A mashup of Tecmo-Koei’s Dynasty Warriors and Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series, Hyrule Warriors raised eyebrows when it was announced late last year. Would the ridiculously over-the-top combat of the former mesh well with Zelda’s usually much more sedate setting? The answer is yes – mostly. Kind of. Ish.
If you’re not familiar with Dynasty Warriors, it has the player take to an open battlefield to complete various objectives like capturing strategic points and keeping AI counterparts alive, all while running around obliterating hordes of extremely stupid enemies. You’ll kill thousands of them per level, and they’ll do little more than stand there while you carve them up.
Hyrule Warriors strays from this formula only by mixing in a seriously healthy portion of Zelda lore. In other respects, the game is largely identical to the dozens of similar games the series has spawned since the first released in 1997.
Fortunately, what Hyrule takes from Zelda amounts to rather a lot. The characters, locations, enemies, abilities, and even sound effects will be instantly and extremely familiar to aficionados of Nintendo’s marquee franchise. All of Link’s go-to weapons are here too – and you’ll need them all – along with chests to open, rupees to collect, and even Skultullas to hunt down as an optional side quest in every level.
For the serious Zelda nerd, there are more casual references to lore here than you’ll likely ever spot by yourself. Once you’ve played through it, be sure to dig into some fan forums, as the sheer quantity of fan service in the game is second to none.
That’s not to say the Dynasty Warriors side isn’t without its strengths, either. It’s super repetitive but somehow, that’s okay. You’ll happily plow through thousands of enemies, all in the hope of unlocking some better weapons or earning a more impressive combo so that next time you’re on the battlefield you can do it all again, only even more dramatically and to even more enemies at any one time.
It’s niche, but also has no business being as compelling as it is. Whether you’ll go through the laborious process of levelling up all of the game’s many, many characters is entirely another thing of course, but should you want to, you’ll likely still be playing come Christmas time.
Control is a rudimentary affair. There are only two main attack buttons, with combos simply variations on how you chain these attacks together. The button presses don’t even vary much by character type, although the attacks are vastly different from one another – visually, at least.
The camera can be a bit awkward, so expect to spend more time than usual manipulating it. There is a lock-on mechanic that works pretty well for the most part, but once there is more than one of the more powerful types of enemy in one area, expect it to choose the enemy you don’t want it to and you’ll not be too disappointed. It’s functional without being particularly great.
One of the biggest problems – and something that becomes especially grating in the late part of the story mode – is the information-dense map. Information is great of course, and it’s very useful knowing where all the bad guys are. The problem is there’s so much information overlaid on this map that it’s often difficult to tell where you are. This all too often costs the player time when someone on the other side of the map needs your help.
Visually, Hyrule is all a little drab when there’s not much going on, which is almost certainly the price paid to enable the frenetic chaos that’s unleashed in the middle of the game's huge battles. You can be fighting hundreds of enemies at any given moment, all of whom you’re dispatching into the afterlife with extremely over-the-top hyper attacks. It’s almost – but not quite – enough to distract you from the otherwise extremely plain, almost PS2-level environments.
Hyrule Warriors, like all of the Dynasty Warriors games before it, will polarise the prospective audience. Some will love its chaotic, insane gameplay, while others will bemoan the lack of adventure of the kind found in Zelda. Many will be excited by the presence of new characters like Cia, while others will wonder just what someone with boobs that big and clothes that small is doing in their favourite franchise, and why the camera concentrates on her cleavage and backside.
Still, Dynasty Warriors is fun, oddly compelling, and jam-packed full of reasons to do it over and over again. If you do like Dynasty Warriors, are a fan of Zelda, don’t mind the slightly awkward treatment of the characters, and own a Wii U, this is the game for you! As to how many people meet that very specific list of criteria? Time will tell.