Like the first Four Swords, the graphics are 2D and four Links are used. However, the game is 1-4 players instead of 2-4, and the graphics style is that of A Link to the Past, while Four Swords used the Wind Waker style.
The first game was multiplayer only to promote the link cable. However, the GBA can be used for specific areas such as caves which can either be projected to a GBA or on a small window onscreen. Multiplayer is only possible using Game Boy Advances.
The game is based heavily on A Link to the Past, so it implements many of the sprites and backgrounds from that game enhanced with special effects.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures expands on the concept introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. It is the only episodic Zelda game, and after each mission or episode the equipment that you found, including the extra heart pieces, is lost.
There are three modes the player can partake in in Four Swords Adventures. The main mode is Hyrulean Adventure. Shadow Battle is a multiplayer battle mode, and Navi Trackers, which was only included in the Japanese and Korean releases, is a minigame mode featuring Tetra and her pirate crew from The Wind Waker.
It is the only official Zelda game not to have an inventory window, limiting the player(s) to only one secondary item. Most other games have a drop-down inventory window and most games since Ocarina of Time have allowed for three other items equipped to buttons. Even A Link to the Past, which this game is based on, has an inventory window.
Unlike the other Zelda games, the game saves only when stages have been completed.
One potentially annoying feature occurs whenever a secondary item is acquired, which will always be accompanied by a complete description even when the item has already been used.
The game did poorly commercially. The game was intended to increase the sales of the series after The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker sold fewer than expected (around 3 million copies). Four Swords Adventures did much worse at only 250,000. Reviews were generally positive, with a Game Rankings average of 84.52%.
To date, however, it remains the worst rated Zelda game of all time (excluding the Game Boy Advance re-releases of The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link). It is also the worst selling Zelda game and the only one in the series not to reach one million copies sold. Had The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess also sold poorly, Nintendo speculated that the Zelda series would have been ended.
- A Thwomp appears in Death Mountain.
- Navi is acquried during the game, in a rare 2D appearance
- This is the first 2D console game to feature Tingle.