Hello everyone, it’s that time again where I talk about one of my favorite genres in gaming, Musou. For those not well versed on the subject (or who didn’t read my last article, shame shame) these games are based on the highly successful Dynasty Warriors formula. They’re basically hack and slash games with some base management mixed in. The games throw a ton of enemies at you at once and expect you to wade through them as an agent of death. Today. I’ll be looking at the game that really got me into these games to begin with: Hyrule Warriors.
Hyrule Warriors kind of came out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone was expecting the announcement. Nintendo working with Koei Tecmo to create a hack and slash Zelda game with multiple playable characters. To be honest, I was skeptical. I’m a huge Zelda fan and this just seemed to far flung from the formula to work. However, when I thought back to Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, two games I really didn’t like much, I thought, eh, what the heck? Maybe a deviation from the formula is what the series needs?
I did not have a Wii U, but I knew I was in the market for one. Nothing had really grabbed me yet. (For the record, I love Nintendo and there stuff, but I’m not gonna drop $300 on a console without at least 3-4 games I want to play.) I had never even touched the console. I decided one day while browsing Gamestop to pick up the Hyrule Warriors demo. 40 minutes later, I was selling my Vita and library, and I had a Wii U within the week.
Enough about how the game converted me though.Let’s talk about the game itself. Hyrule Warriors is a Zelda fan’s dream in terms of story. Now, the story isn’t super amazing or anything, but seeing the casts of fan favorite Ocarina of Time interact with Midna from Twilight Princess was a joy. Sure, it’s basically fanfiction, but it’s well done fanfiction. Link doesn’t talk, as per the norm for Zelda games, but he does have a fairy companion (also per the norm) named Proxy that basically talks for him. This might seem weird and kinda annoying, but it’s not overdone, so it works out pretty well. The plot has to do with the Goddess of Time basically falling in love with Link, and thusly is able to be influenced by the spirit of Ganondorf (who else?) to do his bidding. The Goddess (named Cia) splits time, causing rifts across Hyrule. Link, Zelda, and the Hylian gang then use the rifts to recruit warriors from all across the timeline of Hyrule. This makes for some cool moments, and some funny ones (Fi stating that Link isn’t the Hero that was supposed to appear, but that he would do was a nice touch). There are some cool surprises, such as (spoilers? Not really) playing as Ganondorf later in the game. I thought the story was much better than it has any right to be.
The game embraces its Zelda-ness. It knows its audience. The fact that you storm the Water Temple with a bunch of Hylian soldiers made me smile. Nintendo has never shied away from poking fun at themselves. There are all kinds of cool nods to longtime fans of the series. Sheik appears in all her glory, and her disguise is a pretty big plot point (even though Zelda fans already know what’s up.)
So how does it play? Well, it’s weird hybrid of Musou and Zelda. Musou games usually allow you to string together combos with different button presses, and Hyrule Warriors is no different. The moves are unlocked as you level up. Yes, leveling up in a Zelda game, what a concept eh? Some of these combos manifest themselves in familiar ways, such as Link’s signature spin move. Each character has their own weapons, but you don’t have to stick with the standards. For example, Link can wield the Master Sword, or he can ride Epona, surf on a spinning top-like weapon, use the Fire Rod, etc. Each character has multiple weapons and it makes for a lot of variety (even if I just use Zelda with the Dominion Rod). These weapons are unlocked through normal progression in the game’s Adventure Mode. We’ll come back to that.
Standard Zelda weapons are also available, such as the hookshot, boomerang, bombs, etc. These are unlocked throughout Legend Mode (the game’s story) and are available for use by each character for different situations. For example, the hookshot can get you up cliffs, the boomerang can stun enemies, etc. The items are critical for boss fights. The bombs can be used to kill King Dodongo, the boomerang stuns the Manhandla so you can wail on it, and the hookshot will pull Volga from the sky. These are a few examples of what they can do. You can also find power ups that will temporarily boost the capabilities of each item. They really come in handy, much more than I expected. Nothing beats throwing a super bomb into a group of enemies and watching the kill count rise.
The standard Zelda mechanic of finding items in the grass returns. This is a good way to find hearts for healing, as well as magic jars. The magic meter is back in this game as well, but it works entirely different. Filling the magic meter by collecting jars unlocks allows the character to go into “Focus Energy” mode, which ups the attack power and increases the number of rewards that rop, such as rupees. Once the meter runs out, the character will unleash a special technique unique to the character/weapon combo being used. It’s a really fun and quick way to make short work of your enemies. Characters also fill a yellow bar through fighting enemies that allows lesser special techniques to be used.
Ok, let’s talk about that Adventure Mode now shall we? This is the meat of the game. The player is presented with the map from the original NES Legend of Zelda game. Each square on the map is a battle. These battles have certain requirements that must be met, like “Using Zelda, destroy 3 bosses in ten minutes.” If you’re familiar with the original map, you know this is a lot of battles. You can only move on to the next square by hitting a certain rank in battles, which is determined by things like kill count, damage taken, time to complete, etc. It’s a really fun and difficult mode, but very rewarding. This is where you unlock things like weapons, costumes, Pieces of Heart, and more. Heck, some of the playable characters are unlocked this way.
There is DLC for the game. The DLC is surprisingly well done and unlocks a ton of content. Each DLC pack gives a new Adventure Mode map based on different Zelda games such as Twilight Princess and Majora’s Mask. They also come with new characters to play as from those games, such as Tingle, young Link, and un-cursed Midna. I have over 80 hours in the game and I haven’t finished the first Adventure Mode map, so you can imagine how long you’ll be playing this game if you want to complete the DLC modes.
So what’s the verdict? Well, this scratches every itch of the Zelda fandom. It’s almost a Smash Bros. based solely on Zelda, with all the characters and items available. It’s a Zelda fan’s dream. It’s also a solid hack and slash game, and I feel a really well done Musou game, so even if you’re not a big Zelda fan, fans of Dynasty Warriors can find something to love as well. And, with Nintendo recently announcing Hyrule Warriors Legends of 3DS, even more people can get in on this game (plus, it let’s you play as the Wind Waker characters as well as Linkle, a new female character who looks very familiar.) I can’t recommend this game enough. I’ll be playing this one for years to come.