It's weird sometimes, the type of parallels you might find within two seemingly opposing games; and I'm not just talking about the sheer insanity of this collaboration, either. Occasionally you'll find similarities in gameplay between two games that at first glance may seem nothing alike. For whatever reason, whenever I kept playing Hyrule Warriors - my mind kept likening it to Monster Hunter. On some levels, I can understand how that thought got there - as the very first boss looks as if he would fit right in with the likes of Capcom's bestiary - but the overall gameplay between the Dynasty Warriors series, and the Monster Hunter series, seemed at first like night and day. Except... the more that I thought about it, the more the similarities started to make some sense.
It was around that time that I realized that I really was enjoying Hyrule Warriors.
I must admit - when I first started to review this game, I had never truly touched upon any Dynasty Warriors game before. I had known a bit about the series - I knew that the combat was supposedly repetitive, and that the core gameplay revolved around managing a battlefield by killing literally thousands of the enemies units on your own - but beyond that, and my own experiences at playing the Hyrule Warriors demo at SDCC this year, I really didn't quite know what to expect. In some ways, I suppose that was for the best. Regardless, in preparation for this review I borrowed a copy of Dynasty Warriors 8 from a friend, so I could find something to measure it against, in its own series.
My conclusion was that Hyrule Warriors shouldn't be judged just by its name, or by the two series that it has sprung from - but rather the merits that it may have on its own.
...Having just said that, the overall gameplay is nearly identical to Dynasty Warriors; with only a few tweaks. You play as an overpowered Musou character and get to work carving the battlefield up to your liking; most of the time your objective is to capture as many Keeps as possible. You battle using the Y and X buttons; with B used to dodge, and R used to guard. You have a "Spirit" meter that allows you to unleash a super-powered mode upon filling it, and you have a Special Attack gauge that when filled up you can use to launch an ultra-powerful, usually screen-clearing, attack by pressing the A button. All combos are accomplished by mashing Y and X exclusively. Yes, on first glance the gameplay is practically the same - however it is these small tweaks that Koei has introduced, that really allows this game to shine.
[caption id="attachment_15249" align="alignleft" width="300"] Each character in the game has a completely unique moveset - and mastering each of them really does take most of the repetitiveness out of the combat.[/caption]
This time around, the roster is rather limited - but each character is wholly unique, and has their own specific quirks and play-styles. Midna can momentarily boost her power by using her standard strong attack - that would be a single X tap - and crushing one or more units in her giant arm. Sheik can load up a different strong attack, entirely depending on the last combo that was executed - each of her potential strong attacks being completely and mechanically different. As a specific nod to many of the Legend of Zelda games - Link's Master Sword will shoot out sword-beams with each strike if he is at full health, allowing him to more easily clear a horde of enemies. Nearly every character in the game has their quirks, even if some may be more apparent than others.
Likewise, Koei's inclusion of grass into the formula makes it much easier for both your Spirit Gauge and your Special Attack Gauge to be filled at a moments notice... meaning that more of the time you will have a chance to throw out one of your characters stronger attacks, while also reducing the amount of repetitive combos that you'll have to produce. The inclusion of specific boss weaknesses adds yet another layer to the gameplay - though unfortunately this only applies to the few large boss monsters in the game. It's a welcome addition, along with everything else, but it does make the few human enemies seem relatively drab in comparison.
Admittedly the similarities to Monster Hunter are rather subtle - but especially in missions where I had to worry about the giant monsters on the field more-so than the Keeps, I found it hard to explain the game as anything but "Monster Hunter with RTS elements"... Though I suppose that the countless items that you have to pick up from enemies to upgrade your character, and the "repetitive" combat helped shape my comparisons as well.
[caption id="attachment_15250" align="alignright" width="300"] Compared to the rest of the game, the story really does stick out as the weakpoint of the product - it's enjoyable, but besides some cool moments it never really seemed to specifically stand out as an actual narrative.[/caption]
With all that said about the gameplay of the title, that doesn't quite mean that there isn't anything to talk about from the other aspects of the game as well! In most areas, the overall art-style for the game is fantastic - and wonderful graphics effects really do punctuate the action quite nicely. I keep thinking back to the battle on Death Mountain - with the boulders coming down from the slopes in the sunset, the dynamic lighting leaving me especially impressed. The character models and the texture resolution for the title are by far some of the best that I have seen on the Wii U, and really gives me hope for the system in the future. Coupled with some fantastic audio design, the game really does make good use of the Zelda name - borrowing many iconic tunes, areas, and enemy types that really do tie the whole experience together artistically. Performance can dip during some sections of gameplay, especially the later levels, but unless you're playing co-op with a friend it's barely noticeable most of the time. Even then - the ability to play EVERY portion of the game minus the initial story mission is a wonderful feature, that really deepens the whole experience.
Which, let me punctuate that last sentence - I do mean EVERY portion of the game, from the story mode, to the challenge mode, to the adventure mode. At any given time, another player can pop in and play the game with you locally.
Adventure mode in and of itself would probably be worth the price of admission for the game, especially. It has plenty of content, traversing dozens of different scenarios of gradually increasing difficulty - with many different optional rewards that are not only exclusive to certain characters, but also allotted out depending on your overall performance in a scenario. With various different characters able to be unlocked via this mode alone, and the myriad of unique challenges present in this part of the game - it represents a significant portion of content that will literally take dozens of hours for you to really get your feet wet in. Along with this large amount of unlockables, there are also some items that you can only obtain after clearing through the story, and then play through it again on at least hard mode or higher.
Although the story mode isn't particularly long - one playthrough should take you around 10 hours, and an additional playthrough on a harder mode should take more or less the same time - if you start counting all the trial in error to try and actually gain the skultullas in each scenario without letting your base or allies fall, the actual amount of time spent on these extra objectives may be enormous. Between all of the different modes that the game has to offer - you may be seeing at least 100 hours of content here, if you start to get engrossed.
The game definitely still has it's issues - the story, while enjoyable, is also a bit bland; and the gameplay is still Dynasty Warriors - but for the most part, Koei has succeeded in a collaboration that does both of the series in question, right. For Zelda fans that haven't given the Dynasty Warriors series a chance, I fully recommend that you give this game a shot.
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Hyrule Warriors succeeds in polishing the Dynasty Warriors formula while also making a game that truly stands out as its own product.