Here’s the thing about things you don’t normally like – Sometimes, just modifying the context can change everything. I didn’t like any club-level soccer, for example, until the Vancouver Whitecaps came back and joined the MLS. I’ve also never been a Dynasty Warriors fan, though I suspect it’s always been more than the storylines didn’t appeal to me. The game itself was always perfectly fine, but it could never hold my interest. Then I heard about Hyrule Warriors, a game that borrowed many elements of the Dynasty Warriors series, but takes place around the Legend of Zelda and its universe. Ok, I’m in.
Release date: September 26th, 2014
Rated: T for Teen
Consoles: Exclusive for Nintendo WiiU
I admit, I wasn’t quite sold on the concept of marrying the two gaming universes together at first. I stayed pretty skeptical when I first heard about the game, and was cautious throughout until I started seeing reveal trailers, and seeing exactly what the game was capable of. Then, at E3, more gameplay was showcased, and I was hooked, waiting for the day my copy arrived in the mail, and it finally did.
When you first pop the game in, you’ll be prompted to update the software immediately. Run the updates before playing. I had started my game without doing the software update, and it rendered my save file obsolete. Thankfully, I was only through the first scenario at the time and didn’t have to do much in starting over again.
The storyline kicks off with a young ambitious trainee named Link capturing the eye of Princess Zelda as he starts his career in the Hyrule Army. However, almost immediately, a pack of monsters surround Hyrule Castle, and Link is the only newbie courageous enough to start taking them on. That’s where the game begins, and your introduction to the combat engine as well.
The storyline progresses onward as you meet other characters like Sheik and Lana. Lana the sorceress is actually a catalyst into the main storyline after the prologue levels. Lana falls for Link, and through her envy through Link’s fixation with Zelda, allows an evil part of her (named Cia) to escape and steal all pieces of the Tri-Force for her own good. Sheik is a familiar character from the Zelda Universe, but I won’t reveal the character’s identity. You will find that out around 8 or 9 levels in anyway. Cia, while being the main antagonist, is also being stalked by another character in the Zelda Universe, but again, I don’t want to play spoiler further than that. That should give you about enough backstory into the game itself.
If you’ve never played the Dynasty Warriors series, get ready to mash buttons – A LOT. The game is based on kills by quantity as opposed to quality. Most of the baddies on the battlefield are one or two shot kills, and can be done in quantity. You have a two immediate attack options – Basic melee attacks and more powerful attacks. These can be chained together through different button press options. Then there are a couple other different attacking combinations:
Item attacks: During the game’s natural progression, you’ll pick up specific series-familiar items (ie. bombs, boomerang, hookshot.) While fulfilling objectives, you can also use these items as weapons by pressing the R button. Item powerups found scattered throughout the level temporarily power these items up to give them more strength and range.
Special Attacks: As you KO more enemies, your special meter fills. Once full, pressing A unleashes a special attack sequence that defeats monsters per whichever designated area is being targeted. Each weapon has its own special attack.
Focus attacks: You’re given a magic meter. When this meter fills up, you go into focus mode. You temporarily have better attack range, and have a different special move specific to the focus attack.
You can also power up all of these, unlock more melee combos or have better defense by going through the Bazaar through the creation of badges. The Bazaar will also allow you to purchase levels (more on that later,) create potions and combine items. Materials for this crafting are found throughout the levels by defeating certain enemies. Remember not to walk away from anything that has its own life meter (by default – You can turn on life meters for all enemies though I don’t recommend it) since it may drop a material for you in the end.
Each level has a winning, and losing objective that is outlined at the beginning. Each level has a time limit as well in which the objective must be achieved. However, as you’ll find, the objective at the beginning can changed mid-level. Each level is done up the same way – It’s a full out melee-style level that’s infiltrated with baddies. You start with a certain number of areas that are your own along with an allied base, and a certain number that belong to the enemies. Both have points which spawn their respective affiliation’s soldiers. In order to claim the areas for your own, you must defeat either the outpost’s leader, or the boss of a keep (usually an enclosed base.) When this occurs, you claim the area for yourselves and your own alliance’s characters spawn. Claiming these aren’t mandatory unless they are brought up as part of the storyline, however, it goes without saying the more backup you have to fight the enemies, the better.
