Hyrule Warriors Review: A Bright Future for Zelda

The Hero of Time as a foot soldier before his journey
The Hero of Time as a foot soldier before his journey

Since its announcement, I had heavily anticipated the release of the Legend of Zelda franchises very own crossover with the Dynasty Warriors franchise. I was excited to see how the game was integrated into the Dynasty Warriors engine, but admittedly I had some concerns. After all, the game could have just as easily been dry and overdone. That being said, after playing the game almost non-stop since its release, I have come to some conclusions as to what this game could mean for the Zelda universe as a whole. Its unique (at least in the world of Zelda) take on one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises has opened up a variety of opportunities for future games, and for the universe overall.

From the beginning, the game’s plot deviates from a motif that many Zelda fans are familiar with. For the first time in a Zelda game, Link is not a normal young man asleep in his bedroom and awaiting destiny. On the contrary, the game opens with Zelda awakening from a foreboding dream and telling her eternal servant and friend, Impa, that danger awaits the land of Hyrule. As for everyone’s favorite hero, Link is found as a “common” foot soldier, training for an inevitable battle.

This introduction tells us that the Link and Zelda that exist in this universe are entirely different than those of previous installments. The game-designers did not merely take the Ocarina of Time Link, or the Skyward Sword Zelda and put them in this game but instead they decided to create unique lead characters for this universe. The character designs still hail to the original games, but they now hail to a more medieval design.

As I played through the game it became clear that the designers cared greatly about its character development and its plot. Rather than sticking to a regular Dynasty Warriors game with Zelda fan service, they made distinct choices in developing a game that hails to the universe Zelda fans love but also had its own plot separate from previous installments.

In doing so, the game was able to explore the more “in-between” moments that Zelda players never had an opportunity to truly appreciate. In every other Zelda game, Link must go from one point to the next without entirely understanding how impactful his actions are. Players are told that the fate of the world depends on our actions which, in games when Link is practically a 12 year old, can seem rather unfair.

At the tender age of 12 he left his grandmother, joined pirates, and killed a demon lord.
At the tender age of 12 he left his grandmother, joined pirates, and killed a demon lord.

Instead, Hyrule Warriors manages to engage us in the “dull” travel-time in between fights and adventure. We are treated to cut scenes with dialogue between Impa and Sheik, or Ganondorf and his minions. These moments, however minor they may seem, offer a new flavor to the game that adds to its uniqueness within the franchise.

The game also is not afraid to poke fun of Link’s lack of speech. While other installments leave room to assume that the characters can easily understand Link, Hyrule Warriors notes in the first fight that Link is not one for dialogue. Instead, his newfound fairy, Proxi, serves as his voice and speaks in Links place. This serves as an absolute difference for the representation of Link’s character strictly because his character is now in a position where he can “communicate” with his peers. In previous installments the “voice,” so to speak, merely served as a guide whenever Link lost his way or needed elsewhere to go. That does not mean Proxi doesn’t occasionally do the same thing, but she also says some things the hero might say if he would talk.

This game sets audiences up for excellent opportunities for future Zelda  games. While it may exist as a stand-alone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to. With its fleshed out cast of characters, and its game play, there is a bright future for the future of Zelda.

Expanded Universe

Lana and Agitha discuss Goddess Butterflies
Lana and Agitha discuss Goddess Butterflies

The game explores the existence of a Legend of Zelda multiverse of sorts. Granted the characters are each traveling to and from their own time periods, there is still a very distinct crossover and acknowledgement of such. For example, within the game Lord Ghirahim notes how much Ganondorf reminds him of his original master, Demise.

The existence of crossovers is not an entirely new concept. Nintendo has notoriously inserted some delightful Easter eggs in and across each of its games for the pleasure of its fans. However, the more direct interaction from character to character presents an interesting idea. If Nintendo were to decide to make this game canon, the possibility of fighting Ganondorfs from different eras or uniting against a Demise and Ganondorf fusion can become a very real possibility.

At the same time, the universe expansion could have Link facing foes from previous worlds other than Ganondorf. Vaati from The Minish Cap, or Zant could send themselves to the past to attempt to prevent the legendary hero from being born in the first place. The possibilities could be endless and, in the end, is entirely dependent upon what Nintendo decides to do from here on out.

