Prior to playing the original Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U I had always, rather stupidly, looked down on the Dynasty Warriors series. I know the games have an enormous following, but to me it always looked simplistic, repetitive and dull. I could not see why fighting against wave after wave of identical enemies on visually sparse battlefields could offer any lasting entertainment.
When Hyrule Warriors
for Wii U was first announced, I had very little interest in the game. I have spent hours of my life playing the various incarnations of the Legend of Zelda
series but let me be honest - it was never for the combat, which always felt functional rather than joyous. A game based on the combat aspects of Zelda
was consequently rather unappealing.
However, I was wrong. Mostly. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with Hyrule Warriors
on the Wii U. The game looked tremendous and the enormous variety of characters that could be unlocked and upgraded ensured that the game never felt stale. My main complaint about Dynasty Warriors
, that the series was overly repetitive, felt rather mean-spirited.
The amount of content, including the intriguing ‘adventure mode’ whereby players explored a map and completed missions according to set conditions, allayed my fears of boredom. However, the game still felt a little like a cash-in, designed to ensnare the numerous Zelda
fanatics who had, at that point, been rather poorly served on the Wii U. This wasn’t really Zelda
, but it was jolly good fun.
The 3DS is hardly starved of Zelda
games. Including the Virtual Console, the machine hosts a large number of releases, including the excellent 3D remakes of Ocarina of Time
and Majora’s Mask
and the fantastic Link Between Worlds
. Each of these games are visually impressive on the 3DS. Indeed, for both Ocarina
it is not obvious that the games were not originally handheld releases. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Hyrule Warriors Legends
Both Ocarina of Time
and Majora’s Mask
looked superb in 3D and the performance was excellent, whether the game was being played on the ‘new’ 3DS or the original hardware. When playing Hyrule Warriors Legends
, the first thing that I needed to do was turn the 3D switch to off as the game, although not unplayable, was severely impacted by slow down with 3D switched on. This was particularly jarring given the fluid and fast action for which the Wii U original was known. I was playing the game on the ‘new’ 3DS. Frame rate is not the only problem with the game. Character models not only look bland, but don’t feel like they really belong in the game world; they look like they are part of some kind of strange photoshop competition.
Enemies are also far less active. Whilst the bigger ‘bosses’ and ‘captain’ characters will attack, defend and confront the player, the others feel like extras in a bad martial arts film. They offer no threat and appear to be there only to make the scene appear more dramatic. Whilst in the Wii U version of the game these characters were also largely cannon fodder, in Legends
their lack of movement makes them appear far more like the cardboard cut-outs they are than the potential threat they should be.
Menus and cutscenes have been pulled directly from the highly polished Wii U version of the game, but sadly it appears that little work has been done to optimise them for the smaller 3DS screen. The option and information screens have a muddy quality to them, significantly decreasing the quality of engagement. Whilst I understand that the 3DS is not as powerful as the Wii U, the excellent quality of other games that have been ported to the handheld such as Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask indicate that with more time and attention it is possible to create something that fits the limitations of the console. Limitations on the battlefield are perhaps understandable, but the poor quality of the visuals outside of combat is less excusable.
There is, however, one area where Hyrule Warriors Legends
does excel beyond its original Wii U incarnation. The amount of content available is impressive. The game’s story or ‘Legend’ mode has been greatly expanded and features the inclusion of new characters and storylines. Sure, narratively the stories are often a bit of a stretch, but it is still tremendous fun to play, as characters from other entries in the mainline Zelda
series such as Tetra and ‘Toon’ Link.
In addition, for this Legends
version of the game a wholly new character has been created, ‘Linkle.’ My daughter was very interested when she first saw pictures of Linkle. She is a big fan of the Zelda
series and was very excited at the prospect of playing as a female hero who, in the pre-release hype, was billed as being an equal to Link. Sadly, Linkle’s role in Legends
is far from equal. The number of missions dedicated to her is extremely small and her story hardly reaches the dramatic heights of her male counterpart. Indeed, most missions end with the same cutscene, which, for ‘comic effect,’ shows that she is always going in the wrong direction. This is rather disappointing as the character design, especially compared with her other more sexualised companions is interesting. Linkle feels like a missed opportunity and I hope that we see more of her in future Zelda
Visually the game may be rather sub-par, but the gameplay is largely as fun as in the original Wii U release. The game makes use of the extra thumb stick on the ‘new’ 3DS to make orienting characters in combat easier. However, I found that in practice the ‘lock on’ was still the best way to engage in combat. The way in which characters gradually increase in power by unlocking new abilities is still very rewarding, although the expanded cast does make this aspect a little unbalanced as there is simply not enough material available to make upgrades and fully appreciate the combat nuances of each character. This can, however, be overcome with repeated playthroughs and by engaging in the ‘Adventure’ mode.
Once the 3D mode has been switched off the game moves at a reasonable pace and the core appeal of the Dynasty Warriors
series, that of choosing where your character is most useful at any given moment whilst a larger battle is raging around you, is still very compelling. That being said, Hyrule Warriors Legends
still feels like fan fiction and its release on the 3DS rather cynical in light of the vast disparities in install base between the Wii U and the handheld. At its core there is a solid game that will provide hours of engagement, it is just a shame that flaws in presentation have such a negative impact on the experience.
+ Vast amount of content.
+ Combat and character progression is still engaging.
+ New characters have potential.
- Performance issues.
- Balance issues.
- New characters fail to reach their potential.
SPOnG Score: 5/10