The original Four Swords was strictly a multiplayer experience, but the main story in Four Swords Adventures can also be played solo. Since many of the game's puzzles and boss fights require the cooperation of all four Links, the single-player game puts you in control of all four with classic forest green-clad Link leading the pack. The controls here are pretty intuitive, and it's really easy to snap the Links into formation or to control each Link individually. The game is still good fun when you're on your own, but without four different players to accomplish individual goals on their own, it moves a bit slower. What's nice about Four Swords Adventures, though, is that it doesn't demand that you commit to either the multiplayer or the solo experience, and each time you load up a save game, you're given the option to choose how many players will be in on the action.
One of the differences between the original Four Swords and Adventures is a more persistent narrative. The game starts off with the wind sorcerer Vaati kidnapping Zelda, along with the six maidens who were previously keeping watch over Vaati's prison. Link, heroic as ever, gives chase, and grabs the Four Sword to help him in his battle. Doing so divvies up our pint-sized hero into four different color-coded Links, and then the posse of Link heads out into greater Hyrule to undo the damage that Vaati has done, free the maidens, and, of course, rescue Princess Zelda. Though the story isn't as fleshed-out as a full-fledged Zelda game, Four Swords Adventures still includes plenty of interaction with NPCs, which provides for some occasionally clever dialog.
A cursory glance at Four Swords Adventures might lead you to believe that someone had just slapped a Game Boy Player on the GameCube, but a closer inspection would reveal a bit more. Yes, the majority of the graphics were lifted from the Four Swords GBA game, and as such, the sprites can appear a little pixelated. Adventures does improve on the original Four Swords' visuals, making the Wind-Waker-derived visual style even more reminiscent of the cel-shaded adventure of Link. Some of these enhancements are obvious, such as the curls of purple and black smoke that erupt when enemies are defeated, the ripple effects that occur whenever you travel through a moon gate into the shadow realm, or the various fire effects that you'll encounter. There's subtler stuff at work here, too, such as the shadows cast by clouds in outdoor environments and a nefarious-looking mist in caves--both of these effects definitely add to the atmosphere. The pieces match up stylistically, capturing the Hyrulean flavor almost impeccably. But the drawback of mix-and-matching GBA and GameCube graphics on the same screen is that there's a stark contrast in the quality, which has a negative effect on the game's cohesiveness.
Make no mistake--four players and four GBAs are an absolute must to get the most out of the game.
The sound design for Four Swords Adventures will be even more familiar to anyone who has played any Zelda game, and especially to those who have played The Wind Waker. Virtually every piece of music, every sword slash, every yelp, and every little chime has been lifted directly from The Wind Waker, or they are simply pieces of The Legend of Zelda canon. An argument can be made that this is just lazy on the part of the developers, but really, these are the sounds that you expect to hear when playing a Zelda game. If the menu screen weren't accompanied by the stark opening notes of the main Zelda theme, or if you didn't hear that surprised-sounding eight-note progression whenever you uncovered a secret passage, you'd probably feel just a bit cheated. What's most important, though, is that the sound that's used works.
It's not too surprising that it took Nintendo developing a game itself for the whole connectivity idea to really crystallize. The key to the success of this game is that the game is inherently really good, with or without the hardware novelty. But, to be fair, if you only play Four Swords Adventures by yourself, you won't be getting the full experience. If you've been waiting for a truly compelling reason to invest in a GameCube-to-GBA link cable, this is probably it.