Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Hyrule Warriors

Sometimes I'm wrong about what I want in a game. The first Legend of Zelda title I ever played was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998. You see, before getting my hands on the Nintendo 64, most of my childhood gaming was enjoyed on the Megadrive. Outside of having a Gameboy (and being hunched over it trying to make out what was happening on screen on a sunny day!) I didn't really play many games Nintendo platforms. But I loved Ocarina of Time, played all the Zelda games released since and, through certain methods, all the games I missed out on during my early years. While I'm more protective of other franchises, when I first heard about this Zelda spin-off, it just sounded incredibly wrong. Coming across as a knee-jerk reaction to the Wii U's somewhat dismal sales, I had no hope for it and neither was I looking forward to reviewing it. But the day has come for me to do that, and you know what? It's actually pretty great.

Developed by Omega Force and Team Ninja and out now on the Wii U comes Hyrule Warriors, one of the most unexpectedly great games I have ever played. As I said before, this is a spin-off from the main Zelda series, so while all the expected characters you know and love do make an appearance here, don't expect an open-world, RPG elements or a typical Zelda experience. Hyrule Warriors is a different beast altogether, and though that will instantly put off many Zelda fans out there, its differences are a wonderful, interesting and fun diversion for the series.

Hyrule Warriors is the result of collaboration between Nintendo and Koei Temco, and in the attempt to merge both styles of these developers, the game blends the look, story and characters of the Zelda franchise, with the action-based gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series. The story focuses on an original version of Link; in response to the return of the evil Ganondorf our green tunic wearing hero unites various heroes across time and space. These heroes come in many different forms, and you'll no doubt remember them from past Zelda titles. They include characters such as Midna and Agitha from Twilight Princess, and Princess Ruto and Darunia from The Ocarina of Time. You can play as all of these different characters during Hyrule Warriors, each one with a different play style and move-set. Overall there are 14 characters to choose from. The game assumes you're a hardcore Zelda fan, and that you already know these characters inside and out.

Compared to titles in the main Zelda series combat is rather basic, and essentially relies on button bashing. Much like Koei Temco's Dynasty Warriors series, the player goes up against massive armies of foes, with levels generally focuses on small array of objectives including defeating an enemy stronghold, wiping out an army of foes, beating a boss or protecting your own base. Beyond being able to target specific enemies like in a traditional Zelda game, combat is very much unlike any Zelda game you've played before. Treading the line between being addictive and tedious, I'm happy to say that despite the endless hordes of enemies sometimes being a chore to cut through, the combat here is fast, fun and frantic. Items and weapons can be picked up throughout the game that will upgrade your character, and this generally extends the lifespan of Hyrule Warriors. Much like the colourful cast of characters here, the levels are mostly recreations of locations you've been to before in previous Zelda titles. From the classic Hyrule field, the chilling Palace of Twilight and the incredibly light hearted Skyloft, the amount of fan service in Hyrule Warriors is truly charming.

The two main game modes available here are Legends mode and Adventure mode. Legends mode follows the plot line of the return of Ganondorf, and while that in of itself is a wonderfully constructed Zelda tale, Adventure mode is quite a nice surprise. Adventure mode essentially merges together both the classic and modern Zelda games. In this mode the Overworld map looks like the original from Legend of Zelda for the NES, complete with 8-bit graphics. You have to make your way through a grid based map system, whereby stepping onto each grid chunk cuts to typical Hyrule Warriors fighting gameplay. Though I would have preferred an Adventure mode that went all out on nostalgia, it's a lovely addition to the game, and ultimately a love letter to both the fans and the series itself.

It's an unlikely combo of two franchises to say the least, and while it was only partially a success with Omega Force's Dynasty Warriors/Gundam mash-up Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn, Hyrule Warriors is a much more balanced, enjoyable and masterful take on the concept. Packed alongside a great Co-op mode (with one player using the TV and the other playing on the Wii U Gamepad), Hyrule Warriors is a celebration of all things Zelda. Now, if you don't mind me, I have 100 Gold Skulltulas to find...

Hyrule Warriors kicks Ganondorf's ass and gets a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

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