Review by discoinferno84
Reviewed: 03/31/16 | Updated: 04/08/16
I need a hero...
Hyrule is on the brink of annihilation. A seemingly endless horde of evil monsters is invading the kingdom. The castles walls are littered with the bodies of its defenders. Eldin Caves have been completely overrun, and something sinister lurks in its fiery depths. The trees in Faron Woods are burning down, and whats left has turned poisonous. Princess Zelda is missing in action - again - leaving Impa and Link to lead what remains of the army to certain death. Whoever is commanding the enemy forces is actively hunting the legendary hero. Is it a personal vendetta? A morbid obsession? No one knows. Regardless, the war wont stop at just the borders of this Hyrule; its counterpart realms from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and The Wind Waker have all been dragged into the mess.
Even Link is going to need some help with this one.
At first glance, the story seems like a Zelda fans dream come true. After 30 years of games, worldbuilding, and diverging timelines, everything comes back together in the ultimate crisis crossover. In order to save his Hyrule, Link has to travel to the other versions and team up with the finest (and in some cases, most popular) warriors in the series. For those who grew up with the Nintendo 64 games, seeing Sheik, Darunia, Ruto, Young Link, and Skull Kid in action will be like a tidal wave of nostalgia. There are several nods to the mythology of respective games; Midnas true form seen in Twilight Princess returns as a plot point, and Fi explicitly mentions that the current Link is not the same as his Skyward Sword iteration. Sheiks true identity and Ganondorfs involvement are foregone conclusions; the narrative indulges in those twists solely for the sake of newcomers to the series. Its just enough fanservice to keep longtime players nodding along to an otherwise brisk pace and somewhat shallow story.
A narrative with such a grand scale is a double-edged sword. As awesome as it sounds, theres no way to give every single character the same amount of focus and keep the story moving steadily. It only takes a few battles to liberate each of the respective Hyrules; theres just enough time for character introductions, some banter, and a brief glimpses of the games by way of the battle maps. Beyond that, the majority of the warriors receive no development after theyve joined the team. Despite being heavily promoted in the previews, Linkle has almost no impact on the story whatsoever. Link gets his usual arc of starting as a nobody and eventually earning the Master Sword, but now with a power of friendship moral tacked on. Even if it is cheesy, it makes sense; this game is all about banding together and making a combined effort to thwart a much larger force. Ganondorf is in an amalgam of the best aspects of his previous incarnations; he is intelligent, ruthless, overwhelmingly powerful, and seems like an unstoppable force of evil. His attempt to conquer Hyrule is one of the most entertaining parts of the game. The same cannot be said for Lana and Cia, the newcomers who drive the plot in their own ways. Their arcs are all about the dangers of obsession, and the emotional turmoil and unspeakable lengths that come with it. The big plot twist wouldve been more interesting had it not been so blatantly obvious, or at least had a slower build-up. Other games have handled similar subject matter, but with far better storytelling.
Youll probably be too busy killing things to care, though. Rather than typical adventuring and puzzle solving of the Zelda series, Hyrule Warriors Legends is a straightforward musou-style action game. The overall goal is simple: conquer the battlefield and defeat the invading army. This is made slightly more complicated because, you know, youre usually outnumbered a thousand to one. Its easy to mow through dozens of minor enemies per second, but youll get trouble once you run into things like Icy Big Poes, Moblins, ReDeads, and other recurring enemies strong enough to block and take few hits. Its even tougher when youre facing off against a main character armed with a slew of signature moves and impressive durability. As a battle wears on, managing your army takes higher priority over your kill count. In order to stem the flow of enemy forces, you have to conquer their bases and outposts one at a time; doing so lets you control where and how powerful their presence will be. This typically involves running into an enclosed area and slaughtering everything until the game proclaims your success. You can try running blindly across the map and attempt to kill the opposing commander immediately, but youll probably get stopped by a locked door, thus leaving your bases unguarded, and your allies without backup. Youre left wide open for counterattacks and surprisingly fast losses. Side missions and objectives pop up frequently, forcing you to improvise your way to victory. The trick is learning to strike a balance between offensive and defensive tactics; steadily crush your enemies, but pay attention to your friends needs. Once youve gotten everything else out of the way, go for the final kill
Oh, if only it all worked that well.
