The ninth game in The Legend of Zelda series, Four Swords is actually a multiplayer mode that comes with the 2002 Game Boy Advance version of A Link to the Past (though also later released standalone for the DSiWare). It's the first multiplayer Zelda (and, until the DSiWare version, it was exclusively multiplayer) and was also the first game released to use the 2D version of the stylized cel-shaded design for Link that would later be used in The Wind Waker (in Japan, however, The Wind Waker came out first). It also had a few features to connect to A Link to the Past, such as new sword moves unlocked in A Link to the Past being transferred to Four Swords, and a secret dungeon in A Link to the Past upon beating both games.
The story for the game, though not terribly important, involved the wind sorcerer Vaati, who had been sealed away before, escaping from his seal and capturing Princess Zelda with the intention of making her his bride. Link obtains the Four Sword and uses its magic powers to split into four copies of himself (green, red, blue, and purple). The four Links must work together to defeat their foes in the various areas and make their way to the final fight against Vaati. Of course, there's plenty of room for competition as well as cooperation.
According to the Hyrule Historia, Four Swords is chronologically the third game, after Skyward Sword and The Minish Cap (this game's prequel), and is the last game before the timeline is split into three by the events of Ocarina of Time.
This game provides examples of:
- Anti-Frustration Features: Switching. This can be a form of loophole abuse, but when you're about to fall into lava or bottomless pit, you can switch to avoid losing hearts. This can be extremely useful on Bosses and Hero's Trials.
- Blow You Away:
- Vaati's wind powers.
- The fans at Vaati's Palace and 1-3, 2-3, and 3-3 of Hero's Trials.
- Brutal Bonus Level: The Anniversary Edition includes the Hero's Trial, a harrowing gauntlet of Malevolent Architecture and mobs of some of the most unfair enemies in the game. It's particularly murderous in single-player mode, as certain enemy ambushes just weren't designed with only one player in mind. They are Sea of Trees, Talus Caves, Death Mountain and Vaati's Castle amped Up to Eleven. Compared to the rest of the game (and including Realm of Memories), this is definitely Nintendo Hard. It will put veterans of older Zelda games to shame.
- Bonus Dungeon:
- You need to beat it in order to unlock the bonus dungeon of A Link to the Past. If you don't have any friends who also have this game, you may be tempted to invest in an Action Replay or just walk through the walls.
- The DSiWare remaster added a couple to Four Swords itself; the Realm of Memories and the Hero's Trial are two bonus dungeons you can unlock. The rewards for completing these dungeons were previously available in the original, but getting them required progress in A Link to the Past to unlock them. note
- Color-Coded Characters: The four hero Links are blue, red, green, and purple. Bosses often have colored weak points that have to be hit by the Link whose color corresponds to it.
- Color-Coded Multiplayer: Each player controls a different color of Link.
- Co-Op Multiplayer: The first to feature 4-player co-op, but you need 4 GBAs to do so.
- Disconnected Side Area: The game map, oddly enough. Despite the game's stage-based progression through a small handful of worlds, close inspection of the game's map reveals what looks to be a detailed overworld, with paths, shortcuts, ledges, and even cave entrances in places you never actually visit.
- Evil Sorcerer: Vaati, the Wind Mage/Sorceror.
- Excuse Plot: Possibly the game with the least amount of story in the series ever. The sequel and prequel gave it a proper place in the mythos, however.
- Fetch Quest: The number of rupees you have to earn in a single run of a level will increase over the game. On silver keys, it's 1000. On golden keys, it's 3000. On Hero's keys, it's 5000.
- Forced Tutorial: The Chambers of Insight, which you must complete before going on to any other levels.
- Heir-In-Law: The plan to take over the kingdom begins with kidnapping Princess Zelda for marriage purposes.
- High-Altitude Battle: The final battle against Vaati in the Palace of Winds.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Vaati escapes his prison and immediately tries to get Zelda to become his bride... However, it's common knowledge that Vaati has tried this before, as the backstory of this game describes how he captured all the beautiful women that caught his fancy before he was sealed away.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: According to the Hyrule Historia, the reason Vaati is portrayed differently in this game is because he has lost his memory of his life as a Picori, and his lust for the Light Force.
- Level Grinding: Of a sort. If you don't get the required amount of rupees to get the key, you'll resort to this. This is especially true for Hero's Keys quests. Because of the randomized nature of the maps, you better hope you find enemies that spawn.
- Me's a Crowd: All four players play as Link.
- Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The boss of the Sea of Trees.
- Nostalgia Level: The Realm of Memories in the DSiWare version, including stages based on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and the original Zelda. The graphics and music even change accordingly. The Link's Awakening levels were even monochrome like the non-DX version though the four Links and rupees had to be kept colored to be distinguished more easily.
- One Game for the Price of Two: Literally, it's impossible to play the game past the opening cutscene and title screen without at least two copies of the game. Very frustrating if you want to see the Four-Swords-dependent bonus features in the A Link To The Past enhanced port on the same Game Pack. Yes, this is a combination of One Game for the Price of Two and Two Games For The Price Of One. You may pick your jaw up now.
- Averted with the free DSiWare remaster, which includes a single-player mode, but doesn't include A Link to the Past, making it just One Game For The Price Of Zero.
- Prequel: Set before Ocarina of Time, according to Hyrule Historia.
- Save the Princess: You save Zelda from Vaati once again.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Vaati's sealed within the Four Sword.
- Socialization Bonus: As it's a Game Boy Advance game and requires a link cable, you need friends in order to play this game.
- The method of obtaining the Sword Beam and Hurricane Slash in the original version inverts this — they require getting the Master Sword and learning the Hurricane Slash skill in A Link to the Past, which is single-player, with the latter skill being new to the Game Boy Advance version. This is not the case in the DSiWare version, however, which added bonus dungeons that unlock those skills once completed.
- Averted with the free DSiWare remaster, which can be played in Multiplayer AND solo. Of course, the more players you have, the more fun you will have, and now it's possible to team up with your friends to get the special skills that previously could only be obtained alone. Or if your L/R buttons don't work, you're going to pray you have someone to partner with, especially with the harder levels.
- Unintentionally Unwinnable: The maps are semi-randomly generated. It's entirely possible to get put on a map where you literally cannot advance beyond a certain point no matter what you try to do. All you can do is go back to stage select. Not fun if you get stuck on the 2nd map of the area.
- Unstable Equilibrium: If you die, you lose all the powerup seeds you've collected up to that point, making it harder to avoid dying again. (And every time you die you lose more rupees than last time.)
- Updated Re-release: The DSiWare remaster. While it lacks A Link to the Past, it makes up for it by being free, including a single-player mode, making the multiplayer mode wireless, and having two bonus dungeons (one of which is a Nostalgia Level).
- We Cannot Go On Without You: Since rupees are shared among all players, the death of one player will cause everyone to lose rupees to revive the player, and the penalty to revive them increases for every death. Should a player go down and doesn't have the money to get revived, everyone gets a game over.