When the Wii U was first announced and released to the gaming masses in 2012, few gamers could balk at the prospects of the first original Zelda game in HD. However, few Zelda fans certainly would have expected that the first title would wind up being the Zelda/Dynasty Warriors hybrid that Nintendo announced late last year, Hyrule Warriors.
Though this year’s E3 brought (and showed us) the first promises of the new mainline Zelda game heading to Wii U in 2015, fans of the immensely popular title will still have a new game to look forward to this year, even if it may be one of the most unusual Zelda games to release in quite some time. If next year’s Zelda for Wii U is the giant, enormous buffet, consider Hyrule Warrior that appetizer sampler platter: it may be an assortment of various pieces and ideas, but there will definitely be something there to settle anyone’s appetite.
Hyrule Warriors takes the world of Zelda into entirely new, uncharted territory, mixing the series iconic weaponry, gadgets, and gameplay motifs, and stirring in a significant mix of combat-oriented goals and missions. While playing through the demo shown at E3 2014, players were transported to the open plains of Hyrule Fields, along with having the choice to play between series mainstay, Link, and the titular princess herself, Zelda.
Where typical Zelda games focused around exploring dungeons, the Dynasty Warriors influence of Hyrule Warriors instead gives Link, Zelda, or the numerous other confirmed playable characters (such as Impa and Midna) command over the armies of Hyrule, as wave after wave of enemies invade various territories and regions. With new mission objectives and bosses to fight, it becomes the task of the player in Hyrule Warriors to use their various abilities, special attacks, and strategies to push back the enemy waves and take back conquered regions.
Taking on the enemy waves as Link during my run through the demo, Hyrule Warriors certainly was a much different Zelda experience than I was used to, having never played any of the previous Dynasty Warriors titles. As it emphasizes combo-building and maximizing damage rather than the clever use of items or puzzle-solving, Warriors’ deviation from the Zelda series may be a bit jarring at first, but the game takes plenty of opportunities to refine its hack and slash gameplay with little flourishes of the Zelda titles. During one boss fight against a Dodongo warlord, hacking and slashing my way to him worked, though fairly ineffectually, yet waiting for him to open his mouth at the perfect time to lob a bomb toward him caused significantly more damage.
Hyrule Warriors unique gameplay mixture is, in a way, like a relationship between two people that you never thought would work. Even if the combination of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors seems like it could never work, surprisingly the latest Zelda title proves that the two actually compliment each other fairly well, even brilliantly at times. Although the demo did show some of the more repetitive tendencies of the hack and slash genre, the mixture of tense, epic battles against dozens of enemies gave a fresh spin to the Zelda spin-off, along with the little touches that make up the series we know and love, like the classic chest-opening sound, or Link’s fervent grunts and sword swipes.
The next “real” Zelda may not be arriving until 2015, but until the Wii U is ready to take on its next adventure to new, uncharted lands, Hyrule Warriors certainly seems like it will be a worthwhile diversion, for Zelda and Dynasty Warriors fans alike.
Hyrule Warriors releases for Wii U on September 26th, 2014.