The main mode of Four Swords Adventures is “Hyrulean Adventure”, an episodic, cooperative multiplayer adaptation of conventional The Legend of Zelda gameplay. “Shadow Battle” is a competitive multiplayer battle mode. “Navi Trackers”, present only in the Japanese version of the game (and displayed briefly at E3 before the US release), is a multiplayer stamp rally race.
In Shadow Battle, two or more players battle each other until only one is left standing. As in Hyrulean Adventure, each player uses a different-colored Link character and wields various tools to attack the other Links. Initially, there are five stages which players can choose as the battle’s arena. Five bonus maps are unlocked upon completion of Hyrulean Adventure (these “dark stages” are almost the same as the first five maps, but portals to the dark world appear and the player has limited vision). In each stage, items randomly appear, and are usually similar to the items in Hyrulean Adventure. There are many special objects in each stage, which can be used to the player’s advantage. There is also a time limit; when it reaches zero, Vaati arrives, resulting in an instant tie.
The game begins with the land of Hyrule in a state of fear because of strange happenings that have occurred recently. On a stormy night, Princess Zelda and the shrine maidens fear that the reason for these events is that Vaati’s seal is weakening. She summons Link and brings him to the castle so he can protect her and the other maidens while they open the portal to the Four Sword Sanctuary. When they do, however, a shadowy figure appears from the portal. This figure was Shadow Link, who then kidnapped the shrine maidens and sealed them in crystals. Link follows him to the sanctuary where he retrieves the Four Sword to destroy this doppelganger. The Four Sword is a magical sword that splits the wielder into four clones of himself. Vaati is once again released and wreaks havoc on the once peaceful kingdom.
As Link wanders the overworld of Hyrule Field on his quest to restore peace to Hyrule, he learns that the creation of his evil counterpart and the release of Vaati is only a small part in an insidious plot to take control of Hyrule. Things complicate as the dimension of the Dark World appears and people are being abducted throughout Hyrule. Link learns that not only have the knights of Hyrule mysteriously disappeared, but evil versions of them have been creating havoc. The castle has been taken over and monsters are appearing everywhere.
It is revealed later in the game that the true villain is Ganon, King of Darkness. He has stolen a powerful trident and used it to take control of parts of Hyrule. He stole the dark mirror and used it to create Shadow Link and then sent him to kidnap the shrine maidens and trick Link into releasing Vaati. In order to gain as much power as possible and build up his army, Ganon wants to take control of the shrine maidens’ power as well as abducting people and sending them into the Dark World where they would become part of his army. Vaati unknowingly furthered his plans by creating monsters to add to his army. It is revealed that the knights of Hyrule were murdered by Ganon and their souls were trapped in the Dark World where they became creatures of Darkness. Link eventually saves the shrine maidens, retrieves the Dark Mirror, destroys Shadow Link and Vaati, and faces Ganon in an ultimate showdown. Link defeats Ganon and seals him firmly in the Four Sword. Peace returns to Hyrule and the people celebrate as all traces of the evil that plagued Hyrule are vanquished.