Hyrule Warriors Review, Zelda Meets Hack and Slash
Hyrule Warriors successfully brings Zelda into a new genre that feels like a quality Nintendo Product.
When Hyrule Warriors was announced, I made the bone headed decision to write it off entirely. Combing Zelda with Dynasty Warriors was something that just didn’t register in my brain, and when Nintendo said they were going to branch out more with their core franchises, that trailer wasn’t what I had in mind. Then Hyrule Warriors started making some noise, and the trailers leading up to the release started to make the game actually look like more than just a skin over Dynasty Warriors. Now, after playing it for about 25 hours, I can safely say Hyrule Warriors isn’t just a cheap knock off in any way.
Hyrule Warriors does indeed look and play like Dynasty Warriors on the surface, but there is a remarkable amount of work that went into it that makes it feel like its own distinctive experience. There are 3 main modes player will tackle, and most should and probably will start with the Legend mode. This is essentially the campaign, and takes players through a story crafted for Hyrule Warriors. The story centers around a few new characters mainly being Cia and Lana, both of which have their own reasons for trying to defeat the other with Cia having some master plan to take over Hyrule.
The story is a neat little package that is filled with a lot of cool references and characters from different era’s of Zelda. You will meet characters from different games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Fans of the Zelda franchise will probably get a kick out of seeing all of these different characters from different era’s combine their forces to defeat evil. It can come off a bit cheesy and stupid at moments but fans of the series will enjoy it from start to finish, which actually will end up taking longer than expected since there is essentially two different stories to be told. The first story being more about Lana and Cia battling, and the second centering around more of the Zelda characters.
Hyrule Warriors does play like Dynasty Warriors, but it still feels unique in a lot of ways.
Before we get into adventure mode we have to talk about how Hyrule Warriors plays. Again, it’s no secret that this game plays like Dynasty Warriors, but it definitely isn’t a direct clone of that franchise. The game play is designed to make the player feel way stronger than everything else, and let them just decimate the enemies in waves at a time. This means the player gets access to devastating combo moves that can lay waste to anything that comes across their path. The moves are a lot more over the top and unrealistic when comparing them to Dynasty Warriors, but the overall play style is very similar.
Each character in Hyrule Warriors feels not only unique, but faithful to the Zelda lore and name. Link has his staple Spin Attack and downward slash, but he is also equipped with some devastating combos with his sword that involve giant arching slashes and spins. Then you have characters like Sheik who also stick to their weapons you would expect like her claws and the harp even is an important piece to her arsenal. The player simply takes their character of choice and steps onto the battlefield to fight familiar foes from the Zelda franchise such as Stalfos, ReDeads, Moblins, and Bokoblins. There are bases around each battlefield that can be captured to give you and your teams more soldiers on the field and boost your morale, and eventually you will need to take out the enemy general to win the battle for your team. It is all pretty straight forward, and again if you have played the Dynasty Warriors games, especially the Tactics line of games, you will feel right at home.
What I found amazing was that every character in Hyrule Warriors not only feels unique, but also feels very true to how you would think they would fight if they were actually put into a game like this. It’s actually quite shocking to me how well the characters traits and fighting styles were nailed in terms of game play. It almost feels like Nintendo actually made this product, that’s how close and real it feels in terms of authenticity. While the core game play is nothing new, the way the characters move and perform their moves feels new and exclusive, which goes a long way in a game that is very repetitive.
Adventure mode in Hyrule Warriors is a cool callback, but suffers from way too much repetition.
Adventure mode is essentially a tactics mode that puts players on a 16X8 grid and gives them the task of taking over the map by wining battles in each square. The big twist here is that the map is actually the map from the original Legend of Zelda on the NES. You have to guide your characters through the original map and even use items like the compass, lantern, and raft to find secrets and conquer squares. This is again just one of those things that is insanely smart and helps Hyrule Warriors feel more genuine and that Nintendo made sure that their high bar of quality was met even with this title being a spin off.
Adventure mode is where the real meat of the game lies, and while it is a ton of fun, but this is where a few of the games issues start to come center stage. The first is the repetitive nature of having to grind for certain items. To obtain an item like the compass, the player has to battle on a square that will give them the item once they have completed it. The issue is that some items you will need to progress further, but you will need them a lot more than they are rewarded by natural progression on the grid. For instance, there are some squares that have secrets that need to be uncovered and require the compass, while others also need a compass to just unveil the enemies to begin with. The problem is that you will not get enough uses of the compass without having to back to stages you already competed 3 or 4 times. This can get tiresome very quickly due to the fact that the game play is already pretty repetitive to begin with. Mix in some of the more quirky mission types where you have to simply run from point to point and kill a certain enemy, and you have a game that will get boring very quickly.
The story mode doesn’t have this problem because you are always progressing, and unlocking new characters and weapons for your characters, but in Adventure mode you a lot of times will be forced to use a character that you either don’t like, or are not as much to play as. Take Fi for example, she is very fast, but not exactly the strongest of the characters available, which makes having to do her missions over and over extremely boring since they take awhile to complete. This makes Adventure Mode really fun most of the time, but then other times you will get stuck grinding the same item for an hour or so straight and just makes the experience stale.
Then there is one other issue that has to be addressed which has to do with the presentation. Playing Hyrule Warriors is a pretty good experience if you are playing either on a TV or the gamepad. Everything is colorful and crisp for the most part, and honestly it looks quite good in motion. The animations of the attacks and enemies are very well done, and the quality is definitely there. Then you boot up the multiplayer option and everything just goes from beautiful to flat out ugly.
Hyrule Warriors actually uses the Gamepad in a really unique way where when playing two players, one person uses the TV, while the other uses the gamepad, giving each player their own screen to play on. The problem is that the resolution and frame rate take a huge hit when playing with two players. The frame rate is already kind of sporadic playing single player, but that sort of makes sense since there can be literally hundreds of enemies on screen at a time, and when you have to replicate that on two screens, sacrifices had to be made. It isn’t enough to kill the experience, but when you have been playing the game in its crispy HD glory for awhile, and then are forced to look at a much uglier version, it’s just sort of depressing.
Hyrule Warriors is a game that really surprised me. Maybe the fact that I wrote it off so early makes it feel better than it is, but there something about it that definitely feels like a quality Nintendo product, even though they didn’t create this game. Adventure mode has its issues, and the presentation takes some big hits when playing with a friend, but there is more than enough awesome things in Hyrule Warriors that will please long time Nintendo and even die hard Zelda fans.