Ask a veteran Zelda fan what game Twilight Princess most reminds them of, and you’ll likely be told that it’s very similar to Ocarina of Time. Others may go back a little further, and say that it’s basically an updated A Link to the Past with a few twists thrown in. Almost all would agree that these two games were the main inspiration for Twilight Princess and the formula around which it was built. While both were obviously a heavy influence to Twilight Princess, is it possible that another game helped shape it even more? A 2004 quote by Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma begs further inspection.
In an example with Four Swords Adventures, I was the producer.. I didn’t actually put the story for that game together… Mr. Miyamoto then came in and upended the tea table… we changed the story around quite a bit… storyline shouldn’t be something complicated that confuses the player… and the storyline changed all the way up until the very end.
The story presented to us in the game Four Swords Adventures was not what Aonuma originally had in mind. The original storyline was apparently too complex, and Zelda director Shigeru Miyamoto forced them to change the story around.
Twilight Princess also features a dark mirror, but this time it goes by the name Mirror of Twilight. Its backstory bears similarities to the Dark Mirror, but this time we get a much clearer picture of what happened.
Some time after Lanayru tells Link a tale about a group of magic wielders who attempted to establish dominion over the Sacred Realm, Midna explains that they were banished for their actions. Sent to the Twilight Realm, they were forbidden from returning to Hyrule. Just as in Four Swords Adventures, the instrument of their banishment was a dark mirror.
A cursed mirror that sends people to another realm… That sounds like the Mirror of Twilight.
The mirror connecting light and shadow. The light emerging from it opens the way to the Twilight Realm.
~In-game text of Twilight Princess
With the connections and backstories of the Dark Mirror and Mirror of Twilight in mind, we can begin to compare their respective Dark Clans.
At first glance, it appears there isn’t much information to be obtained about the Dark Clan of Four Swords Adventures. Mentioned briefly on two occasions, all we know is that they invaded Hyrule, and were sealed away by the Dark Mirror. They are never actually shown in-game…or are they?
That mirror reveals the wickedness within a person and brings it to life. It’s an item of terrible, dark power. No good can come from this. Shadow Link!! Could he be your evil reflection, cast by the Dark Mirror?
~Maiden in Four Swords Adventures
If the Dark Mirror is what sealed away the Dark Clan, then perhaps the dark beings that can be called forth by the Dark Mirror, Shadow Links, are that very clan. The Shadow Link’s description of “possessing the black power of darkness” is reminiscent of both of the descriptions of the clan of old: “Dark Clan and “magic wielders”.
We cannot be certain if the Shadow Links are intended to be the Dark Clan, but the implications are there. Twilight Princess provides us a little more compelling evidence when it tells a more complete account of who and what the Dark Clan was.
Among those living in the light, interlopers who excelled at magic appeared. Wielding powerful sorcery, they tried to establish dominion over the Sacred Realm.
~Lanayru in Twilight Princess
The Dark Clan here is a group of powerful sorcerers bent on dominating the Sacred Realm. While this story is being told to Link, a cutscene which shows the events is taking place. It’s very interesting to note that in the cutscene the magic wielders are depicted as Shadow Links.
What an interesting choice of symbolism.
As with Four Swords Adventures, it’s very unlikely that there once existed an entire clan composed of literal Shadow Links. This representation is likely to emphasize the evil they possess by depicting them as the antithesis of the game’s hero. This depiction of the magic wielders may very well be a nod to their inspiration: Four Swords Adventures’ Shadow Links.
Twilight Princess further lends itself to the theory that the Shadow Links are the Dark Clan of Four Swords Adventures by giving another example of the Dark Clan taking on a new form.
It was a peaceful place…until Zant took control of the Twilight Realm and transformed all of the Twili into shadow beasts. It’s clear to me now that he somehow gained a great evil power previously unknown to our tribe…
~Midna in Twilight Princess
Zant managed to transform all of the Twili, the descendants of the magic wielders, into shadow beasts. However, as Midna points out, he’s using magic that is unknown by the Twili. Later, the game confirms that this magic came from Ganondorf. If Ganondorf’s powers transformed the Twili in Twilight Princess, it gives stability to the idea that he did a similar thing in Four Swords Adventures.
The third seemingly incomplete concept we see in Four Swords Adventures is the Dark World. At first glance, it appears to be the same Dark World from A Link to the Past, however, a few things seem to be different.
The Dark World of A Link to the Past is accessed by one-way portals, and is exited through the use of a Magic Mirror. Four Swords Adventures’ Dark World is instead accessed by opening up “Moon Gates” through the use of Moon Pearls.
While both games contain Moon Pearls, they function differently. In A Link to the Past, there is only one Moon Pearl, and it is used to allow Link to maintain his normal form in the Dark World, as the Dark World transforms anyone who enters it into a reflection of their heart. No such transforming powers are displayed by Four Swords Adventures’ Dark World.
