Disability Game Review: Legend of Zelda Triforce Heroes

The Legend of Zelda Triforce Heroes is the latest installment in a franchise of handheld games that leaves much to be desired from the standpoint of accessibility. In previous reviews we’ve talked about how Nintendo really needs to take a step forward in the accessibility of their handheld Zelda games. Unfortunately Triforce Heroes represents not a step forward but a massive leap backwards for gamers with physical impairments.

To begin with players with visual impairments have historically had access to these games because the only real color coding throughout most of the titles had to do with the denomination of rupees or the types of enemies. Neither of which seems to bar players from playing titles such as; a link between worlds or the N64 Zelda titles that have been re-released on the 3DS. Unfortunately Triforce Heroes puts a greater emphasis on visual ability in two different ways. First players must be able to distinguish between 3 different colors of Links. After running the game through a color blind filter this seems an extremely difficult task. These three Links work together to solve puzzles and accomplish goals. The problem is that if you’re playing the game how it’s meant to be played you’re playing with two other live teammates but with so little contrast between the three sprites it is easily understandable why most color blind gamers should avoid this title completely because they will end up frustrating not only themselves but also the other two members of their team whenever they lose track of which Link they are. The second emphasis is put on depth perception. A good deal of emphasis is put on the stacking mechanic where the three Links stand on each other’s shoulders to reach platforms and new areas of dungeons. Which means that the ability to properly gauge distance in a 2D environment is required to properly progress through this title. All these factors put together mean that most players with visual disabilities should stay away from this title. In fact between the new barriers listed above and the visual barriers inherent to the Zelda franchise, Triforce heroes can’t in good conscience be recommended to any gamers with visual impairments.

The case is even worse for gamers with fine motor impairment. As one of these and a Zelda fan myself I can tell you that most fine motor impaired gamers who enjoy the Zelda franchise expect to run into numerous puzzles or sequences which they cannot complete due to limited dexterity. But we put up with it because we love Zelda and there is enough there to usually satisfy us even if we need help from time to time. This is not the case for Triforce Heroes. Again we have two barriers that are relatively unheard of within the franchise and make it nearly impossible for most gamers with fine motor impairments to access this title. The first is that the Legend of Zelda Triforce Heroes is designed to be a multiplayer 3DS game. You are meant to logon and save Hytopia with two other players each on their own 3DS. DAGERS has historically taken a stance against multiplayer only games because it is very difficult to function as a team when a disabled player is unable to play the game “properly”. In other words each member of the team is dependent on the others to do well and this puts an unfair demand on players who lack the physical ability. There is a single player mode, but this single player mode is worse than trying to play multiplayer as it turns the whole Zelda experience into one continuous dexterity puzzle constantly juggling between three Links who need to each be controlled individually in order to fulfill their purpose. Contrast this with the GameCube title Legend of Zelda Four Swords Adventures. In this older game all four Links can be controlled simultaneously by a single player or individually by a team. This is not what’s going on in Triforce Heroes. Either each needs to be controlled by an individual player or an individual player has to control each Link one at a time which very quickly saps the fun out of the title for players with fine motor disabilities as they struggle to juggle their three characters and save Hytopia.

Perhaps the only real good news comes from gamers with hearing impairments. This is because the dialogue within Triforce heroes is displayed as text and is easy to read. We could say that in our brief play through nothing relies on sound or the ability to hear but because other barriers stopped us from testing this claim to its full extent all we can say is that for those with auditory disabilities the legend of Zelda Triforce Heroes seems thoroughly accessible.

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Inaccessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Released For: 3DS
ESRB Rating: E
GameInformer Score: 7.25

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