War Games Exploration

While the game play in Hyrule Warriors is entirely distinct from this game, it does present a feature that would be fun to have in other games. Within the scope of other games, Link saves the world almost entirely on his own. Sure he has some minor assistance from a supporting cast of characters, but the one who does a majority of the fighting is Link, and Link alone. However, what a lot of players tend to forget is that each Zelda game is essentially a war. There have been a variety of openings to Zelda games in which the castle had been immediately overrun and Link was the only one who could save them.

As the players, we usually see the aftermath of such destruction, but we don’t often get to witness them first hand, with warriors fighting beside us in an all-out battle to save the world. The game stresses the importance of each major player in the game and you often have to go and save either a major NPC from fleeing (Ruto or Zelda), or a captain from fleeing. Games like Twliight Princess and Skyward Sword explored this concept of two armies facing off against each other, but never beyond some cinematic sequences. With Hyrule Warriors, the experience is far more hands-on and leaves room for an entirely new gaming experience in future Zelda games, but also for more hands-on co-op.

Gender Dynamics

Cia's powerful role is quickly undermined by her unnecessary character design.
Cia’s powerful role is quickly undermined by her unnecessary character design.

As I stated in a previous article, there was much potential for the game in its representation of female characters and its own means of combating typical gender-roles and character tropes presented in the Zelda series. The game offered a vast variety of female characters that refused to stand on the sidelines. Even in the final scenario in the game’s story mode you are able to use Zelda herself to ultimately save the day. The game also offers a powerful, female antagonist that controls vast armies and, at one point, wields the power of a complete Triforce. Even so, there are still quite a few issues with what the game has to offer in regards to its female characters. In a way, the game can be very misleading. It opens with Zelda and Impa seeking a hero to assist them in their quest to save Hyrule, but soon introduces another story that does little to benefit the game.

Enter Lana, a brand new character introduced to the Zelda universe specifically for Hyrule Warriors. She is a sorcerer that is not afraid to fight on the front lines and, upon her first introduction, she convinces Link, Impa, and Zelda to help her in her cause before helping them. At face value her character is highly intelligent and very capable. However, she has a “dark” side in the form of Cia. As the game progresses, it becomes evident that Cia and Lana were once one and the same person. However, Cia one day split from Lana and became the embodiment of all of the negative energy in her heart. In time the players can see that Cia is being controlled by Ganondorf, but she even puts Ganondorf in his place by banishing him and splitting the Triforce once more. Cia loves power, and she only wants it for herself. She craves it and wishes to control the Triforce, but most of all she wants to have Link all to herself.

This is where Nintendo made a mistake in character development. Rather than creating a character that sought power and control (like Ganondorf himself), there seemed to have been a need for Cia’s and Lana’s characters to pine over the silent hero. When the arc involving Cia is finally over and order is restored, Lana’s heroism is not defined by her contributions to war but by her willingness to let go someone she loves.

This of course, is not the first time that Nintendo undermined women’s roles in Zelda games. In Windwaker Tetra is almost entirely removed from the game once she becomes Princess Zelda, and in Ocarina of Time Zelda must disguise herself as a male to hide from Ganondorf’s forces. That is not to say that Nintendo must be entirely unaware of the situation because they actually considered having a female Link as a playable character in this game.

Nintendo ultimately decided not to put this character in the game
Nintendo ultimately decided not to put this character in the game

Not all hope is lost though. There is still opportunity for progressive thinking in Zelda games, and if fans can speak up about it, then surely more change will be implemented.

Hopeful Changes?

Of course, these changes could only truly be possible of Nintendo were to continue to deviate from its traditional formula. The typical routine of Link waking up, Zelda being kidnapped, and Ganondorf being behind it all has already been changed up in a variety of ways while holding on to its essence. For example, in Link Between Two Worlds Ganondorf is nothing more than a puppet. Furthermore, as the 2014 E3 announcements told us about the new Zelda game, Nintendo will be creating an expansive, free-roam world to explore in the upcoming installment, which, ideally, could mean entirely new ways of playing. Link could have an entirely new interactive environment and form unique relationships with characters of his choice. Furthermore, the existence of co-op and more developed characters could lead to a new hero saving the day. That is not to say that Link could not be the primary savior of Hyrule, but perhaps other major players could play a more pivotal role. At some points of a game, you could play as Zelda, or Impa, or any other character in the universe, just for a different experience.