Perhaps the Dark Worlds were originally intended to be the same, but with the plot changes called for by Miyamoto, Four Swords Adventures’ Dark World became varied from that of A Link to the Past. So how does this Dark World tie into Twilight Princess?
From what we see in the game, and from a quote by Zelda, we know that Vaati’s barriers are spreading the Dark World’s darkness into Hyrule.
His goal was to use Vaati to remake Hyrule into a land of darkness.
~Zelda in Four Swords Adventures
To break the barrier to the Dark World, you will need more Force Gems.
~In-game text of Four Swords Adventures
Vaati uses barriers to suck the Force out of the land, eventually transforming the land into darkness. To restore the Force to the land, you have to collect enough Force Gems to destroy Vaati’s barriers.
Link, this is the Forest of Light. Or rather, it once was. Now, the darkness grows deep, and the air stagnant.
~White Maiden in Four Swords Adventures
Shifting to Twilight Princess, we again have a type of “Dark World”. Though similar to the one from A Link to the Past, a distinction is made right from the start, as it bears a different name: The Twilight Curtain. Like the Dark World of Four Swords Adventures, the Twilight Curtain is not stated to be the corrupted Sacred Realm, so how did it come about?
The black beast you slayed was a shadow being. It had come to seize the power of light I wield. My brethren in Hyrule have already had their light stolen by these fell beasts. The entire kingdom has been reduced to a netherworld ruled by the cursed powers of darkness.
~Ordona in Twilight Princess
Ordona, one of the four Light Spirits that guard Hyrule, reveals the source of this consuming darkness known as the Twilight. The shadow beasts have stolen the light of the other three Light Spirits. Devoid of their guardians’ light, the various regions of Hyrule fell into a state of darkness.
You got the Vessel of Light! Use this to collect the tears that cut through the darkness. When the vessel is full of tears, you can dispel the twilight and return the land to its light-filled state.
~In-game text in Twilight Princess
Portrayal of Ganon
Before the release of Four Swords Adventures, every game featuring Ganon (excluding the Oracle games where he only makes a brief appearance in the linked ending) portrays him as obsessed with controlling the Triforce.
In the original Legend of Zelda he steals the Triforce of Power and attempts to find the shards of the Triforce of Wisdom. In A Link to the Past he manages to control the entire Triforce, and attempts to use it for global domination. Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker both feature Ganon in possession of one Triforce piece, and attempting furiously to acquire the other two.
Four Swords Adventures introduced a Ganon that strayed from that formula. He makes no mention of the Triforce in the entire game. Instead, he uses another means, the Trident, to acquire his power.
Another thing setting him apart from the typical “Ganon” formula is the way he sets about to conquer Hyrule. Instead of launching an assault personally, he leaves most of the dirty work up to Vaati. Zelda even states that his plan was to use Vaati to turn Hyrule into a land of darkness.
Twilight Princess again echoes these concepts. Though Ganondorf is in possession of the Triforce of Power, it doesn’t appear to be his primary concern. Unlike Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time, and Wind Waker, he makes no effort to acquire additional Triforce pieces. Just as in Four Swords Adventures, Ganondorf does not personally launch the main offensive, but is content to sit back and let someone else transform Hyrule into a land of darkness for him.
One final similarity, and an easily overlooked one at that, links the two Ganons together. Throughout the series, Ganon has been given two main titles in the original Japanese text of the games: “Dai Maou”, meaning Great Demon King, and “Yami no (Ma)ou”, meaning (Demon) King of Darkness.
Four Swords Adventures is no exception to this, as Ganon bears the title Demon King of Darkness. However, he is also given a second title: “Majuu”, meaning Demon Beast. This title had never been used in a previous game, but is once again bestowed on Ganon in Twilight Princess.
What’s so special about these particular Ganons that they should have a second title? Four Swords Adventures gives no real explanation for why he is a Demon Beast, but as always, Twilight Princess appears to explain in full.
Ganon makes the transformation from Ganondorf, the humanoid Gerudo thief, into Ganon, the Demon Beast, in an abnormal fashion. Ocarina of Time shows that such a transformation can be triggered by the Triforce of Power, but in Twilight Princess, it doesn’t appear that the Triforce is the cause. Instead, Ganondorf makes the transformation after absorbing Twili magic; the power of darkness.
More confirmation that it is indeed the powers of the Twilight that caused the transformation come from Link. The first time Link enters the Twilight, he is transformed into a wolf. Midna bestows the title of “divine beast” upon him.
Seeing the Twilight’s ability to transform people into their beast-like forms, one can theorizie why Ganon bears the title of Demon Beast in Four Swords Adventures. While the Trident caused his transformation into the Demon King of Darkness, exposure to a land devoid of light may have made him the Demon Beast.
So while Twilight Princess may feel quite similar to Ocarina of Time, and the Light World vs Dark World concept found its origins in A Link to the Past, Four Swords Adventures appears to be its biggest influence. Graphical and stylistic differences aside, Four Swords Adventures became the building blocks for Twilight Princess.