Hyrule Warriors Review | 70% Musou, 30% Zelda, 100% Fun

Hyrule Warriors is definitely a Warriors game, but it does something that rarely happens in gaming today: A crossover that’s more than just a skin. It may be the familiar Musou combat you were expecting, but Zelda elements permeate everything to some degree. The combo is like a peanut butter and honey sandwich. It’s not the traditional snack we all know, but it’s still very satisfying.

The Musou genre’s usual complaint is still there: Hyrule Warriors is very repetitive, and you need to grind to get it all. The added Zelda mechanics do make battles more involved, and bosses play similarly to their classic counterparts. Outside of a few encounters though, there’s nothing stopping you from mashing one button to victory, if you absolutely must lame it out that is.

At least the main characters look nice. The queen should look her best after all.
At least the main characters look nice. The queen should look her best while kicking ass after all.

My only other complaint are the graphics and visuals. The main characters look great, but textures and generic enemies are plain ugly. There’s also slowdown, a common complaint I heard from my European friends, that has been completely overblown. It’s not the horrendous mess some would have you believe, and it’s only to be expected from anyone with a modicum of experience with Koei Tecmos Warriors series. If you were expecting some groundbreaking graphics or optimization, you won’t be finding it in Hyrule Warriors.

That’s pretty much it for the complaints. The rest of Hyrule Warriors is the Zelda love letter people were expecting. Characters from the far corners of the Zelda universe come together for an over-the-top, mindless hack n’ slash adventure. Cameos, familiar areas, classic mechanics, and deadly cuccos are abound as players make their way through a somewhat campy, B-movie story that’s at least fairly refreshing.

One of the absolute best features of Hyrule Warriors is the music. The awesome remixes of your favorite songs will have you pumped up and ready to lay waste to the enemies of Hyrule. I particularly like the remixed Skyloft theme, but there isn’t a single bad track in the game. Additionally, you can now select what background music you want to play instead of the stage’s standard fare. The rest of the audio is pretty generic, unless you like hearing young Japanese girls moan and giggle a lot. You creep.

Zelda fans finally get to control iconic characters from across the series.
Zelda fans finally get to control iconic characters from across the series.

For many of the characters, this is the first time players get to control them, and it’s pretty damn fun. There are also multiple weapons that players can equip, and each brings a unique move set and attribute to the table. While you can get by with button mashing, I just don’t see why you’d want to when there are so many combos that all have various traits and areas of effect. Proper use of combos makes things a bit more manageable when things get hectic, and they often will on higher difficulties. Mastery of a weapon’s full abilities will prevent you from having to scurry around the battlefield looking for spare hearts.

Fortunately, battles often require some semblance of strategy on top of the mindless mashing of buttons many will resort to, as you need to adapt to changing battlefield conditions. Some battles will have gimmicks, be it hunting down spies in your ranks or striking at enemies that remotely pilot bomb-chus before they can destroy your base. Some battles just have unfavorable conditions, like fighting two bosses at once while being surrounded by Redead Knights. All of them require you outmaneuver the enemy, because while you may be a fairly sturdy badass of legend, your troops holding down the forts are not.

Hyrule Warriors currently has four game modes, with additions coming down the road. Legend Mode is the story scenario, where you’ll take the role of multiple characters across the different areas of Hyrule. Free Mode is basically the exact same, except it allows you to replay any scenario with any character you’ve unlocked. Then there is Adventure and Challenge Modes, which are nice beefy additions to the game.

Adventure Mode is pretty big, and it's a charming reference to the 8-bit classic.
Adventure Mode is pretty big, and it’s a charming reference to the 8-bit classic.

Adventure Mode is the 8-bit Zelda map, where you clear areas and search for treasures. You do this by choosing which section you want on the 8-bit map, then entering the Hyrule Warriors 3D battle to complete a given task. If successful you obtain a reward, with a bonus given for those that attain A rank. When you obtain an item card and use it properly on the 8-bit map to search (for example: use the candle card on the glowing bush) you can find hidden secrets. It’s a lovely throwback that will keep you busy for some time if you want to complete it.

Challenge Mode came with a day one patch that fixed a few other issues as well. It takes place on endless levels that players can continue endlessly to see how many challenges they can overcome. There’s no fail state, so the battle goes on for as long as you want with some pretty crazy challenges thrown your way. Some may like it more than others, but it’s a nice addition regardless.

DLC may be a hotbutton topic, but I think we can all agree three free characters is pretty sweet.
DLC may be a hot button topic, but I think we can all agree three free characters is pretty sweet.

Koei Tecmo has shown considerable support for Hyrule Warriors, and looks to keep adding to it going forward. I know DLC is a divisive topic for many, but Koei Tecmo is following Nintendo’s stellar example of how to do additional content right. None of the new content is essential to the core experience, it’s all reasonably priced, and a good bit of stuff is free, like challenge Mode and the upcoming free characters. The fact that Hyrule Warriors will continue to see additions, free and paid, is a good thing in my eyes. It adds more reasons to play a title I purchased and thoroughly enjoyed.

Hyrule Warriors is a great game. As long as you don’t come to the party expecting a similar experience to a mainline Zelda title, and are open to the changes made, you shouldn’t have any problems finding some enjoyment in the game. Your enjoyment will also scale with two things. Do you default to the easy way out, and how well can you handle grinds? You can mash your way to fairly easy victory on Normal difficulty if you don’t care how you win. If you do care about a good performance, play on Hard, master your few combo strings,
and are selective in your opponents, then the game will be a bit less repetitive and a lot more fun. That’s the thing with Hyrule Warriors, it’s as fun as you make it.

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