by Matthew Costello
The Legend of Zelda is a well renowned pinnacle of gaming, so when a spinoff of the series was announced I was more than a little skeptical. Koei Tecmo Games, the creators of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, came together with a few of the lead developers of the Legend of Zelda franchise. This collaboration created Hyrule Warriors, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic with the results.
Hack n ’slash is the main theme in this game, which can be a deterrent for some people. Some hack n’ slash games can be monotonous and a slog to finish, but Hyrule Warriors found ways to keep the game interesting, and me on my toes. The variety of playable characters, the interesting boss battles, and the different combos and weapons for each character, all made the game an enjoyable investment of my time. One warning however, this game is a Dynasty Warriors game at it’s core. Any Zelda fans out there looking for a typical Zelda adventure may be surprised and a little disappointed with its gameplay mechanics and intense battlefield settings.
Each battlefield is taken from Zelda lore, and the creators of the game did a fantastic job translating these areas into maps for Hyrule Warriors. There are setting from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Each area was made to be a battlefield with outposts and bases (all of which are laid out for you on the convenient minimap), but the settings still hold true to their original level designs, and I loved seeing these lands that I’ve already traveled throughout the Zelda series reimagined. The effect made for an awe inspiring war between good and evil, even if it was obvious fan service.
The typical story elements in any Zelda game probably sounds something like this: A destined meeting between the beautiful princess and the courageous hero, an evil and powerful villain trying to rule the land, and maybe a few colorful side characters along the way. Hyrule Warriors doesn’t stray far from this formula, but the developers did add in their own tweaks and changes which made the story seem fresh and imaginative. The story wasn’t anything too off the wall or unexpected, and was in fact really well done. The events here could actually fit inside the Zelda timeline pretty well, although the creators have explicitly stated that the story in Hyrule Warriors is not part of the Zelda canon. It is unfortunate however that there is zero character development in this title. The game basically throws characters at you, expecting them to be well-known entities already, which could be a little off putting to anyone new to the Legend of Zelda series. The only thing the game offers are journal entries which give a brief summary of who the character is, but most players will likely not want to pause the fighting long enough to read them.
Over the course of Hyrule Warriors, you have the option to play as thirteen characters from the Zelda series. Ten of them are unlocked by playing through the main story, while the others are unlocked in a second mode called adventure mode. This variety of characters is really what made this game enjoyable. Not only did I get to play as characters I had only dreamed of playing as, each one had their own combos, weapons, and fighting styles. I spent many hours just playing around with each character finding out which combos worked the best for taking out enemies. Although not the strongest, my favorite character was Lana. Although she’s a new character created for Hyrule Warriors, Link should consider dumping Zelda for her. She’s super-cute and a blast to play.
Of course the game has its flaws. The AI for the regular drones of enemies was pretty abysmal. They were as much of a threat to you as a horde of balloons would be. The only truly challenging enemies were the bosses, but like any Zelda boss, even they’re pretty easy once you have their movements and abilities down.
In addition to the main game, there was also some day one downloadable content available for a cool twenty bucks. After having already paid $60 for the disc, it’s a little frustrating to be asked to shell out more to experience the ‘full’ game. On the other hand however, it is a positive sign that Nintendo plans to stick with this game, and hopefully they will continue to expand it. Any hardcore Zelda fans, or fans of Dynasty Warriors, will absolutely love this game. If you’re not a fan of either series, you will still enjoy this title. In my opinion Hyrule Warriors is a must have for any WiiU library.