If you had told us a few years ago that The Legend of Zelda would have a crossover with Dynasty Warriors, we would have called you crazy. However in retrospect, if there was going to be a Zelda related game that wasn’t in the traditional adventure genre, there are few better choices than a Musou title like Hyrule Warriors.
Everyone who claims to be a gamer should know the typical Zelda set up by now. “The Evil captures the Princess, the Hero must obtain the Magical Sword, and complete some quest through dungeons to obtain the Power needed to defeat the Dark King.” This consistency isn’t always a bad thing though, Nintendo has kept the Zelda franchise from growing too stale by using variations of setting and art style, while typically improving the controls and adding a new mechanic with each iteration.
That said, the Zelda franchise is due for a little rocking of the ship. Enter Koei Tecmo, best know for their long running, but relatively niche, Dynasty Warriors series. Dynasty Warriors never really caught on in the West, so this may seem like an odd choice of a company to give the rights to a Zelda-themed game, especially considering how protective Nintendo can be with their marquee titles. The lack of third party support has obviously forced Nintendo to reach out to other companies for second party collaborations, but I can’t imagine there being any developer in the world that wouldn’t love to get their hands on a Zelda spin-off, so why make a game like Hyrule Warriors?
Well, the traditional Zelda formula is actually very similar to the Hyrule Warriors formula at its most basic levels. Aside from visuals, the battles are remarkably similar. How do you deal with the most basic elements of a traditional Zelda dungeon? You explore a map, slaughter weak enemies, find a treasure, use the treasure to solve a few simple puzzles and fight somewhat tougher enemies. Then use your newly acquired treasure and skills to trigger a boss’s weakness, before unleashing a flurry of sword spam. When you look at it like that, it’s the exact same thing as Hyrule Warriors. The only difference is that your sword spam is shinier, and there are a lot more of the weaker enemies to slice through.
While the core Zelda mechanics may still be similar after their translation into to the Hyrule Warriors formula, they feel different: Instead of being an exploration based, Adventure RPG, the title is now a strategic action game. This transition allows us to see elements of Hyrule we hadn’t before. Where is the friggin’ army when the country goes to hell? In Hyrule Warriors they’re locked in battle with the forces of evil. Even Zelda, now a queen, enters the fray to show off how powerful she truly is. We finally get to see just how destructive the magical weapons of Hyrule can be.
The two series that comprise Hyrule Warriors work in a synergistic nature. Zelda gets a new approach and a story that hasn’t been done to death, while the Warriors series gets an entry with far more appeal to the Western market than ever before. It’s not just the setting and characters though, other holdovers from Hyrule, such as Z-Targeting, familiar strategies, and usable treasures, help break up the monotony so commonplace in the Warriors franchise.
Hyrule Warriors is something nobody saw coming. The game looks to be a lot of familiar ideas in a nice new package, but avoids stepping on the toes of what a Zelda game should be. Its non-canon status means that anything goes, allowing fan favorites from all over the franchise to appear, regardless of what story they were originally in. At the same time, through all of the little touches and Easter eggs, fans can see a lot of love for the Zelda franchise went into the making of Hyrule Warriors and that can only be a good thing.