Hyrule Warriors is a cross-developer mash-up of two well-known gaming franchises; the long-running Dynasty Warriors and the even-longer-running Nintendo series, The Legend of Zelda. As a rough, rule-of-thumb description, this equates to the hack ‘n’ slash gameplay of the former with the character and trimmings of the latter. It’s not the first time Nintendo have taken their Hero of Time out of his core gaming experience, but it’s certainly the green-hooded hero’s biggest and boldest step on new terrain yet.
There are, however, plenty of hand-holds along the way. The unmistakable musical themes that have resonated through several generations are all present and lovingly orchestrated. You’ll quickly meet some well-known, and some more obscure, characters from the series. Even those little heart containers and treasure chests are all accounted for. Indeed, Nintendo have clearly given developers Omega Force and Team Ninja plenty of access to the Zelda archives, something clearly engendered to delight fans.
So, into battle you go as a blonde-mopped young lad with an itching to don a silly yet satisfying suit of green cloth. Soon, others will join you from the character array of both games, letting players choose their fighters, learn new skill sets and level-up on the road to becoming 'the one' that Zelda lore always stipulates. With this, Hyrule Warriors is initially great fun, with some cool attack combos, lots of freedom to run riot and a raft of collectibles and power-ups to discover and utilise.
However, it doesn’t take particularly long for the core combat to become tiring, even wearisome. Special move-sets quickly become routine and even when spread across different characters, they come off as rote. Cascades of enemies do little to hamper you, and progress from one point of the map to the next becomes akin to mowing the grass. Individual missions soon become increasingly repetitive and the constant on-screen jabber from your companions, along with regular map-alerts, combined with non-stop battling can see you grow increasingly confused as to what you’re actually supposed to be doing.
World design also comes a little short. Each map is specifically cordoned off into small box rooms where key battles take place, but this makes the seemingly open-world adventure feel incredibly ‘gamey’, as if the usual tricks developers use to give the illusion of freedom were not even bothered with. Yes, Hyrule Warriors makes no bones of this, but more’s the pity. It is, however, pleasing to see your progress through these segments as you vanquish the red blotches from your corner map, spreading your cool blue goodness throughout the lands.
Boss battles are that little bit meatier, and there are plenty of them too, whether in the form of sporadic 'keep' bosses or the ever-menacing big bad dude guarding the gate to progress. You'll have to contend with hordes of minions concurrently, but these more concentrated fights will likely appeal to core Zelda fans, whilst the huge ongoing battles do due dilligence to Dynasty Warriors. The flit between both, however, is quite seemless, a testament to the game mechanics and the overlapping styles of both parent games.
Ultimately, what you make of Hyrule Warriors will likely depend on how you feel about three things; hack ‘n’ slash games, Dynasty Warriors and The Legend of Zelda. It’s in that order too, as Zelda fans are most likely to feel short-changed once the veneer has peeled away. Underneath you’ll find a serviceable and enjoyable escapade, if endless hacking and slashing are your things. It’s been done better and it’s been done worse for sure, yet coming with that Tri-Force stamp of approval, Zelda fans will likely have been hoping for a little bit more.