The eleventh game in The Legend of Zelda series was a sequel to the earlier Four Swords and was released in 2004. Like its predecessor, it focused on multiplayer gaming for up to four players, and was much more linear in design than the average Zelda title (though the areas themselves had room to explore). A key component of the gameplay was the use of the GCN-GBA link cable which was required for multiplayer (though single player mode did not require it, instead putting an emulated GBA screen on the TV itself). The action of the game was split between the TV screen for the main areas, where all players could see what was going on, and the GBA screens, which represented indoor areas as well as the Dark World, where each player could only see their immediate surroundings. Unlike the previous game, all four Links were always present no matter how many actual players there were- the excess Links would follow the players and could be placed into formations.The story is a sequel to Four Swords and features the return of Vaati. According to Hyrule Historia, this is the final game in the "child" timeline, following The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. While attempting to strengthen the seal on Vaati, Shadow Link kidnaps Zelda and the six shrine maidens, forcing Link to pull the Four Sword from its pedestal and release Vaati once more. Over the course of the game, it's revealed that Shadow Link was actually a minion of Ganon, who is attempting to cover the land in darkness with Vaati's help.In addition to the cooperative multiplayer mode (known as "Hyrulean Adventure") there is also a competitive battle mode, "Shadow Battle", in which the Links fight against each other.
But Thou Must/Cutscene Incompetence: Zelda, who goes from genuinely helpful to grabbing Idiot Balls. During the escape from the Collapsing Lair in the last stage of the game, Zelda repeatedly stops moving to... talk to you, and will not budge from that spot unless you go up to her so she can speak. She does it no less than three times at the end, the last of which is her saying "There's the exit!" just in time for the floor to collapse under everyone. It'd obvious that the dev team couldn't come up with a better way to throw you into the Final Boss fight.
Combination Attack: Once in formation, all the Links will attack and use items in sync with each other. In diamond formation the four Links can perform one huge spin attack together.
Comic Book Adaptation: The manga, written by Akira Himekawa, which expanded on the narrow story and gave every Link a different personality, explaining that the sword's elements split up Link's personality as well, not just his body. Becomes Fridge Logic when you realize that is more of an Alternate Character Interpretation, since Green Link retains the original Link's personality without change and the character traits displayed by Violet Link are not present in the original Link at all.
Although it exists in a seperate timeline, there is no reason to assume it does not occur in the same location and year of Hyrule as A Link To The Past did (or well near it.)
Continuity Porn: Averted. Deleted text found on the game disc indicates that this game was supposed to retell the Back Story of A Link to the Past, as items like the Master Sword would have shown up, but you wouldn't be able to use them. Shigeru Miyamoto nixed this idea late in development because it would have distracted from the straightforwardness of the gameplay. Continuity Nods still abound, though. for example, the existence of the Dark World and the Trident of Power still manage to make this a very likely Back Story for A Link To The Past.
Hyrule Historia has apparently Jossed this interpretation; the games don't even take place in the same branch of the timeline. Unless there's some temporal shenanigans going on, this game's events have nothing to do with A Link to the Past's.
Although there's nothing to say that the items didn't exist in that timeline, they were just never used by the big bad so far as is known.
The director actually did verify that the intent was for this game to in fact be the Imprisoning War as mentioned by A Link to the Past, but it was overruled in the end by Miyamoto. Similar to how Minish Cap was originally intended as the origin of the Master Sword, but Miyamoto also nixed that one and forced a change to the game being the origin of the Four Sword.
Continuity Snarl: Ganondorf's inclusion causes a lot of problems for what is otherwise an easily-arguable case for the series only having one Ganon.
Fixed; it's been confirmed in Hyrule Historia that this is the reincarnated Ganondorf, coming back after his death in Twilight Princess and regaining his dark powers via the Trident. So in a way, he's the same Ganon yet isn't at the same time. As well as the fact that Ganon, as well as link and zelda, reincarnate constantly throughout the timelines. Which makes it even more clear.
Excuse Plot: In the first game, collecting the Rupees had no real relevance to the plot, so Four Swords Adventures replaces Rupees with "Force Gems", which the player is required to (collectively) acquire enough to empower the Four Sword, otherwise they cannot break the barrier at the end of every level, and will have to go back to get some more.
Flipping the Table: In a meta example, Miyamoto metaphorically "upended the tea table" during development of the game's story (he felt it was too complex), which explains why it seems to be all over the place.
Grand Theft Me: In the ending, one of the other Links can do this if they kill Ganon in multiplayer. Shown hilariously in the Let's Play
Grievous Harm with a Body: Players can bludgeon enemies with items that they are carrying so they do not have to drop them in order to fight back. This works even if the thing the player is carrying is another player.
Heart Container: Only work for one level, and are found in specific chests.
Homage: With the exception of the character sprites and special effects, which draw from the toon-style, nearly all the sprites draw heavily from Link to the Past, complete with music. Parts of this game are bound to drop a nostalgia bomb on fans of ALttP.
Meaningless Lives: Since they really only kick in when the player controlled Link(s) are down simultaneously, the fairies, which you can get several of at the end of every level, can really pile up.
Lives are even more trivial in muiltiplayer mode since a dead player will automatically revive after 10 seconds with full health.
Multi-Mook Melee: The game loves to show off just how many sprites it can put on screen at once (if the image above wasn't any indication). Pretty much once a level there will be an area that closes itself off and proceeds to throw dozens of enemies at you at once.
Mutually Exclusive Powerups: Each player can only carry one item at a time (besides their sword, shield, bracelets, and hearts), though all Links following that player can also use the item.
Patchwork Map: The area of the map frozen in perpetual winter is right next to the desert. This is given a Hand Wave by saying that the freeze was caused by magic (and we do see the ice melt in the ending), but the map still looks like a bunch of different biomes sandwiched together.
Another origin story for Ganon, separate from the one already in Ocarina of Time. This is because this Ganondorf is the original one's reincarnation, and he's lost all his former dark powers until he obtains the Trident of Power.
In original planning, this was supposed to be the backstory to A Link to the Past, entailing how Ganondorf there became Ganon, and took over the Sacred Land, following the events of the Child Timeline in Oo T. Miyamoto nixed that one at what looks like halfway through production, since you can see a lot of the continuity nods and story ideas there for this being the Imprisoning War.
Suddenly Voiced: In the Japan and Korea-only "Navi Trackers" mini-game, Tetra and her pirates are featured with full Japanese voice-acting. This is the only example of full voice-acting in the entire history of the series (no, the CDi games don't count).
Time Bomb: Incredibly massive bombs that deal instant death to anyone who doesn't take shelter inside their GBA.
Video Game Cruelty Potential: The Links can't directly hurt each other with their swords, but once you get Bombs thrown into the mix, you can start causing damage to the other Links, which also makes them drop a few force gems for you to steal. Never mind that picking up someone's trailing Link will recruit it to your team. Maybe you can agree to have one each in two player, but in three player, everyone's going to be fighting for Purple Link.