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

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