Before playing Hyrule Warriors I had never played a game in the Warriors franchise before. In some ways that might make me the worst person in the world to review Hyrule Warriors. In other ways it might make me the best. In all likelihood it doesn’t matter at all. It’s all subjective, but it’s not a bad way to to write an intro paragraph. You’re gonna know what you’re getting.
While I might not be a Warriors fan (due to not having played them), I can tell you one thing for sure: I am a Zelda fan. I’ll tell you what I like right here right now: the dungeons, running about them, solving the puzzles and getting the items; the sword fighting and slashing, from the simple elegance of Wind Waker‘s combat to the complexity of Twilight Princess‘ underutilised move-set; the atmosphere; the stories; that Wind Waker sailing; that sense of adventure. There’s more too probably, I’m just a guy that likes the Zelda. I even liked Darksiders. So, naturally, I’m coming at Hyrule Warriors from the angle of a Zelda fan.
The story in Hyrule Warriors is a bit weird, and not that great. My co-worker is a big fan of Dynasty Warriors, and says the story for that is really cool. In Hyrule Warriors: not so much. The main plot of the game involves the antagonist, Cia, a sorceress, being upset that she can never be with Link romantically. It’s kind of a weird, hammy plot element that just doesn’t seem to fit well with Zelda at all. With that said, Kyle Bosman has a nice reading of the story, so I suppose it’s not that bad. The cutscenes aren’t that interesting though, and most of the story is delivered via narration over images of a map while each battle loads, which you might end up wanting to just skip. However, the story isn’t too important, and it’s mostly just a gratuitous excuse to go battling in a lot of different locations from different games, meeting heroes from those games and fighting enemies from them too. In that sense it’s a story that allows for the most fan-service possible, and I can respect that.
Fan-service could be the subtitle to this game. Hyrule Warriors: Fan Service. It would make a lot of sense. I love it. From Link’s various Warriors-ised weapons (the fire rod shooting massive pillars of flames, or the gauntlets letting him hurl massive stone pillars everywhere), to Darunia’s battle victory dance to Saria’s Song, this is a game that will snatch up your Zelda-loving heart, tuck it into a small cot and stroke it gently and tenderly by the fireside. If you’re a Zelda fan and don’t find yourself loving almost every aspect of this game conceptually, then that would be quite unexpected but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
There’s a lot of content in this game too, and that’s not even including the very sizeable and reasonably priced season pass content (it’s about £12). At first I thought the story mode — Legend Mode — was going to be a little bit short, but after the Epilogue there is some quite exciting new content. On top of that Adventure Mode is absolutely massive, and maybe even one of the highlights of the game. The original Legend of Zelda overworld is split up into tiles, and you must clear each tile which involves beating some quite variable missions that can be very challenging. You can get item cards (bombs, lanterns, compasses etc.) which can then be used to unlock additional rewards for clearing missions, from more powerful and sometimes completely new weapons, to new playable characters. I’ve easily put over 50 hours into Hyrule Warriors. I don’t usually do that anymore. That’s got to be something. Who doesn’t love a game that steals portions of your life from you? That’s escapism, and it’s a wonderful thing.
The gameplay itself seems to be pretty standard Warriors fare from what I know about Warriors games (not too much actually). It’s hack and slash, where most enemies can be easily cut down with your over the top special moves. There’s an element of strategy in capturing the enemy keeps and defending the ones already under your control, but it’s quite surface level at best, rarely requiring much thought except on the toughest of levels (mostly found in the Adventure Mode). Even switching up your heroes and weapons it can get a bit repetitive when you play the game in big chunks, but for the most part it remains hugely satisfying to make enemies go flying everywhere. With that said the variation in playstyles of each hero and each weapon is pretty big, which is brilliant. Even though they have the same basic combo inputs most of the time, the results can be quite different. Learning when to best use each move to optimise your play style can be pretty satisfying.
Not all enemies are pushovers, though. There are unique commanders that are harder to beat. Like you they have their own special moves, and it’s best to wait for an opening to break down their armour for more damage. Similar to the commanders are the boss monsters, which are new to the Warriors franchise. Each one is a boss monster from a Zelda game, and to stun them and break their armour you need to take advantage of the weakness they had in the mainline Zelda games. While it’s a nice concept, the boss monsters are probably my biggest issue with the game. Each monster can only be stunned with the appropriate item after a specific attack, and as far as I can tell the attacks they use are completely random. Sometimes the King Dodongo (who appears in the first battle so it’s not really a spoiler or anything) will be vulnerable to bombs twice in quick succession. Other times you’ll be dodging and blocking its attacks for quite some time before there’s an opening. When a boss monster is involved in a battle any semblance of strategy the battle had goes out the window, as there’s no way to plan around how long it will take to handle the boss monster. Your allies are pretty much useless against them. Even on easy mode (the difficulty only really affects health bars in this game) the boss monsters take an annoyingly long time to get rid of, and that’s just not fun.
As a sidenote this is also a game where most of the heroes are female, and that’s actually really cool and nice to see. Besides Link and Darunia, all of the other heroes are women. Considering we live in a world where animating female playable characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity is apparently too hard because it would “double the work” it’s definitely something to see Nintendo and Omega Force / Team Ninja doing this like it isn’t a big deal.
When all is said and done this game is simply a lot of fun, especially for a Zelda enthusiast such as myself. Even though the gameplay is almost entirely Warriors with quite little to do with the Zelda formula, it’s still a lot of fun for Zelda fans. I can’t speak for Warriors fans, but from what I gather it’s not going to be the pinnacle of Warriors games, what with it already being succeeded by Samurai Warriors 4 release-wise. There’s a lot of content in Hyrule Warriors to keep a fan of either franchise pretty busy, though. It’s one of the most solid games on the Wii U so far, and it’s just another reason in the growing list of reasons to get one — and that’s something the Wii U, or any console, needs.
Speaking of Samurai Warriors 4 we still currently stock the Anime Edition of the game in the Rice Digital store. We also stock some other games from the Warriors franchise here. If you liked Hyrule Warriors too, then why not check them out?