To really enjoy the four-player slapfest that is Four Swords Adventures, you're gonna have to sink some serious cash. It's one of the few titles that trumpets the now-useless Game Boy/GameCube connectivity feature. To get four people going, you'll need that many friends, four Game Boys and four link cables. Should all these requirements be met, get ready for an item-hording, sword-slashing good time that carries all the magic of classic, overhead Zelda.
Instead of wandering Hyrule's many dungeons in search of clues, you select areas off a map and complete them with your buddies. Thanks to the separate GBA screens, you can explore different parts of each area simultaneously, without interrupting the flow of the game. When you enter a house, cave or anything else not on the main TV screen, your Link pops up on the Game Boy, ready to keep exploring. The only way to progress is by teaming up, so you quickly learn how to divide and conquer in an efficient way: a key one of you found three floors down suddenly allows the rest of you to push ahead.
This makes the game sound like a friendly, co-op extravaganza. Not quite. Sprinkled throughout Hyrule are Force Gems, the end-all, be-all treasure to hoard in the game. The more you collect, the higher rank you achieve at the end of the level. It’s the healthy mixture of rivalry and togetherness that makes the trip so much fun. Join together to topple a dungeon boss, then scramble to collect the gems for yourself. Or just continually toss your pals into a bottomless pit.
There is a one-player mode, but it’s a completely different experience, and not in the best way. You control all four Links and use the regular controller, removing the two quirks this title has going for it. If you only have two players, you'll control two Links apiece that are forever joined at the hip. It's a sacrificial way to play, but going solo is just not a recommended option. Two or four players really is the only way to go. There's no other experience like four people playing the same game, each looking at their own Game Boy screen when they break away from the group.
The major faults here are the graphics and sound, which look like they crawled right off the Game Boy Advance. Simple graphics, however, let there be nearly a hundred enemies on the screen and there's plenty of colorful, Wind Waker-inspired smoke snaking across the battlefield. Either way, every so often you'll remember, "Hey ... this is on the GameCube," and wonder why the visuals couldn't stand to be a little better.
Like all connectivity-driven titles, Four Swords needs multiplayer to stay alive. Once you make it past that small hurdle, there's no denying the perfect design of vintage Zelda. At first it seems like an unnecessary shoveling-out of Link and his left-handed exploits, but just see if you don't crack a smile when you're glaring down at all those losers from the top of your towering Force Gem collection.