Hyrule War­riors

A link between worlds

EDGE - - GAMES -

Wii U

Poor Link. As if be­ing bound to save Hyrule cycli­cally across the gen­er­a­tions wasn’t enough, now he has to con­tend with a stalker. Per­haps it’s those snazzy tu­nics. Be­ing the Hero Of Time, how­ever, he has it a teeny bit worse than be­ing hounded by a high-school ex on Face­book – Cia, a cor­rupted sorcer­ess and erst­while guardian against evil, has be­come fix­ated on his very soul. She’s also hell bent on rend­ing time and space apart to re­store an an­cient evil to glory. And it’s only Link’s first day on the job.

If that sounds over­dra­matic, then it per­fectly en­cap­su­lates the spirit of Hyrule War­riors, which re­casts Zelda in the mould of Ja­panese mono­lith Dy­nasty War­riors, a se­ries famed for its glo­ri­ous ex­cess. Th­ese are games that put hun­dreds on the field of bat­tle, where hordes fall with each slash of your mighty blade, and where courage is ex­tolled but rarely required, since you’re so lu­di­crously pow­er­ful.

Even prob­lem­at­i­cally so: some dis­miss War­riors games for re­quir­ing lit­tle more of you than an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for spec­ta­cle and cal­louses enough to with­stand push­ing but­tons at 200bpm. True to form, Hyrule War­riors has you ham­mer­ing out strings of B like you’re de­struct test­ing the GamePad be­fore throw­ing in a tap of Y to, say, scoop 20 Bokoblins into the air for a ris­ing spin at­tack that then slams them into the ver­dant ground of Hyrule Field. And yet to call it a but­ton masher is like say­ing an in­ferno is hot: sure, but it doesn’t quite cap­ture the whole. Hylian lore al­ready dab­bles in the in­fla­tion of mythic pro­por­tion that War­riors games spe­cialise in – Link has always been a one-man army, just a more pa­tient one – yet it’s sur­pris­ing quite how much else se­ries helmer Omega Force has cho­sen to plun­der from Nin­tendo’s trea­sure chest, and quite how much it en­riches the War­riors tem­plate. L-tar­get­ing pulls fo­cus from the crowds to en­emy gen­er­als and bosses, al­low­ing for sin­gle com­bat to punc­tu­ate the glee­ful tur­moil, while cir­cling and ath­letic dodg­ing taps into decades-old mus­cle mem­ory and cre­ates new open­ings for yet more the­atri­cal fin­ish­ers. Weak points are an en­dur­ing Zelda crutch, but they’re trans­for­ma­tive here, a gauge ap­pear­ing over en­emy hero units at vul­ner­a­ble points in their at­tack cy­cles and deal­ing out huge dam­age if emp­tied. It’s a whole new rea­son to save up your spe­cial bar (née Mu­sou) at­tacks, with ju­di­cious tim­ing enough to put a se­ri­ous dent in not only a trou­ble­some Darknut or Lizal­fos, but all those about them.

And who knew that Zelda bosses would work so well when freed from claus­tro­pho­bic dun­geon cham­bers? Early on, we fight Gohma across Faron Woods, this ver­sion hold­ing two or­nate shields be­fore its gi­ant eye, scat­ter­ing waves of friendly forces with sweeps of its dis­gust­ing limbs. Wear­ing down its health bar via mash­ing is pos­si­ble, but it takes so long as to mean cer­tain de­feat for your troops. The so­lu­tion is clas­sic Zelda: whip out the bow from your items menu and stick an ar­row in Gohma’s eye at the op­por­tune mo­ment to ex­pose its Weak Point Gauge for pun­ish­ment. Bomb, boomerang and bow are all un­locked in the early hours – ev­ery one familiar, ev­ery one a thrill to use in novel cir­cum­stances.

That kind of fan ser­vice is key to Hyrule War­riors’ ap­peal, and its cre­ators know it; Cia’s med­dling in space-time is an ex­cuse to not only bat­tle across a new Hyrule, but those of the past too. Early on, you’ll leave the ever­greens of Hyrule Field and Faron Woods for branch­ing paths that start in Skyloft, Ocarina Of Time’s Death Moun­tain and the Twi­light Fields. There you might fight Midna with the help of bug-ob­sessed ‘princess’ Agitha, then join up with the Twili royal, un­lock­ing her as a playable char­ac­ter. You’ll also fight as Ganon­dorf, Daru­nia, Ruto, and Zelda, each with their own up­grade paths. Hyrule War­riors is a cross­over event like few in videogames, in other words, but it’s also a love let­ter – one with af­fec­tion for not just the trap­pings of a se­ries, but its very soul.

Midna stars in a mis­sion with a three-way bat­tle between her forces, Hylians and Cia’s mon­sters, but Wii U bears up well un­der the sheer num­bers on­screen

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