This isn’t the 3D Zelda game you’ve come to expect. A couple of familiar features from those types of games can be seen here – an extensive plot, loads of familiar faces and an epic clash between the forces of good and evil. Gone are the intricate dungeons and puzzles, which have all been replaced by the hack ‘n slash gameplay the Dynasty Warriors series is known for. Link, who’s in the middle of training to become a Hylian soldier, Ganandorf enacts a new plot that will bring about his resurrection. Ganandorf prays upon the strong feelings of love that a sorceress named Cia harbors for Link by using her rage to wage war against Zelda and her allies. Time traveling and portal jumping enters the fray, which gives you an excuse to play with past games’ characters.
The plot is pretty cut and dry – save Hyrule, save the corrupted Cia and put a stop to Ganandorf’s plans. Nothing to get too enamored with. The main focus here is making sure you cut down hundreds of goons and amassing as much treasure and experience as possible. Longtime Zelda fans will have a fun time running across the many battlefields seen here thanks to the great looking graphics. The lush green grass of Hyrule Field, the sand covered land of Gerudo Desert, the vibrant colors plastered on Skyloft and several other stages all look great. And of course, the incredibly flashy special moves and big bosses that will flood your visual senses never get tiresome to watch. You’ll encounter a few graphical hiccups once the screen fills up with too many characters at times, though.
The music is strong, which should come as no surprise. The Legend of Zelda series has already built up a tendency to feature soothing and powerful orchestral songs that stand the test of time. These same songs will please your ears as you make armies of orcs and more quite unpleasant. A few songs here and there get the hair metal treatment (which is perfectly normal by Dynasty Warriors standards), but this style doesn’t damage the quality of pre-existing songs. Longtime fans will most definitely get a nostalgic kick out of all the visual and audio cues that have appeared in past Zelda games. The music that accompanies the discovery of a chest and the sounds of angry chickens are just a few of those worthwhile cues.
Since this game is a mash-up of The Legend of Zelda’s world with Dynasty Warriors gameplay, you should expect to be battling hundreds of enemies at once. Link and the other remaining cast of heroes comes with their own weaponry, fight style and special abilities. Lending mass amounts of damage to a battlefield full of enemies is fun, but that familiar issue that these types of games have rears its ugly head – repetition. Mashing on one or two buttons and repeating the same combos over and over doesn’t lend itself well to 2 hour-long playthroughs. Hyrule Warriors is a game that should afford you 2 full stages of play before you’re ready to do something else. The presence of big boss fights does help in pushing you along further in those longer stage scenarios, though.
Thankfully, Nintendo’s penchant for polishing its 1st-party games is evident here. The moment-to-moment gameplay manages to stay entertaining at points thanks to several modes and mechanics. The Story mode and Free modes are self explanatory, but the Adventure Mode is where the real fun lies. You’ll use your Wii U Gamepad to map out your progress as you complete missions and unlock new areas on a NES Zelda map. The missions you take on vary from time to time, which keeps the constant fighting fresh in this mode. One moment you’ll have to down a certain number of enemies under a strict time limit; another time, you’ll be looking to kill the correct baddie in order to solve a random quiz. Adventure mode offers the most fun off all three game modes. It’s just too bad that there’s no other modes other than the aforementioned three. A Musou mode addition (creating your own stages for play) would have been a great addition.
For those who consider themselves hardcore looters, then there’s something here for you. As you battle across the game, you’ll also have to be on the lookout for more gear and extra collectibles. Leveling up each character leads to them acquiring new moves, which comes about as you collect valuable rupees from your fallen foes. The discovery of a hidden chest after killing hundreds of soldiers will always give you a feeling of euphoria. And finding out what new combo strings you overpowered Impa or Midna can pull off is always satisfying. These light RPG elements are very welcome here.
Hyrule Warriors is definitely more Dynasty Warriors than your usual Legend of Zelda fare. Fans of the hero in the green tunic and his assortment of friends and enemies will most certainly enjoy the nods to series past, Adventure Mode mechanics and tons of other Easter Eggs that are present. The hack and slash gameplay is fun, but this formula tends to grow tiresome during extended play sessions. Nevertheless, Hyrule Warriors is a fun and solid melee-focused romp through The Legend of Zelda’s past.