Hyrule Warriors review for Wii U

Platform: Wii U
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Omega Force
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-2
Online: No

I can understand being concerned about a mash-up between The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors, especially if you haven?t played anything Warriors related over the past 4 years or so. It?s a series that?s always had a certain stigma attached to it, with most considering it to be a throwaway button masher with little depth. However, for those like myself that I have played through titles like Warriors Orochi 3 or Dynasty Warriors 8, we know better. And hearing that Omega Force was going to get a shot at the Zelda universe gave me hope that we?d see something incredible out of this mash-up. The end result fits that description nicely.

Hyrule Warriors isn?t dependent on any one Zelda game, mashing together elements of Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time. You?ll see visual and audio cues from other Zelda titles outside of those three, but by and large this culls heroes and villains from those specific entries. Omega Force has also crafted a few unique characters here, along with a brand-new storyline to tie everything together. Does it feel like an important, lore-heavy entry? No, not really. This is more of a fun, one-off side-story that doesn?t try hard to make sense, and instead crafts a scenario that makes it possible for Fi and Zant among others to exist within the same universe.

WiiU_HyruleWarriors_32_Link_va_Wizzro_03While Hyrule Warriors is more heavily styled after the Warriors series of games from Omega Force, it doesn?t just use the Zelda theme for character designs and stages. It incorporates certain Zelda-specific mechanics as well, like uncovering items such as the Boomerang and Hookshot to overcome specific obstacles or boss battles. Heart Containers, Golden Skulltula, and notable bosses like Ghoma and King Dodongo also make appearances here. Omega Force uses these Zelda assets wisely, implanting them into the traditional Warriors gameplay in a way that feels like a natural extension of what we?ve come to expect from the series.

While combat still focuses on slashing your way through endless hordes of no-named soldiers and monsters, Hyrule Warriors also puts a bit more emphasis on exploiting weaknesses than other Warriors titles. Most boss encounters, and larger enemy fights, will see you looking for the right time to strike, highlighted by a small meter that appears above an enemy?s head after they?ve executed a strong attack. Your window of opportunity to strike back can be quite small, and sometimes requires the use of a specific item to trigger that opportunity. This makes combat far more engaging than most Warriors titles, and should satisfy those that find combat to be the weakest aspect of the series.

WiiU_HyruleWarriors_18_Ghirahim_04There?s also a fair amount of discovery and strategy involved with Hyrule Warriors. Most maps consist of a number of keeps that you?ll need to either get control of, or defend in order to obtain victory. Again, this isn?t unlike other Warriors titles. But successfully tackling an enemy keep can often lead to surprise rewards, like Heart Containers, making it worth your while to not just rush through objectives. Likewise, seeking out and defeating stronger, optional enemies can help you acquire much needed materials, which in turn are used to enhance the skills, offense, and defense of your character roster. It?s not unusual to see a single campaign level take upwards of 20 to 30 minutes to complete, provided you care about being thorough.

Outside of the campaign, there?s are a Free Play mode that lets you tackle any previous level completed with any character unlocked so far. Some Campaign levels lock you into using one character, or a smaller selection than the available roster, so you might find it worth your time to revisit stages with someone new. But the most significant mode featured in Hyrule Warriors has to be the unique Adventure Mode.

WiiU_HyruleWarriors_63_Adventure_Mode_07Adventure Mode features an overworld map styled around the original The Legend of Zelda for NES. Each screen of this map represents a battle to engage in, and if you remember the old Legend of Zelda map, that?s a fair number of fights to complete. Before battle, on the map screen, you can check for secrets which may lead to optional rewards for victory. Finishing a fight might net you a bomb, candle or other goodie, which can in turn be used in conjunction with the search option, which will uncover additional secrets on the map tile.

I found Adventure Mode to be my favorite thing about Hyrule Warriors, offering hours upon hours of gameplay in smaller, bite-sized chunks. A lot of the battles feature unique modifiers, like one-hit kills, a larger number of boss battles, and even a quiz-like map that has you tackling specific monsters based on clues offered. It?s a very unique mode, and I can?t think of anything quite like it in the history of Dynasty Warriors games.

WiiU_HyruleWarriors_60_Adventure_Mode_04Needless to say, I really, really enjoyed Hyrule Warriors. As a fan of musou-style games, and as a lifelong Zelda fan, there?s a lot to love here. And I think, even if you?re not that experienced with Dynasty Warriors, you?ll still gleam a lot of enjoyment out of this. It offers up very unique gameplay when compared to a standard Legend of Zelda experience, while acting like a love letter to the Zelda universe. I?d love to see a sequel, or at least DLC that incorporates even more Zelda titles than the three on offer here. But that doesn?t mean that Hyrule Warriors skimps on content, as you?ll have plenty to see and do in this unique take on The Legend of Zelda from the developers at Omega Force.

Grade: A