We played Hyrule Warriors last Saturday and were completely hooked. Considering the last console games of these two series we fully played were Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Dynasty Warriors 4 over a whole decade ago, this mash up of a game sure felt nostalgic which included elements of both games without disrupting flow. KoeiTecmo definitely paid homage to all the unique character quirks of the Zelda characters, including actions not found in previous Zelda games. To be more specific, this game was developed by Omega Force, who pretty much did all the Dynasty Warrior games. Naturally, the people at KoeiTecmo were fans of the Zelda series, and this game clearly shows the creativity put into it. For a spinoff, this game delivered, even if it is not a traditional Zelda game.
To utilize Hyrule’s traditional time based concept, Hyrule Warriors does battle in three major locations: specifically Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword due to the plot. Each of these games alone were big, and were also released years between each other, covering a long time span. Components of these three past Zelda games will be largely familiar, paying homage to the exact same characters, items, features, and even the strategies on how to defeat past foes. Although Zelda timelines have some link between each other, never had there been a game that literally featured multiple characters directly from past games into one that actually has plot relevance. The classic good vs evil concept color coded in blue and red respectively makes the player objectives rather clear, with intermittent third parties color coded in yellow.
Although the design of the game definitely revolved around Zelda lore, the battle system is largely like Dynasty Warriors, having armies and control points influencing your goals in the battlefield. Even the crafting and weapon system is similar, with a Hyrulian twist. The game is non-canon, yet we feel the Zelda characters fit into the hack ‘n’ slash system quite well. Four unique characters have been created just for this game to use as a driving force for the plot. Despite the new characters being largely similar to Dynasty Warrior characters to the point of being carbon copies, they mesh with the Zelda characters rather nicely. Personally, we feel Link is unique as a Nintendo character where he fits surprisingly well in other game series’ systems such as Soul Calibur II. The fact that Zelda games are already inherently dungeon based makes the capture points, called Keeps, rather synergetic. The familiar Zelda locations work very well for battlefields.
Literally all the basic mechanics from Zelda games can be found here. Bows, bombs, boomerangs, and the hookshot are available on a singular R function swappable with the directional pad. There are treasure chests made available that provide you key items or new weapons. The fabled spin move exists, to no surprise. Even Z-targeting (L, actually) exists, which greatly eases objective goals for taking down key enemies. Components of any of the aforementioned Zelda games featured here can be found other than Wii-specific functions such as using the Wii MotionPlus in Skyward Sword. Powerups found in battle are only temporary. Enemies even have weak points to exploit, where openings happen after they use a charge attack or whiff a move. Do not brainlessly try to take down opponents with semi-infinite juggling like we did, as the damage reduction is quite high and takes significantly longer to do, even if the enemy does not fight back.
This game in particular favors co-op play, making it enjoyable to play with others. More ground can be covered, and the WiiU makes effective use of the gamepad, letting each player see their own screen instead of a split one. One oddity with playing this game multiplayer is that you will still have the default allied NPCs. In other words, you could have an allied computer Impa while the second player plays as Impa, making the character specific events in battle possibly confusing if the game says Impa is in trouble when the second player is out of combat at full health. If any key player is defeated, you automatically lose, but at least this game features not only a reload from the last checkpoint, but also a save progress feature which you can load into. This prevents a player from getting fully frustrated by a full restart of a long battle. Also, this game can suffer from WiiU’s hardware limitations, as there is definitely some noticeable lag when producing actions in a field full of minions when playing co-op. This by no means detract from the game as the lag is temporary.
The game is conceptually short, considering the action is so fast paced. The time it takes to clear a dungeon is clearly shorter than traditional Zelda games due to lesser puzzles and color coded indicators that tell you what to do and where to go. We find the pacing of the game rather good, balancing the hack ‘n’ slash nature with actual story progress without burning out. Downtime doesn’t really exist in this game and there is always something to do and strive for. The character variety allows people to choose their favorites, or try new characters.
