Hyrule Warriors Review – The Zelda Power Fantasy I Didn’t Know I Wanted
Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: September 26th
I’ve had a dabble here and there with the Dynasty Warrior franchise, but I’ve never dove into it. As such, I really didn’t know what to expect from Hyrule Warriors. The mixture of the two seemed like a great combination and having the Legend of Zelda creator on as a producer helped, but I still had my doubts. Now, after a the great amount of time I’ve spent with this game hands-on, I can safely say that those worries have been put to rest, but this game should not be expected to be a game changer for Dynasty Warriors. If anything, Hyrule Warriors is a good shot in the arm for the Legend of Zelda series.
The story of Hyrule Warriors has your standard fare for a Legend of Zelda game with Link and Zelda in tow. The main antagonist this time around is a sorceress named Cia who kidnaps Zelda out of jealousy, wanting the hero Link all to herself. Link must drive back Cia and her evil forces with help of characters from Hyrule as well as across dimensions.
For the most part, the story is serviceable and better than I was expecting for an action-oriented crossover. Some plotholes and barely-explained threads do exist, but isn’t too noticeable. These threads are especially prominent in 2-player mode, when duplicates of characters happen since the 2nd player can choose any of the unlocked ones. The story also stays true to the Zelda formula and doesn’t include voiceovers, which can be a bit bizarre when dramatic cutscenes occur.
The structure of the story is in individual chapters called scenarios. The way that these play out ties in really well to the overarching plot and adds flavor to the battlefield. It also does a good job of incorporating elements that you would expect from the Legend of Zelda series.
As is evident by the trailers and the Dynasty Warriors moniker, the quality of Hyrule Warriors in its visuals is less about how the battlefield looks and more about the characters that populate it. The stages themselves aren’t really that visually impressive aside from their size, but there are a few like the Palace of Twilight that really pop. The real beauty in the visuals comes from your characters’ moves and the sheer number of enemies on screen. Different factions getting mixed together add the battlefield vibe of the game.
Even with that amount of information processing on-screen, the game runs at a very stable 30 FPS in single-player. This does dip when playing graphically-intensive scenarios with 2 players. These same levels don’t appear to have this problem in single player. The reduced resolution with 2 players really only felt noticeable during cutscenes and doesn’t detract from the gameplay experience. Another visual hiccup worth mentioning is the camera. It gets the job done, but it sometimes has trouble switching angles for special animations and can get stuck.
As for the music of Hyrule Warriors, it is outright fantastic, combining classic Zelda pieces with awesome power rock tracks. Some of these inspired by relatively calmer pieces do sound a bit strange (In the Greenwood comes to mind), but there aren’t too many like that. The music itself can get repetitive, but my personal love for it has trumped that so far. Sound effects also share these traits, bringing in classic Zelda sound effects and characters “voices”. Like the music, these can get repetitive but are short and sweet.
If you came into Hyrule Warriors expecting a Zelda game, you may be disappointed. Sure it has the elements, but this is for all intents and purposes a Dynasty Warriors game. The focus of the gameplay is to complete missions issued as the battle progresses. These can range from taking out captains to capturing keeps to full-on Zelda-esque boss fights.
Normal combat is a ton of fun and extremely satisfying when nailing awesome combo attacks. At the same time, the game has a variety of playable characters, each with progression through experience, more powerful weapons, and crafted badges that unlock new traits and combos. The crafting system is pretty well implemented, requiring materials that are dropped by enemies on the battlefield.
As for captains and boss characters, they aren’t nearly as fun. While giant bosses are somewhat enjoyable due to the use of Zelda’s “weak to certain item” design, battles against captains and boss characters feel time-consuming and tedious, especially when fighting more than one at a time.
Zelda’s giant boss design isn’t the only trait that Hyrule Warriors inherited. The aforementioned items can also be used for obstacles and even in normal combat. Great Fairy Fountains are used in ways like item upgrading and pulling Majora’s Moon out of the sky (no, seriously), mostly in the context of the scenario.
Treasure Chests can be found containing sealed weapons, Heart Pieces and Heart Containers that can enhance your characters. They even play the famous chest opening music and each character has their own special opening animation. Gold Skulltulas serve as the game’s main collectable. These can unlock new artwork and rewards.
Besides the main storyline, dubbed Legend Mode, Hyrule Warriors has a couple of other modes, most notably Adventure Mode. In a nutshell, Adventure Mode makes use of the original Legend of Zelda map with each tile representing a certain mini-scenario. These can have a variety of conditions, types, and character/weapon requirements.
Completing these nets you cool powerful weapons, Heart Pieces and Containers, and even new characters. Some tiles also give you Item Cards modeled after somewhat classic Zelda Items. If a tile mentions that a reward is hidden, you can use the Search function and use these Item Cards to uncover secrets. There also is a social function in Adventure Mode called Network Links. These are more challenging mini-scenarios and completing them can net you rare materials, with even better materials possible if that Network Link is in your friend list.
I would say that I really like Adventure Mode as a whole, even with its repetition and recycling of previous battlefields. However, there are a couple of things I dislike about this mode. For one thing, the decision to make some of the hero characters locked away in Adventure Mode doesn’t sit well. For boss characters it makes sense, but when the plot of Legend Mode involves heroes across dimensions coming together to take on Cia, it feels weird that you don’t get the chance to play as some of them for no real reason.
Another point that stumbled me a bit was my initial understanding of the Item Card system, which was foggy at best. The explanation was a bit convoluted, and unless you guess exactly what and where the secret is, you will always need a supply of Compasses. This can get annoying when you have to replay levels you have fully completed, but on the plus side the amount of levels available is rather huge, making this less of an issue.
As you may have noticed by now, there is one word I’ve been using to describe Hyrule Warriors, and that word is repetitive. It’s important to note, however, that’s not the criticism it may sound like.
Repetition and replayability seem to have been running themes in my reviews as of late. In comparison, Azure Striker Gunvolt sits on one side with its core gameplay being the driving force behind these traits. Roundabout sits on the other, with its collectables and challenges that I had no interest in completing serving as its core. I’d say that in the case of Hyrule Warriors, it sits square in the middle.
The core gameplay is cathartic and satisfying on its own, whether that be solo or with a friend. Its structure of scenarios, difficulty levels, and Adventure Mode challenges works well in tandem with this gameplay style. On top of that, the game is supplemented with optional collectables like music tracks, new weapons, and the Gold Skulltulas. In the end, this balance helps to prevent Hyrule Warriors from getting stale in its repetitiveness. It should still be mentioned as a heads up for those who don’t like this style.
Hyrule Warriors is by no means a game-changer for either The Legend of Zelda or Dynasty Warriors franchises. Instead, it serves as a great marriage of the two. Its story has a fairly weak start, but it comes together nicely towards the end. The multitude of Zelda characters are awesome to play as and feel diverse in their designs. Its technical hiccups and certain design decisions with Adventure Mode are my only major criticisms with the game. Its repetitive nature is also important to make note of, even if I personally enjoy the game’s design in that respect. That being said, I still think it’s worth a shot for Zelda fans and Dynasty Warriors fans alike.
|Mac Wentz|| Mac is a senior editor for iTechTriad who focuses almost entirely on all things gaming. With experience on the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, he has a soft spot for all things Nintendo.