Hyrule Warriors is a crossover project between the Dynasty Warriors franchise and The Legend of Zelda. While previous collaborations weren’t quite as successful (we’re looking at you, Metroid: Other M), Hyrule Warriors has been building hype since its announcement in December of last year. With Nintendo talking about being less exclusive with their core franchises, is Hyrule Warriors just a sign of more spin-off games to come? Can it measure up against either of the franchises that it’s combining? Let’s find out.
Long ago, the spirit of Ganondorf was sealed away in three chests in different dimensions across time. Though locked away, Ganondorf is able to sway the mind of a powerful sorceress, Cia. He is able to dominate her soul and she begins opening rifts to free the imprisoned shards of Ganondorf’s spirit and each dimension’s own armies of dark forces. War breaks out in Hyrule and Cia marches on Hyrule Castle. Luckily, Link (unknowingly the Hero of Time) was training in the yard of Hyrule Castle when Zelda mounts her counterattack against Cia’s army; the conquest to close the rifts begins. The three rifts have opened into iconic worlds from the Legend of Zelda franchise: Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Zelda, Link, and Impa have to split up to travel through the rifts and seal away the evil behind them. As they progress through the other worlds, they gain allies along the way, including Darunia, Fi, Midna, and other epochal characters. All of this culminates to a dramatic final battle with Cia, with all of the worlds hanging in the balance.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything from the plot of Hyrule Warriors. Having played many games in the Dynasty Warriors series, I’ve found that the plots were usually pretty dry and something you desperately try to skip while the level is loading. But, Hyrule Warriors actually brought something tangible to the table, giving a plausible excuse for players to romp around in various beloved worlds from the franchise. The problem with the campaign in this game is that it simply went on too long. Usually, long campaigns aren’t something I complain about, but Hyrule Warriors began to drag by the end of the first story arch. I thought that the game would end with the final battle, but it only spawned another campaign where you play as a villain, then that spawned another campaign where you play as the heroes trying to undo what you’ve just accomplished as the villain. By the end of the game, I was exclusively completing objectives in the levels, so that the story would advance. The story of Hyrule Warriors is comprised of eighteen levels, each taking twenty to sixty minutes to complete. While the total amount of gameplay time isn’t particularly long compared to other games, the story dries up about halfway through and makes the rest of the game feel like an eternity.
The gameplay handles exactly as you would expect. Actually, if you’ve ever played a Dynasty Warriors game, you can immediately pick up the controller and know how to play. Through a variety of combos, you slash your way through thousands of enemies (per mission) while capturing various strongholds and completing objectives. This game racks up the highest kill count I’ve ever seen in a Warriors game, but I’m not sure if its a good thing. The hordes of enemies all stand around, waiting for you to kill them and I was shocked if I was ever hit by a common foot soldier. You may feel like a badass when you kill eighty enemies in a single attack, but it’s more like burning ants with a magnifying glass than defeating anything of consequence. The boss battles are a welcome change of pace, using the arsenal of classic Zelda items to defeat. You get to see many of your favorite bosses like King Dodonga, Gohma, Zant, etc. While they are fun battles the first time around, throughout the campaign the boss fights are recycled and lose the excitement. Sadly, Hyrule Warriors ends up making each level a grind of repeatedly killing enemies, taking keeps, killing officers, let it sit for two minutes, rinse, repeat.
Hyrule Warriors introduces, “Adventure Mode” to go alongside the main campaign. Adventure mode features a map of tiles that your little 8-Bit Link can travel across. Each tile must be completed by loading a level and beating it in a specific way; once completed, the surrounding tiles will unlock and allow you to move to the next challenges. Certain challenges will give rewards, such as new weapons for your warriors or new characters to play as in the campaign or free mode. Very similar to the story modes of the Soul Caliber games, Adventure mode certainly bolsters the amount of play time that you can squeeze out of Hyrule Warriors, but doesn’t offer any challenges that are genuinely interesting.
Visually, Hyrule Warriors is a nice looking update to the Zelda worlds and characters. Each dimension that you travel to keeps its own unique flair; the Twilight realm is dark and gloomy, littered with the glowing runes, while Skyloft is bright and colorful. Hyrule Warriors may not be the best graphics that the Wii U has to offer, but it’s an interesting glimpse into what the next installment of The Legend of Zelda may look like. The soundtrack to this game tends to be a little lopsided. Some of the music are guitar-riffing covers of popular Zelda tunes, but most of the in-game music is the same drab hard rock that has been littered throughout the Warriors franchise. When I loaded up Gerudo Desert, I was excited to hear the exotic melodies that I’ve grown to love from that setting, bu I was greeted with an off-brand Nickelback song that played on loop. Having the rights to use content from the Legend of Zelda franchise, I was surprised by how little they actually took advantage of.
Hyrule Warriors is an interesting crossover between two very different game series, but doesn’t really succeed at being either. The surprisingly good story goes out the window after the scene is set, then leaves you to play another twelve levels with no real plot. While the items and variety of playable characters makes the game’s early levels engrossing and amusing, the interest quickly fades as the game drags on without any changes to the core gameplay. Hyrule Warriors leans heavily on fan-service and nostalgia, but doesn’t quite stand on its own.
I give Hyrule Warriors 2.5 Stars out of 5
By Blake Edwards