I think every article I post in this site serves to devalue my opinion in the eyes of certain people on the internet. So after disliking Sephiroth last time, let’s go for a really controversial statement. I really, really like the Dynasty Warriors series and the various derivative settings for the formula. And yes, I have played them all. Every Xtreme Legends, every Empires, the various spin offs… Is everyone gone? Fantastic, no one will read past those last few lines, so I can fill the rest of the article with whatever I want and call it a day.
Curses, they read further down. Right, let’s talk about Hyrule Warriors Legends. Some time ago, Nintendo made a very unexpected announcement that they would be teaming up with Koei to create a Warriors spinoff for one of their biggest franchises. That franchise was Zelda of all things, and when they announced it, I for one was incredibly annoyed. Not at the premise, but because it was going to be a Wii U exclusive and I had absolutely no intention of buying the Wii U.
But recently, Hyrule Warriors Legends was announced, and more surprisingly still, it wasn’t an Xtreme Legends spinoff, but a port of the game to the 3DS. The Legends port comes with pretty much everything included in the original game, with the downloadable characters already available to unlock through gameplay, and a new group of downloadable characters, including Toon Link, Tetra and The King of Hyrule from Wind Waker, Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask, and Linkle, a… fairly interesting compromise between the promotional art that got everyone excited for her inclusion, and the purists moaning about the possibility of a female Link. In a move that is incredibly depressing in how exemplary it is, owners of the original game do not lose out on these characters for exclusivity. All new characters are either available for separate download, or given away in a download code bundled with Legends to be redeemed on the Wii U version. That’s right, a major games publisher is only screwing you over a teensy bit with DLC practices. Isn’t it everything you ever dreamed of? Unfortunately, you won’t be playing it in 3D unless you invested in the new 3DS XL, because this game is so detailed that 3D on the old screens caused massive frame drop.
The premise is of course, as Zelda as a Zelda thing can be. A mysterious new evil which is absolutely not Ganondorf has taken over the land. Princess Zelda gets a vision of apocalyptic evil sweeping over the land, and determines that the Legendary Hero will need to rise up and defend the land of Hyrule. But where could they find such a hero? Surely it’s not the blonde-haired elf kid kicking ass with a sword in the courtyard. At that moment, an evil army marches on Hyrule Castle, so obviously the first thing Zelda does is get a sword… and go out and lead the army herself into battle. Regular Zelda players, I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw up from the floor there, because yes, everyone is a badass in this game, Zelda twice over because she is two separate playable characters, both as herself and as Sheik. Spoilers, I guess, for yet another decades old game.
The plot actually revolves around Cia, who is the local pre-Ganondorf villain de jour, and if you think I’m spoiling that Ganondorf is going to make an appearance later and become the main villain, then I don’t even know why you picked this as your first Zelda experience. Cia has decided that that treacherous cow Zelda has made eyes at Link for the last time and has decided that’s reasonable enough motivation to conquer the world. Understandable, really, because have you seen Link? That’s a bit oversimplifying her motivations and everything, but it’s how she comes across. She, and her miniboss squadron, are the main enemies for the first part of the game, and they do generally try their damnedest not to fall victim to standard Zelda tropes. In order to facilitate the game’s crossover, Cia opens portals to the various different timelines in order to bring together the different characters from different games. The pleasant surprise for this section was that Fi from Skyward Sword is both useful and far more tolerable when she’s not in Microsoft Office Assistant mode.
But as Zelda law states, Ganondorf must eventually become the villain of the game, and he does so in a playable fashion. Yes, you control Ganondorf and undo everything you achieved in the first half of the game, then you take control of the good guys again and conquer everything back. This provides a unique insight into the daily life of the Demon King, and that glimpse reveals that he spends his day kicking the living shit out of thousands of enemies in his road. Forget the CD-i Ganon who dies in a single hit; taking this one down is a legitimate struggle, and he makes the villain campaign intensely playable. Both other villains, Ghirahim and Zant, get a little fleshing out with proper interactions with Ganondorf. It’s interesting no matter which of the games you’re a particular fan of.
I haven’t even started talking about the music yet. For example, the first mission of the game starts out doom and gloom. You’re up against this guy who can turn into a dragon. You’re some schmuck with a sword. In the cosmic order of life, you’re at best a maroon shirt at this point. Then he tries to set you on fire where you stand, a step up from most villains who are still at the campy playing about with you stage – see Ghirahim from Skyward Sword. Then the Triforce of Courage kicks in, and THIS theme starts up, and it’s at that moment you know that every mook in your path is about to be tasting the sweet flavour of justice in about five seconds. Dragon guy knows it too; he retreats the minute the theme kicks in, proving him beyond a doubt the smartest Zelda villain who ever existed.
Linkle has a similar theme that plays whenever she does something sufficiently badass which is often. The boss of her first stage is Skull Kid. And naturally, like the destined hero Link, Linkle is going to need to recruit four Giants and go on an epic journey to gather enough power to fight this guy with Majora’s power, right? Hahaha, no, Linkle sticks THIS on and decides that this crossbow thing she has should be used to shoot him in the face, after setting a horde of Cuccos on him. You’ll find a bunch of epic remixes of Zelda music here, and used in surprising ways. Ocarina of Time’s House theme is turned into a surprisingly orchestrated theme for the menus. Speaking of Ocarina, all of the temple themes make appearances – Sheik plays them during her special attacks. Saria’s song appears during Darunia’s victory celebration.
In short, Hyrule Warriors has a lot of twists on the general Zelda formula. Even if you’re not a fan of the Warriors franchise, it’s definitely worth picking up for the sheer amount of nods to the Zelda franchise this game. And yes, every meme gets referenced at least once.