Believe it or not, I really love Hyrule Warriors. Actually, that's probably not such a stretch seeing the comments for each new DLC release. But Hyrule Warriors has really grown on me as something Nintendo has always been really good at and has done multiple times already: creating self-referential celebrations of their games. Everyone knows Smash Bros. is basically a celebration of Nintendo's video game history and these days its dawned on me that Mario Kart is a celebration of the history of Mario games with their character rosters, tracks, and items. And since no one would ever expect a Zelda game that isn't an action-RPG, Hyrule Warriors fills a surprisingly well-rounded role as a Zelda celebration with all its combat and monsters to beat up.
There are exactly two different opinions to Hyrule Warriors: people who are fine with Dynasty Warriors and people who aren't. Even if you love Zelda to the point of giving Hyrule Warriors a shot, that means you were fine or at least not actively repulsed by its gameplay. Which is a shame for people who don't like repetitive hack and slash action games because there's the game is packed with cool references and action-oriented re-imaginings of classic Zelda items and characters. For example, who would've thought the wind waker baton could've made a great weapon but here I am, commanding the winds to create cyclones and decimate entire armies. In terms of a celebration of Zelda, its just like past Nintendo games, even though it wasn't made by Nintendo but Tecmo Koie. The story uses a plot device that allows many major Zelda characters from across time to be in the same place such as Ruto from Ocarina of Time or Zant from Twilight Princess. There is a treasure trove of weapons with unique combos, effects, and properties on top of the character's gimmicks, not to mention a few major items are important sub-weapons for all characters, so I get to see Ganondorf's huge gerudo-ian mitts trying to use a bow and arrow.
So why do I like Hyrule Warriors? First of all, Zelda celebrations, like I said. I get to see Zelda herself use the Dominion Rod from Twilight Princess and crush hordes of moblins. Second, the hack and slash mentality actually carries over surprisingly well for a fan of fighting games. The different repertoires of combos all have unique effects and uses such as how Link's 2-hit to strong with the gauntlets juggles enemies well for extra damage. Or there's the fact that certain characters play completely differently despite having only one or two weapons. Link has over 4 weapons with different attacks and combos but even though Ganondorf only has his great swords, he has a unique charge mechanic that gives him a powerful area attack which is a constant part of his gameplan.
I also love the expressiveness of the characters on Nintendo's HD console. I didn't get a chance to play Skyward Sword which featured a more expressive Link and Zelda. I look forward to either getting a disc or seeing a VC release of it now that Nintendo has figured it out. But I also jumped on the sale they had on the retail exclusive costume packs and there's something so absolutely charming about seeing Twilight Zelda smile so radiantly. In fact, I so rarely get to see my favorite Zelda characters smile and that's kind of weird because Hyrule Warriors is in the context of an actual war while most other games are adventures against the backdrop of a thinly veiled peace. When Link crushes monsters with the Spinner, he fist pumps! When Zelda uses the wind waker baton, she smiles and giggles! When Ganondorf kicks open a treasure chest, he has a sly smirk!
But most of all, I love the weapons you can use. This ties back to the Zelda celebration and references. The lore really gets acknowledged by the game when you use it yourself. The weapons are the whole reason I wanted to talk about Hyrule Warriors! So without further ado, here are some of my favorite weapons and by extension, characters in Hyrule Warriors. My choices are judged by a criteria of design, their visual flourish in combat, and actual effectiveness in battle. I also throw in my ideas for future weapon and character ideas too, because just like Smash Bros. there's always something else you wish for.
Link may be the baseline character with no special effects but he also has the largest variety of weapons to make up for it. All his weapons are really interesting to use like the fire rod or riding Epona. I actually love the gauntlets + ball and chain combo. But the spinner barely edges out its electrical element cousin for its sheer area of effect utility. I absolutely love the idea of Link using his golden gauntlets to not only crushing armies with a wrecking ball but also beating redeads senseless with his thunder fists. But the spinner, true to its name, spins everywhere, and tears up everything around Link. The spinner also ups the ridiculous factor, even compared to the gauntlets' ability to dig up and pile drive huge black monoliths into dodongos.
The spinner you see, comes in an infinite supply of itself which seemingly appears conveniently out of no where. The strong attack kicks out his current spinner into place, which then becomes a projectile when Link kicks out his next spinner to ricochet the last one. Link can also spawn a row of columns that sticks his opponent magnetically before bowling them over. He even spawns a gear tower from Twilight Princess out of no where, rides up it, then crushes it, creating an explosion!
Also, he can kickflip it in front of him, punch it, and send it flying forward like a Beyblade death missile. That move looks way cooler than it sounds, so I tried using a Beyblade reference to help you realize how ridiculous it is.
What's better than a giant's knife? How about a giant katana? Impa basically uses her own version of the giant's knife like she's right out of a samurai period movie because she keeps the thing rested in its hilt over her shoulder until she draws it for quick, fast cuts the break the pavement. It draws obvious design inspiration as a katana than a broadsword, and yet its immense size in the Zelda universe is less Buster Sword and more Biggoron's Sword.
The sword itself is really cool. But the water magic Impa infuses it with is equally, if not cooler. She can conjure a bubble of water to draw her enemies in, arrows of water to rain down, and even a small armory of swords made entirely of water to slash and rend her foes. But not that Impa is some mage, because the way she handles a sword as big as herself is much more entertaining than simply watching someone strongarm it. She swings with its inertia like its a flail and even continues the combos with her feet to preserve its deadly momentum. Her strong attack also lets her dash in on her target and quick draw them, which is one of the better utility moves in the game compared to janky projectiles or a different kind of strong attack.
