Format: Nintendo Wii U
Released: September 26
For the record, I’m going to give Hyrule Warriors a good score. I really liked this game, and I’m very happy to have played it. I recognize two things though. One, that this is not a game for everyone, and two, that I’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game before and thus am not used to the many traditions of that franchise. So if I make a big deal out of things that have been part of the DW franchise for a while I apologize. I came into this game with fresh eyes, and my thoughts and feelings reflect that.
Hyrule Warriors is a collaboration between Nintendo and Koei Tecmo, and their games Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. While this might have seemed like an odd pairing at first, Hyrule Warriors blasted my expectations and delivered an experience I will both fondly remember and probably play for a long time.
Right off the bat, we discover that this Hyrule we’re in is not any we’ve seen before. Which is great, because it allows the developers to have fun, all the while paying homage to the series it’s 75 per cent based on (that’s Legend of Zelda). And let me tell you, Hyrule Warriors is a true celebration of the Legend of Zelda franchise.
One thing I really liked about the “new world” we’re dropped in, is the roles of Zelda and Link. Link is in the military when we meet him, and Zelda isn’t just a princess. From almost the first cutscene we see her armored up and leading the troops in battle with her rapier in hand. If you’ve ever wanted Zelda to be a BA warrior princess in a “true” LOZ game? This is the game for you.
The story itself is both simple and familiar, yet deep and different. As in most LOZ games, the Tri-Force is the main prize. Who goes after it, and how we get to the end, is what’s different. Say what you will about the villains of the game, but I think they really added something to the mythology of Legend of Zelda. Cia (bad) and Lana (good) alone add a very interesting wrinkle that I honestly don’t want to spoil, but it adds to the story in a fantastic way from start to finish.
Easily the coolest part of the story though is how the world of Hyrule Warriors is blended with the worlds from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Like I said earlier, a true celebration of Legend of Zelda. How this event occurs is actually very cool and very believable, given the context in the story. You’ll see numerous classic locations via the worlds merging, and that’s not the only classic thing you’ll see…
No doubt though the thing that everyone is wondering about is the gameplay and the characters. Mainly because this is the biggest chunk that’s taken from the Dynasty Warriors franchise and planted here. Does it work? Do the characters feel unique? Are there significant differences between them? Is it just a button masher? Is there replay value? And on and on.
In order: Yes, yes, yes, no, and yes.
The gameplay is very simple. There are armies of enemies waiting for you to chop, slash, hack, blast, smash, bash, cut and dismember into submission. And that is not an exaggeration. At times I found myself just destroying waves of enemies to see how many I could kill before the level ended. I think my record was close to 2,000. So there you go!
But there’s also missions in-game that you have to do. From defeating certain enemies, to taking certain keeps, to protecting certain team members, there’s honestly a lot to keep track of. And at first it can be overwhelming, especially since you can’t put your map on the Gamepad (note: If there IS a way, please tell me! But for the life of me I couldn’t find it), so you’ll find yourself squinting at the screen sometimes to find out where you need to go.
Once you get the hang of it though, it’s a blast to play. Even when you’re playing a level you’ve already been on, it’s not the same feeling, especially when you’re playing as a different character, it’s like a totally new experience.
For me personally, one of the funnest things about Hyrule Warriors was testing out all the characters. And at the time of this review, I’m still unlocking characters, so there’s more fun to be had later! But honestly there was just something invigorating about playing as a new character with new skills to control.
If anyone is worried that the personalities of these beloved characters from past games are pushed aside just to get them in game, don’t be. Every character is almost exactly how you remember them. Midna is a wise-cracking little imp you can’t help but love, Darunia dances and fights by his friends with pride, Fi talks in logic and calculations, and on and on. It’s everything you remember about them and more, which is important, because there are legions of fans who love these characters, and if they weren’t how they were before, or just blank slates, it wouldn’t have felt the same. Sometimes it’s details like this that can make or break a game.
Speaking of details, it’s awesome how much detail was put into the attacks of all these characters. Each one is unique in style and skillset. Even with four characters that have swords of some kind (Link, Zelda, Impa, Ganon), they all feel entirely different in moves. Add to that, some characters can actually get to wield different weapons in battle, and thus have another totally different moveset.
A great example is Link, who near the beginning not only has his Hylian Sword, but also the Fire Rod. While one is a typical hack and slash weapon complete with Spin Attack (Hyaah!), the Fire Rod is much more long distance, and can change itself into a five-pronged fire bellow of death! Another example is Lana, who can go from wielding a magic book that shoots lightning and create barriers, to a spear (made from a branch of the Great Deku Tree!) that is much more up close and personal. Oh, and can transform into a slingshot!
