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A stellar Wii U game goes portable

In 2014, Nintendo and Koei Tecmo collaborated on Hyrule Warriors, a brilliant Wii U crossover game that brought together The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors franchises in a highly innovative and thoroughly enjoyable way. Featuring iconic characters and locations from The Legend of Zelda mixed with the frenetic, over-the-top combat found in Dynasty Warriors, I was extremely impressed with how perfectly these two game worlds gelled, resulting in one of the best games to ever appear on Wii U. Now you can experience all this excitement on your Nintendo 3DS console with Hyrule Warriors Legends, an expanded portable version loaded with extras, including new playable characters, an expanded story, a new My Fairy mode, and plenty of gameplay enhancements.

Game Details

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action-adventure
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

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Hyrule is under siege

Hyrule Warriors Legends boasts the return of thN3DS_HyruleWarriorsLegends_char_Linkle2_png_jpgcopy.jpge stellar story-centric Legend Mode from the Wii U version, only this time it includes the previously exclusive Cia’s Tale DLC, along with all-new mini campaigns for the new Linkle character, and a passel of characters from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker making their Hyrule Warriors debut. The tale begins in familiar Zelda fashion with the evil Ganondorf up to his wicked ways yet again, this time concocting devious machinations designed to restore his fragmented soul that had been splintered and sealed away long ago. Using his powers to corrupt Nia, a sorceress entrusted with protecting the balance of the Triforce, Ganondorf wields her as a conduit to open the Gate of Souls connecting various Hyrule dimensions, unleashing the hordes of monsters within to wage his war against Hyrule.

All the beautiful cutscenes from the Wii U original that tell this story remain intact here, complete with the top-notch character voice acting and delightfully voiced narration. However, it’s not a picture-perfect transition to Nintendo 3DS, as there’s a slight visual downgrade to these cinematic segments; still, they look excellent overall and are among the best I’ve ever seen on Nintendo 3DS. One missed opportunity though is the lack of added 3D depth in the cutscenes, which could have made these gorgeously detailed 2D storytelling sequences pop out as the much as the game’s stunning 3D rendered gameplay.

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Flawless gameplay

The impeccable controls from the Wii U version have been faithfully ported over to Nintendo 3DS, robust combo-system and all. As you hack and slash your way through hundreds, and even thousands of minions on the battlefield, your goal is to complete ever-changing objectives until finally facing menacing end bosses taken directly from The Legend of Zelda lore. In addition to the simple-to-learn, yet challenging-to-master combo system requiring you to string together light and strong attacks, you’ll also gain access to a plethora of iconic items straight from The Legend of Zelda including the bomb, bow and arrow, boomerang, and hookshot.

Battles in Hyrule Warriors Legends are a lot of fun, requiring you to strategically take down tougher commander units while also capturing outposts and strongholds that will spawn minions for whichever team occupies them. Expanding your zone of control is critical to progressing through scenarios, but you also have to maintain a strong defensive since the enemy army can launch surging counteroffensives that can quickly cut deep swaths into your secured territory. These constant back-and-forth tussles add a sense of dynamism to every clash, keeping the action fresh and requiring you to always stay alert and on your toes.

While the base gameplay stays true to the original, new features have been added that make combat faster and more strategic. To begin with, you can now tap on a character’s portrait on the Nintendo 3DS touch screen to switch between characters at any time. You can also tap on the bottom touch screen map and direct characters you’re not controlling to desired map locations (with the drawback that if they’re defeated, you lose the battle.) Further, early in the game you’ll acquire the Ocarina, and after touching Owl Statues scattered across maps, you can play the instrument to instantly warp between them. Sadly, likely as a technical consideration, two player co-op had to be dropped from this version.

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An expanded roster with all-new characters

All the playN3DS_HyruleWarriorsLegends_char_SkullKid2_png_jpgcopy.jpgable characters from Hyrule Warriors are back in action, along with the grand arrival of Toon Link, Tetra, and King Daphnes from The Wind Waker, Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask (yes!), and the all-new Linkle who is essentially a female version of Link. These new faces add even more
variety to an already robust roster featuring characters across different Hyrule time-space realities, like Sheik from Ocarina of Time, Midna from Twilight Princess, and Ghirahim from Skyward Sword. All playable characters use the same button combos for simplicity, but each one has their own unique and dazzling weapon movesets that range from Darunia’s use a giant hammer to pummel foes to smithereens, to more unorthodox approaches like Agitha’s use of oversized insects to smush groups of enemies.

