Reviewer’s Note: This review reflects the title being played on a regular Nintendo 3DS XL system. Hyrule Warriors Legends can be played on both older 3DS systems and the New Nintendo 3DS models: however, on older models the 3D mode is disabled, while the New Nintendo 3DS offers improved game performance and the option for using the 3D mode.
From its initial debut on the Wii U back in 2014, Hyrule Warriors came out of the gate as a surprisingly robust and engaging new take on one of Nintendo’s flagship titles for the Wii U.
While the idea of merging the hack ‘n’ slash heavy gameplay of Dynasty Warriors may have been a bit contradictory to the combat and puzzle-heavy The Legend of Zelda titles, the title combined the two in a way that offered the best of both worlds.
For the Wii U version back in 2014 we gave the title a well-received recommendation, and now nearly two years later, the heavily action-focused experience of Dynasty Warriors-meets-The Legend of Zelda returns in the portable-sized Hyrule Warriors Legends on the 3DS.
Legends condenses the 2014 Wii U release to the 3DS, though still retains an impressive roster of 24 characters from across the Zelda universe by incorporating characters from Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and a few notable new characters for this game.
The game is notable for being one of the few titles on 3DS to come from the Wii U (aside from simultaneous releases such as Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U), and on that end the allure of a portable Wii U release may definitely be appealing.
On that end, it preserves the experience, with players taking on vast armies as one of the game’s multiple characters (and switching between them on-the-fly) to regain control of various territories and parts of the in-game maps, while also taking on bosses and challenges throughout the journey.
While Hyrule Warriors already brought its epic scale and action to players on the Wii U, the portable iteration with Legends perhaps lends itself even better to its fast-paced, Dynasty Warriors-inspired action with the more pick-up-and-play approach of the 3DS.
In particular, Legends offers this through both its “Legendary Mode” story campaign for longer play, while a series of side missions are also available for shorter game sessions to pass the time, more suited to waiting in line or during a commute.
Legends brings back two of the Wii U version’s modes through its “Free Mode” — letting players run amok with any character they wish in missions from the story — along with Adventure Mode, which offers shorter missions based in a grid (like the NES-era original) to unlock items and more.
The 3DS version also brings in a brand new mode called “My Fairy,” which semi-replaces the Wii U version’s Challenge Mode by instead offering players the chance to raise and customize fairies that can provide assists in battle, complementing the missions in Adventure Mode.
Even with the game being scaled down to the 3DS, it still manages to pack in an impressive amount of content, modes, and characters that make it (on paper) work perfectly in a portable format.
Though the game follows the routine of traditional Dynasty Warriors titles with fairly simple controls, its diverse roster offers plenty of characters that surely will appeal to players of all types.
Where series mainstays like Link offer a more well-rounded approach to combat, Legends gives even more options than ever thanks to its expanded roster of characters, allowing players to experiment and play around with characters of all fighting styles and types, whether it’s with quick, combo-heavy characters like Sheik or the slower, powerhouse characters like Darunia, and more.
While many of the returning faces from the Wii U version once again make their appearance here, it also throws some notable new faces in the mix from the series, such as Wind Waker‘s Toon Link and Tetra, while bringing an entirely new character in the form of Linkle, the gender-swapped version of Link that’s sure to become a fan favorite (and hopefully appear in a future installment).
However dense as Legends is though with content, the 3DS release of the title does come with a fairly large degree of warning when it comes to the game’s technical performance on the system.
As noted at the top of the review, Legends can run on both the original 3DS along with the New Nintendo 3DS, though following our time with the game on an older system (a regular Nintendo 3DS XL), it’s apparent that the game is simply not optimized to run properly on the older 3DS hardware.
In particular, the game suffers from extreme instances of slowdown and marking one of the biggest hits against the game’s portable iteration, as the generally smooth-running Wii U version instead suffers from severe framerate drops on the 3DS.
While the title can play relatively smoothly in some instances on the regular 3DS hardware, more often than not that experience gets cut short when surrounded by dozens of enemies, causing sharp framerate loss on a fairly consistent basis.
Combined with the game’s low-resolution textures and visuals (even down to some of the menus) and the frequency of pop-in, the title as it stands on the older Nintendo 3DS models suffers from severe issues of technical performance that often work against the fast-paced, epic battles that it tries to emulate from the console counterpart.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a New Nintendo 3DS model on hand to see how the experience fairs on that system compared to older 3DS models for our review purposes.
It’s fair to say that the New 3DS model’s improved specs and superior CPU may provide a more consistent, stable gameplay experience, though in its current form the game is a bit compromised on older 3DS systems not only with its weaker technical performance, but even to the game’s 3D Mode being disabled completely on older systems.
Legends for all intent and purposes should be a title that is exclusive to the New Nintendo 3DS systems, as its technical performance may be a big detriment to players looking to play it on an older handheld.
With its scope on replicating large-scale action and epic battles in portable form, Hyrule Warriors Legends brings the unusual Wii U Zelda title to a smaller screen with plenty of changes and additions that make it seem like a perfect fit for the 3DS.
While brimming with content and ideal for gaming sessions that can stretch on for hours or fit perfectly into a quick 10-15 minute run, the title’s technical issues on older 3DS systems may prove to be one of the bigger disadvantages in trying to enjoy the 3DS re-release with its visuals and framerate compromised by the older hardware, other than shelling out for an entirely new system to enjoy it with more consistent performance.
Hyrule Warriors Legends offers players with tons to do and brings together many of the franchise’s most iconic characters in a way that is unexpected yet fun — however, the subpar technical performance and changes made to accommodate the handheld may make it an experience that’s far from legendary.