August 14, 2014 (JP)
September 19, 2014 (EU)
September 20, 2014 (AU)
September 26, 2014 (NA)
Hyrule Warriors was such an out-of-the-blue announcement that I couldn’t help but feel completely hyped up. Zelda blended up with Dynasty Warriors? I’m in. I’ve never been a big Dynasty Warriors fan. Not because I dislike the games, but there was never a moment of “I gotta get that” for me. A lot of people feared this game would just be Zelda slapped over a Dynasty Warriors game and I can’t necessarily argue with them because I don’t have much experience with the series, but for a first-timer that loves Zelda, this game was a breath of fresh air. The Zelda series isn’t stale, but the same-ol’ was getting to me. I needed something new and Hyrule Warriors seemed like the answer to my needs.
But was it?
Hyrule Warriors takes a twist from the usual story of the Legend of Zelda and pits you against Cia, mysterious-and-masked femme fatale who would love nothing more than to take over the world (and take Link to her bedroom for some hanky panky). This continues a trend of recent Zelda games pitting Link against enemies not named Ganon- or -dorf, which continues to impress as Nintendo expands the cast of the Zelda series. Enlisting the help of poe-like Wizziro and warrior-dragon Volga, Cia begins to conquer and wreak havoc on Hyrule, forcing Zelda, Link, and Impa to lead the entirety of Hyrule’s army against them. Where things get most interesting (and the best feature of Hyrule Warriors) is that you are not restricted to playing as Link alone, but are given a slew of Zelda favorites to help defeat the trio of evildoers. This is my favorite feature of Hyrule Warriors because the characters in the Zelda universe are rich with interesting stories and powers and this game does an amazing job of showing you what they’re capable of.
Fan favorites like Midna, Impa, Fi, and many more are available throughout the game to assist Link and Zelda, who are all joined by the fresh-faced Lana, a magical sorceress from the same world as Cia. She is a unique addition to the game and I enjoyed her interactions with our series-regulars. As the host of fighters grows, the war takes you to some familiar locations throughout the land(s) of Hyrule. From Twilight-covered bridges to Skyloft in the clouds, the fan-service of this game is astoundingly good with richly remixed tracks and themes, letting fans bask in the truly awe-inspiring world of Hyrule.
When on the battlefield, you’re tasked with mission goals including defeating battlefield commanders, including familiar baddies like Zant and Ghirahim and capturing key strongholds to push the enemy back. It’s extremely enjoyable to plow through enemy minions and capture every stronghold on the map, but the game doesn’t offer much in terms of alternate choices. You’re often pushed in a linear-like way towards goals to ensure your forces do not lose and often little can be done to prevent linearity in missions. I’d have loved to be able to just be given a battlefield to win over and free reign over positioning and capture of strongholds. It’s not necessarily a negative, but it certainly feels a bit frustrating to want to do something, but find that the game is hammering out enemies from another location to “encourage” your movement that way.
The story, while somewhat fresh, bleeds with familiar elements of a typical Zelda storyline. Without spoiling anything, an enemy with a familiar name shows up to give a nice welcoming gift to our heroes and really ruins their day. Despite this deja vu, the game takes a sharp turn and completely puts you into new shoes unlike any you’ve been in before. Once this happens, you truly feel like a powerful warrior (moreso than many of the other playable characters in-game) and the entire game returns to that fresh feeling. It’s truly a special little bit of fan-service you just KNOW the developers were thrilled to include.
Beyond the story, Hyrule Warriors offers other game modes including a Free Mode, which lets you return to any level and play as any character with added bonuses, Challenge Mode, which only has one map and unfortunately is rather dull, and Adventure Mode which puts you into the 8-bit world of the original game with unique and interesting levels that explore new concepts in victory conditions like quizzes that test your knowledge of enemy characters, “defeat-that-commander” which gives you a fraction of health to take out seriously-strong enemies, and various other surprises. Adventure Mode is a real treat. The upcoming Master Quest DLC offers an even better map with even better challenges to take on.
All this praise doesn’t mean Hyrule Warriors is faultless. The game suffers from some repetitiveness that can only happen with button-mashing games. The game attempts to alleviate some of this by giving your warriors powerful attacks and combos that deliver devastating damage, but even that can only fix so much of the mashing. Beyond that, a few missions are unforgivingly annoying and practically force you to restart if a checkpoint is too close to your loss. It’s rare, but these levels do come up and it doesn’t scream “fun” to have to do them over. Some of the warriors you are given feel weak compared to their more popular allies and this is a disappointment because you’ll want to experience them all once or twice to enjoy each character.
Overall, Hyrule Warriors is a blast. If you’re a fan of Zelda, you will enjoy this for what it offers to fans. If you’re a fan of Dynasty Warriors, I imagine this is more of what you love. If you enjoy both, this might be your game. To me, it was a mix of pure and amazing fan-service and some unfortunately faulty game mechanics that did not detract from my fun. If you’re looking for one of the most unique Wii U experiences out there and can’t think of what to get, I would recommend this game to you. It’s got something for everyone, while appealing to the fans of two popular series. I won’t promise that it’s perfection or the greatest game ever, but it’s really quite a good effort. Nintendo and Team Ninja produced a really great spin-off title with this game, much akin to Luigi’s Mansion or Star Fox: Adventures. While none are perfect, they’re all great to expand both Nintendo’s library of content and it’s ability to innovate and try new things.
Unique combination of two venerable franchises.
Sometimes more mashy than the potatoes you ordered at KFC.
Some frustrating AI/level design.