In the immortal words of Bob Wiley, “There are two types of people in this world - those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't”. Random Bill Murray quote sure, but that's what it has always felt like to me when dealing with the Dynasty Warriors series. This time though, the allure was too hard to resist. And to think, all it took for me to dive all the way in was dressing it up in Zelda clothing. But then again that would work for just about anything. Even the prospect of putting on some actual Zelda clothing. Don’t think too hard on that Inception like concept, it might cause you reach out for your nearest totem. Ahem.
Long story short, just like some ancient prophecy it was always meant to be - to live and breathe the simple over-the-top action of Dynasty Warriors. Zelda style.
Initially, well, I was disappointed. With the main story mode you’re immediately dropped in to battle hordes of Moblins, and from the get go you’re dealing with the Dynasty Warriors meaning of the term. Hundreds, thousands, countless. Like the zombies in World War Z, except uglier somehow. The charm of there being so many enemies on-screen was lost on me mainly because from an art direction I found the look of the Moblin creatures somewhat Nintendo 64-ish. Call it being spoiled from the fantastic art direction found in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But to be fair, Judge Judy style, the first version of Hyrule Warriors does predate Breath of the Wild. So, I’ll let this one slide.
At its core Hyrule Warriors is all action, a dash of strategy and a sprinkling of story. And when you break it down into culinary terms like that, it’s not an entirely bad thing. It can be tasty. Over time no doubt the experience grew on me, and after a while there was just something about fighting thousands of enemies that become quite relaxing. Being relied on in battle, because everyone else is useless, also makes you feel like a hero. In the later stages things get quite intense as layers of strategy are added to the earlier, simpler, hack-and-slash moments. To its credit Hyrule Warriors almost always pushes you forward, leaving little room for it to become dull or boring.
The downside to this though is that with everything being so hectic, if you’re interested at all in the story you can miss a lot of the in-game dialog between characters. Displayed in small text on the bottom left side of the screen, it mostly all remained a mystery to me while playing. “What was that character I haven’t heard of before? There’s a something at the what now? Doesn’t matter, I’ll continue being the good hero and wipe out all these enemies.”
Hyrule Warriors is definitely one of those Nintendo games that would benefit greatly from having fully voiced characters. It’s virtually impossible to get the tone across when you’re in the midst of battle and having characters talking via text all the time. Kid Icarus on the 3DS had a lot of intense action with voiced characters all the way through, adding immeasurably to the charm of the story presented - something sorely missing here. And so the story is neither here nor there, which is fine, as that’s not what this experience is about. It’s about taking you to iconic The Legend of Zelda locations to battle it out with your favourite heroes. And heroes you haven’t heard of. Here’s that Linkle origin story that you asked for, you know who you are.
The maps themselves are quite large, and the ability to switch between different heroes across the battlefield in an instant is a plus. With the momentum being what it is, you’re never really ever stuck looking for something to do. Incorporating classic Zelda mechanics is a nice touch in such an action-heavy game, with familiar items like the bow and bombs showing up. Using them the way you would in other Zelda titles to take down bosses is fun, with references to games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 when you need to use a bomb on a Dodongo while it inhales.
Performance-wise, I wish I could say the frame rate was Rocky Solid Balboa - as it mostly struggles to maintain 60 frames-per-second. With such a high target the visuals themselves don’t stand out, or are anything special. But with the amount of action that is served to your eye holes, it’s more than acceptable. And definitely playable. Although at times, usually when there is a real-time cut-scene of a boss or new enemy, the framerate drops to a range somewhere in the teens.
With Hyrule Warriors, this was the first time that I gave more than a passing glance or two to the Dynasty Warriors-like formula. Beyond the obvious melee whacking of 50 enemies at once, it was great to experience the feeling of fighting in a large-scale war and little skirmishes across a everything-Zelda map. Going back to reclaim a capture point you first visited a while back after it had been overrun. Commanding heroes to simply go and attack specific regions as they become unruly. Did I mention that there are a lot of different heroes to play? Pretty sure I did, so I’m not sure why you’re callin me a liar all of a sudden. Anyway, the variety of heroes in Hyrule Warriors is excellent with each one feeling quite different from the next. They all offer slightly different play styles, which you can then use tactically to manage hordes of enemies with ease.
Hyrule Warriors is jam packed full of content too, but each stage in the main Adventure Mode overstays its welcome by about 5-10 minutes. The longer you stay in a particular level, the quicker the fast-paced action begins to lose its charm. Perhaps that comes down to the repetitive nature of what constitutes the core Dynasty Warriors experience, and to be honest I wish I was more in love with this game. It would no doubt keep me occupied for months. But, the lack of depth, a good story, and stuff like voice acting makes it all feel a little average. Pulling on your Zelda nostalgia heartstrings to drive motivation, even though the battles are all pretty much the same.