Hyrule Warriors Review

October 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Posted in Game Review, Wii U Review | Leave a comment
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With Nintendo struggling to craft their wares in HD and the Wii U being all but abandoned by the big publishers, the Japanese power-house has been forced to reach out to developers and hand them the reins to their biggest IPs in order to secure the support the console badly needs. Iwata-san hinted at this new strategy in a Nintendo Direct in 2013, and Hyrule Warriors is the first game to emerge from one of these new partnerships.

Hyrule Warriors

Title: Hyrule warriors

Format: Wii U

Developed by: Omega Force / Team Ninja

Published by: Nintendo

Genre: Hack-n-Slash

Coming from Tecmo Koei’s Omega Force and Team Ninja (developer of the opinion splitting Metroid: Other M), Hyrule Warriors takes the well-trodden formula of the Dynasty Warriors series and dresses it up in Link’s iconic green tunic. The series is primarily known for sticking the player in the middle of a frantic battlefield against thousands of enemy troops and forcing them to mash the attack button to complete a level, which couldn’t be more different to Zelda’s finely tuned combat mechanics and more measured pace. But despite the clash in philosophies, this is one of the best crossovers to date.

Perhaps the reason Hyrule Warriors seems to work so well is because it’s so different to anything seen before in the Zelda series. Had Tecmo Koei focussed on recreating Nintendo’s formula, as was originally the case until Shigeru Miyamoto upended the tea table and demanded a different direction, the result would have almost certainly been a pale imitation. Playing to the strengths of the Warriors series, with its grand arenas and the thrill of overcoming overwhelming odds gives Nintendo’s silent warrior the chance to break free of the shackles of one-on-one combat and block puzzles to be the bad-ass fighter we’ve always known him to be. Cutting through hordes of recognisable Zelda enemies is far more satisfying than Warrior’s usual generic infantry, even if the method of dispatching them is the same.

Hammering the quick attack button (Y by default, or, if you choose to go with Zelda-style controls, B), with the occasional strong attack mixed in for combos is enough to send most of the ground troops and their commanders to an early grave. Larger enemies require a more tactical approach; dodging at the right moment to expose and exploit a weak-point will typically be enough to see them off. Taking a cue from traditional Zelda games, bosses can only be damaged with a specific weapon (bombs, arrows etc.), often found in that particular stage. Fully filled magic and special meters, which can unleash suitably OTT attacks, can also turn the tide of battle if used at the right moment. These mechanics are far from new for Dynasty Warriors veterans but feel exciting in the hands of Zelda fans raised on Z-targeting.

Hyrule Warriors also demands efficient resource management and good strategy to get the best results. Maps are filled with Outposts and Keeps, and securing these quickly, and in the right order is key. Outposts spawn soldiers for whichever side controls them, as do Keeps, although these are more difficult to capture and maintain. Stopping the enemy advance by capturing these areas is therefore essential for success, especially on later levels. It’s also important to keep an eye on allies. For while the player is busy handing out cans of whup-ass to nearby enemies the battle still rages on across the entire battlefield. NPCs on the home side won’t last long without a bit of help to tackle the enemies at their doorstep. The frequent cries for aid can get overwhelming, and thanks to the tiny map on the screen, not to mention the vast, labyrinthine levels, it can be difficult to locate and get to them before it’s too late. The message, “Hyrule Captain has fled the battle!” is a frequent reminder that stretching yourself too thinly has a cost.

Anyone struggling to make an impact in the story mode (a good 15 hours long for first-timers) can switch to the vast adventure mode to grind out a few extra levels or plunder more powerful weapons. In this mode, each tile from the original Legend of Zelda map represents a different challenge. Some stages impose limits on the characters and weapons players can choose, others have simple goals such as kill X enemies in ten minutes, or deploy a number of bosses on a single map. Stages are unlocked by completing maps in the story mode, and the XP and weapons earned in adventure mode can be used to get through story mode. It’s a symbiotic setup, and one that provides plenty of longevity.

Tecmo Koei have done a great job transposing familiar locales, and the cast of playable characters, drawn from three of Link’s biggest adventures (Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword) look magnificent in their debut HD outing. The likes of Impa, Zelda and Gannondorf really shine in the spotlight, and their varied attack styles add a great deal of replay value. The fantastic presentation extends to a great soundtrack, full of orchestrated remixes of treasured themes from across the series, as well as all the usual iconic sound bites. But, for a game with such high levels of polish, it’s a real shame Nintendo still insist on ignoring voice-acting in story scenes. Link remaining mute makes some sense (after all, he rarely gets a chance to speak up in his own games), but it feels bizarre to watch dramatic moments unfold in the cut-scenes with only basic grunts representing the on screen text.

Zelda fans can look at Hyrule Warriors as a promise unforgotten; a nod to the early tease of great battles to come in the Twilight Princess reveal trailer that never materialised in the final game. The amount of content and fan-service on offer should mark this as a must-have for Zelda fans, and something every Wii U owner should consider adding to their collection.

9 out of 10

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