" installments. One-and-a-half-stars out of four.
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