Hands-On Preview: Hyrule Warriors
When it was first revealed, Hyrule Warriors didn’t excite me as much as I’d hoped it would. I generally like the Dynasty Warriors games and their spin-offs, but this crossover just seemed to lack substance. As time progressed and more was shown of this title, though, my excitement grew – and it all came together for me at E3 2014, where I finally got to go hands-on with it for the first time. It was fast-paced! It was exciting! And, most of all, it was simply a blast to play. Now, I just poured several hours into the final version of Hyrule Warriors, and I’m here to offer up to you all an extended look exclusively here on NFMagazine.com.
The first thing that I noticed about Hyrule Warriors was its cutscenes. While they’re not voiced (in typical The Legend of Zelda fashion), they are downright beautiful to look at. The opening scene shows a sleeping Zelda struggling through a nightmare, then waking up with the feeling that something sinister is about to happen in Hyrule. Shortly after, she meets Link in the Hyrule soldiers’ training fields and sees his potential as a warrior. (And as a boyfriend, perhaps?)
While I could technically tell you more about the story (and believe me there are cool moments), I think it’d more fun for you to experience the tale for yourself. But suffice it to say that I was surprised with how much I enjoyed the cutscenes and the in-game chatter between the game’s characters. While some twists and turns will come across as expected, Hyrule Warriors tells them in a fashion that is intriguing. Before and after the battles, a voiceover will explain some additional plot points, or recap things for players that left the game hanging for a little bit.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, Hyrule Warriors is clearly more Dynasty Warriors than The Legend of Zelda, but the game has done some smart things to make it more entertaining for all. Just as the game gets going, it asks you if you want to play it more like Dynasty Warriors or a traditional 3D Zelda. The button layouts on the face buttons are radically different for each one – it’s simply a case of what you prefer. The lock-on system to keep yourself focused on bosses and other important enemies is pretty much the one from Zelda, and it makes zooming in on the correct foes as easy as it’s been for years in Link’s earlier adventures. Attacking is done with a couple of buttons – B and Y are the ones used primarily in the Zelda style. By stringing these two together in a certain patterns, you’ll create combo attacks which will help to destroy groups of enemies and offer more ways to crowd control. (Remembering the right sequences of inputs to trigger certain moves can become a struggle, though.)
In the beginning, overcoming your foes feels somewhat easy. You’ll hack and slash your way through hordes of enemies with ease, and you won’t even consider needing to use the combos. Just like the other Dynasty Warriors games though, Hyrule Warriors is just giving you a false sense of security early on – it’s soon squashed, as you’ll have to take on more complicated tactical missions on the battlefield. You’ll have to overtake enemy camps, escort allies and help troops that are on the brink of being annihilated. Deku Babas appear at random, and you’ll have to use your secondary bow and arrow weapon to deal with their threat. Another encounter you’ll run into early was with a tribe of rogue Gorons, who threw boulders at your base of operations. You’ll have to quickly overtake two keeps and destroy Bombchus on top of all that, which is kind of stressful.
These missions will require a lot of running, and, thankfully, the characters move rather swiftly over the battlefield. The game always makes it clear where you need to go, though taking an additional keep or outpost doesn’t hurt. The good flow makes it feel like the action never really stops, and to encourage this further, they are some opportunities to use items. I already discussed the bow and arrow, but what about Link’s bombs, or his hookshot? Both have environmental and tactical benefits, which makes learning how to use them an additional task to take on. These items will play a very important role in defeating bosses as shown with King Dodongo and the bombs. Another example is how you defeat Queen Gohma, from Ocarina of Time, with shooting arrows in her eye. The bosses are straightforward in that sense, but they fit the battlefield format quite well.
And what would a good Warriors game without lots of different playable characters? In my preview time with the title, I got to toy around with eight of them: Link, Zelda, Sheik, Impa, Lana, Midna, Darunia and Fi. Overall, I really like playing with them and toying around with the abilities they have on offer. The white sorceress and newcomer Lana was my favorite, because with her Deku Spear and Book of Sorcery, she was truly a force to be reckoned with. As it comes to more familiar Zelda characters though, the choice was a bit trickier. You can’t go wrong with Link and his sword or Magic Rod, while Darunia uses his hammer to deal some serious damage. The only really tricky one for me so far was Sheik with her Harp. Her moves didn’t give me the direct satisfaction that I needed – though her special attack, which you can activate with the X Button, was really quite cool.
Before you start a scenario, prepping yourself for the battle is critically important. Your characters will level up during gameplay and will collect materials to improve their skills. Within the in-game bazaar, you can craft badges, and these will rapidly change the statistics of your character. It’s also a great place to check on all of your weaponry and see if you can combine anything to give it more effect. Depending on the difficulty you choose during a battle, the drops from enemies will be more important and can help you push away more powerful opponents in the future. Those are all things to consider before starting, because with every step closer to the end, the battles do become all much more difficult. And straight out of Ocarina of Time, you can also find Golden Skulltulas by meeting special conditions. What do those unlock? Well, you’ll have to play the game to figure it out yourself!
The places that you’ll be exploring in Hyrule Warriors are quite cool. You’ll start with just the no-nonsense Hyrule Field, but from there things get more interesting. Through an unlucky chain of events, the main evildoer at work here (the sorceress Cia) brings three worlds out of the Zelda mythology crashing together. You’ll be exploring two areas in each one, setting out on a quest to destroy Cia’s portals – that are themselves destroying the fabric of space and time. These worlds are Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, and each will contribute heart-racing sights for longtime Zelda fans. Everything from Death Mountain to the Sealed Ground makes an appearance, and each one is its own colorful spectacle. These locations, combined with remixed tunes from those earlier games, make for something that is simply pure fun to jump into.
I had my doubts when it was first revealed, but now I’m a believer – Hyrule Warriors is a truly fun fusion of The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. While the game may seem deceptively easy at first, it will challenge your strategic mind more and more with each new level – defeating enemies is one thing, but defending bases and dealing with the surprises on the way is a complete other. Hyrule Warriors is a colorful, bright spectacle that may not delight everyone, but the ones that do take the plunge with it will seriously have a blast. And if you’re coming in as just a Zelda fan or just a Warriors fans and have never played a game in the opposite series, this is shaping up to be a fun way to learn about the other side of the coin. Several hours in, I have a few nitpicks – but I’m having a blast so far and certainly hope that it will continue on this positive path.