This simple change allows for much more fun in my opinion, as you can play the same level, with two different weapons, and have two totally different combat experiences.
Though the levels will suggest that you pick certain characters with certain weapons, once you have them unlocked you can play as any of the characters (with a few restrictions later on), and I highly encourage this, as it’s really fun to play as these characters and see who you like best.
Case and point, the moment I heard Midna was in the game, I wanted to play as her. And I certainly enjoyed playing as her. But after testing them out, I found that my favorite characters to play as were Zelda and Sheik. I loved their moves, and found they suited my playstyle best… but I still love Midna, just to be clear!
Ok, I’ve been avoiding it for awhile; on to the question of “Is it just a button masher?” On the surface, it is.
But! If you give it a chance, it becomes much more than that. You can upgrade your skills and get more and more combos to use in battle. You can button mash and have fun, but if you want to win more decisively, I suggest taking some time and finding out what moves your favorite characters have, you might just be surprised at what you see.
And speaking of “what you see”, Hyrule Warriors is gorgeous! From the levels, to the characters, to the cutscenes, this game is beautiful. Easily one of the best looking games on Wii U so far.
Before I go into my critiques, I wanted to draw one more piece of attention to the “celebration of the Zelda franchise” I mentioned earlier. Outside of Ocarina, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword, there are a bunch of other references to other Zelda games. The Wind Waker is a weapon Zelda can use, you can get an 8-Bit sword for Link to wield, and in one level the moon from Majora’s Mask shows up. I’m not going to spoil how it shows up though. In case you didn’t know, long time Zelda producer and developer Eiji Aonuma worked side by side with Koei Tecmo on this game and it shows. From the smallest details, to the grand scheme of the game, this is a Zelda title through and through. And there are plenty of references for you to find.
Now, onto the not-so-good parts. First off, though I liked the story, there were a few curious things that I thought either weren’t explained well or was a case of missed opportunities. The biggest one for the latter was with Ruto, who you don’t unlock in the main story, but is an ally you fight with. She barely got any speaking time, which I thought she should’ve had, as it would’ve been funny seeing her flirt with this version of Link and referencing the one from OoT by comparing him to her “husband”. Oh well.
Also, Sheik is in the game, but as we all know it’s Zelda, which is fine! But, this would’ve been a fun moment to have the Zelda from this world interact with Sheik/Zelda from OoT and find out just how different a warrior she was in another timeline. Nitpick? Kind of. But it rubbed me the wrong way that this version of Sheik/Zelda has knowledge of the OoT timeline, when she herself wasn’t a part of it. Play it and you’ll understand.
Another problem I had was that the difficulty in some levels was either really high or really low. And sometimes it wasn’t clear what you had to do when certain boss characters appeared, or when certain objectives was shown. In one level I ran around behind a character that I thought I had to follow, only for a text to appear and then suddenly we’re under attack. It was a little frustrating.
All in all though, Hyrule Warriors is something to behold, and that’s just in the main storyline! Afterwards you can do Adventure Mode, where you play on an 8-Bit style Zelda map and do challenges to unlock new weapons, new characters, and all sorts of other cool things. And don’t take this mode lightly. If you don’t level up your characters right, you will suffer.
Then there’s Challenge Mode, a mode that was very recently added, and promised to be updated for the “long haul”. I’ve only scratched the surface of this mode, but what I’ve seen impresses me. And much like Adventure Mode, you don’t want to underestimate it.
In the end, Hyrule Warriors is a wonderful collaboration that brings the legacy of Legend of Zelda into a new realm of gameplay and succeeds on many counts. The gameplay is fun, the characters are diverse, and there’s a lot to do. Some people might ask if this game should be considered canon for the Zelda series and I honestly think it should. It respects the games that came before it and carves out a place of its own in the history books.
Another question is probably, “Will this game get a sequel?” I honestly can’t answer that. But if they do decide to make it, they would need to make sure it lives up to the epicness that Hyrule Warriors currently has. I know this game isn’t for everyone, and I’m ok with that. Some Zelda purists may think it’s not a true Zelda game, and in some ways it’s not, but in some ways it’s better, and that’s what makes me love it even more.
If you’re on the fence still, here’s my bottom line. If you want to see Link totally destroy an army of monsters with his Spin Attack, buy this game. If you want to play as Zelda to show your friends that she can kick butt as well as Link or Impa? Buy this game. If you want to see the legacy of The Legend of Zelda shown in a beautifully rendered, wonderfully written title with fun gameplay? Buy this game.
‘Cause if you’re like me, and you just love this franchise, it won’t let you down.
4 out of 5 Nerds