Ever since the launch of the GameCube, Nintendo has been giving its vision of "connectivity" between the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance the hard sell. We've seen plenty of GameCube and GBA games that let you swap items or unlock secret bonuses between the console and portable versions of a game, but these have largely been token gestures, and the shining examples of Nintendo's connectivity ideals have been few and far between. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures pretty much nails all the bullet points that Nintendo has been hammering on--this is a game best enjoyed with a group of four, and using the Game Boy Advance as a controller has an appreciable impact on the experience. When you're all hooked up and playing with a posse, Four Swords Adventures is a great game.
Four Swords Adventures does an expert job of blending cooperative and competitive gameplay.
As owners of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the GBA will recall, Four Swords originated as a nice little multiplayer game that piggybacked along with that remake of Nintendo's seminal SNES adventure. Four Swords Adventures plays much the same, allowing competition and cooperation to coincide. All four Links will be vying for gems that increase the player's fighting power, and they will also be searching for other various bits of treasure. But if you spend your time just backstabbing the other players, you won't get very far, as many of the puzzles require coordination within the group. You'll have to push large blocks together, pull huge levers together, stand on pressure-sensitive floor switches in tandem, and fight massive swarms of enemies together--feats that would be impossible with just a single Link.
The game smartly keeps the scale, and thus, the level of commitment needed from all the players, relatively small by making each level self-contained. You can get special power-ups and heart containers over the course of a level, but when you walk into the next level, you'll be back to square one--basic sword attack, four hearts worth of health, and no secondary weapon. These levels vary a little in size, but they can usually be completed in under an hour, which seems like an appropriately bite-sized chunk of time.
Pac-Man Vs. was novel, and it was nice to have your own private inventory screen on your GBA in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, but Four Swords Adventures really integrates the GBA into the experience. Every time you enter a building, a cave, some kind of subdungeon, or pass through a moon gate into the shadow realm, the action will break out from the TV down to the screen on your GBA. This can, admittedly, be a little jarring at the start. The first time it happens, it will likely take you a couple of seconds to realize that you need to look down at the screen on your Game Boy Advance--but eventually it becomes second nature. There are also some other uses for this new integration, such as a secret ballot that comes up at the end of each stage where players vote for the Light and Dark players on that particular stage. You could conceivably pull off most of what Four Swords Adventures does without GBAs, but having them there really does create a more dynamic multiplayer experience.
Alternately, if you aren't into the whole cooperation thing, the game offers a battle mode where two to four players can simply fight it out. Since the combat is pretty simple, the levels you'll fight on contain lots of deadly traps and incredibly lethal power-ups to spice things up. This mode still remains more of a nice aside; the main adventure is definitely the draw in Four Swords Adventures.