A few weeks ago, we had a look at Hyrule Warriors, probably the strangest game Nintendo has released in recent years. Now that we've had time to observe and absorb the game, let's dive into the finer details.
As previously noted, Hyrule Warriors is not the definitive Zelda game for the Wii U; instead, it’s a spinoff developed not by Nintendo themselves, but Omega Force. They’re best known for the Dynasty Warriors series, a collection of repetitive beat-em-up games.
So Hyrule Warriors is a Dynasty Warriors game. With Zelda characters.
Here’s why this is a good thing.
It’s mindless fun. The game is by no means deep or difficult -- the YYYX combo will be one of, if not the most reliable tool of destruction you have -- you're never really punished for being bad at this, because it's tough to be bad at Hyrule Warriors. Even if you only ever mash the Y button, you'll have a rough time dying or even struggling. Sure, that's too easy for many gamers and there's not much skill (and definitely no strategy) involved, but it's relaxing to zone out for a bit.
There’s a good cast of characters to pick from. Let’s be honest, you’re going go for Link first, but it’s nice to play as someone other than the hero. Tell me you never wanted to play as Ganondorf or Sheik outside of Super Smash Bros. You're capable of 1000+ kills in a mission from the very beginning; no matter who your favorite is, you'll level up early and often until you can't be stopped.
All of this means it's basically a streamlined, hyper-accelearted Dynasty Warriors game (which isn't a bad thing, honestly) but the Zelda skin is still there. It has a lot of little touches and quirks that’ll make you smile: Sheik plays the opening bars of the Song of Storms and Zelda's Lullaby, Link rides into battle on Epona, and there’s an adventure mode with an interface styled like the original NES Zelda.
Of course, not all is well in Hyrule.
There really isn’t that much content here. Legend Mode (the main story mode in place of Dynasty Warriors' "Musou Mode") takes 7-9 hours, and there’s no branching factions like traditional Dynasty Warriors games. There’s not enough here to get the purest of Zelda purists to give it a shot, at least not in the main storyline.
If you’re looking for a well-developed Zelda story by the way, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. Legend Mode tries to tie everything into the Master Sword and the Triforce, imitating "regular" Zelda games, but the concept (a mysterious sorceress possessed by darkness, taking over Hyrule) is hokey and the dialogue is lame. Lana, the good-girl sorceress who drives the plot (if it can really be called one) is an anime cliche, inexplicably fawning over Link. She’s really there just to force the story along in cutscenes.
The cutscenes aren’t voiced, by the way. Yes, no one talks in a Zelda game as a rule. Fine. But if that was the plan, why did the developers animate the characters' mouths? They're mouthing the lines, they’re just not voicing them. It’s as if Hyrule Warriors originally had voiceovers, but they were cut from the final product.
Other reviewers have complained about frame rate issues. Honestly, co-op play isn’t the disaster it’s been made out to be, but solo play has its fair share of slowdowns. The game doesn’t stop, but the dropoff is noticeable when you’re in the middle of a particularly huge army. The team behind Hyrule Warriors has made too many games like it before - this really shouldn't be happening so frequently.
It’s not a Zelda game. Not really. If you’re looking for real adventure, keep looking. But Hyrule Warriors is a fun, albeit shallow distraction until the real Zelda U shows up.
Hyrule Warriors is a Wii U exlusive. It launched on September 26th, 2014 in North America.