Publisher Nintendo Developer Omega Force, Team Ninja, Nintendo SPD Format Wii U Release
Of all the results of Nintendo’s new relaxed approach to licensing – the Mario character Happy Meal toys, the Mario Kart 8 Mercedes DLC, the Google Maps Pokémon ARG – Hyrule Warriors remains the weirdest to date. It’s certainly the hardest to understand: why would Nintendo let some of its most precious and well-known characters star in a series that has birthed nearly 30 games in the past five years alone?
It’s a question to which there are several answers. It helps fill a slot in the release schedule while Eiji Aonuma and co work on the open-world Legend Of Zelda that numbered among the most eyecatching announcements of E3 2014. It is made by a reliable external development team in a short, and inexpensive, period of time. Above all, it’s because Musou games – as the series that encompasses Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors is known in its homeland of Japan – are just plain good fun.
This is a Musou game first and a Zelda game second, which means that many of the latter’s conventions have been cast aside. This is no tale of the young boy made into a hero by mystic fate and a lengthy quest: Link, or whichever of the other playable characters you choose, is a powerful warrior from the get-go. It’s something that’s made enormously clear when your first combo propels a dozen enemies onto their backsides.
Combat is uncomplicated, stress-free and spectacular, with screens full of enemies waiting to be caught up in lengthy two- button combos or standing idly by as you head off towards a distant objective. Levels are plucked from throughout the Zelda universe – our demo takes place in the lush green grounds of Hyrule Castle, for instance – and are sprawling affairs. A screen-corner minimap proves invaluable in guiding you towards the next friendly guard in need of a helping blade, bomb or light arrow.
Hyrule Warriors is a love letter to the Zelda games that recasts its characters as impossibly powerful superheroes. Many of Link’s mechanical trappings have been left with Aonuma and team, but when they do appear they’re as fantastical as the rest of the game. Link doesn’t throw one bomb, but a flurry of them, each as large as he is. A powered-up version covered in glowing symbols almost fills the screen.
It’s not afraid to play to convention – a Dodongo boss is, naturally, dispatched with a shower of bombs to the gullet – but it’s what Hyrule Warriors does differently that delights, and it’s in its cast that the game most radically diverts from Nintendo’s well-trodden path. Link sits front and centre in the boxart, of course, but seeing Impa, Midna and Zelda lead the roster of playable characters announced so far is welcome, especially in the context of this E3. There were few more refreshing sights on the show floor than Zelda, one of gaming’s longest-serving damsels in distress, knocking two dozen enemies into the sky with her glowing rapier blade.
There’s no word on how many characters will feature, but Dynasty
Warriors 8’ s 80-plus fighters seems unlikely