Ultimately, the game presents endless opportunity for the Zelda franchise. With its war-games, and exploration of other characters and worlds, a decision to make this game canon would not only uproot the Zelda universe, but open up new types of Zelda games and experiences for the gamers to enjoy.

Wii U – Hyrule Warriors E3 2014 Trailer

Rating:

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42 Comments

  1. This game is insane, fun, and visually satisfying. I love the special attacks and laying waste to enemies.

  2. Having only played bits and pieces of dynasty warriors games in the past, I think Hyrule Warriors is amazing.

    So far the story is great, graphics look amazing, gameplay is FUN, and co-op is a blast!

    The framerate slow down is by far the worst thing about this game, but the game is just so damn fun with 2 players its amazing. I do wish it had online co-op. Love how pretty much 99% of the game is co-op compatible, not just some “special co-op” missions or “2 player mode only levels”.

    Hopefully they can fix the frame rate issues and add online co-op to the sequel!

  3. Lee Perkins
    0

    Hyrule Warriors is an “ok” game, but have serious flaws. If you’re one of the gamers that love grinding as well as a die hard Zelda fan, Hyrule warriors will definitely be pleasing, but easy to avoid the lazy attempt to bringing the full potential of the game.

  4. clenic-8
    0

    I just bought this game on Saturday… The gameplay is kinda meh, but with the unlocks it is made a little more fresh every time you beat a level. The 2 player is not bad at all If you look at it as a beat em up (like double dragon) then its actually pretty fun. I played with my fiancee all weekend. It has some of the most AWESOME MUSIC I have heard in a game in a while. It does make me wish we get a TP graphic style Zelda game in HD down the line… Worth checking out for the fan service alone.

  5. Clifton
    0

    I am a huge Zelda fan and I used to really like the DW games; but over the years the DW games have become too stale for me. Saying that, I couldn’t be happier with my purchase of Hyrule Warriors.

  6. I spent all weekend playing this with my finacee… this game is so much fun!!!! And it made her extremely interested in the Zelda mythos. I haven’t finished it yet, but I sure as hell hope Nintendo goes for a sequel. I would definitely not mind it

  7. Jamie Tracy

    I have not played a Zelda game since the original Nintendo version. This article makes me want to jump back into this world.

    • Jemarc Axinto

      You definitely should Jamie! It is well worth it and the series has expanded and grown so much since the original! My girlfriend and I have plans to play all of the games in chronological order (according to the Hyrule Historia) just for fun :).

      • I second this. Outside of not purchasing a Nintendo, there really isn’t any reason to avoid Zelda games. The story lines aren’t really linear, so picking you don’t necessarily need to play all of them to catch on!

        With that being said, however, I would urge you to start with the Orcarina of Time. It really set the standard on N64 at the time, and it’s replayability is very high, even to today’s standards. It’s truly an amazing game!

  8. Sheehan
    0

    the 2 player mode is the best part, i don’t think he even touched the game.

  9. Ziegler
    0

    Definitely would have skipped over this game had I not played the demo at my local GameStop. I’m not a fan of Dynasty Warriors but this has been a fun game.

  10. visuals may not be the best, but it looks friggin fun

  11. I believe Nintendo is slowly winning the consoles war. Nintendo haves the potential to be equal with next gen consoles. Great games are releasing this holiday and this is just the beginning. Nintendo here’s my credit card. As long as you guys continue bringing great features, awesome games and memorable experiences…

  12. This game is a lot of fun.

  13. Chantal
    0

    Fantastic game! Being able to take on hordes of enemies with Zelda characters is a blast no matter how many times I do it. I’ve already completed the main storyline and I’m working on collecting materials to upgrade the characters. Working on finding weapons and fusing them to make even better weapons is a fun way to further improve your characters as well.

  14. Love the game so much. I knew I was going to ever since Nintendo revealed the game. If I didn’t have to do home work for college, I would be playing this game nonstop!

  15. unbelivemale
    0

    Good review. This game is just meh. It doesn’t have the Nintendo polish one would expect seeing as it has Nintendo characters. I am surprised Nintendo allows games like these to be made. To me it cheapens the brand. Graphically it doesn’t measure up. Gameplay wise it is cool to try out the different moves but A.I. just stands there and it gets old after 15 minutes.

  16. Underrated, love the story, beautiful HD cut scenes, great music. If you consider yourself a Zelda fan, this game is a must have.

