A Good Mashup Short of Greatness
I think it’s safe to say that nobody ever expected Hyrule Warriors to exist. It’s a game using Nintendo characters that wasn’t actually made by Nintendo. How often does that happen?! Virtually never. Outside of some education games featuring Mario, I can’t think of any other instance where Nintendo released their vice-like control of their characters. So Team Ninja and Techmo (Known for Dead and Alive and Dynasty Warriors) were given a truly unprecedented opportunity to let players enjoy the world of Zelda in a whole new light and the result?……Mediocrity at it’s finest.
Don’t get me wrong, this game is fun and mostly polished. Its flaws only become apparent once you’ve really started to sink your teeth into it. Let’s start off with some of it’s more positive qualities. The graphics are pretty good! This game takes full advantage of the Wii U hardware giving us large environments packed with well animated monsters and characters. Unfortunately, slowdown will occur if there’s enough enemies on screen. Thankfully, character selection is decent. Besides Link (obviously!) you have access to Zelda, Impa, Shiek, Midna, Fi, and many others. Each of the characters has at least two weapons, each with their own distinctive move sets leading to a pretty diverse variety. Controls are also very responsive, which helps wen you’re in the middle of horde of Goblins.
The music in the game is exceptional and does a great job of remixing classic Zelda tunes from various games. Tecmo also did a good job of utilizing the signature sounds and melodies from the series history. Whether it’s opening a chest or running through Hyrule Field, this game oozes Zelda style and aesthetic. There is however one glaring flaw when it comes to the audio and that’s voice acting. Each stage starts with a narrator giving us background information but NONE of the characters actually talk. They will however laugh, sigh, groan, make attack noises (Hiyaaaah!), basically make every kind of sound imaginable without actually saying words. It stands out like a sore thumb when playing the game. I know that Zelda purists will say that the characters never spoke but that was originally a design choice by Nintendo which needed to use the available space on it’s cartridges for other reasons. There’s no reason that voice acting shouldn’t exist on a modern AAA title. Time to move into the 21st century with your games Nintendo!
The more astute of you have realized that the one thing I haven’t discussed at this point is the actual gameplay. Well I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that this game plays EXACTLY like Dynasty Warriors. The bad news is that this games plays EXACTLY like Dynasty Warriors. Catch my drift? Team Ninja/Tecmo did not put any kind of innovation into the gameplay whatsoever. If you have ever played a Dynasty Warriors-style game before (literally any of them) then you have played this game before. Here’s how most of the stages work: you capture a few bases by killing everyone inside, a boss character appears, you defeat him, capture a few more bases, and finally fight another boss to beat the stage. Sometimes you’ll have to do an escort mission which is about as fun as it sounds. Also, you’ll need to frequently go save your AI partners. That’s because the AI of your army is about as stupid as a bag of rocks. In fact, I’ve met some rocks that are actually smarter than the AI in Hyrule Warriors. On a hard difficulty, you can expect to be doing virtually all of the heavy lifting because your team struggles to do things like “attack” and “block,” let alone do crazy advanced maneuvers such as dodging.
Herein lies the biggest and most egregious error with Hyrule Warriors. After about an hour into the game, you’ve seen virtually everything it has to offer in terms of gameplay. Using different characters does nothing to change the way your approach a stage. The objectives in each stage remain virtually unchanged. Using the signature items of the Zelda world such as Bombs, Boomerangs, and Arrows is generally useless (except to clear specific obstacles.) So I hope you enjoy running into a group of enemies and annihilating them over and over and over again because you’re going to be doing it a LOT. I mean that, one thing you can’t complain about is a lack of content.
Besides the forgettable story mode (granted you didn’t really buy this game for the story did you?) there’s a Free Mode, a Challenge Mode, and an Adventure Mode. The Adventure Mode is probably the closest thing to innovation that the game exhibits. It takes the original NES Zelda Overworld and divides it into numerous quadrants. Each quadrant is a separate battle with unique conditions, such as only using a certain character or forcing you to kill a certain enemy. This is pretty cool at first, and the overworld is a great nod to the original game. It even has you use items from the original game to unlock extra treasures or events on the map. However, you quickly realize that the formula remains virtually unchanged. You’re still running into a group of enemies, killing all of them, until you get to a boss whose attacks need dodging (a minor hindrance) before he too falls and you move onto the next boring clash.
The content doesn’t stop there however, there’s also 3 DLC’s that add characters, maps and weapons to the game. I never thought I’d see the day where Nintendo starts to embrace DLC and I love the fact that Nintendo gave you the option to play as one of the numerous villains from the game (including Ganondorf which is pretty cool!), but it’s not enough to truly hold your attention for long. The repetition is simply too prevalent, as much as you feel like a badass the first 100 times you destroy the enemy, it won’t feel that way the 1000th time. The game is best enjoyed via Coop. One person will play the game from the tablet controller (Techmo why didn’t you let us control our armies through the tablet? Why?! Did it make too much sense?) while the other gets to use the TV. However, it should be noted that playing Coop will oddly result in a loss of graphical fidelity. The game will no longer look HD, in fact you’ll swear that you’re playing a game on the regular Wii again.
Overall, the game isn’t awful. If you’ve enjoyed Dynasty Warriors in the past and are a Zelda fan then this is the game for you. There’s a lot of potential in the game that’s wasted, but as long as you’re okay with the repetition, you’ll have a good time. Still, one can’t help but feel a sense of disappointment with the game. Hopefully, a 2nd iteration will add some refreshing gameplay mechanics and situations.