A magnificent mash-up

Whenever players first hear about a videogame mashup, there are typically two distinct reactions. Some will freak out as their eyeballs gush tears of joy in a manner befitting an anime character and their mind explodes due to the onslaught of unbelievable awesomeness. Others have a more subdued reaction: their face plastered with a look of puzzlement as the world around them slowly shatters due to the immense confusion with which they’re suddenly burdened.

When I first heard about Hyrule Warriors, I admit I fell into the latter category. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Legend of Zelda. I even like Dynasty Warriors, to be honest. But mixing the two together? Please don’t tell Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé, but my body was simply not ready. My state of corporeal preparedness aside, the day has come where Hyrule Warriors now sits in my Wii U.

What surprised me right away about Hyrule Warriors was the story. On the surface, sure, we’ve heard it all before. A hero named Link must once again save Hyrule from an unfathomable evil. But this time, he must do it across time and space, visiting Legend of Zelda realms from the past (Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword specifically) to prevent the four fragments of an eternal evil from reuniting.

Though it sounds simple enough, the story finds a way to stay true to the classic Legend of Zelda formulapaying proper homage when necessarywhile also adding its own wrinkles on how characters came to be and how they aid Link on his quest. Everything’s familiar enough to give welcome pangs of nostalgia, but not quite so unoriginal as to feel brainlessly derivative or lacking in value of its own.

The narrative was also far longer than I expected. The main campaign lasts 18 missions, each about 30 to 40 minutes, and the story takes unexpected twists and turns, thrusting you into the shoes of heroes besides Link to take advantage of the Dynasty Warriors gameplay elements. The only part of the story that disappointed me? The fact that Koei Tecmo couldn’t find a way to work with Nintendo and make this adventure fall somewhere in the convoluted Zelda canon.

If the story makes brilliant use of its Zelda source material, the gameplay is where the Dynasty Warriors part of this mashup comes through. Droves of Bokoblins, Stalfos, and other classic Zelda enemies fill the screen as you hack and slash your way through literally thousands of them during each mission while trying to capture castles, keeps, or forts, and rout the dark forces.

However, it seems like the the development team’s efforts went into trying to fit all those enemies onscreen at once, because the levels that you fight through are some of the most generic, bland locales ever to exist in Hyrule. At least you get something for flaying as many baddies as possible, since Link and the other playable heroes and villains can level up by grinding through those seemingly endless hordes, earning better weapons and crafting materials that provide stat boosts to each character.

To give the gameplay a Legend of Zelda twist, however, each new level often contains a classic dungeon itemsuch as the boomerang, bow and arrow, hookshot, or bomb—which are then used to vanquish familiar bosses like King Dodongo or Gohma.

Unfortunately, even the addition of these classic items can’t prevent the gameplay from getting a bit tedious, even for the most devoted of Zelda fans, since the game quickly devolves into the mindless abuse of a single button. The lack of enemy difficulty is only trumped by the pitiful ally AI that always seems to find a way to get into trouble with these simpleton minions. Even the boss battles quickly become tiresome and simple, with no single creature proving to be a true threat—except when you’re surrounded by the never-ending waves of underlings that often come to their aid.

Fortunately, there’s a lot more waiting to be discovered just beneath Hyrule Warriors’ surface if you can tolerate the somewhat monotonous gameplay. After beating the story, you unlock Hero Mode (an ultra-hard difficulty for all the levels), as well as the ability to go back and replay any level with any hero in Free Play mode. Each level also has hidden gold skulltulas—with a grand total of 100 in the gamethat unlock special art and items as you find more.

The biggest replayability factor, however, might be Adventure mode, which opens up on a 8-bit world map from the original NES Legend of Zelda. Here, you can take on an assortment of challenges, such as killing a certain amount of enemies within a specific time limit, fighting all the bosses in quick succession, or even just answering a quiz based on the game. Each completed challenge unlocks more and more of the map and will sometimes reward you with new items that can be taken back into Story mode. You can also level up the heroes you don’t play with as often, since some sections require specific characters to earn an “A” completion ranking.

Overall, Nintendo and Koei Tecmo did a great job putting a unique spin on one of gaming’s crown-jewel franchises. It’s a mashup that most of us didn’t really want, but we should be happy now that we have it. If you love hack-n-slash games or are just a Legend of Zelda aficionado, then there’s more than enough in Hyrule Warriors to satisfy both those needs.

Developer: Team Ninja, Omega Force • Publisher: Nintendo, Koei Tecmo • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 09.26.14
8.0
If hack-n-slash games are your jamor you can tolerate them but really just love The Legend of Zelda in all its iterations—then Hyrule Warriors is a more-than-worthy warmup for Link on the Wii U.
The Good A unique take on the Legend of Zelda formula that will appeal to fans of the franchise.
The Bad The hack-n-slash gameplay can get repetitive; bosses feel like pushovers.
The Ugly Darunia’s victory dance makes me never want to play with him ever again.
Hyrule Warriors is a Wii U exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.
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