A little over two hours worth of playtime in, and it’s already very apparent that Hyrule Warriors was never intended to be the next great adventure of Link, but a sequel to the long running Dynasty Warriors franchise wrapped in a Legend of Zelda shell. And that’s ok with me.
Fans of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, or other beat-em-up games such as Ninety Nine Nights or Samurai Warriors, will feel right at home from the get-go. This Legend of Zelda offshoot does little to hide the fact that it’s merely a tribute to the legendary franchise and not an integral part of the story or general feel of the series. Without wasting a moment you are inundated with iconic Legend of Zelda characters such as Zelda, Link, Impa, and dozens of familiar enemies, and then slowly introduced to lesser known and even brand new characters. Right now I just completed the level that unlocked Lana, and it’s kind of a shame to see that the first non-canon Zelda character is a generic beat-em-up staple that uses a book to perform magic attacks. In fact, this lack of creativity and no apparent desire to do anything outside of the box is where the majority of my issues so far come from with Hyrule Warriors.
Don’t get me wrong, in my short time with Hyrule Warriors I’m having a lot of fun during the main chunks of the game. The combat is a blast, combos are fun to pull off, bosses are satisfying if a bit simplistic so far, and the game does a great job of teaching you it’s laundry list of features and intricacies without bogging you down with tutorials or intrusive dialogue. The story, while missing a lot of Nintendo’s usual charm, is good enough to connect the action segments and has so far kept me engaged with enough Zelda-related lore. To it’s, and past Koei game’s, credit it does a good job of getting out of the way and letting you combo thousands of enemies to death to your heart’s content.
But with all that said, it’s a shame that the basic Dynasty Warriors formula has not evolved in the leap to the Zelda franchise. Aside from the obvious creativity that comes from having the Zelda license in their pocket, Koei hasn’t really done anything new and interesting yet that I’ve seen. The skill trees are a chore more than anything since, so far, all the characters basically have the same abilities just with different weapons and names. Hopefully these open up as I get further into the game, but as of now I’m dreading having to go through and unlock skills of multiple characters between the fast-paced and fun missions. It’s really a drag on the whole game and could have been so streamlined or removed entirely.
So far my basic feeling for Hyrule Warriors is simply – if you like Dynasty Warriors you’ll like this. If not, you probably won’t. The Zelda skin probably won’t do much to bring new fans into the fold, and it might not be enough to be an instant buy for Zelda fans alone.
Be sure to come back for a full review sometime next week after I get a substantial amount of time in with it to see if/how my thoughts and feelings have changed. I’ll also be streaming on our official MOARGeek Twitch stream at www.twitch.tv/moargeek over the weekend so check it out if you don’t have a Wii U but still want to see what the game is all about!