We had a bit of a hiccup with our review this morning. It went live, but the site decided to change the date to Nov. 30th, 2009! Some of you still found/read the feature, but here it is again for those that missed. See you all in a few, short hours!
It's going to be really hard for outlets to review Hyrule Warriors and be taken seriously. A lot of the reviews are going to come out and people will think that outlets enjoy the game just because it has ties to the Legend of Zelda series. There's been plenty of talk about the Dynasty Warriors series and North America's general disinterest in it. You'd think that they would lead to distaste for Hyrule Warriors. When reviews come out stating the opposite, we'll hear a lot of the regular fanboy claims and usual arguments.
I happened to be one of those gamers that really didn't enjoy the Dynasty Warriors franchise. I've played a number of entries, but they just didn't tickle my fancy. When I saw that the Zelda franchise was marrying up with Dynasty Warriors, I found the idea interesting, but I didn't really think it would be for me. Of course, I'm willing to give any game a try and I'm also capable of going in with an open mind. That's exactly what I did with Hyrule Warriors...and I'll be damned if I didn't come out a big fan at the end.
Normally you'd think that non-Dynasty Warriors fans need not apply to Hyrule Warriors, but I really suggest that shouldn't be the case. If you're a fan of the Zelda series, there's certainly a lot here to appreciate. Certainly the gameplay is closer to that of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, but let your general interest in Zelda lead you into this odd pairing. Even a slight interest in Hyrule Warriors should be enough to grab this game as a rental. It's that little nugget of intrigue that will help bring you into a very interesting a different experience.
There are two elements of Hyrule Warriors that really blew me away. First off, the game is absolutely chock-full of content. I can't tell you how deep and varied the experience is. There seems to be no shortage of content to check out. You have the main story mode to tackle, but then you pick up all different characters along the way. You can also level all of those characters up and gain them new abilities and actions through various methods. This opens up new paths to exploration and combo creation that becomes nearly addictive in the process.
Character customization and upgrades are a ridiculously juicy meal to bite into. Any good online RPG is full of loot drops and character ability updates, but Hyrule Warriors has taken that idea and applied it to a different genre. Every corner you turn, you'll find all sorts of things to pick up. There are potions to grab, as well as money, hearts, another other goodies to extend your various power meters. You just want to run and collect everything in sight, then tackle every enemy a map holds. Then you finish up a level and return to the status screen, where you can visit a shop and purchase goodies. You can also travel down a skills tree to open up all sorts of character options. It becomes a vicious cycle of unlocking a little bit more power for your character roster, and I mean that in the most addictive and complimentary way possible.
The second element of Hyrule Warriors that really tickled my fancy came from the missions in story mode. Before I jumped into the game, I had my own idea of how things would play out. I'd hop into a story mode mission, run through a bunch of enemies and then beat a boss. Later, rinse and repeat...or so I thought.
Hyrule Warriors really keeps things interesting by making missions multi-layered and jam-packed full of action. You do have one overarching goal to take care of, but all sorts of things happen during that path. For example, one mission had me running through a volcano to reach find an exit, but you'll happen upon various blocked paths along the way. Some have you fighting through enemies to sneak by, while others need to have a path cleared. To do this, you have to take bomb-chus on escort missions. You'll travel with them as they make their way to rock walls, which they'll blow up and create a path to the level's end.
While all this is going on, you'll have various storyline characters chatting with you to let you know what else is happening. There are multiple keeps in a level that are constantly struggling to either hold their ground or take yours. The more keeps you defend or tackle, the easier your mission will be as you progress. Defending keeps you own or taking back ones you lost will help keep enemies from flooding the map and blocking your soldiers' paths as you progress. Not only does this make your adventure that much more action-packed, it also keep things fast paced and enthralling.
Of course, the one thing I have to point out is that yes at its core, you are still playing a Dynasty Warriors game. There are going to be thousands upon thousands of enemies to run through as you play. You'll spend a lot of time fighting off waves of enemies to complete the tasks ahead of you. I thought this would become stale the more I played, but I actually felt the opposite way. Powering up your character and gaining access to new ones really kept things fresh. You have so many ways to dispose of enemies, as well as various characters to play with and power-up. It helps to keep things fresh and give you a variety of ways to dish out some pain.
Also pushing you along the main mode is its story, complete with various cut-scenes that play out like some sort of strange fan-fiction. Seeing all these characters come together and play out on the same field is still a weird sight. It's certainly interesting to see and fun to experience, but the storyline isn't exactly anything top-notch. I don't think anyone was expecting it to be, and it certainly ends up being a bit dark in spots, but overall it's just a bit of fluff to make you smile and tilt your head as you watch the zaniness play out.
Hyrule Warriors isn't the best game I've ever played, but it certainly is an experience that focuses on pure fun. I feel bad for not being more open to the idea when this title was first announced. Having played a lot of the game, I would be disappointed in missing out on it knowing what I know now. Hyrule Warriors truly surprised me with its variety, attention to detail and simple-but-addictive gameplay. I was already a Legend of Zelda fan, and this game has done nothing but cement me more into that camp. Oddly enough, Hyrule Warriors has now pushed me more towards the Dynasty Warriors franchise, sparking interest in myself that I never though I'd have.
If you have preconceived notions about Dynasty Warriors, I really suggest to drop them for some time with Hyrule Warriors. The game really does impress in ways I never expected. It can be a bit rough around the edges and it may not truly evolve the Dynasty Warriors gameplay, but it doesn't really have to. What you get is a fun experience with plenty of content and more than enough reasons to make you smile.