The multiplayer options Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, which is out today for 3DS, can be a little confusing. We're here to help.
I've played around ten hours of the game so far, and it's pretty safe to say Tri Force Heroes can be fun — especially with other people — but it's totally skippable. As you might expect from a Nintendo game, everything is super-polished and clever except for the online matchmaking tools, which are a mess. (Full review coming soon.)
For now, here's an easy guide to all the multiplayer options in the game.
Can you play by yourself?
Yes! Going solo will replace the two other Links with mindless puppets that you can inhabit at any time. (You can swap through all three characters using the bottom touchscreen.) This can be a bit tedious, as you'll have to manually carry and move all three puppets through each level, but it's an option.
Can you play with only one other person?
No! This is one of the new Zelda's biggest flaws: There's no way to play as a group of two. This is a disappointment to those of us who live with significant others and would love to play a multiplayer Zelda alone with them.
Can you play with one other person and then a third random person online?
Yes! So if you do have a buddy or SO you want to play with, the two of you can connect to WiFi as a duo and find a random stranger to play alongside you.
Can you play with two other people in the same room?
Yes! A group of three can play together either via remote wireless or WiFi.
Can you play online with random people?
Yes! Just choose "Unknown Heroes" and you'll be able to play with randoms.
Can you play online with two friends?
Yes! But you have to add everyone's friend codes via the 3DS menu, because Nintendo.
Can you keep playing even if someone gets disconnected?
No! If one player gets disconnected, you all immediately drop out of the game and lose all of your progress.
Can you play with someone who doesn't have the game?
Yes! There's an option called Download Play that will let someone without the game join you for a limited number of sessions.
Can you choose which levels you want to play?
Sort of! This system is actually a major pain in the arse. If you're a group of three friends, you'll have to vote on the area of the world you want ot play in — Riverside, Ice Cavern, etc. But players who haven't unlocked an area won't be able to vote on it. So if your group wants to play in the Volcano but your two friends have only gotten up to the Woodlands, their votes will go to the Woodlands by default. Then, the game will randomly select one of the three options you've picked, and you'll have only a 1/3 chance of getting the Volcano.
After this, you'll have to vote on the level within each area. If you and your friends pick different things, the game will also randomly choose one. Same with the difficulty challenges that you can add to each level. This is all a major pain in the arse that could've been avoided if Nintendo had just done the sensible thing and let the "host" of each match choose the area, level, and modifiers.
Anyway, we'll get into all this stuff more when we review the game. Hope this guide answers at least a few of your questions. Look forward to our full review of Tri Force Heroes soon.