Four Swords is a multiplayer companion game to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on GBA. It is the first ever multiplayer Zelda game, playable with two, three, or four players, but the downside is that it is multiplayer only. You cannot complete the game with only a single player. This guide will set forth a kind of how-to on getting the most out of this unique little “bonus” game.
First off, in order to play this game, you must have at least two Game Boy Advance handheld systems, two A Link to the Past/Four Swords game paks, and a link cable connecting the two. (Note: It is better to use a Nintendo licensed link cable since they can offer support for it but not for third-party cables, which tend to be lower quality anyway.) In other words, however many players there are, that many GBAs and game paks will be required, as well as enough link cables to connect them. If you want a four-player game, for example, this will require four GBAs, four game paks, and three link cables. Note that you can also use the Game Boy Player in place of a GBA system so that one of the players can play this game on the TV screen! Just hook the other systems up as usual. For easy reference, here is how setup should go:
- 2 players: 2 GBAs + 2 game paks + 1 link cable
- 3 players: 3 GBAs + 3 game paks + 2 link cables
- 4 players: 4 GBAs + 4 game paks + 3 links cables
When you start the game up, choose Four Swords, and the opening scene will start. Either watch it or skip it by pressing start, and you’ll come to the title screen. At this point, the system will detect how many GBAs are linked up, and corresponding icons will appear at the bottom of the screen:
- 1P = green
- 2P = red
- 3P = blue
- 4P = purple
Once everyone’s ready, you’re off to the stage selection screen!
The object of the game is to clear the three main stages (Sea of Trees, Talus Cave, and Death Mountain) in such a way that you earn a Silver Key from the Great Fairy at the end of each stage. Once this is done, you gain access to Vaati’s Palace, the final stage of the game. However, even after you beat the game, you’re not finished yet! Gain more Rupees in each stage to claim three Golden Keys and refight Vaati in his palace. Then on the third play-through, you can earn the legendary Hero’s Keys to gain access to a special 12-level version of Vaati’s Palace and beat the game completely. Here’s the breakdown on how many Rupees you need per stage to gain the desired keys:
- Silver Key: 1000 Rupees
- Golden Key: 3000 Rupees
- Hero’s Key: 5000 Rupees
But first, you’ll notice the Chamber of Insights. This is a training ground where the Fairies will teach you all the tricks you need to know for this game, as well as the crucial component of cooperation (and competition). In this practice stage, there’s a central main area where you’ll warp to different training scenarios. The first two teach you basic moves in the game. From then on, you’ll practice with the various items and weapons. Then the last training session will be a more advanced version of what you’ve already seen to put all your skills to the test holistically.
Once you’re comfortable with the feel of the game, it’s time to move on to the three main stages. The Sea of Trees tends to be easiest, with the weakest enemies and fewest traps, so it’s a good starting point. Talus Cave has medium difficulty, what with more pits and icy floors, so most tackle it second. Then Death Mountain tends to be the toughest, with the most hardy enemies as well as fire and lava everywhere; go here last. Now the thing that makes these stages unique out of all Zelda games is that they’re randomized. So you can go in, beat it, and then immediately return, and you’ll have a completely different layout to navigate! Each stage is comprised of two levels and a boss battle. Since there are two levels, you will ideally want to collect at least half the Rupee requirement for obtaining your key before moving on to the next level. (For instance, if you’re going for the Silver Key, try to get at least 500 Rupees between you and your other players, then try to get the other 500 in the next level.) You know you’ve reached the end of the level when you see warp portals with a Heart Container.
Also note that the layout of each level changes, but it changes in two ways. First off, there’s the setting–which is the outer rim or overall layout of the stage. Then there’s the part–which is the area in the middle. So sometimes you’ll come to a level where the setting is the same, but the part in the middle is changed–or vice versa. You never know what you’re going to get in this game! Also, if you’re unable to collect the requisite number of Rupees for the desired key at the end of two levels, don’t fret: Boss battles also give you plenty of Rupees. As you’re attacking a boss’s weak point, generally some Rupees will fly out, so be sure to have someone pick them up. Also, once the boss is actually defeated, then you’ll get a huge amount of Rupees pouring out from the boss’s remains. Grab them quickly! Moreover, as you clear either a level or a boss battle, you get a Rupee bonus depending on how fast you did it. However, this system isn’t completely fair, so it’s much more advantageous to take your time exploring as thoroughly as possible uncovering all the Rupees you can instead of trying to rush and hoping for a good bonus. Naturally, in your first run-through, you’ll probably have no trouble at all gaining the 1000 Rupees needed for the Silver Key (in fact, you might even get that many just in the first of the two levels). In your second run-through, getting the needed 3000 Rupees for the Golden Key might be a bit of a stretch at a time, but you should be able to manage it every time. On the third play-through for the Hero’s Key, however, obtaining a whopping 5000 Rupees over two levels and boss battle can oftentimes be very daunting. You must be as tenacious and thorough as possible! If you see Moldorm-like enemies, go after them as they tend to drop lots of Rupees. Leave the area and return to see them respawn and collect as many as you can. Another helpful tip is something called Rupee fever: When every member of your team is at full health, then all Rupees collected count double. This lasts until one member takes damage, no matter how small. For more Rupees, remain at full health at all costs!
