The world is made up of two different types of people. Those who enjoy Dynasty Warriors games and those who just don’t get it. With a seemingly basic formula that’s been reiterated over and over again since the series inception, you can see why there is this divide. Although there is so much more to Dynasty Warriors games than meets the eye and Hyrule Warriors does an excellent job of demonstrating this to a brand new audience.
With the implementation of the Zelda IP and being on the Wii U console, there are going to be people unfamiliar with the Warriors franchise stepping into this expecting a new main series Zelda title. Those are people that will be disappointed. At its core, Hyrule Warriors is a reskin, although just by saying that distracts from how it improves on the formula in different ways and creates an appeal unique to the Zelda franchise. You are travelling around Hyrule, revisiting old locations that are insanely similar to the originals in terms of layout and accompanied by soundtracks that are both reminiscent of the originals yet have that brilliant Dynasty Warriors excitement to them.
Within these locations, you must accomplish a series of objectives based around the idea of territory control and the flow of your troops. Whilst your soldiers are unable to overpower enemy forces on their own, they are able to stall at various locations making it easy for you to push on your own without having to worry about the state of your bases further back. It’s imprecise tactics but that’s what makes it interesting. You can’t tell them to all attack one location, because that’d make it too easy. You have to be the one to build the path towards that location and use them to hold off the occasional enemy pushes or heavy enemy types. However, you’d expect that the other warriors on your side would be the slight bit more useful. Having to be called back from the front lines due to one of them getting beaten by a few far less powerful creatures ends up getting somewhat frustrating and they rarely end up contributing to the battle at all.
On the smaller scale, there’s even more to explore as far as how the combat works and the way you can string attacks together to create violent combos to take care of boss characters efficiently. One of my issues with Dynasty Warriors main series games were that with the vast amount of playable characters, very few of them felt special. I’d pick a character that I thought looked cool and it instead became a choice of which weapon I preferred. Hyrule Warriors resolves this issue with a smaller roster and weapons unique to each character. Because of this, there’s always going to be a defined playstyle relevant to the warrior you’ve chosen that differs itself from the rest of the cast. As you play with these characters for extended amounts of time, you can level them up and gain new attacks, extending your combos and allowing for different moves to be strung together.
Warriors titles are well known for their extremely satisfying large scale fighting and Hyrule Warriors is no exception. It is no overstatement that you will be facing hordes of enemy forces and you will need to use these various new attacks in order to defeat them efficiently. Since they are not a real threat to you, the game persuades you to take action based on their strategic significance. To capture a keep, it will need to be cleared out, to disrupt a flow of enemy soldiers, they will need to be defeated. It’s all about protecting your own keep and pushing the enemy forces back which gives it all relevance as the game ties everything together.
Even the narrative plays into this with a large focus on the characters and giving reasons for different forces to be facing each other. It makes complete sense that your first meeting with Midna would be antagonistic as that’s how she is as a character and her allegiance to the Twilight Realm is paramount, a backstory developed in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. These small details and quirks create a higher quality level of fan-service that will appeal to long time veterans of the series. The story itself seems to be some kind of meta-commentary on itself with the primary villain here, a sorceress corrupted by Ganondorf being a Link fangirl herself with statues of him all over her lair.
However, it’s not exactly complex and it tries to do things that really don’t work within this timeframe or format. For the first time ever, there’s an attempt to realise Link as an actual character with personal feelings and motivations. In this case, Hyrule Warriors attempts to show Link becoming overconfident and developing an ego but this is only conveyed to us through a voice over and as the player, we don’t really get any real demonstration of this except for the fact that the Master Sword really is insanely powerful and naturally the player will become more aggressive because of this. There is still this large disconnect though and it really should be an all or nothing situation when it comes to characterization.
This title is absolutely full of content and it can be easy to be drawn in for hours on end. Once you’ve completed the Legend Mode, the main storyline, you will inevitably be drawn into going through the extensive Adventure Mode that encourages you to complete various challenges in order to unlock new characters and weapons and generally improve your characters. If you couple this with a Free Mode that allows players to re-challenge any mission with any character, you get a game that you will want to invest the time in and get the most out of. To extend upon this, there is various DLC packs being released over the next few months hoping to give the game additional replayability adding players, more adventure mode maps and even some story missions.
Hyrule Warriors is one of the best games on Wii U right now and if you’ve been on the fence about purchasing the console, I firmly believe that this is enough to push you over it. There are some performance issues in terms of frame drops in places, but if you can look past that, at it’s base, you have an absolutely fantastic new Warriors title.
This review is based on a retail copy of Hyrule Warriors for Wii U which was provided by the developer.