Hyrule Warriors - Review
Hyrule Warriors is the kind of game that makes you think that Nintendo actively enjoys trolling its fan-base. It's a Zelda game, but not the one that players had in mind, it's also married to an incredibly niche series which has very little popularity outside of Japan and is being released on a console that desperately needs popular titles. Meanwhile, Dynasty Warriors is a series that has become something of a running joke; it's not especially good, or rather, it never makes any attempt to improve on what could make it good, but somehow it's had sequels and spin-offs pumped out continually since it was first released all the way back in 1997 and boasts a rather loyal group of fans.
Effectively, Hyrule Warriors is a Dynasty Warriors title with the Legend of Zelda universe draped over it. As with the abundance of 'Warriors titles and spin-offs, the general objective of the game is to charge around a battlefield killing literally thousands of enemies whilst also completing a number of objectives that are doled out to you. These will typically involve killing yet more enemies, or possibly capturing a key location by taking out an opposing captain.
This time around there's also a slight puzzle element added in order to better sync up the game with the Zelda series. The usual Link arsenal makes an appearance, including bows and boomerangs that need to be used in order to both defeat the games bosses and, in some cases, progress further through the level. It's rather odd though that the whole thing does actually work, the Zelda-style progression mixes together with the 'Warriors over-the-top battles much better than you'd think.
Whilst the game itself is very much Dynasty Warriors, the game's bosses, which typically end each battle, have taken more from the Legend of Zelda design handbook. Many require you to use a gadget you've just acquired, turning many bosses into a kind of high stakes tutorial, as you learn how your new equipment works.
Combat meanwhile, is perhaps the game's most contentious issue. Combos are carried out with the B button along with occasional jabs of Y. In effect, it's heavily reliant on button-mashing, most combos, regardless of what you press, end with lavish area-of-effect moves, which send the masses of monsters that swarm you flying in every direction. Likewise, rank-and-file enemies are so useless that they're not likely to even attack you as you cleave through their ranks. I had to deliberately pause and wait for several seconds before one would actually attack me. Most of the time they'll rush to swarm around you, only to stand there and stare blankly.
It's a combat system then, that's designed to make you, the player, look awesome; ordinary enemies will rarely even hurt you and even elite types can be dismantled with a few judicious counterattacks. Despite the shallowness of the game's combat, most missions bop along at a solid pace. Thanks to the fact that the game never lets up, with different things constantly happening; locations being lost, new enemies flanking your position, it creates the illusion that you're a part of an important and hard-fought battle even though, in reality, each level is usually waiting patiently for you to complete it.
The simplicity of the game's combat is balanced out somewhat by the RPG elements. Working through the game's generic story mode, effectively a string of ordinary scenarios strung together with cut-scenes, you're able to equip your combatants, be it Link, Impa or Zelda, with new weaponry, as well as fuse two weapons together in order to get the best parts of each. It's a nice addition but ultimately feels rather useless considering most battles will still come down to just rabidly hacking away at everything in your path. There's even a selection of different elements: water, fire, light, dark and so on, but they rarely feel as if they're having any major impact on your combat abilities, other than to perhaps speed things up a little.
That's the question that you ask a lot with Hyrule Warriors mechanics: just how much of an impact does everything actually make? Sure, you have to complete the level but your soldiers seem to do little more than shuffle around and get killed. Allied captains will regularly get butchered, causing you to have to rush back to that location to recapture it. There's an army-full of soldiers fighting by your side but they have very little tangible impact on the battlefield. With no way to command them or tell them to defend certain locations that devolve into little more than background noise.
To add a little more lifespan, the developers have thrown in a retro-style map campaign that you can play, it re-hashes the same areas that are used throughout the story but will give hardcore fans something more to sink their teeth into. The addition of cooperative multiplayer was a great touch, although Nintendo dropped the ball by also not including online multiplayer as well. Hyrule Warriors is the kind of game that would benefit greatly from having more human players on screen, given the lacklustre quality of the A.I.
Overall, Hyrule Warriors is something of an oddity. It's by no means dreadful, and the combination of 'Warriors and Zelda mechanics is blended together incredibly well. Strip away the Zelda fan-service however, and you're left with yet another Dynasty Warriors game; for better or worse.
Hyrule Warriors was released, in the UK, on September 19th, exclusively for the Wii U.
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