‘Hyrule Warriors’ sees developers Omega Force and Team Ninja, along with hack and slash producer giant Koei Tecmo, known for their many Warriors games team up with Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise, taking characters across many years and places them into a Warriors-styled game. Will the sword blade of Hyrule Warriors cut deep into your free time, or will it leave you unscathed?
Deemed by Hyrule Warriors supervisor and Legend of Zelda franchise supervisor, designer, producer and director Eiji Aonuma as non-cannon in the Zelda universe, Hyrule Warriors sets the stage with Princess Zelda and Captain Impa watching over the Hyrule Royal Army, noticing star trainee, Link. Evil forces lead by the sorceress Cia threaten the land of Hyrule and kidnap Zelda, and a series of events sees the band of heroes team up with Lana and a cast of thirteen playable characters ranging across time from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. The story comes across as nothing more as slightly above average crossover fanfiction, but for what Hyrule Warriors lacks in plot, makes up in its addictive gameplay.
Gamers should keep in mind that Hyrule Warriors is not a Zelda game, but is a Warriors game. There are no dungeons to explore, and no complex puzzles to solve. I myself have dabbled here and there in the Warriors series, so I knew a little about what I was getting into, but I wasn’t expecting anything at this level of quality.
The gameplay of Hyrule Warriors can be summed up in three words: hack and slash. Generally, a level of Hyrule Warriors will see gamers choosing a character and taking on a battleground. Each battle consists of various keeps which are held by you, shown in blue, or by enemies, shown in red or yellow.
Battlegrounds are littered with minions and your own soldiers, and you have the task of hacking and slashing your way through the hordes through combos of the X and Y buttons. Fight enough minions in an enemy controlled keep, and the keep boss appears.
Beat them, and then you take ownership of the keep, spawning more soldiers to fight for you. In addition to the minions, and the keep bosses, captains, generals and giant bosses can appear to give you a hard time on the field. The captains will appear, and taking them down can definitely turn the tide of a battle. The giant bosses retain a bit of the Zelda franchise’s puzzle elements, where you have to use a sub-weapon to expose their weak point. This all may appear to be monotonous on the surface, but there’s nothing quite like stabbing King Dodongo right in his yellow head, or slicing intimidating armies to mere mooks.
The items and weapons found within the game are a little bit deep, which may take some Zelda veterans by surprise. Enemies will drop weapons from time to time, which may be stronger than the weapon you already have, or contain a multiple of many skills, which could be increasing the number of hearts found in battle to increasing the elemental damage from that weapon. In addition to weapons, enemies can also drop materials and rupees which can be used in many ways; you can craft badges to expand character’s combos, improve healing and defences, or prolong the periods of various buffs, and you can mix potions which effect the kinds of weapons that enemies drop. While this complexity may appear daunting, it’s all worth it when you pick up a new method to cut down your foes to size.
Apart from the story, or Legend Mode, Hyrule Warriors contains free, adventure, and challenge modes. Free mode allows you to take any character you’ve unlocked and play them in any of the scenarios from Legend Mode, in case you really want to scratch that hack and slash itch.
Adventure Mode is filled to the brim with gameplay, and will see completionists spend many hours trying to complete everything. The map from the NES Legend of Zelda from 1987 is split into an 8 by 16 grid, with each cell in the grid being a challenge. That’s 128 challenges. Challenges can range from taking out enemy captains, to fighting giant bosses, to cutting down a certain number of enemies, or even the quiz style levels, where you’ll have to kill a certain enemy. At the end of each level, Hyrule Warriors grades gamer’s performance by awarding a C, B or A rank, with some cells giving prizes such as new weapons, heart pieces and even characters. Initially, one level is available, with other levels locked. You can unlock levels by earning the specified rank.
Adding to the NES Legend of Zelda aesthetic is that some levels require the use of items gained as rewards to unlock the chance to earn prizes in other maps. If a cell’s prize requires a “search”, there is a tile in that cell of the map that requires investigating. If a gamer wins a compass from an earlier map and uses it, an area in that section of the map will sparkle, where then another item must be used to reveal a secret. For example, a compass might make a wall sparkle. Use a bomb, and you can unlock the ability to win a new sword. Some challenges proved to be quite, well, challenging at first, but it may take multiple retries to see what general moves when, what keep is targeting first. Getting to know your enemies and being able to slice them up all adds towards the addiction.
Just like how they function in Zelda games, chests containing Pieces of Heart and Heart Containers can be found throughout the many levels, which either add an extra heart to your health meter after collecting four, or after collecting one respectively. In addition, 100 Gold Skulltulas are scattered throughout the many levels, which when collected, add a puzzle piece of sorts to one of five in-game illustrations, amongst unlocking other things. With many secrets to be found, completionists will be extremely pleased.
The graphics in Hyrule Warriors are a mixed bag. The character models and pre-rendered cutscenes look amazing, while the environments look lovely from afar, but fall a little flat up close. This doesn’t matter too much, as exploration is not a major point in any Warriors game. Unfortunately, everything takes a turn for the worse when Hyrule Warriors goes into local co-op. To be able to output to the TV and the GamePad, the resolution for both players are reduced, and everything looks a little jaggy. As the co-op itself works like a charm and integrates really well, the cost is almost staggering.
Gamers with finely tuned ears will recognised most of Hyrule Warrior’s music comes from previous titles in the Zelda franchise in form of hard rock and metal covers. The rocking guitars add extra power to your combos, urging gamers on to victory. There’s also a music player and the option to play any previously heard track in game during any level of your choosing. More choice is never a bad thing.
Planned downloadable content is in the works for Hyrule Warriors, furthering many more ways to hack and slash in the future. Gamers can prepurchase the four different packs today, and get themselves a Dark Link costume for their trouble. Over the next four months, three more characters, three more adventure maps and two different game modes will be added to the main game. Considering there are 128 different levels in the initial adventure map, this could possibly add hundreds more levels to play. In addition to the paid content on October 17th, free content will be available which will see Hyrule Warriors villains Cia, Volga and Wizzro as playable characters.
- So many hours of gameplay available, with many more hours coming
- The tracklist
- Hack and slash done right, and then some
- Not much else in terms of variety in gameplay
- Downgrade for local co-op
Summary: On the whole, Hyrule Warriors doesn’t deviate much from the core gameplay of hacking, slashing and keep taking. However, Omega Force, Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo have taken what works, and focused their efforts to make this a very, very, VERY compelling game. The graphical drawbacks to local co-op, while still encompassing fun, do bring the enjoyment down a little. If you don’t intend to play with anyone else, then you’ll have a smooth time.