It’s a Legend of Zelda game. It’s a Dynasty Warriors game.
The Dynasty Warriors games from Koei Tecmo have been around for ages and have a strong following. The Legend of Zelda games have been around even longer and have made an appearance on every one of Nintendo’s own consoles. Now, these two long-lived series have come together and spawned something a little bit special – Hyrule Warriors.
In case you have never played one of the Dynasty Warriors games, or any of the spin off titles, the game is a mental 3D open field combat game in which the player will routinely slaughter hundreds and thousands of enemy warriors, all without breaking a sweat. If you have never ventured into Hyrule in one of the Legend of Zelda games, well, it doesn’t really matter. The gameplay in Hyrule Warriors is firmly taken from the Dynasty Warriors games, while it is only the setting and characters that comes from the Legend of Zelda titles, so it won’t affect your enjoyment of the gameplay. That being said, the game is positively oozing fan service, with sounds, locations, objects and characters all being faithful to the games, meaning the Zelda fans will have plenty to be pleased about.
But that is not to say that they will be pleased with the gameplay. The Dynasty Warriors games, whilst hugely fun in my mind, can be a little intimidating and eventually repetitive to newcomers that have yet to embrace the sheer thrill of racking up hundreds of kills or pulling off incredible moves that knock down foes by the bucket load. Dynasty Warriors is certainly an acquired taste and will just not please everyone, especially if they are expecting some light RPG experience with clever puzzles and a progressing story.
However, despite how it may look, the gameplay is quite easy to grasp. Taking whatever character is available, the player heads out into the battlefield. The option of where to go and which groups of enemies to engage is entirely up to the player. However, a small map in the corner of the screen shows the overall status of the battlefield and where the player would be best put to use. Little dots cover the map, representing both enemy and friendly forces with different colours, and the player would aim to transform the map to one friendly colour.
Whilst there is the freedom to move anywhere on the map, flashing markers will guide the player to certain areas where they are needed. This may be to take down a minor boss or captain to unlock the route through a gate and access more of the map, to aid an ally before they become overwhelmed by the enemy forces, or to escort a unit to the destination where they can cause the most damage. Players will find themselves running all over the place, from one minor conflict to the next, as they capture whole areas of the map and complete objectives.
This is one of the places where things can get a little confusing. The map is not exactly user friendly, and there is a lot going on. Sometimes simply navigating from one area to the next can be frustrating as the player comes up against wrong turns or dead ends. And, as the only useful warrior in your particular army, you will be spending a lot of time moving from one area to the next. It is not that the other members of your army are stupid, they just don’t seem to do much.
The combat itself is button-mashing goodness. The player will have access to a regular and strong attack that will take care of most enemies, with even the regular attack capable of knocking back multiple enemies at once. Combos are available for something a little more impressive. Then there are the special attacks that are fueled by a gauge and linked to the weapon that the player is using, which are pretty exciting and suitably powerful. To top this lot off, there is also magic which is fueled by the focus gauge and simply powers up the player.
The enemies, who come from the Zelda games, are well done. The majority of them can be removed from play on a wholesale basis with prolonged hack and slashing. Boss battles are something to behold, with massive, screen-filling creatures that will require a bit more strategy and time to defeat. And the fan service is excellent.
As it is with the playable characters. Through an interesting story revolving around portals to other times in the Zelda timeline, popular characters from throughout the series will become playable. There are 13 characters in total to unlock through playing the game, which may seem somewhat paltry compared to the usual burgeoning roster found in Dynasty Warriors games. But these are special characters from the Zelda universe, so why have loads when the few are so perfect? Besides, there are a variety of different weapons to tweak the characters further.
The main story in Hyrule Warriors, which is quite enjoyable and fits so perfectly with the Zelda theme, can be found within the Legend Mode of the game, and is also where the player will be unlocking the majority of the characters from the game. However, Legend Mode is not the only mode in the game. Adventure Mode, in which the player can also unlock some characters, provides a glance back in time to the original The Legend of Zelda with a massive 8-bit map filled with challenges for the player to work through. There is also a Free Mode in which the player can take any character they have unlocked into any battle they have already completed. Finally, there is the Challenge Mode which offers challenges to any unlocked character. All things considered, there is plenty here to do, and the certainty that more will be added through patches and DLC in the future.
Although packed with fan service, Hyrule Warriors may not be the game that Zelda fans were waiting for. The Dynasty Warriors gameplay will certainly not appeal to everyone, especially if it is not what they were expecting from the first Zelda game for Wii U. It can be repetitive, and it is somewhat mindless. But there is a challenge to mastering the game, and it is so much fun and easy to lose time to. It may not be the Zelda game that fans are clamoring for, but put those expectations aside and you will find that Hyrule Warriors is a damn good game.