Hyrule Warriors: Zelda steps on to the battlefield

October 9, 2014


Do you remember the end of Skyward Sword? When Link had to plow through wave after wave of bokoblins as he made his way to the center of the Sealed Grounds? Wasn’t that an awesome change of pace for the Legend of Zelda series? Well, if you liked that, you will absolutely love Hyrule Warriors, which takes Koei Tecmo’s successful Dynasty Warriors franchise and applies Nintendo’s world of Hyrule and its storied history.

What that means, if you are unfamiliar with the Warriors formula, is crazy amounts of one-HP goons swarming the battlefield while your overpowered character blasts them aside with over-the-top sweeping attacks en route to engaging with enemy commanders and conquering strategic locations. Each specific mission has its own twists and obstacles that will need to be overcome if you want to emerge victorious, but that’s the bulk of the gameplay. You will also have to keep an eye on your allies’ status and make sure that your side’s base doesn’t fall to enemy forces before you can get the job done.


Adding the Zelda universe to the mix makes an already cartoonish premise even more wild, thanks to the effects of magic, non-human (or even Hylian) races, giant monsters and more varied locations. In Legend Mode, you will experience the main story of the game as enemy forces beset Hyrule once again, this time under the control of an evil sorceress named Cia. You start out as Link, a new recruit to the Hyrule castle guard, but quickly encounter captain of the guard Impa and Princess Zelda herself.

Including those three characters, there are over a dozen that can eventually be unlocked, drawn from Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time in addition to one original character, Lana the good sorceress. Just about every character also has multiple weapons that can be unlocked, adding even more variety to the gameplay. Legend Mode restricts you to certain characters in each stage, but Free Mode will let you replay completed Legend Mode missions with any character you have available.

While that is fine, the bulk of your post-Legend Mode content will come from Adventure Mode. This is a series of micro-missions hidden behind a map styled after the overworld from the original Legend of Zelda. The grade you receive from completing the mission determines to which screen(s) you will be able to continue, as well as what rewards you receive. It is worth noting that certain characters and weapons can only be unlocked in this mode; Legend Mode alone will not provide everything the game has to offer.


As with any good Zelda title, however, some secrets are hidden on the map. Some of your rewards will be item cards, like bombs or candles. You can use these one-shot (but easily regained) items on a map space to uncover a secret — assuming you know where to look. Using a compass card can show you exactly where you should use the others, although you still have to use the correct type on the correct obstacle. Long-time Zelda fans with good memories (or, let’s be honest, a handy Internet guide) might not need that assistance, however, as almost all of the secrets are in the exact same locations as they were in the 1987 classic.

Missions in Hyrule Warriors can seem overwhelming at times, especially at higher difficulty levels, but sound strategy (and a little luck) will carry the day more often than not. If you really need a helping hand, however, a friend can join in to turn any mission into a cooperative effort. The best part? No split-screen! One player uses the GamePad, and the other uses either a Remote/Nunchuk (not recommended, due to basic attacks being mapped to motion) or a Wii U Pro Controller. For some reason the game does not support the Classic Controller, so unless that gets patched in, you will want a Pro Controller.

Cooperative play does cause a bit of slowdown and lessened graphical quality now and again, but not as much as you might expect considering how much the game asks the Wii U to process during these massive conflicts. That’s also a small price to pay for the efficiency of being able to handle two tasks at once or even double-teaming a particularly difficult one.


Some of these difficult tasks will undoubtedly include giant monsters like King Dodongo and a few other Zelda bosses. While these fights are as epic as you would expect, here is where the Warriors combat system kind of lets me down. Like humanoid commanders and small monsters, the large monsters will sometimes expose a weak point that you can hammer on. This depletes their Weak Point Gauge, and exhausting that will deliver massive damage as expected with a gratifyingly excessive super attack.

The problem is that, unlike the smaller baddies, the large monsters can only be damaged this way. Everything else you do just bounces off their hides. While this is somewhat true to the spirit of the Zelda “puzzle boss”, it is incredibly frustrating when they never randomly expose their weak point to begin the process. There doesn’t seem to be any way to bait them into a pattern that would promote this either. You just have to avoid their attacks until they decide to give you the split-second window that will let you hurt them back.

Still, the occasional ridiculous fire-breathing wall isn’t enough to completely suck all the fun out of smashing through enemy armies. The mission-based nature of Hyrule Warriors makes it ideal for quick sessions, although in my experience those quick sessions can quickly become stretches of multiple hours before you realize it. Completing Legend Mode (on normal difficulty) should take about ten hours or so, but the content hidden behind Adventure Mode and higher difficulties promise much more if you want to pursue it.


I probably won’t push myself to the higher difficulties or even venture into whatever horrors hide behind Challenge Mode, although I did pre-pay for the season pass DLC, so I definitely plan on revisiting Hyrule Warriors after I’ve put it down for newer releases. I especially foresee more cooperative play in my future, as the simple combo system allows just about anyone to pick up any random character and instantly become a badass no matter how much experience they have.

Fans of the Zelda universe should definitely check out Hyrule Warriors, although they need to be aware that there is approximately zero traditional Zelda gameplay here. It is first and foremost a Dynasty Warriors game, and no amount of reskinning will overcome that. Going into this expecting anything else is a recipe for disappointment.

Pros: Smashing through an entire army is immense fun, deep replay options
Cons: Large monster mechanics are frustrating, core gameplay can get repetitive

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.