Taking a brief departure from the official canon of The Legend of Zelda, and uncharacteristically taking a risk with one of its most prestigious intellectual properties, in 2014 Nintendo released Hyrule Warriors on the WiiU. I'm really not a fan of the button-mashy Dynasty Warriors, and I'll admit that it was purely the Zelda licence that drew me initially to this game, but I had a lot of fun playing it. The game is basically a themed version of Koei-Tecmo’s long running strategic slaughter-em-up, and the core gameplay is very similar albeit with the signature visual flair and characteristics copied across from Nintendo’s series. Eiji Aonuma had a lot of input into the creation of this game, and this gave me the confidence that it would be something special and embody the spirit of a series I cherish so much. I wasn’t wrong, and while I would never say Hyrule Warriors is anything like a conventional Zelda title, it has enough of the raw DNA remaining to appeal to anyone who considers themselves a fan.
As someone who, in the past, had completely misunderstood the template for the myriad Dynasty Warriors games, I’d assumed they were literally just hours of mashing the ‘attack’ button against waves and waves of identikit copy-and-paste baddies. Until one side wins. However, this is a bit of a gross simplification of the *true* core of the game, which is to draw out keep bosses, kill them and take-over fortresses (spawning points for the many enemy troops), all whilst frequently being pushed and pulled around the sizeable maps by scripted events and missions. The main story mode of the game does a great job of pulling you along through a fantastic Zelda timeline mashup, where bosses and settings from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, etc. all clash together creating the most epic and fanboi-tastic battles that you could ever wish for in Hyrule. It’s great to see Link, Zelda, Midna, Ganondorf, and many other recognisable faces from the Legend of Zelda games fully realised in a great graphics engine and kicking some ass!! That’s right, Zelda herself gets to personally smack the crap out of the evil assaulting her kingdom. Finally.
The main story mode is fantastic at giving you a real Zelda feel, with its barmy plot, awesome cutscenes and also the epic boss monster battles, which all surprisingly play out similar to how they originally appeared in the action-RPGs. For instance, to kill King Dodongo you have to throw bombs into his mouth when he begins to inhale, and there are lots of other uses for the usual Zelda gadgets and tools. You can also spend rupees that you earn in game to level up your characters, and this gives the game a light RPG feel, which is a lot of fun, especially the weapon crafting system allowing you to tool up the various characters with powerful gear as the game goes on. This is all taken to the nth degree though in Hyrule Warriors ‘adventure mode’, which presents a world map based loosely off the first Legend of Zelda game, with each square presenting you with a new challenge map. Completing these challenges opens up even more characters to play as and lets you level up your characters even more, providing a massive amount of playability and game length if you choose to dive in. Hell, there’s even amiibo support patched in now too, meaning that tapping in a Link or Toon Link results in another gadget, the spinner from Twilight Princess, or taping in any other character for more rupees.
Hyrule Warriors is actually a *lot* of fun! Sure, it's still got the endless waves of copy-and-paste bad guys to mash your way through, but the different characters, equipment and boss battles from the Zelda games imbues it with a lot of charm and character. More addictive still is the unlocking of abilities and light-RPG elements integral to the game, and combined with the 'adventure' mode, with its challenges and 8-bit overworld, there's a lot of content here.
|Great value for money and great fun, if a little on the shallow side in terms of skill, I wholeheartedly recommend Hyrule Warriors to any fan of Legend of Zelda who’s after something a bit different; less cerebral and more arcadey. If nothing else, it’s great to see a large-scale battle in Hyrule at long last!!|