Let’s get one thing out of the way up front. Hyrule Warriors is not The Legend of Zelda. It has none of the exploration, indefinable magic, or innovation of the series from which this title is spun from. That’s not to say we can’t love it though. See, while Hyrule Warriors might be a touch repetitive at times, it draws enough lore from a beloved franchise, and the hordes of enemies you’ll be slicing through should keep fans of that particular subgenre more than occupied.
The story draws from across all manner of Zelda titles (that should keep the timeline theorists busy for a while) and brings in fan fave baddies like Zant and Ghiriam, as well as friends such as Princess Ruto and Darunia. Hyrule Warriors mainly draws from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword… but there are more than enough callbacks to previous games hidden with the music, character designs, and locations to keep fans very happy indeed.
We won’t give away too much of the actual story, but it’s a pretty cool yarn, guaranteed to keep Zelda fans happy. Newcomers might be a little lost in a sea of references, but we doubt this game will pull in many new fans. As you might expect, dark forces have decided it’s time to have another crack at taking over Hyrule. As you might also expect, a new incarnation of Link rises up to smack them down. Unlike previous Zelda games, this Link requires armies to help him out in his adventure.
It won’t be long before you start to wonder why Link and his friends need any help at all though, because most of the bad guys don’t actually do anything, no matter what difficulty you’re on. Sure, enemies with health bars and bosses provide a little more of a fight, but you can essentially whack on the B button, occasionally blocking, and you’d get through just fine. Even raising the difficulty does nothing to add to the challenge. It just makes the enemies more hardy, and therefore more of a slog to beat.
Of course it should be noted that challenge has never really been the point of Dynasty Warriors games. The point is to take on the role of a massively overpowered hero and lay waste to hordes of enemies. It’s supposed to make you feel unstoppable, and in that respect it succeeds.
Standard gameplay basically sees you running around a battlefield knocking down foes, capturing bases, and occasionally doing in the odd boss. There’s always something happening, so while there is a relentless amount of hack and slashing, you always feel like you’re hacking and slashing for a reason. The huge cast of playable characters also adds a great amount of variety, as they all feel like properly distinct characters, and not just “weak but fast”, “slow but strong” etc…
There are also random weapon drops, and materials with which you can craft items to improve attack and defence. These mix up the gameplay in a pleasing way, and while you never really feel like you need to use them, you’ll want to anyway. This is aided by a pleasingly simple and user friendly interface, and because smacking bokoboblins around Hyrule is so fun, you’ll want to try and do it in as many new ways as you can.
It’s worth mentioning that the other modes also add a lot of value. Free Mode and Challenge Mode are standard fare that players will no doubt revisit when they want to farm for rupees or materials, or if they’ve just had a bad day and want to single handedly slay an army (we’ve all been there). Adventure Mode on the other hand, is so awesome it might just surpass the main game itself.
Adventure Mode basically incorporates the map from the original Legend of Zelda, and encourages players to explore it by completing set challenges (eg; kill 300 foes in ten minutes). Completing these challenges nets you items, materials and even characters. You can also find items such as Candles and rafts which hark back to the original Zelda, which can then be used to find secrets within the Adventure Mode’s map.
Not only is this a genius stroke of fan service, it also rewards players for being fans, as they’ll remember what exactly to do with a candle or a raft (although it really isn’t hard to work out for anyone not so well versed in Zelda, so don’t worry). And of course, the various map challenges add even more variety to what could have been a very dry and dull game indeed, by encouraging you to experiment with other characters and weapons, should your heart be set on just playing as Link (and trust us, the other characters we’ve used so far are all awesome fun to use).
Graphically, Hyrule Warriors won’t be raking in any awards. The character designs and locations all borrow from previous Zelda’s as we mentioned, and seeing them with a lick of HD paint is a nifty treat. However, play the game in multiplayer and the visual quality drops horrendously. We’re not really sticklers for graphics (a good game is always firstly based on good gameplay), but playing in co-op mode makes it look like a Wii game… of course, if you can see past that, you’ll still enjoy taking on armies with a buddy. Thankfully, the gamepad negates the use of a split screen.
The music draws from Zelda’s rich aural history, and if you know anything about Zelda games and music… well, you’ll know it’s absolutely brilliant. Of course, should there be a certain tune that isn’t to your liking, you can even change the music for levels to whatever you want it to be. If you want every single level to play Saria’s Song, you go for it buddy. You will probably go insane though.
This won’t come as a shock to you, but if you don’t like Dynasty Warriors or The Legend of Zelda… Hyrule Warriors is really not for you. But take it from a reviewer who has never played a Dynasty Warriors game; if there are Zelda fans out there on the fence about picking it up because of the nature of the gameplay, buy it.
It’s easy to pick up, immensely rewarding to play, and packed with so much Zelda fan service, that it’ll be a long while before you start to get bored by the repetitive nature. It’s dangerous to go alone… so take a massive army and start mowing down some monsters!