'Hyrule Warriors' Review: Zelda, But Not As You Know It


'Hyrule Warriors' is out on Friday for the Nintendo Wii U.

Key Features:

  • Huge 18-stage 'Legend story' mode and 128-stage 'Adventure' Mode.
  • 13 playable characters taken from the Zelda legend
  • Surprisingly deep strategic battles
  • Typically bonkers combos and fighting mechanics

The Pitch:

"Cut down entire legions of enemies as Link, Zelda, Midna and other character from The Legend of Zelda franchise using over the top powerful Dynasty Warriors style moves. This tour de force through the beloved locales of Hyrule will have players battling some of the fiercest enemies in The Legend of Zelda history. Two players can play local co-op, with one player joining with the Wii U GamePad controller and another with the Wii U Pro Controller or Wii Remote + Nunchuck."


The last time Nintendo released a Zelda game, it was a delightful, inventive but almost manically nostalgic recreation of the classic adventure series' past glories.

The time before that it was a literal remake of older game.

You cannot say the same about 'Hyrule Warriors'. This game does indeed star a version of Link, carrying a big sword, bombs and other iconic items, and several of the series' other main characters including Zelda herself. But in every other respect this is something different.

'Hyrule Warriors' is actually a crossover with Tecmo Koei's 'Dynasty Warriors' series. If you're unfamiliar with that game, the core idea is that you take the role of a powerful hero in massive battles, with literally hundreds of enemies on screen at once.

By carefully using your attacks and combos to thin their numbers, and to influence goings-on across the battlefield as a whole -- taking certain castles, opening pathways, bringing down the more powerful enemies -- you play a sort of third-person version of Total War. You are the general and also the front line, and it's up to you to use cunning and ridiculously huge swords to win the day.

'Hyrule Warriors' uses that concept and the Zelda legend as twin jumping-off points for an adventure which is far more intense, action-packed and on a much bigger scale than any Zelda game before.

Where Link usually keeps his battles relatively small in size - facing off against one giant boss, or at most a half-dozen enemies within reach of a simple arc attack - in 'Hyrule Warriors' the player is faced with massive hordes of enemies, big battlefields and very intense, button-bashing action.

But like the best Dynasty Warriors games, it's not just about the fighting. It's genuinely also about strategy. It would be hard for anyone watching to tell, but your attacks are really brush strokes in a larger painting. You can choose to go for mid-game bonus items, open different pathways and respond to emergencies as well as just fight what's in front of you, and each stage in the story ends with the sort of item swapping and levelling-up you'll recognise from classic RPGs.

There is lots of Zelda here too, including 13 playable characters, 18 stages based on the main arenas of the series (Hyrule Fields, for instance, and Death Mountain) and lots to draw you back, including a 128-stage 'Adventure' mode and lots of sub-quests, achievements and reasons to keep bashing you pained fingers on the Wii U Gamepad.

The result is a very fun, intense and silly game which -- for the right gamer -- will set off explosions of pleasure in the brain like a series of Bomb Fruit explosions. If you're expecting a core Zelda game, or fail to see the strategy implicit in its bombastic mechanics, you probably won't get 'Hyrule Warriors'. But at its heart this is a fun and exhilarating game, and a welcome dose of hardcore action on a console which badly needs it.

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