When I first saw the trailer for Hyrule Warriors in a Nintendo Direct, I had no idea what to make of it. It was The Legend of Zelda, my favorite series, mixed with Dynasty Warriors of all things. Not that I have a problem with Dynasty Warriors – the combination just seemed so… random. But I figured, hey, it might be a fun, fanservice-filled waste of time to whet fans’ appetites for the actual Wii U Zelda game. Thankfully, I was a little off on that assumption. It wasn’t just some cash-grabbing combination of two unrelated franchises, but a labor of love that expertly blends the two styles into one fantastic experience
Right as I started the game’s story, Legend Mode, I was a little shocked at the fact that there were fully animated, incredible looking CG cutscenes. I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t expecting much of a plot in Hyrule Warriors; at least, not one that had much thought or effort put into it. But, quite honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed the story in Hyrule Warriors. I don’t want to go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say this: Hyrule Warriors introduces two new characters to the Zelda universe, Cia and Lana, and I absolutely adored them both. Their relationship and backstory was both fascinating and moving, and I really want to see more of them in the future. Furthermore, I loved seeing the characters from various Zelda games interacting with one another. Seeing villains from two completely different games planning how they were going to attack my army definitely brought a smile to my face.
There are a few problems with the Legend Mode, though. First of all is the length. I spent somewhere between 8 to 10 hours finishing the story, which isn’t horrible by any means; it’s a decent amount of time for any game, and it achieved everything it set out to do. It even left me wanting more, which is much more desirable than a game that lasts too long and overstays its welcome. I just believe they could have gone a little farther with the story. Aside from a few references here and there, Hyrule Warriors mainly brought in elements from three specific Zelda games: Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. And I’m not complaining, those are all fantastic games, but I expected just a little bit more from the use of the license. The stuff they did with the games they had, though, was exceptionally done.
I played through all of Legend Mode with my brother, and while it was an absolute joy to cooperate and plan our attacks, it came with a few hitches. Most noticeably, the sacrifice in framerate and resolution. In co-op, the framerate drops from 60 frames per second to about 30, and both the TV and GamePad seemed to take a noticeable hit in resolution as well.
The setup for co-op is what you’d expect from a Wii U game; one player gets a Pro Controller and the TV, while the other gets the GamePad. While it is a little annoying for the GamePad player to have such a small screen, it’s worth it to not have the TV screen halved via splitscreen. Although, Hyrule Warriors doesn’t look nearly as good on the GamePad, due to its naturally lower resolution.
Which is quite a shame, because Hyrule Warriors is a very nice looking game. While obviously not on the biggest powerhouse of a console, the art direction and use of color make every environment stand out vibrantly, and as I said before, the CG cutscenes are gorgeous. In single player modes, Hyrule Warriors runs at a brisk 60 frames, and a crisp 1080p. It does a great job of keeping a steady framerate, with the only slow-down appearing when there’s a ton of stuff going on onscreen.
The gameplay itself is very much a “love it or hate it” deal. While Team Ninja and Koei did everything they could to vary up the play styles, it’s still a Dynasty Warriors game, and it could be viewed as very repetitive and monotonous. Personally, I never grew tired of playing Hyrule Warriors. I believe there is enough variability in each mission to keep players on their toes, and since they’re constantly throwing new weapons and characters at you, you always have a new strategy to try. Each playable character has their own special weapons, combos, and play styles, and no two warriors play similarly at all. I’m not even sure if certain characters are generally better than others, it’s just a matter of preference in who you choose to play as. I personally love the faster characters, like Link, Shiek, and Fi.
A lot of the satisfaction in the gameplay comes from a personal challenge of seeing how many enemies you can kill at one time. Whether it be through a combo or a special attack, it’s a ton of fun seeing how high you can get the K.O. meter in just a few button presses. Even as I’m writing this review, I’m thinking about which combos or enemy placements I can take advantage of to net me 50 or more kills at once.
Surprisingly, Legend Mode and Free Mode are only a small portion of Hyrule Warriors. The real length comes from the beast that is Adventure Mode. With around 144 missions and plenty of secrets hidden within, Adventure Mode is sure to drive even the most avid Zelda fans crazy with its content. But you don’t unlock anything for going the extra mile, so really, all of the extra content is just there to add pointless replayability. I’m sure that most people who play the game will just stick with Legend Mode and never even touch the Adventure Mode, let alone finish it. I wish there was some crazy bonus you unlocked for finishing it, but the only things you can unlock throughout Adventure Mode are a few characters and weapons. Cool, but nothing spectacular, which Adventure Mode seemed to be building up to.
It won’t be winning any Game Of The Year awards anytime soon, but Hyrule Warriors still manages to satisfy. As a game, it more than sets out what it’s trying to do. And as a love letter to the Zelda franchise, it could have done a little bit more, but it’s certainly enough to whet me over until Hyrule Warriors 2 is announced. With its fast and fun gameplay and fairly well-done story, Hyrule Warriors is a great fanservice-filled romp through a Hyrulean war that I’d recommend to anyone who calls themselves a Zelda fan.