To say that the Legend of Zelda series is one of greatness, brilliance, and innovation, is a bit of an understatement. What makes it so amazing is that it has stood upon the same pillars of gameplay while still feeling new and fresh. Dungeons, puzzles, exploring every corner of Hyrule – these stand as important pieces to the series. Combat itself has never veered from you facing two or three enemies at a time. This is where Hyrule Warriors changes the Zelda formula in a big way. Instead of a battle against a few enemies, players are battling hundreds across large battlegrounds. Since Team Ninja of Tecmo Koei, who is the team behind the combat heavy Dynasty Warriors series, developed the game, it’s not too surprising that there would be changes. Although it is, at times, repetitive, Hyrule Warriors offers players a wide variety of content and is a great game that Zelda fans will definitely love.
Another big change comes in the fact that we aren’t limited to the hero in the green tunic. The dark force that threatens to overtake Hyrule requires multiple heroes, and in doing so, allows for the Hyrule Historia timelines to be embraced. The story isn’t especially compelling, but seeing these characters interact and fight together certainly is. The sight of Link, Impa, and Sheik standing side-by-side against their common foe gave me all kinds of good vibes. And don’t even mention all the evil characters …
Speaking of fighting together, the combat in this game really is a blast. What makes it so fun, is the diverse line up of Zelda characters that feel unique in and of themselves. The characters feel powerful and act as a sort of wish fulfillment for Zelda fans. What kind of damage could Sheik deal if she (or HE?) were let loose? Now we know! Where the Dynasty Warriors offered little reason for us to care for them, Hyrule Warriors’ characters are ones that we care for and have cared for, over many years.
The nostalgic nods extend beyond the characters and have permeated the rest of the game. Weapons like the Hookshot, Boomerang, and even the Mirror of Twilight are at your disposal. Here is where the mixture of Zelda lore in a combat heavy game brings great satisfaction. We’ve grown accustomed to using these items as tools to traverse the environments around us. In Hyrule Warriors they are used as weapons of mass Moblin destruction. Throwing out 5 bombs at a time is not only epic but also very useful against the gigantic armies surrounding you. If there is a flaw in this system, it is when cycling through the weapons. Because you have so many items at your disposal, it makes it difficult to pull a weapon up quickly. Instead you’re forced to cycle through your weapons until you find the one you need, and then you can select it.
It’s always exciting to see how developers integrate the Gamepad into the game’s experience. In this title, we see the Gamepad being utilized best in the co-op mode. Instead of having a split screen, the player holding the Gamepad has his/her own exclusive screen, while the player with the Wii Remote/Nunchuck or Wii U Pro Controller can play using the TV screen. This really helps aid players in being able to fully realize their surroundings and opposition. The only issue that I experienced was that there is a decrease in the crisp and vibrant quality on the TV screen. It’s a minor issue, but when a game is as beautiful as Hyrule Warriors is, it is disappointing to see a great concept take great visual quality away from the player.
The most underrated portion in Hyrule Warriors, and arguable the best portion, is Adventure Mode. Similar to what is in NES and SNES Remix; you are presented with various challenges, such as defeating a number of enemies within a time limit or bringing down a boss under certain parameters. But the best part of this mode is how you unlock those challenges. Each one is presented in the grid-by-grid over-world of the 1986 The Legend of Zelda. By accomplishing challenges you are given items that will let you blow up walls and burn bushes, just like in the original game. It’s in moments like this that Koei Tecmo fully displays its understanding of what makes Nintendo and the Zelda series great.
It’s a tall order to mix two completely different series into one experience. Add in the fact that one of those series is one of the most beloved of all time, and one would be hard pressed to not be skeptical. But, in the end, Hyrule Warriors works. It not only works, but gives us a reason to believe games can be nostalgic and still bring something new to the table. Because of that, Hyrule Warriors is worth its price and even worth the purchase of a Wii U.