When Hyrule Warriors was announced during the December 18, 2013 Nintendo Direct, I was initially skeptical about blending the Legend of Zelda universe with the hack and slash elements found in the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Now that the holiday flood of video game releases has died down, I’ve taken some time to go back and sift through my backlog. As I’ve now spent some significant time with this title, I must admit this is a winning formula that manages to preserve the very best of both gaming experiences.
GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Upon first inspection, the game plays identically to a traditional Dynasty Warriors game. Aesthetically, you’ll find yourself located on a flat battlefield, full of both NPC allies and foes who mindlessly littler the map. While the nameless soldiers do make the world feel more inhabited, they do not push the battle in any capacity. While this is happening, you’ll be serenaded with over the top rock music, cheesy character dialogue, and plenty of gate and keep guards to keep your character of choice busy. Running into the fray and swinging away wildly is very rewarding, but the action only ramps up in sheer chaos when you unleash your ultimate attack and watch the KO counter hit the 50+ mark.
But then you’ll notice the little touches of the Legend of Zelda universe injected throughout the title. In addition to the great cast of playable characters throughout the adventure, you’ll get to utilize the core weapon sets, inclusive of the boomerang, bow, and bomb. Fairy pools and even golden skulltulas will await the curious adventurer. Even boss battles are prevalent, each with specific vulnerabilities (based on both character placement and weapon utilization) that must be exploited for victory. In every sense, this game plays nearly identically to every other Legend of Zelda adventure you’re familiar with.
REWARDING CHARACTER AND WEAPON PROGRESSION. Hyrule Warriors is not a difficult game to complete, even by bumping the difficulty to the hard setting. It is possible to complete the game while using the standard weapons and skill sets, relying solely on pure button mashing and required weapon utilization to defeat each boss fight. However, completionists will enjoy earning rupees in battle and tackling the more difficult enemies to score valuable crafting materials to spend in either the badge market or the smithy:
Badge Market: In the badge market, players upgrade their favorite character’s move sets. While each character begins their quest with a small set of offensive, defensive and support abilities, they can be upgraded via obtaining various crafting materials throughout their quest. These materials are gathered by defeating various enemies in each game mode. Badges include new offensive weapon combinations for each character’s primary and secondary weapons, such as Link’s Hylian Sword, Magic Rod, or Spinner. Support abilities include additional special attack gauges or increased defensive characteristics. Each step in the badge market requires even more rare materials.
Smithy: In the smithy, characters can cannibalize unique weapon modifiers (such as increased strength on increased combination attacks, or greater overall speed) and apply them to their stronger weapons. The weapon modifiers are seemingly random, which requires a bit of grinding, but ultimately do have a significant impact on how your character will perform in the battlefield.
AMIIBO SUPPORT: Each day, players can swipe up to five unique Amiibo figures to obtain random rewards. Sometimes the rewards are kind of boring, such as a small quantity of rupees. In other instances, rare crafting materials or weapons may be unlocked. The Link Amiibo unlocks the unique Spinner weapon, which makes its return from The Twilight Princess, is also an unlockable. Since starting my Amiibo collection, it’s nice to pick five at random and see if I received any cool rewards.
ADVENTURE MODE. In addition to the standard “route the enemy” Dynasty Warriors formula, Hyrule Warriors includes a brand new adventure mode. This mode, which is modeled both graphically and geographically as the original NES Legend of Zelda overworld map, adds special victory conditions. These conditions vary, but center around time based or enemy kill count challenges. It’s a simple, but effective way to add some diversity to a traditionally routine hack and slash game.
FUN DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT. I’m not a bit fan of downloadable content, but I must say that Hyrule Warriors DLC is something I’ve invested in. In addition to the alternative costumes for some of the characters (Dark Link is brooding and menacing, in exact contradiction to the cheerful Postman Link), there are also new weapons, game maps, and story missions. Unfortunately, mounted combat is not standard in Hyrule Warriors, and mounted combat via Epona is only available through the Master Quest Pack. As regarding some of the new content, there is an entirely new story mode that serves as a prequel to the events in the game. Right now, Nintendo is offering all four DLC packs for only $19.99, which includes some pretty impressive additions:
8 new character costumes
2 new playable characters
5 new story missions
3 new adventure mode maps
2 new game modes
I’m really enjoying my time with Hyrule Warriors. Nintendo has shown us that the tried and true video game series can be injected with new life by investing time in unique, collaborative efforts. I hope that the success of this title will push the developers at Nintendo to continue creating diverse gaming experiences. Anybody hopeful for a Bayonetta crossover title with Samus Aran, or a Little Mac side scrolling adventure game? Let me know what crazy crossovers you’d like to see next in the comments below.