Like many fans anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new Legend of Zelda game on the Wii U, the announcement of a hybrid of Dynasty Warriors and The Legend of Zelda definitely piqued my interest. This hybrid – aptly named Hyrule Warriors – was introduced with a series of exciting video teasers that showcased both the interesting gameplay and seemingly endless graphical fan service that many fans of The Legend of Zelda were looking for. Unfortunately, having worked my way through much of its ten-hour story, I can safely say that Hyrule Warriors doesn’t go much deeper than that.
For those familiar with both series, Hyrule Warriors is much more aligned to the gameplay that Dynasty Warriors offers, meaning that fans looking for the traditional complex puzzles and dungeons the Zelda series offers are looking in the wrong place. Instead, Hyrule Warriors allows players to enter vast battlefields fighting off swarms of enemies as a hero that has the power to single-handedly turn the tide of a battle. Each of the 13 playable characters has a wide variety of moves, offering a lot of selection.
Where the game sticks closer to the Zelda series is in its story. From the start, characters are barely introduced, making it seem like the creators are deliberately marketing this to fans familiar with the long-standing series. However, even though the game seems to work under the impression that fans are familiar with the universe, it sticks to some tired tropes found in previous titles. If the game is intended for Zelda fans, why bother hiding the identity of the character Sheik, if this secret has been revealed time and time again? These kinds of conflicts hinder the player’s immersion into the story, making the story alone not compelling enough for fans to want to push through the whole single player campaign.
Thankfully, the many rewarding aspects of the gameplay are enough to keep fans moving through each level. With a variety of character options and the ability to customize their move set through the discovery of items and materials, Hyrule Warriors does a good job of motivating players to explore each level to the best of their ability. Graphically, the game truly feels like it takes advantage of the high definition capabilities the Wii U offers. Fans of the series will be delighted to find their favourite characters have been modelled brilliantly, making you eager to test each of them out.
Still, this doesn’t mean the game is without flaws. Despite the variety of characters, it is clear that some did not receive as much attention as others. Thanks to poorly chosen move animations, characters like Midna are frustrating to play with, as you are required to watch lengthy combo animations for even the simplest of attacks, making battling enemies particularly tedious. Moreover, the targeting system when fighting often felt cluttered if there were several higher profile enemies on screen, further slowing down the adventure.
Alongside these flaws, the game does a poor job of laying out your objectives, often offering key pieces of textual advice beneath flashes of lights and colours during an attack animation, or simply forgetting to describe the objective all together. Too often I found myself running around a level trying to understand a goal that would have been simple, had it been explained clearly.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Hyrule Warriors was the difficulty. The game offers easy, medium and hard modes, but the hard mode simply feels redundant. Rather than offering a challenge, all it does is make every enemy have more health. This only makes each battle feel tedious, rather than more challenging, boring the player more and more after each encounter. This leaves little challenge for advanced players, making the experience simpler and simpler as you go along.
Upon finishing Hyrule Warriors I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time. The game offered a hack-and-slash adventure that appealed to my love of the Legend of Zelda series. Unfortunately, due to both the poorly thought out story and frustrating game mechanics, I found myself too often wasting my time and energy. Minor changes could have made Hyrule Warriors great, but every poor design choice I encountered had me feeling otherwise. If you’re a fan of either of Zelda or the Warriors series, give Hyrule Warriors a chance, but for those who aren’t it isn’t worth the price of admission.