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LOS ANGELES — The video game industry is biased. It hates groups of three people.

Most cooperative multiplayer games support two or four players. Sure, three players can usually go through four-player co-op games, but that absent fourth player haunts you. You see the empty slot in the user interface taunts you, highlighting your inability to have more friends. That’s why I’m glad Nintendo’s newest entry in its Legend of Zelda series is actually designed for three-player co-op.

The game, Triforce Heroes (which comes out on the 3DS portable this fall), has three versions of Link (colored green, red, and blue), fighting together to clear dungeons and defeat enemies. Sometimes, this just means working independently of each other to clear a room of monsters. A lot of times, however, you all need to team up. You’ll have to move a giant block together, or all three of you need to stand on the same platform in order to open a door.

Triforce Heroes.

Above: Triforce Heroes is rare — it’s three-player co-op.

Image Credit: Nintendo

Triforce Heroes also has a totem system that spices up the cooperation. One player can grab another, placing him on their shoulders. The third player can then grab both of them, creating a totem of three Links. The bottom player is in charge of movement, while the top one can swing a sword or use items. The middle Link can even throw the top Link onto hard-to-reach platforms or enemies. A boss that GamesBeat writer Jeff Grubb and I fought at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles required this kind of team work. At first, a two-person totem was enough to reach his weak spot. Eventually, we needed a three-Link totem to deliver the killing blow.

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Triforce Heroes also forces cooperation by limiting which items each player has. At the start of the level, you’ll have to figure out who gets what. The stage we played had two bombs and one bow and arrow. So, the player who picked up the bow often had to be on top of our totem, since his weapon had the best range.

Before each fight, you can equip yourself with outfits that give you special bonuses. One will have you shoot three arrows instead of one if you have a bow, so you’ll want to coordinate with your friends to make sure that person gets that item. Another will give you access to the spin attack famous in other Zelda games, and others have more general bonuses to defense and health.

Costumes!

Above: Costumes!

Image Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo actually created multiplayer Zelda games before with Four Swords on the Game Boy Advance and Four Swords Adventure on the GameCube. However, those games were as much a competition as they were a shared adventure. Players fought over gems, and whoever had the most at the end of a level was declared the winner. Triforce Heroes focuses much more on cooperation. Players not only share gems, but everyone has the same life bar. One player can’t die before the others. You either win together or lose together.

This helps make Triforce Heroes stand out from the Four Swords series. This really is its own thing, with a unique approach to three-player co-op. It’s perfect for someone like me, who has two Zelda-loving brothers. However, those of you that run with a four-person gaming group are going to have to make some hard choices.

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