Nostaljoy: A True Gem
This is another entry in our series of fond times gone by but still remembered: Nostaljoy.
Like I do with most things in life, I refer to the wisdom of one Andrew Bernard when it comes to gaming: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
It’s easy to look back on bright days gone by and reminiscence fondly. To remember the credits screen and the game over countdowns. To daydream about when full 360 controls were entirely innovative. To laugh recalling the first time you heard Mario say “Mama mia.”
Those are fun gems to rediscover and polish off. Fond feelings of frivolous yesterdays.
Yup, good times.
It’s less fun when you hop in the way-back machine and discover…you may have been a douche.
Big ol’ douche.
Allow me to introduce what is, in my opinion, the most underrated game in the entire Nintendo library. For real.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was a Gamecube title that’s level of brilliance was only matched by how much of a pain in the goddamn Hylian ass it was to play the way it was intended.
You see, you could play it as a solo adventure, commanding four different Links to solve a number of puzzles and obstacles, and have a grand time, but that’s not what they wanted. And if you got to play it the way they wanted you to, it’s not what you wanted, either. The game utilized the Gameboy Advance cable that connected your GBA to your GameCube console. Each player needed to have both a GBA and a cable, and the whole thing would look like an electronic bowl of pasta dropped on the floor. It was messy…but good, messy fun.
It was co-op on a level that has rarely been replicated. A game designed by the geniuses behind gaming’s best puzzles combining their flair for making you figure things out with team-based tactics. Each Link played a crucial part in advancing, and the whole adventure was perfectly polished. I’ve played few perfect games. This here’s easily one of them.
And besides the flawless programming, the potential for friendship it contained is nothing short of magical. This wasn’t a headcount kind of co-op experience; this was honest to goodness teamwork. Struggling through dungeons and dangers all in the name of all advancing. This wasn’t the madcap greed grab like Mario Party. Headshots weren’t celebrated here. This was the Three Musketeers in red, blue, purple, and green.
Until the heavens rained.
It just wouldn’t do for the game to be solely altruistic. There simply had to be a slightly competitive edge. There didn’t need to be. Really there didn’t. But alas…
Force gems were tiny treasures littered across the game. For the most part, they were used to power the Links, and eventually at the end of the level a certain number had to be collected to continue to the next area. You’d get them for beating bad guys, performing combos, or sometimes they just fell like so many raindrops and the four fairy boys would have to scurry to collect as many as possible.
That would’ve been fine, too. And, in fact, for most, it was.
But not me.
You see, at the end of each level, the four heroes would be placed, literally, on pedestals. The number of enemies killed, hearts lost, and other information was tallied up. Each Link would receive a certain amount of points (or demerits!) depending on your performance. A fun, clean way of just seeing how everyone stacked up.
But it couldn’t end there.
The next to last tallying were of how many force gems you collected in the level. You’d see a physical representation of your number of gems as they rained down on your specific Link in a dazzling display of color and glisten. We all wish to be showered in praise. In this game, you literally were.
And from then on out, my goal shifted.
While the rest of my comrades (and you all remember who you are), were still dedicated to vanquishing evil, I had ulterior motives. Every gem on screen…was to be Adam’s. Justice took the passenger seat to lining my Link’s pockets with jeweled glory.
My shower would be a monsoon.
I, of course, never informed my partners of this. Instead, I worked as clandestinely as possible, even shirking duties at times in the name of gem gathering. I’d utilize the tried-and-true, “Oh, I didn’t see you doing blank,”, or, with this game specifically, “Oh, I thought I was the purple Link.” Lies, all.
I come here today to confess my sins. To acknowledge that I would’ve let Hyrule burn if it meant another large purple force gem (they were worth 3,000!). I’m not proud, I don’t expect forgiveness, and I carry the shame every time I glance over the title on my game shelf.
But I’m also here…to share some sadness. Nintendo has given us many gifts, and most are obvious. But with Four Swords Adventures they crafted a wholly unique experience. One brimming with both creativity, and a desire to build community. Perhaps they saw that the future of multiplayer would be one of tea-baggery and endless accusations of calling rival players “gay”. Or maybe they saw the light at the end of the tunnel and knew that having a friend over at your house to play video games was soon to go the way of the Dodo. Maybe they wanted to give that concept one last hurrah.
Only times four.
I wish that younger man that I was had appreciated this esoteric electronic piece of entertainment for what it was really meant for: not rankings or precious stones.
It was meant for us to be together, if only one more time.
Sorry I couldn’t see past the prize, guys.