In certain respects, Hyrule Warriors Legends is technological marvel. Taking such a huge Wii U game, adding even more content, and then cramming it onto a 3DS cart is nothing short of astounding. Its far from perfect, though. There are still plenty of glitches to be fixed; Ive had every enemy randomly freeze after using an Owl Statue warp, but then prevent me from conquering any bases. Some of the auto-saved checkpoints can re-spawn objectives youve already completed, refuse to unlock doors, or mess up your weapons hit detection. Your AI-controlled allies are borderline useless; the Hylian Captains fail miserably so often, theyre probably all secretly traitors. No matter how much you level up and develop the playable characters abilities, they will become utterly inept the moment you switch to another warrior mid-battle. The sub-weapon system, which includes arrows, bombs, and other Zelda staples, has awkward, lethargic controls and is poorly utilized. Its used to defeat major bosses like King Dodongo, Gohma, and Manhandla, but little else aside from simple puzzles tacked on for the sake of battlefield progression or bonus items. The AI for those monsters are especially abysmal; its common for them to constantly recycle their animations instead of set attack patterns, which turns their fights into annoying, time-consuming games of chance.
The camera, which utilizes the C-Stick a la Monster Hunter 4 and Majoras Mask 3D incredibly well, is barely responsive in certain directions. Youll spend more time struggling with it than against any enemy in the game. Its not uncommon for your view to get stuck in a corner or behind a wall, which is absolutely lethal in more difficult battles. Thats a huge problem when you have to rely on it to switch between targeted foes. Speaking of which, seeing all those dozens of classic Zelda monsters moving onscreen at the same time is amazing Assuming youre playing on a New 3DS, of course. The game runs decently on it, but youll still encounter foes that are invisible unless youre standing right next to them. Some of the maps Death Mountain and Valley of Seers come to mind have intricate, cleverly-designed structures, but the draw distance is lacking, and the colors and textures are far below the 3DSs usual standards. Even if you dont care about the graphics and have are using an older version of the system, the poor camera controls, the sheer amount of processing, and their impact on the gameplay deserve some consideration.
The game tries to distract you from its shortcomings by focusing on its most important aspect: the combat mechanics. There are over 20 playable characters, each with unique movesets and abilities. While its easy to mash the X button and unleash a barrage of weak attacks, you can mix them up with stronger moves, and build up an energy meter for powerful specials. Theres no real challenge in terms of timing or technique; unless youre trying to stun and kill a boss in a single combo, it all boils down to preference. The controls are wonderfully responsive and the attacks are flashy, and thatll hopefully be enough to get you through the most tedious fights. Theres nothing quite as awesome as annihilating a small army by summoning Ganondorfs giant demonic arm, or having Zant twirl and flail around like a maniacal blender. Stylishly juggling enemies with Linkles dual crossbows defies common sense, but it looks cool. Everyone gets unlockable alternate weapons, but the main characters get far more attention; aside from the Master Sword, Link can wield the Magic Rod, the Twilight Princess Spinner, and a few others, all with different uses and animations. Everyone can be further developed via the simple upgrade system, which allows you to improve combos, chip damage, item usage, and other stats. Combined with the character models, music (the Hyrule Field, Gerudo Desert, and Eldin Cave rock remixes are amazing), achievements, and Puzzle Swap-style artwork, theres a ton of content waiting to be unlocked. No matter how bad the rest of the game seems, there effort involved in designing the moves and additional content is undeniable.
Since getting all of that extra stuff requires item drops, youre going to be replaying. A lot. Its easy to plow through the main story in a single weekend, but unlocking everything is a slow, arduous burn. Youll spend the majority of your time on Adventure Mode, which has you tackle battles with specific win conditions and a grading system. You might have to kill a certain number of enemies with limited time, all while being chased around by a boss. Or you could slog through the laughably easy quiz missions, which give you a gauntlet of specific enemies to slay for your answers. Others, such as boss rushes and Cucco turf wars, can be surprisingly challenging. Thats especially true with the grading system; your score determines what mission you unlock next, so youll have to play exceptionally well if you want to get anywhere. Progression in Adventure Mode is further complicated by its layout; its a set of grids that resemble maps from other Zelda games. Youll earn candles, whistles, and other old-school items that help you unlock new areas, characters, and equipment. Its all about knowing when and where to use those items, just like the original game. Even if it is challenging and frustrating, its a clever, creative way to celebrate the franchise.
That can be said for the game as a whole. Hyrule Warriors Legends is an impressive feat that ultimately falters under its creators ambitions. Porting one of the biggest Wii U games to a handheld console was never going to be perfect, and it shows. Even if youre playing this on a New 3DS, be prepared for glitches and questionable camera controls. The developers rightfully focused on making sure the characters played smoothly and stylishly amidst a ridiculously huge amount of enemies onscreen, and sacrificed the rest of the visuals in the process. The AI leaves much to be desired, though slaying hordes of video game monsters with iconic heroes is quite fun. If there was any Nintendo game that would benefit from patches and DLC, its this. Theres plenty of room for improvement in many areas, and time will tell if and how itll happen. Much like the overall Zelda franchise, Hyrule Warriors Legends has had a rough start, but could be potentially brilliant. Despite having so many heroes, it still needs a savior.
Product Release: Hyrule Warriors Legends (US, 03/25/16)
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