April 07, 2016

Hyrule Warriors Legends - Review

Hyrule Warriors is a game that I never paid a lot of attention to, which is saying something as a fan of the The Legend of Zelda series, but the core of the game is something that never appealed to me, no matter the skin, but with Hyrule Warriors Legends, I thought it was time I at least give the game a try.

The story of Hyrule Warriors Legends takes place in a new version of Hyrule, where in the past the Hero clad in green defeated the evil known across the land and then split the evil spirit into 4 parts, trapping 3 of them within different worlds and the final piece under the master sword. Princess Zelda awakens from her dream, with the feeling that something is coming and it’s not long after that she is told by a guard that an army approaches. The story is more detailed here than in most Zelda games, but that is because it ends up weaving in new characters, existing characters and multiple worlds into a single narrative and while the story might be a little farfetched at times, it does a good job attempting to balance everything.

What the game lacks though is a depth to the gameplay, which is the core part of the game, you take control of Link, or the Link equivalent in this world, to begin with and race out into the first battle, taking down all enemies you can see. You will be tasked with capturing keeps, defeating certain enemies and rescuing allies on the battlefield and these tasks will take up the bulk of your time, allowing for you to explore the attacks at your disposal. The attacks are what drives the spectacle in any warrior’s series and here Link, Zelda, Impa and the others all have a significantly sized spectacle, which does deliver on the goods, the problem with the attacks, is that apart from the two buttons for attacking, your only other method of doing damage is with special weapons, that you will collect as the game progresses, but these are not like you are used to. Equipping bombs will have the character throw a stack of them in the direction you are facing, same with the bow and the rest, but if you target an enemy, which you can only do to boss creatures, you can aim at them, but it’s a locked aiming, removing a lot of the exploration that Zelda games are known for with their boss design.

The issue with all of this is that once you have completed the first battle, going forward, they all just tend to be more of the same, run from point a to be, take down hordes of enemies, defeat some boss creatures, rinse and repeat. The locations that you explore are good fun, Faron Woods, Death Mountain and more, but apart from a few small times where the location would also cause issues, like lava in Eldin Caves, they are mostly just different looks for the same parts. Each location has a few key bases, which you need to claim in order to help your forces drive forward into the map, some sections that you can only go one way on and the occasional great fairy fountain, but for everything they have, they also have large amounts of nothing. These open spaces would be really wonderful if the game was able to populate enemies in them from a distance, but as it does not, you will see large expanses just sitting barren, which makes the scale of the battles feel much smaller than previously thought.

While you can mix up the battles, by changing the weapons that each character can use, or swapping characters on the fly, they all seem suitably capable of taking down the enemies no matter the weapon equipped. The thing that bothered me the most about the weapons was that you can end up with multiple variants of each type, just different levels, but at no point did I notice any benefit to taking a 3-star sword into battle over a 2 sword. Using specific Zelda universe amiibo, sorry Wolf Link, you can unlock more powerful weapons right off the bat, which might help you out, but due to the randomness of the events, you never know what you are going to get, all other amiibo will work, but they will grant you rupees, from 1 to 5000 at a time. The rupees and materials you pick up in game can be used to upgrade your weapons or get new ones, but again it comes down to not really having an impact. The additional content from the Wind Waker, Linkle and Skull Kid are all nice, but they don’t actually make any changes to the game itself, just more of the same really, with Linkle being a disappointment, as the female Link, she could have been used much better.

Performance wise, the game handled itself really well on the New Nintendo 3DS I played it on, the load times were small, which is always good, but it ran well in game as well, something that the original 3DS model is reported to have issues with. The cinematics are nice to watch, but they strike me as odd as we never have seen anything like them before in the Zelda universe and while other characters have dialogue appear on the screen in those, Link is just as mute as before. In game, the playable characters look really nice, with their detail staying up there from the Wii U version of the game, but sadly the enemies and allies you fight with, don’t fare the same, with repeating animations, it’s impossible not to notice a dozen enemies doing the exact same fall down animation, even when getting hit in different wants.

The sound is one area I was really, really impressed with, thanks in part to the music. Everyone knows the Zelda themes really well by this point and if you don’t, then shame on you, but hearing those familiar tunes blended with rock and other musical themes was great, with times where I would slow down my actions, just to listen to that music more. The sounds of battle were also nice, with the 3DS able to make it sound bigger than what would sometimes be on screen, but there is a single sore point for me, the narration. It is nice to have spoken dialogue in a Zelda game, but because there are no other moments of spoken dialogue, it feels out of place, but it also suffers from being bland and boring, which is not a good thing.

Hyrule Warriors Legends is a fine game, having never played the Wii U version, I was able to go in with an open mind, but sadly it sticks way to close to the core of the warrior series of games and really only feels like Zelda in theme, not execution.

Thanks to Nintendo Australia for supplying the game for review

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