Like the spinner, this item is extremely niche and didn't serve much purpose outside its intended dungeon from Twilight Princess. Also like the spinner, its really good as a weapon of mass destruction for Zelda to destroy entire armies. The rod has two modes: hammer statue and owl statue. While the rod let's fly an orb of light to pummel enemies, one of the two statues will follow its own preset path of destruction until you perform a specific combo that instantly summons it in front of Zelda do something like a hammer combo or a pinball bounce attack. The statue together with Zelda herself lets her cover an enourmous amount of space. It's like two fighters in one!
Zelda's other weapons are extremely different. The rapier has a light stock mechanic which augments her attacks when she's charged with light. It provides powerful area attacks but requires a lot of forethought to use effectively. The baton is the Wind Waker, which allows her to sweep enemies with gusts of wind, but it has surprisingly bad reach. Neither hold a candle to just how much mayhem the Dominion Rod can do thanks to the large size of the statues and senseless havoc you can make from just a few choice combos.
Also, her special focus attack simply causes a statue the size of a skyscraper to topple over onto her enemies. It's a simple, big magic trick but still pretty funnyto watch it fall onto a Gohma or say, Ghirahim.
Lana is about as divisive as Hyrule Warriors. She's very out of character with her perky personality and actual voice. You either may hate her as an eyesore or love her because she smashes dinosaurs and gives a victory wink to the camera. She also hums the Hyrule theme while using the summoning gates weapon so forget what I said earlier, you should love Lana.
But this isn't about the summoning gates. This is about the spear, in actuality, an overglorified deku stick. It doesn't look at all like an actual spear, but it does look like a stick! It can also summon the Great Deku Tree to mangle its foes in its branches, summon homicidal Deku Sprouts, and turn into one of my favorite items of all time, the deku leaf! Which of course you use to create hurricane walls of wind to plow through platoons and zip kick enemies while floating with it. It's seriously the best combo ever.
It's the little touches that matter. Not only can you ride a Deku Sprout like the calvary, your defense guard becomes the Kokiri shield. Awesome.
Ravio/Hilda alternate costumes for Link and Zelda
At first, I was trying to think of ways to integrate Ravio and Hilda as standalone characters. After some time though, I figured it be easier to consider them as skins and introduce the weapon ideas by themselves.
Admittedly, Hilda is just Zelda but purple. Ravio though is a great costume, with a vague rabbit hood, scarf, and cloak set. If Link can cosplay the postman and show of his legendary... legs, then Link can cosplay as a comparatively modest but interesting Ravio. What do you know about the postman, huh? Link can cosplay as the interesting, conflicted, and cowardly Ravio, who is an alternate version of him from Lorule. Wouldn't it be cathartic to see Ravio finally become the hero he could've become?
Oh, and spoilers I guess for Ravio.
The Ice Rod
There have been a lot of different magic rods in the game. In Link Between Worlds alone, there are three elemental rods plus a whirlwind rod. But the ice rod stands as something unique to contribute to Hyrule Warriors.
Yes, it would probably shoot shards of ice and summon spears of ice to pop up from the ground. It's intended use in-game though is dropping ice. What if its special attack, after filling up your special bar, was another callback? After all, Link conjures a flaming dragon reminiscent of Volga through the fire rod. So logically, what if the special attack for the ice rod was dropping a frozen replica of Blizzeta?
Just let that sink in for a moment. Activate your special attack and in addition to freezing your enemies in activation, you literally freeze the ground around them before its mirror sheen reveals Blizzeta is moments away from a total megaton impact. I'll take my checks in direct deposit Nintendo.
Vaati gets so little recognition nowadays. It may be because the entire subseries he's in, known sometimes as the Four Swords series, was done in conjunction with Capcom. Maybe Nintendo wants to make sure the series gets swept under the rug so people don't entirely catch on to the fact that Capcom was responsible for such great cult hits. But Vaati doesn't deserve this shabby treatment. Or maybe Capcom is holding joint rights to him and keeping him indoors Spider-Man style. Also, do you realize what this means for Marvel Vs. Capcom 4?
Ganondorf is capable of assuming his monstrous shape in certain combos. Vaati should also be able to do so himself since he's known traditionally to be a demon. Vaati's also always been known as a wind mage, so it's possible for Vaati to function like a better version of Zelda's baton weapon. And it's obvious his special attack should at least partially transform into his cyclopic form and really decimate the field. His personality has always seemed very Ghirahim to me, before Ghirahim. But let's face it, we'd just be interested in seeing a 2D character make it to 3D.
Roc's Cape and Pegasus Boots
Roc's Cape used to be such a novel idea. Leap across holes and chasms! But ever since Ocarina of Time and its 3D landscape with automatic jumping, it rendered the idea useless. Even in recent top-down Zelda games, map design never asked for the ability to jump as far like Roc's Cape might ask you to.
The Pegasus Boots have fared better in terms of survival. Which is where Hyrule Warriors comes in to bring Roc's legendary cape back to relevancy. By itself, maybe it just allows impressive jumping and gliding. But what if we combine it with a re-imagining of the Pegasus Boots? Magic boots that not only impart agility but immense kicking strength. Now throw in the cape for impressive gliding and air mobility and you have yourself a masterful kicking weapon in the same vein how the gauntlets is two weapons as one.
It could function as a cross between the spinner's ability to attack all around itself with high speed and the baton's wind strikes. But there's only two characters who'd fit the weapon's motif properly. Either Impa, with her athletic speed and build or Lana with her demonstrated history of acrobatics. Hell, one of Lana's guard point finishers just has her stomping on monsters with electrified feet. I love Impa but I feel Lana could make the visceral rush of flip kicking enemies into the horizon with what are essentially jet boots that much better with her own apparent appreciation of Zelda lineage.