Hyrule Warriors Review: A Bright Future for Zelda
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What do you think? Leave a comment.