Once you’ve reached the bonus objective in the level, a glowing spiderweb appears on the map. Here, somewhere in the center of that web is a Gold Skulltula. They don’t appear as obvious in the area, but you’ll hear a ticking sound which you should follow to find it. It’s usually up against a wall, or under a rock and you may have to do something additional (like bomb debris) to retrieve it. You only have a limited period of time to retrieve the skulltula, after which it vanishes. It also always seems to spawn in the exact opposite corner of the map, so you may not always have time to get it, especially if you’re in the middle of defending or rescuing someone. Each Skulltula unlocks a puzzle piece, after which you receive in-game bonuses for completing.
As you progress, you’ll see a bevy of different Zelda games represented, especially when the characters split up to close the Gate of Souls. It’s mainly the newer games and characters represented, but there is a throwback to the old fans as well not too far outside the main quest.
If you get tired of the main storyline, you very quickly unlock Free and Adventure Modes. Free Mode is essentially your ability to play the main levels of Hyrule Warriors again with various unlocked characters, but the Adventure Mode is what’s there to nod to you old schoolers. Adventure Mode is essentially a massive 8 bit-style side quest in which you complete puzzles and objectives in order to gain benefits in the main quest. This mode is hours of entertainment alone, so if you crave something different, it’s already built into the game.
Lastly, there’s the challenge mode. In this mode, you play as your chosen characters and are shouted out a series of challenges wherever you are (ie. defeat 500 enemies in 5 minutes.) This mode is tough to say the least, especially when you have to run from point to point on the map nonstop just to find enough enemies to hunt down.
The overall presentation is great, and a lot of fun. The thing is, it’s so off what Zelda fans are used to that I’ve spoken to a few who were hesitant to get into it. All I’ll say is that a long time ago, a lot of us were a bit weirded out by the idea of Nintendo characters in a fighting game, and Smash Bros is now one of the most anticipated titles on each console it comes out. I’m not saying Hyrule Warriors will have the same success, but it’s a lot of fun, and brings some of your favourite characters to light in a new way. This will definitely tide all you Zelda fans over until next year.
As for game mechanics itself, the graphics are pretty darn good. They’re about as colorful and vibrant as you’d expect from a Zelda title, and some of the special effects are a real treat. The soundtrack is pretty secondary since you won’t have time to notice with all the action on-screen, but it’s pretty standard soundtrack rock music. It’s nothing special. The voiceovers (when they happen) are pretty good, but I’m a bit surprised they didn’t record voiceovers for the main characters here, favoring squeals and bemused moans for each one of them instead. Controls are responsive and pretty spot-on. Something Dynasty Warriors fans are probably used to are the ridiculous camera angles that happen throughout, and this game is no exception. In fact, if you’re not used to the way it works, it will probably annoy you a fair bit. Chains will often mean you end up with the enemies behind you, and you have to rotate the camera quickly to catch up to the action again. In addition, because there are so many enemies on screen, it’s hard to target the bosses (which the game does allow you to select as a target) or enemies that require you to specifically target to beat them with items. In certain stages as well, where you’re flooded with bad guys, the game can slow a bit, especially if you’re using the WiiU Gamepad to play the game. While the game can be challenging at the times, the title thrives on a lot of repetition and repeating the same actions. This is great if you’re an action game fan, or love melee combat games, but it might make strategy and RPG gamers (especially if it’s all you play) think twice.
There are a few words to describe the action in Hyrule Warriors: Chaotic, insane, constant. Above all, Hyrule Warriors is fun, despite some of its shortcomings. The Legend of Zelda series was the perfect one to work this crossover on, and I don’t know that it would have worked with any other Nintendo first party franchises (not even Metroid.) It’s a lot different than longtime series fans will be used to, but since the context and characters are there and there’s enough tying it to the overall universe (even though the game is non-canon,) I suspect you’ll still have a blast playing it. As I mentioned off the hop, all Dynasty Warriors needed was a contextual change that appealed to me. I got it, and I was hooked to this game from the very first level. Funny how those things work.
Gameplay: 5 / 5
Graphics: 4 / 5
Sound: 3.5 / 5
Controls: 4 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5 / 5
Overall Rating: 4.3 / 5 (86%)
Hyrule Warriors is now available exclusively for the Nintendo WiiU at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca