'Hyrule Warriors' - Where Two Dynasties Collide

September 25, 2014

The Legend of Zelda has been one of Nintendo's cherished franchises since the mid-1980s. Link and Zelda are two of the most important characters in all of video game history, and typically their games reflect their well-deserved stature. Outside of a couple of inexplicable adventures on the CD-i, virtually every Legend of Zelda games have been a wonderful journey, that builds on the series' long-established gameplay mechanics,with each new game incorporating very intently honed, fresh ideas. The latest Zelda game, Hyrule Warriors, is virtually none of those things, but that's okay, because it's still a whole lot of fun to play.

Developer: Koei Tecmo Games (Omega Force/Team Ninja)
Publisher: Nintendo

Nintendo and Koei Tecmo have collaborated together in the past, with their most notable game being the Wii's Metroid: Other M. Team Ninja, Koei Tecmo's highest profile development group worked on Samus' last adventure, and chipped in on Link's latest in Hyrule Warriors. Together with Koei Tecmo's Omega Force team, best known for the Dynasty Warriors series, they helped bring one of the most unique Zelda games to life in a big way.

While Zelda is a sacred franchise at Nintendo, Hyrule Warriors isn't the first time an outside developer has gotten their hands on Link. Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons were both developed by Capcom for the Game Boy Color, as was one of Link's most memorable portable adventures, The Minish Cap.

Hyrule Warriors takes characters from all across the winding history of Zelda and has them converge on one, non-canonical, hack-n-slash fest, where they work together to save the Triforce and Hyrule. Many things about Hyrule Warriors are going to look familiar - the characters, the enemies, the setting - but the gameplay diverges dramatically, making this an entirely new Zelda experience. Whereas most games in Link's past have focused solely on his journey to save Princess Zelda by exploring dungeons spread throughout Hyrule, and solving puzzles by using hidden items, Hyrule Warriors boils down to one thing: beating the crap out of hundreds and thousands of enemies. Influenced heavily by Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors franchise, Link and his merry band of warriors (including Impa, Sheik, and Princess Zelda), all take to the battlefield together to fight their way through hordes of monsters. While there are some traditional Zelda gameplay elements mixed in, like the use of additional weapons, and some light puzzle solving, Hyrule Warriors is more about mowing down Moblins than anything else. As you fight your way across a twisted timeline of Zelda games, a handful of familiar and new characters cross your path, some of which are even playable.

Hyrule Warriors includes a handful of modes, all of which offer different variations of the core gameplay. Whether you want to play through the story in Legend Mode, or help out Network Links by trying to take down the Dark Ruler of Hyrule in an extensive Adventure Mode, Hyrule Warriors offers a really robust experience. With an abundance of downloadable content that's already been announced for the game, it certainly seems like any Zelda or Dynasty Warriors fan can sink quite a bit of time into this release.

You can only clear keeps in Hyrule Warriors on Nintendo's Wii U console. The game takes advantage of a handful of hardware specific features, like network functionality, and off-TV play on the GamePad.

Hyrule Warriors may not be a traditional Zelda game, but that doesn't mean it can't be as entertaining as one. This game takes Zelda outside of its comfort zone and introduces some really interesting ideas to the franchise by marrying it to Dynasty Warriors. The hack-n-slash nature of the Dynasty games feels right at home in the Zelda universe, since players have probably imagined Link's journeys involving wave after wave of bad guys over the years. The source material is close enough to make the gameplay jump feel seamless, and because of that, Hyrule Warriors feels like a successful experiment. While the story falls outside of the Zelda canon, like a comic book one-shot, it's really just an excuse for Link and Zelda to travel to the alternate universes and timelines to revisit some of their most famous games. Sure, it's a lot of fan service, but there's a lot of satisfaction that comes from spamming the A button as you kill 2,000 enemies on the battlefield in each level.