The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is only fun in such rare instances that it isn't worth playing. The single player component is ridiculously clunky and tedious. Playing online is full of frustration and lag. You'll find some enjoyment if you can get a local multiplayer session together. Even then, the game is so light on interesting content that it can't be recommended.
Much like your standard Legend of Zelda, there are eight dungeons to complete. In Tri Force Heroes each one is broken down into four stages to can be completed in any order. Every level must be taken on by three different characters as the puzzles will require a lot of cooperation. There is one item per character that will dictate what type of puzzles you will encounter. A lot of teamwork is required since quick timing is necessary to many of this game’s challenges. With the addition of online play, this should be a great successor to the Four Swords series but it’s a shame that Tri Force Heroes falls short on almost every aspect of this.
Playing local multiplayer is the best way to work through this game. You can easily communicate and there will be no interference in your connection. Cooperation is key since many of the puzzles will require each character to perform a specific action in a certain order. Totem Tower is the primary action you and your teammates will have to perform. This will allow Link to lift one of the others above him, until all three of you are a walking totem pole. Many enemies and obstacles will need to be tackled with this verticality in mind. For example: throwing characters to higher ground or attacking an elevated weakness are constant occurrences. There are a great number of these puzzles and they are typically quite interesting to tackle. Having to work together so uniformly can be a lot of fun. When you can communicate and have a well functioning team, Tri Force Heroes is a fun time.
The online multiplayer takes a huge dip in quality. The game is very laggy and this becomes a massive issue when trying to pull off some quick maneuvers. One dungeon even becomes unplayable if you aren’t able to control your character at all times. Around 50% of the games I played online would hitch up every few seconds. Even worse is the lack of communication to your team. You have a list of different commands you can send out to your party but the range of information you can present is quite limited. Being able to tell players to “Come Here” is useful but not being able to point or command someone to “Go There” is irritating. There also isn’t anyway to tell someone to stop what they are doing (in fact, you can’t send any kind of negative response at all). Implementing voice chat (with the 3DS’s built in microphone) would solve this but it would most likely produce even more lag. However, if you can get a smart team and a good connection, playing online isn’t the worst way to enjoy this game.
The worst way to play Tri Force Heroes is by yourself in single player. In fact, the solo component is basically unplayable entirely. You have to control three different characters, one at a time, as you work through each stage. This becomes quite tedious when the puzzles and enemies require quick timing and precious movements. Any progress done in either single or multiplayer is restricted to that mode. You can’t continue from where you left off in one version, you have to replay the same dungeons, basically starting over. Considering the game is much more fun with other people helping out, you can basically ignore the single player entirely.
The game also incorporates harder, challenge versions of each stage that are extremely hard due to the issues above. These challenges range from limiting your health to putting a timer on the stage. All of these becomes very difficult to combat when you have to take on three players’ worth of responsibility, have a bad team you can’t talk to, the lag slows you down, etc. The main levels are hard enough to get through with all these problems so I never even touched the challenge versions.
On top of this, the multiplayer lobby system is antiquated and frustrating. Selecting a stage is irritating since there is an element of randomness. Each person chooses one stage they want to play and then the game does a roulette spin to select what to do. Even if there is a 2-1 split on the stages, there’s still a chance you will play the minority. This can cause players to have to replay a stage a few times or quit out. If anyone leaves a game, the other two players are kicked out as well. Instead of letting someone take over the third slot (like in single player), you have to restart and wait for another human. You can imagine how frustrating this will get. Upon completion of the final stage in a dungeon you can’t select the next dungeon and continue. Once a lobby is created you can only select from those four stages, then you must quit out (losing your connection to what might have been a good team), select a different dungeon, and then wait for new players to join you. All of these force the player to replay stages several times, ensure you will never have a great team for very long, and irritate everyone along the way.
The one gameplay element that is actually interesting is the various costumes that Link can wear when entering a level. Each costume will grant a different ability and only one can be worn at any given time. You unlock new outfits by progressing through the game and crafting them from the various objects you are awarded. This allows different characters to play more support roles while others can focus on power boosts. Since each level has one item per player, you can also plan your costume ‘loadout’ accordingly for added effect. For example, some costumes will increase the power of the Bow or Boomerang. Being the only aspect you can unlock, the costumes are easily the most interesting part of this game and it is good to see the huge variety available you.
Outside of this, and outside of the dungeons, is a small town that you can explore. However, it is basically empty and there is not much to do. Four options that consist of a building to make costumes, a stand that sells items to use for crafting costumes, a house that will grant you an item for crafting costumes if you are lucky, and a building that will show you all the screenshots you have taken. Apart from that there is nothing to do in this town. It is basically useless and could have been easily streamlined into a main menu. As it currently stands it feels more like a tease; hinting at what could have been a more interesting game.
Tri Force Heroes is filled with tedium from start to finish. The single player is a joke and the online multiplayer barely gets a pass. The game is frustrating to use when playing over the internet due to annoying lobby systems and limited communication options. Playing locally is the clear choice and the only way to enjoy some of the interesting puzzles and enemies this game offers. This game is rarely fun while hinting at what could have been, but instead we got this cumbersome follow up to the fantastic Four Swords games.