The menu system is identical to one found in Dynasty Warrior games. There’s a Legend Mode, which is the story; a Free Mode, which lets you replay any specific beaten level; among many other functions that adds a little variety to this hack ‘n’ slash game. Although the general controls for each character is the same, their movesets largely differ and skew towards the personality of the character. Each character even gets different weapons to use, each coupled with unique movesets. The hack ‘n’ slash doesn’t get too tedious, namely because there’s a ton of unlockable content within the game with a definitive story pathing.
By utilizing many characters in at least three Zelda games, the playable roster goes pretty deep. There’s enough different playable characters, friend and foe alike, since you usually play only as Link. Anyone that has played Super Smash Bros. Melee or Brawl will instantly notice Zelda and Sheik have moves that literally derive from their Smash version. General strategies are largely inherent to Zelda, such as boulders naturally being destructible with bombs. Movement of the characters seem similar to Ninja Gaiden, with things like sprinting, air combos, dodging, and blocking being largely reminiscent of Ryu Hayabusa.
The structure of the story, despite being a Dynasty Warriors game, is largely in a Zelda format. Components within the plot, as well as gathering items, pay homage to Hyrule. We felt the bazaar, where you buy upgrades and can craft, was a rather interesting way to use rupees. Even Dynasty Warriors games don’t loot currency mid-battle. Hyrule Warriors even has a level up system, where if you level up mid-battle, your health and SP gauge fully restore, which is pretty nice under duress. There’s even the added convenience of being able to buy levels using Rupees, allowing a player to play catch-up with lesser used characters.
Although we like crafting systems due to playing Atelier games, Hyrule Warriors uses an overly simplified one to prevent excessive complexity. The game does not make it mandatory to require complete gear optimization to beat the game, though we feel if extra challenging new dungeons will likely exist as DLC, along with new tools, the crafting would need to be dug into. As a rule of thumb, for weapons you want to look at the base damage, number of stars, and number of slots, the more the better. Upgrades and crafting require materials, which are gathered from specific enemies in various dungeons.
We find it most interesting that different weapons have different upgrades, leading to many different trees of upgrades to aim for. In the end, the attack upgrades are mainly to extend combos and weak point benefits, while defensive upgrades are mainly to reduce damage. This also makes the crafting system seemingly pointless, as the bonuses are so straightforward it should have been integrated into the levels or game progress anyways. Still, these upgrades require materials gathered during battle, so for completion sake, there’s more incentive to go back to past dungeons another round.
As far as what is next, Hyrule Warriors already had pre-orders available for future DLC that will come within the next few months. Unlike our general gripes with DLC in KoeiTecmo games such as Dead or Alive 5, we feel Nintendo’s execution of DLC is by far the best concept. The general issue with DLC is content that felt locked away, or intentionally held back to extract more sales. Nintendo’s DLC methods does this too to an extent, but it feels more in the fashion of a pure add-on, since the game itself feels complete. For Hyrule Warriors specifically, a Season Pass can be purchased for $19.99 which allows you to get all the 4 upcoming DLC as they release. In parts we gather it’s slightly more expensive, but we do feel the bang for buck value seems much more clear with the amount of content given. This type of game could easily utilize a side quest type of dungeon.
We like the ratio of content given on Nintendo’s recent trend of DLC, such as with Mario Kart 8, but we are also entering a time where companies can now plan out DLC that is to be pre-ordered after release. For now it seems fine with Nintendo’s methods due to their game exclusives, but it’s rather concerning if this model gets successful and other companies decide to use this equation.
We find this game largely suitable for people who have enjoyed Dynasty Warriors and The Legend of Zelda, and welcoming enough for players new to either of the series. For anyone looking for a high paced action game that requires little thinking and can hook you, look no further. This game is not recommended for people who absolutely do not like the hack ‘n’ slash type of gameplay.