As Link, we have ventured forth into countless dungeons, battled various forms of Ganon to save the Kingdom of Hyrule and its Princess, Zelda. Various tools and weapons have assisted us in these battles: Magnetic Boots, Boomerangs, The Hookshot and more. This has been the basic formula for nearly every Legend of Zelda game created thus far, until now. Developer Koei Tecmo, developers of the Dynasty Warriors franchise have brought us a new type of Legend of Zelda game, one more akin to that of Dynasty Warriors than that of the past Zelda games, for better and for worse.
Hyrule Warriors originally released on the Wii-U back in mid 2014, and it was a fairly impressive looking title. Levels were fun, graphics were decent and the gameplay was pretty solid. While most of the fun has stayed with the title during its conversion to Nintendo’s handheld system, the visuals have taken a huge hit to make this title portable. While the characters themselves look decent, and fairly impressive close up, it is the environments you wage war in that have drastically been downgraded to the point of textures being extremely low resolution, muddy and painful to look at in some instances.
While the title’s visuals are not impressive, the fun gameplay the title had back on the Wii-U is still retained here for the most part. Hyrule Warriors Legends plays very much like previous Dynasty Warrior games, where you’ll run around large battlefields conquering bases and fighting to protect them. As you progress through each zone, attempting to take over sections of the map piece by piece, you’ll have various bosses and other threats that will stop at nothing to retake the captured zone. Sometimes instead of just taking on a boss you will have to stop certain enemy types from reaching checkpoints, or in one of the better designed levels you need to conquer specific bases to stop boulders from attacking your main camp. I wish more levels had this thoughtful design to its mission structure, but sadly most levels do not.
Each Legend of Zelda game has had you play solely as Link, and while that could have been the bare minimum effort here, Koei Tecmo has allowed you to play as a huge variety of Legend of Zelda characters while also introducing new and original ones to the franchise. Joining Link into battle is Zelda, Impa, Sheik, Ruto, Agitha, Midna and more. New characters like Cia and Lana are pretty impressive, with Lana being one of my favorite new additions. There is also the addition of a female Link inspired character named Linkle, which wields dual crossbows and is really fun to play with. You can also play on the flip side of the good and evil coin as Ganon himself is playable, as is Zant, Ghirahim Wizzro and more. I loved the Volga character and felt his fighting style suited the game best out of all the characters in the game, it also helps that he can transform into a dragon.
While during the main hero campaign, you’ll fight characters like Zant and Wizzro multiple times, giving each of these villains less impact than they should have. By the time I defeated Ghirahim a third or fourth time, I just started to not care who I was needing to take down and I would just button mash them to death so that the mission would end. Iconic bosses are a Zelda mainstay and this title just doesn’t treat them as such. Larger bosses like King Dodongo can be fun, but after taking them down multiple times, they too start to wear out their welcome.
If you fall in battle, you can revert to your prior save file, so save often, or you can load a previous checkpoint. There is a villain level later on where you need to stop 3 versions of Lana from reaching three different zones. If your checkpoint is after they have left the room, you are screwed, plain and simple. I redid the level and managed to defeat her while she was still in the room, so again, safe often.
Each zone should take you anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete depending on your skill and understanding of your objective or how to get through certain locked doors or areas blocked by vines. The game does introduce other ways to get past unreachable areas with the hookshot, but they introduce this mechanic just far too late into the game. I felt at times that the levels would be fairly impressive only every now and then and rarely were some single levels that impressive. It seemed like a few levels would get a really nice concept to them and then they would make filler levels to add length to the game.
You can swap to available characters at any time you have them active. I would usually send characters to other areas of the map via the command option, so that I could essentially traverse the map at a faster rate instead of Link or Lana having to book it across the map. Sometimes, however; you’ll need all the characters in one area to build up a magic siphon technique against bosses so that you can preform a special attack via your magic gauge. While swapping to active characters can be enjoyable, I felt that some characters just didn’t play as fun as others, making the roster somewhat unbalanced. Regardless of fighting with a sword or a magic book, each character essentially plays the same and therefore the game doesn’t offer as much variety as it should with a cast of characters so vast.
Each character will find various new weapons and health upgrades as you find them during your adventure, specific chests to certain characters will appear occasionally. You’ll earn a variety of different materials when you defeat enemies and bosses, which you will use to upgrade the stats and abilities of each member of the character roster. By the end of the game I was wasn’t even close to max level on any one of my heroes or villains. Upgrades vary from allowing the use of potions, to how fast your special move will recharge. Some upgrades require certain materials, making replaying levels where those items are known to drop is a must.
There is also a weapon fuse system, but I never really used it. It seemed to allow you to combine weapons to make certain ones more powerful. I’m sure that if I played on a harder difficulty that this mode would be very useful.
I have to say that the worst designed element in this port are the upgrade menu’s. Instead of designing something where the upgrades are easy to look at on the small screen, they opted for a menu that requires you to scroll down on each character sheet to see all the upgrades, and with a huge roster of heroes and villains to upgrade, this becomes incredibly tedious.
There is also an adventure mode that lets you select certain quick missions to complete. You’ll pick a path throughout a large map and then tackle the quests within. Each mission is short and fairly easy to complete. If you haven’t tired of the repetition this game offers, then you’ll really enjoy this mode.
I would say that the biggest problem I have with Hyrule Warriors Legends is the fact that it feels artificially too long of an adventure. Story elements are designed in a way to prolong the length of the game, and missions just don’t offer much variety to keep you from feeling like you are just simply going through the motions. I enjoyed the effort put into making the cast of characters as vast as they are, but felt that only a small handful of them were fun to play with. Hyrule Warriors Legends is a far better experience on the WiiU, but while the game doesn’t retain the same visual polish for its handheld version, it still can be fun, just be prepared for the grind.