|System: Wii U|
|Dev: Omega Force, Team Ninja|
|Pub: Koei Tecmo, Nintendo|
|Release: September 26, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes|
by Sean Engemann
The Dynasty Warriors series has amassed a sizeable collection of their unique beat 'em up titles. They are also no stranger to crossovers, sporting mergers with Gundam, One Piece, Fist of the North Star, and other franchises. However, when word surfaced about Hyrule Warriors, there was an air of both excitement and apprehension within the gaming community. With a heritage exceeding ten years to its partner, the Zelda brand is not one to be trifled with outside the careful hands of its first-party creator, Nintendo. Thankfully Hyrule Warrior pays grand tribute to the lore in exorbitant amounts. It doesn't play like a traditional Zelda adventure, but there are enough authentic nods to nearly every game in the lineage to pass inspection from even the most diehard fact checkers.
The story wastes little time with spilling exposition. A brief exchange between Princess Zelda and her caretaker Impa about the absence of the legendary hero leads them into the castle courtyard where soldiers are actively training. One particular soldier, a young man named Link, stands out above the rest, both for his combat prowess, and he is the only one not donning a helmet, instead exposing his golden locks and aqua eyes.
Link's incarnation in Hyrule Warriors leans more towards the realism spectrum. The art style falls somewhere in between Twilight Princess's dark detailing and Skyward Sword's smooth texturing. Every character, both good and sinister, is accurately reproduced from the Zelda archives, though some costume choices push the boundaries of the Teen rating (i.e. newcomer antagonist, the Sorceress Cia). With no voice acting save a timid sounding narrator and anime inspired gasps, the visually expressive characters give the text-based dialogue some life.
Charging from the first castle gate, you are immediately pummeled with the game's frantic pace. Allies shout objectives and cry for help from across the map, keeping your feet moving at all times. Hordes of Bulbins, Stalchild, and other denizens of Hyrule block your path, though the first few swipes of your weapon will reveal their fragility. Clearing certain levels will unlock a new playable character, though you'll find each utilizes the same two buttons for stringing together attacks. Once you've discovered which combinations are best for crowd control and which provide a more focused attack on singular enemies, it quickly becomes a repetitive task of clearing out keeps and taking down minibosses to complete your objectives. It's exciting to watch dozens of enemies get launched from a single strike of your weapon, but it's also redundant at the same time.
The game's RPG elements provide the incentive to keep moving forward and replaying completed areas in the game's Free Mode. Along with gaining strength through leveling up, you'll amass a horde of rupees which, along with materials acquired, can be used at the bazaar to craft potions, train characters (i.e. level them up), fuse weapons into an upgraded form, and slap badges on characters that provide passive buffs and grant extended attack combos.
An added variation to the hack'n'slash campaign is delivered through the game's Adventure Mode, which places you in a map grid pulled from the original The Legend of Zelda game. The sections on this sprawling lobby map get unlocked through completing missions in adjacent squares, completing specific objectives, earning a high rank, or using Item Cards to reveal secrets on the 8-bit areas. The missions themselves function like those in the campaign, however some objectives are set in small zones and are quick to complete, while others are full blown quests with a sixty minute timer. There's also a newly introduced Challenge Mode that provides skill tests for expert combatants. Only one challenge was available at the time of this review, but it is likely more will be provided as DLC further down the road.