  17. Been playing Zelda since the first on NES and I love this game. Good fun and good times in co op.

  18. Porter Costello
    0

    Am a few hours into the game and am really enjoying it, not the mindless button masher that I was worried it would be. Only thing I’m on the fence about is whether to buy the season pass DLC – not a bad deal for $19.99

    • Jemarc Axinto

      Go for it, it gives you some more story-line options AND more playable characters with different combo sets. An entire season pass for one price is a pretty sweet deal.

  19. I love the game it is a fun to play

  20. You know, if Nintendo had some sort of achievement/trophy system in place, I would totally play this game.

    Yeah, I’m one of those.

  21. I must say though that the game is funner than I expected it to be. The combat is pretty fun and I really liked the sense of urgency.

  22. Liz Watkins

    I miss the Zelda games so much. I have only had Xbox for the last several years. I have not be able to play a Zelda game since Nintendo 64. Why can’t games be on all consoles? I know, they need to make money. But I really want to invest in a Wii so I can play them again. Or I may get my N64 out of storage.

  23. I’m really happy that Nintendo is finally releasing good content on the Wii U. Looks like there’s more of a reason to buy one than just for Super Smash Bros.

  24. Interesting point about Lana/Cia. I haven’t played the game, but from your review it seems that she embodies the “woman in jeopardy” trope. Although she is powerful enough to put “Ganondorf in his place,” she still needs a male hero to assist her.

  25. jlawre00

    From what I’ve played of this game, pretty much everything you said is right on target. Solid review.

  26. Abhimanyu Shekhar

    I’ve always been a Zelda fan and this game was truly awesome, albeit some flaws. As you mention, it seems you’re not discussing many topics in much detail though~ Awesome game to keep me warm in winter!

  27. I love this game I have not been able to put it down since it came out!

  28. I’ve been under the impression that HW is fun, but is needlessly repetitive if you don’t have the stomach for beat-em-ups. I’m glad you’ve played other games in the franchise, otherwise Hyrule Warriors loses a sizeable portion of its appeal.

  29. I’ve noticed something weird lately with this game. The other day I went to a friends house to see the game in action and I noticed something strange with the frame rate. It was rather less fps compared to what I saw in the trailers.

  30. I have been playing Zelda since the very beginning and am glad that they have come out with another one. However, due to the price of a new Wii U and the fact that I have already invested hundreds – if not thousands of dollars in games for the regular Wiij, it may be some time before I will get to play HW. This article plus the preview makes me very tempted to go ahead and get one though. While I see your point about the female characters always needing a “hero”, out of the spirit of all Zelda games, I’m willing to overlook it. Link always has and always will be the best of all of them, but it would be nice to see Zelda save the day for once! This was a great article. Like I said – it made me tempted to go out and get yet another game console just to play HW!

  31. I love all things Legend of Zelda. I haven’t played this one yet, but after reading your review, I am tempted to go out and get a Wii U! I liked your attention to various tropes and ideas that were conveyed through character design. It’s interesting the way developers go about creating characters.

  32. If I wasn’t already deeply invested in PC gaming, I would get a Wii U just for this game. Great article and very good points on both the pros and cons of the game (outside of just a gameplay element).

  33. Great explanation of the game! Interesting idea about fused villains as future threats — if the game is made canon, this could be cool!

  34. I have already logged over 50 hours on this game but for some reason I feel like something is missing. The story itself is thrown aside rather lazily and most times I feel no real push to “save the world”. Although I enjoyed the game, I think it severely lacks an incentive to finish it.

  35. I wasn’t very impressed with the small bit of time I had with this game, and I am a huge zelda fan. Could be I felt it just didn’t fully fit, or i just don’t like dynasty warriors that much.

  36. It’s good for some mindless fun. Someone shouldn’t go in expecting the deep Zelda experience, nor should you pay full price, but it’s still worth a play.

  37. I agree that Cia’s motivations could have been better than just “wants Link.” Still though, I really enjoyed her character arc in the first DLC. Cia’s decent into madness and desperation gives her a very sympathetic light, and her gambits (especially in Skyloft) are hilariously devious.

  38. I just have to say that she is not a powerful female antagonist. Her design would kill a regular human being. There are no people in this universe or zelda’s that are like that and her actions do not make up for that

  39. ApeX

    This is a well written and insightful look at not just the game, but the role it plays in the overall lore and chronology of a very scattered game franchise. Thank you for sharing this!

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