It is pretty safe to say that a few of us around here quite like the various Warriors releases that we’ve seen over the years. Personal favorite… and it hurts to say as much… USED to be Gundam Reborn. Now as much as I love giant robots and laser swords, they take a second seat to the incredible world of Hyrule. I’ve been a fan of Link’s adventures since the very beginning and anytime that a Legend of Zelda is announced, there may be a bit of squeeing involved. Taking all of that into account, when Hyrule Warriors was announced I was ecstatic. Merging the Warriors system with various characters from Zelda including the titular character herself, players take the 1vX amount of enemies to the fields of Hyrule.
I’ll start off by saying that I’ve held off on the review to include some of the DLC portions (three of the five have currently been released) just in case there were any fundamental changes. As a tiny starting note, between Mario Kart and Hyrule Warriors, Nintendo’s version of a Season Pass are more than worth it for the price that they are offering it at.
The Legend of Zelda has been around for a long time now with many versions of Link facing off against the forces of Darkness regardless of it being in the same world or a different one. There is plenty of speculation as to which stories are attached to which or if they are attached at all. Ocarina of Time is followed directly by Majoras Mask as Phantom Hourglass follows Wind Waker which presumably follows the adult timeline of Ocarina. With all of these to choose from, Hyrule Warriors takes a step in a direction to merge space and time attaching multiple of these realms from Skyhold to the Twilight realm into one, establishing that our Hero clad in green is born into the eras in which he is needed. This, with an original story containing characters new and old, is The Legend of Zelda - Hyrule Warriors.
Partnering up with Temco Koei and its Omega studio, Nintendo have created what I'm about to say is one of my favorite Zelda's for story. I know right? Two upsets in one article. I've always loved A Link to the Past (A Link Between Worlds is a close tie) but there's something with this one that just made everything seem better. Before every mission there is narration of the events unfolding. Along with this are the various cut scenes within each level of character interactions furthering the plot through the various dialogs. Further enhancing this feeling are the various conversations that come on screen as is normal in a Warriors game.
Hyrule Warriors follows the general Warriors system (instead of the Samurai or Orochi) for its battle mechanics while still being able to make every character feel unique in their styles from Link to Ganondorf. Furthering these unique styles along are that certain characters have more than one weapon option for them to use. Link by the end of the story mode has access to three, and while two are similar such as a sword and then the master sword, the fire rod acts as a completely different weapon and play style mentality. Finding a character and a weapon that is truly "for you" can take a bit of time. One of the biggest additions that can change a way to approach a situation is the Skyward Sword’s pie like health bars. These appear after an enemy has performed a larger attack and leaves them vulnerable. Attacking them in this state brings down that bar as well as cause more damage to their health until it depletes which then moves a character into a mini-like cutscene where a giant blow is dealt to the enemies health. Taking the time to look for these openings can change the flow of combat and greatly improve the overall situation instead of continuously waiting upon the enemy in hopes of taking them out in time.
While the story mode is awesome, it by far is not the largest portion or content that players have access to. Along side the story and free play modes is an adventure mode which plays host to one gigantic retro 8-bit styled map in which each square is a level of its own with objectives and restrictions creating multiple challenges for players to face up against. Some maps sport the challenge to defeat xth amount of enemies in five or ten minutes while heroes and larger boss monsters try to take you down or at least stall you until the counter runs out. Others are to defeat all the bosses, pass a quiz in which the right enemy must be defeated, rescue one of your allies, and then sometimes the challenge must be completed with a specific character. This would be where a second player comes in handy as they can help out and are not locked to the challenge parameters. Each of these missions comes with their own parameters in order to obtain a higher Rank required to unlock the surrounding squares, new weapons, characters, hearts, heart pieces, etc. Finally the last of the Adventure mode is that “searching” is required to obtain the A Rank in a lot of cases which requires the use of the compass to find locations on these maps to them use Bombs to blow a hole in the rock face, gauntlets to move statues, candles to burn trees, etc. Fair warning that players can be here for hours before realizing that “bed time” was hours ago. With that in mind:
Are monsters getting you down? Are bosses just not dropping the way they should? Well worry not! The various upgrading possibilities are there for you! From weapons to character abilities and skills, there are multiple ways in how to upgrade your characters. The first and most likely the most important is the Badge market. Using various materials that are dropped from larger enemies or other characters defeated in combat, badges can be created to extend combos for a character’s various weapons, lessen the amount of time it takes to conquer a keep, speed up the breaking of an enemies guard to pull off a power blow, and so much more. Other than the previously listed, there are upgrades for defenses on specific elemental stages, how long it takes to fill up certain guages, and how long powerups last while on the field of battle. Some of these are not easy to come by, but they more often than not are certainly more than worth the effort.
Alongside the Badge market, the Dojo is where players can go to spend Rupees in order to level up characters. This can be useful if some had not quite been used or even with various upgrades still aren’t able to fill the current mantle of responsibility placed upon them. Especially mean moving over to Adventure mode, I’ve leveled a lot of characters that I didn’t use to have a chance at completing a missions ranking on at least B. The As in a lot of places still elude me.
The smithy is where players can take an ability out of weapon and place it into another. This was maybe a tad disappointing to me as I had hope to merge certain weapons together in order to obtain another more powerful one. While this isn't the end of the world, the real issue with the smithy was that only one ability can be removed and placed into another item at a time. This has to be chosen well as the item is destroyed leaving any other ability untouched. After finally sitting down with the Orochi series, where buying other weapons for their abilities is half the fun to configure a new one as any one or even all of a weapons abilities can be chosen and merged, I'll be honest that I've barely used the smithy.
So far we’ve seen the release of three of the current four planned DLC expansions which have added some fairly awesome content. Each of these DLC packs contains an Adventure map of their own bringing up the amount of possible scenarios exponentially, some new costumes, and new weapons for characters such as Epona for Link to ride into battle as its own weapon type. What was a nice gesture upon the first release was that three of the game’s characters were made playable for free through a patch and were not included into the DLC package. Each of these patch brings upon more refinement such as larger level caps, the ability to hold more materials in your inventory for upgrades, Amiibo presents (up to five a day if you have five), and more.
Not only adding new Adventure mode maps, there are new levels added to the main story to fill in holes as to how or why events have unfolded through the eyes of Cia on her rampage through Hyrule. For their price versus their value, there is no reason that players shouldn’t be picking these up if they are Warrior fans or if they enjoy the adventure mode. I’ve been playing since the release date and am still at it with the various DLCs and cannot wait for the upcoming fourth of Marjora’s Mask with young Link and the ability to transform into the Fierce Diety. (More details over on Zelda Informer for what this new pack includes as well as notes which seem like they might fix my smithy issues. I’ll get to see in a few weeks time!)
I only had one issue. Well maybe two. The first is that there was no way to play online with a friend which was unfortunate as most of us picked this up as it released as we ran home to start it up. The second is that a second player is restricted to the gamepad and does not have half of a screen to play upon. This can be a huge turnoff to some. Even playing as Player 1 I’ve given up the various TV and Projector screens to a few friends, my Brother, and my Player 2 depending on who I was playing with. Let's say that it mildly sucks to have the gamepad’s small screen while the other player is gleefully using a 103" screen.
Hyrule Warriors fits extremely well into the established Warriors series making it a worthwhile investment for any Warriors or Zelda fan with the awesome combat, various play modes with challenges, and an enjoyable story.
Review by Pierre-Yves