The standout new character by far is Linkle, an adept, agile, dual-crossbow wielder that is one of the most effective fighters on the whole roster. Her story is told as an aside to main quest, and begins with her being a young Cuccos (the name for Hyrulian chickens) farmer who believes herself to be a reincarnated warrior (same as Link). Her adventure eventually intertwines with Skull Kid, a mysterious and beloved character from The Legend of Zelda series who is finally playable in a game for the first time. The Wind Waker trio of characters also get treated with their own mini adventure, which takes places after the main campaign’s conclusion when Cia opens a new portal to their realm. The best part about these characters is their exquisite presentation, which stays true to their colourful, cartoonish appearance and sprightly nature.

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Modes, modes, and more modes

On top of the lengthy Legend Mode campaign, Hyrule Warriors Legends contains a slew of extra modes to further extend the gameplay. First off, there’s Adventure Mode where you can embark on special missions as you progress through a map grid inspired by the original Legend of Zelda overworld. Far more than a simple challenge mode, Adventure Mode lets you earn valuable rewards such as heart containers, powerful weapons, and you can even unlock more playable characters. Mission types vary wildly, from timed battles, to boss rushes, to maps where you need to use specific characters or weapons. My favourite though are the quiz missions that put you in a series of battle arenas against two enemies, and you’re given a description of one that you must defeat. The hints can be as silly as “defeat the helmet wielder,” requiring you to scope out your two foes (in the middle of battle) and see which one matches the description. Matches like these are silly and chaotic, but at the same time emphasize how adaptable and fun the gameplay is.

Free Mode is another area you can check out in Hyrule Warriors Legends, and here you’re able to replay any completed Legend Mode chapters with any of your unlocked characters. There are 18 main campaign map locations in total, most of them taken directly from past entries in the series, such the Twilight Field (Twilight Princess), Death Mountain (Ocarina of Time), and Skyloft (Skyward Sword). Not only is it a lot of fun to mix and match from your stable of heroes, resulting in weirdly fun fantasy match-ups such as an epic battle between Skull Kid and Princess Zelda, but Free Mode also enables you to level up any heroes you want to prepare for stronger future missions.

New to the Nintendo 3DS version of Hyrule Warriors is the My Fairy mode, a place where you can customize your own personal fairy that aids you with powerful new magic abilities on the battlefield. In an odd decision, Fairy Mode is not accessible right away, instead you need to crack open specific pots in Adventure Mode that unleashes the trapped fairy within. Each fairy has an elemental affinity that is useful against certain enemies, and you can feed your fairies special food to enhance their traits (like sparkly they are!), making them more powerful in battle. Fashionistas can also spend time dressing up their fairies in various articles of clothing and accessories from The Legend of Zelda series, like Link’s tunic, Zelda’s dress, or Zora earrings. Cute.

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Better on New Nintendo 3DS

Similar to games like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Hyrule Warriors Legends plays better on the New Nintendo 3DS system. In fact, it plays so much better I’m surprised Nintendo didn’t go the same route as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and make this only playable on the newest 3DS hardware. For one thing, on the older, less powerful 3DS consoles you can’t play the game in 3D at all, which is a pretty big sacrifice given how beautiful the 3D effects are on the new 3DS. Moreover, the framerate drops on the older models, resulting in less fluidity and choppier gameplay. It’s not unplayable on older 3DS models, but certainly the game is much more optimized on the new model.

Final thoughts

Like its Wii U brethern, Hyrule Warriors Legends is a triumph on its respective console. The hack and slash gameplay is slick, smooth, and fun, and the multitude of diverse playable characters keeps the action fresh. There’s a lot of content here, from the length campaign mode, to the challenge quests in Adventure Mode, to the all-new Fairy Mode that is both delightful to use and helpful in battle. Throw in several new characters, including the breakout star Linkle and Skull Kid (playable for the first time), and you have a superb action-adventure game 3DS owners shouldn’t pass up.

+ Huge roster of unique and entertaining characters

+ Thrilling gameplay full of strategic depth

+ Excellent 3D visuals on the battlefield

+ Tons of extra features and content

– No two player co-op

– Runs poorly on older Nintendo 3DS consoles

OVERALL

Gameplay: 5/5
Graphics: 4.5/5
Sound: 4.5/5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5

Overall Rating 4.6/5 (92%)

Get Hyrule Warriors Legends for Nintendo 3DS