I’m sure that when I say that I haven’t played a Dynasty Warriors game since I was a kid there’s going to be many of you who relate. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the games when they were released, and god only knows there are still people out there buying the games (otherwise they wouldn’t continue to be made), it’s just that the formula is stale and the gameplay repetitive. Suffice to say that after 15-odd years, I finally felt in the mood for a hack-and-slash-defeat-thousands-of-enemies title, and what better game to play than Nintendo’s Hyrule Warriors for the 3DS.
Why the 3DS version? I hear you ask when the HD version is so much prettier on Wii U:
I wanted to play this game wherever I was, including but not limited to when I was on my lunch at work, or out and about travelling to site installs during my day job. I also feel that in getting the game for 3DS, I justified my purchase in the NEW 3DS XL even more (as reports suggest the fidelity of the non-new 3DS’ is atrocious and barely playable).
Speaking of presentation, you can definitely tell the game’s been scaled back massively, both in terms of gameplay (how many enemies on screen at any one time) and graphical fidelity. In order to make the game playable at all on portable consoles the graphics has been scaled back to a presentation that reminds me of the N64. Yes, the polygonal enemies and low resolution textures are seriously that limited. Due to the lack of processing power, this has also affected the gameplay, as the limited amount of units that can be rendered on-screen at any one time is hugely limited.
Whilst I haven’t played the original Wii U version to compare the difference, the game certainly feels lacking when it comes to combat due to the consoles restraints. There would be many times where my mini-map would be fairly red from the amount of enemies surrounding me, yet on screen there were barely 50. Activating a special ability would only kill at maximum 44 enemies, with more suddenly appearing on screen the second their comrades are defeated (in the very same place you just annihilated I might add!). It detracted from the enjoyability of the game at times; here you are, a seemingly powerful Hyrulian who is able to defeat Gods, yet not able to kill everything on screen because said enemies haven’t even appeared.
Regardless of the nuisances the lack of processing power brings with it, the rest of Hyrule Warriors Legends holds up extremely well. The story brings together multiple familiar faces from across all the Zelda franchise, tying them together through a witch who is able to observe and manipulate all of time. In loving Link too much, and knowing she will never get close to him (since he is destined for Zelda) Cia (the main protagonist) succumbs to Gannondorf’s evil, starting the end of the world, and with it, the merging of different timelines and characters.
This fantastic way of both bringing in new characters into the fray, whilst also narratively keeping the world consistent helps to keep Hyrule Warriors campaign hugely engaging, even when you constantly have to change characters and play as someone new. In fact, in making you constantly switch up and play as new characters, Hyrule Warriors pushes you to learn more attacks, and more information about each of the characters, ensuring you get as much from the game and it’s hugely expanded lore as possible. Whilst the campaign ends in a relatively predictable manner, the story as a whole was enjoyable, and explored both new and old characters in ways I wouldn’t have thought before.
As per all hack and slash games, Hyrule Warriors requires little strategy, but a lot of repetitive enemy slaying. Things constantly change of the battlefield, with new enemies appearing at a drop of the hat, and in doing so, partially changing the tide of the battle, but overall the whole game makes you feel “reactionary” rather than a strategist who plans out who to attack and when. You may have an idea of what you want to do throughout a playthrough, but until boss drop happen or new objectives are thrown at you, you cannot possibly hope to properly plan out a level.
Not that the hacking and slashing is a bad thing, not by any stretch of the imagination, you just best know what you’re getting into before delving into Hyrule Warriors 10-12 hour campaign. Most enemies are easy to kill and so generic you can go about ignoring them; they aren’t going to have any effect on the tide of the battle, and if anything, they’re merely cannon fodder for you to build up your special attacks. It’s once you get used to the mechanics of how the stages play out that you realise that you can indeed ignore most of these enemies and concentrate on the true challenge of the game: the mini-bosses and enemy captains.
You see, these enemies change things up on the battlefield, and actually require skill rather than button mashing to conquer. They’ll ignore some of your attacks, and will proceed to leave themselves with openings should you evade their attacks for long enough. I especially found the final few bosses nice to take on, as in doing so you feel a real sense on accomplishment when an boss is downed.
Outside of the main game you also have a weirdly addictive meta game of upgrading allies skills using rupees and materials picked up in levels, and also managing and creating weapons. All of this adds an extra layer of complexity to an otherwise simplistic game that kept me coming back to levels time and time again just to ensure I unlocked more. It’s weird, but hey, if it kept me hooked, it’s sure to make many fans happy.
Am I glad I came back to a genre I had all but forgotten about? Yes. The simplistic rhythm of bashing out combos and barely thinking, only reacting, on a battlefield was enjoyable and weirdly relaxing, so much so that I was able to watch videos or listen to music in the background whilst still enjoying my time. Hyrule Warriors Legends isn’t a taxing affair, but is certainly enjoyable to take out and about should you own a 3DS. Weirdly enough, on completing the game I’m kind of eager to buy the Wii U version, just to compare the differences and maybe get a better playtime. Regardless, I think Hyrule Warriors Legends is a good buy, and a good match for 3DS – should you own the NEW 3DS and are looking for software to play on it, look no further.