As someone who doesn’t own a WiiU, but does own a 3DS, it’s nice to see Nintendo trying their best to make their games as accessible as possible. I was so excited to see Hyrule Warriors making the jump to handheld systems, and despite a few issues, I’m fairly satisfied with the overall package.
The story behind Hyrule Warriors is surprisingly well put together. It utilizes the story of the Hero of Time being reborn again and again any time a cataclysmic evil threatens to tear the world apart. If you’ve played any Legend of Zelda game, you know the story. Link is born, evil sweeps the land and takes over. Until finally Link comes to the world’s aid as he destroys whatever threat is looming over the land. But this time, things are a little different.
Set apart from every instance of this happening throughout the time stream is a goddess whose duty is to make sure the cycle continues. However, the evil king Ganon reaches from his imprisonment and slowly taints the heart of the Goddess. She becomes wrapped in jealousy and ultimately shatters the time stream in order to try to gain power for herself. So it’s up to Link, Impa, Midna, Zelda, and a whole host of other characters from the Legend of Zelda series to put a stop to this.
As far as gameplay goes,… well, let’s address that this is a “Warriors” game. It’s made by the same people who brought you series like Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors. If you’ve played any of their iterations over the last decade then you know exactly what to expect. You’re not getting the dungeon delving, puzzle-solving adventures of a Zelda game. The base gameplay consists of mashing your heavy and light attack button until everything in front of you is destroyed. Every character has their own upgrade tree that opens up new combo attacks, extra special gauges, or helps increase damage resistances. You get combos and special attacks but at the end of the day the variation doesn’t really matter when you can just mash the fast attack button until everything dies. The formula makes an attempt at innovation with boss monsters that actually present a fun break from the other vanilla combat. A couple different bosses from all the different Zelda verses makes appearances, like Gohma or the Imprisoned. Each one has an exploitable weakness that adds a bit of depth to combat, and it’s an interesting addition to the otherwise stale combat present within the game.
Each level has a set of ever changing objectives that you can complete at your own choosing. Some are time sensitive and might be mission ending, but most can be done in whatever order you’d like. Regardless of the scenario, the key in each map is to capture the various keeps and outposts in order to gain control of the map. This is where the game started to aggravate me. In most scenarios I would get done capturing nearly every base on the map and be ready for the final objective, but then the enemy would pull some magical trick out of their sleeve and spawn another army of troops behind my own lines and capture back half the bases I had just won over. It seemed like a vain attempt at padding out playtime.
The transition from console to handheld went over well enough with just a few hiccups. The graphics are a definite downscale from the console version but it still manages to hold up in terms of its art direction.. I was pretty impressed to see upwards of 30-40 units rendered on the screen at any given time. Character models are fairly detailed, and the game has a fairly decent draw distance which always makes me happy. My biggest complaint lines up with the hardware limitations of a handheld. Since the 3DS can only render so many enemies on screen, I found myself killing a massive pile of enemies and standing in a now open field. However, the area would immediately refill and all my progress was actually for nothing. I have the New 3DS which has trouble with rendering as is and reports are coming in of earlier 3DS models having some pretty severe issues as well. As upsetting as this is, I still give the game a pass for at least trying to bring a fun game to handhelds.
While the many games of the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series aren’t exactly known for their daring innovations, Hyrule Warriors Legends manages to add a ton of replayability to the game. The story mode has various branching paths that let you play as heroes and villains alike to experience the story from numerous perspectives. There’s a free mode that lets you put together a dream team of light and dark forces to take on any scenario you’ve already unlocked. Then there’s Adventure Mode which is a fairly fun concept. It’s essentially a game board where each space you move into has a different challenge to overcome. Some are as simple as defeat the enemy leader. Others may require you to slay several bosses in a certain time. Beating challenges unlocks items to use on the overworld map to reveal even more secrets and unlockables. Factoring all three of these game modes together and the amount of content within Hyrule Warriors Legends is staggering. I’m about 60 hours into the game and I still have plenty of things to unlock, warriors to level up, and secrets to find.
Despite its technical limitations and repetitive gameplay, Hyrule Warriors Legends is still a good game. It’s probably one of the deepest games in terms of content and gameplay from Tecmo Koei I’ve ever seen. Whether this is from Nintendo’s direct intervention or not I don’t know, but despite its flaws and repetitiveness, it’s a blast to play. I’ve beaten all the missions in the campaign mode and I’m going back through them again to unlock more heart containers and gold skulltula collectables. I’ve played the free mode a few times to put together my Legend of Zelda dream teams. It’s somewhat goofy and a lot of fun to put together teams like Link, Zelda, and Ganon to complete to Triforce or having Toon Link, Link, and Midna with Link’s wolf form all fighting on the same side. I still have yet to beat everything in Adventure mode due to its sheer size alone, so it’s enough to say that Hyrule Warriors isn’t lacking in content.
I love this game, and I’ve come to find that it’s the reason I carry my 3DS around with me a little bit more than I used to. But it’s NOT a Legend of Zelda game. It’s a Warriors series game with Zelda influences. And with its technical limitations, it’s hard to say this is a must buy. Unless you’re eager to get onto Hyrule’s battlefield, I would suggest waiting for the price to drop on this one.
+Fun and addicting gameplay
+Waaaay more content than your average $40 game
+A great take on a well-established universe
–Technical limitations on the 3DS hamper gameplay
–Repetitive gameplay with a lot of minor, inconvenient objectives