Once you have collected all three of a certain type of key (three Silver Keys for the first play-through, three Golden Keys for the second play-through, and three Hero’s Keys for the third play-through), then you gain access to Vaati’s Palace. The puzzles and layout of the levels in Vaati’s Palace will be the most challenging you’ve seen in this game yet, so be prepared to have your wits about you. The nice thing about Vaati’s Palace, however, is that there is no Great Fairy to appease at the end and thus no requisite number of Rupees to collect. You need only focus on staying alive and making it through!
Collect Rupees of course for life insurance. For if a teammate dies once (in any part of the game, not just Vaati’s Palace), it costs the team 50 Rupees to revive him. A second time costs 100 Rupees, and the price increases by 50 each time until the tenth time, when it costs 500 Rupees. (From then on, the price remains at 500.) If the team doesn’t have enough Rupees, and one player dies, then it’s game over for all, and the team is returned to the stage selection screen. Also note that Heart Containers, special seeds, and other items do not transfer out of their particular stages. Every time you enter a stage, you’re essentially starting over.
This makes things interesting once you reach Vaati’s Palace on your third go-round, for this is the great 12-level extravaganza. You’ll play through two random levels (taken from any of the four stages), then a boss rematch, then the cycle repeats. So this is how the third replay of Vaati’s Palace will look:
2 random levels + boss rematch + 2 random levels + boss rematch + 2 random levels + boss rematch + 2 random levels + Vaati battle
Naturally, your team will become very powerful while going through all those levels, collecting an unparalled number of Heart Containers, Rupees, and other treasures. Indeed for this reason, your third battle with Vaati should be your easiest! Also, whatever you do, make sure everyone has enough batteries in their GBAs before tackling the 12-level finale.
Another unique aspect of this game is the Medal of Courage system–the part of the game that encourages competition between your teammates. Even though all Rupees go into a common purse that determines whether or not your team continues after defeat or gains a key after defeating a boss, yet there is individuation. You can’t see how many Rupees one individual has (not even your own), but the game secretly keeps count. After defeating the boss and clearing the stage, you’ll see the Great Fairy sequence. But after that, each individual’s Rupees will be tallied, and whoever collected the most Rupees will win a Medal of Courage for the save file on their particular game pak. This is true after beating the Sea of Trees, Talus Cave, Death Mountain, and even Vaati’s Palace (you must wait out the ending and staff credit sequence). Once you have 10 Medals of Courage on one save file, you unlock the riddle quest in A Link to the Past for that file. Also note that there will always be a player to obtain the Medal of Courage even if the team fails to obtain a key from the Great Fairy.
Hint: If your buddies are not around or you’re having trouble claiming the most Rupees, trying hooking up two GBAs but playing through a stage by yourself, making sure that the player you want collects the most Rupees. Just keep an eye on the inert character, carrying him around with you, defending him from enemy attacks, and get through the stage as best you can. Talus Cave is ideal for this strategy since the boss can easily be beaten with one player commandeering two GBAs. The Sea of Trees is not such a good idea because beating that boss requires at least three or four hands.
As would be expected, A Link to the Past and Four Swords are connected; what you do in one game affects the other. Specifically, there are four ways they’re connected, which will be represented by four icons as you obtain them.
Palace of the Four Sword
Beat both Ganon in A Link to the Past and Vaati in Four Swords to unlock the Palace of the Four Sword. It doesn’t matter how you beat them; just do it. You can beat Ganon with a 100% inventory, or you can beat him with the bare minimum number of items necessary. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how you beat Vaati. Even after beating him on the first play-through with only the Silver Keys, as long as you’ve also beaten Ganon once, you will still unlock the Palace of the Four Sword. The icon for this looks like a pyramid.
Once you obtain the Master Sword from the Lost Woods in A Link to the Past, you gain the ability to shoot beams from this sword if you swing it while at full health. What’s more is that you gain this same ability in Four Swords too! But only your player will be able to do this. Your teammates must have the Master Sword obtained on their files for A Link to the Past if they want to shoot beams as well. The icon for this looks like the beams that come from the Master Sword.
When one player manages to collect 10 Medals of Courage in one save file, the riddle quest will become available in A Link to the Past. Simply find the lumberjack hut in the northwest part of the Light World, east of the Lost Woods, and go inside to talk to Q. Bumpkin. He will ask you a series of ten questions, and you must go out, find the answers, and bring them to him. Before you can complete the riddle quest, however, make sure you possess at least the Bug-Catching Net, Magic Powder, and Pegasus Boots before you can acquire all ten answers to Q. Bumpkin’s riddles. The icon for this looks like a question mark.
Once you complete the riddle quest in A Link to the Past, the lumberjack Q. Bumpkin will teach Link a new sword technique, the whirlwind sword attack. Press and hold the B button to charge it up, just like a spin attack, but hold it longer. After a while, Link’s charged sword will intensify. At this point, release and repeatedly mash the B button as Link whirls around the screen slashing through enemies and obstacles in his way. Be careful, as this consumes your magic meter. What’s nice is that once you obtain this ability in A Link to the Past, you also get it in Four Swords as well! In the latter game, where there is no magic meter, Link will simply get tired after doing the attack for a while. The icon for this looks like a whirlwind.