Nintendo has a bit of a hit and miss history of pimping out their IPs to other established developers. Starfox got Rare and Namco, Metroid got Team Ninja. Heck, the ill-fated Philips CD-I had it’s own appalling Mario and Link games. So it was understandable the concern people had when it came to Hyrule Warriors.

Zelda Timeline

The official Zelda timeline – one of the first things to be questioned in any new Zelda title

Allay the fears

For Zelda fans, there wasn’t much of a worry that Hyrule Warriors would be bad. As far as many are concerned, Hyrule Warriors was not meant to be canon anyway. After all, unless it fits on the timeline somewhere, how can it be considered part of the timeline? But even that was all okay – since the game is actually well made.

Dynasty of Zelda

I’d never played a Dynasty Warriors game before, and if this is like one of them, I’d happily pick one up. Many may see the game as button bashing until you win. While it’s true that you’re mashing buttons a lot, it’s actually only because of the simplified combo system. Tap X and then tap Y. To do other combo finishers, tap X a few more times before tapping Y.

Of course, the really interesting aspects are the tactics – with the goals and defeat conditions shifting in a variety of ways. One minute you’re battling to take an enemy keep and expand your territory. The next you’re notified a boss has turned up and is attacking a keep you’ve already captured. If the enemy captures your home keep, it’s game over.

Story time

Hyrule Warriors Link Cutscene

Triforce of Courage is back again!

Playing through the main story mode seemed a little short. That said, it did extend a little further than what I was concerned about. You’ll likely fly through the story quite quickly and find yourself wondering “was that it?”. Nope. There’s also an adventure mode where you can battle through stages to unlock new characters and weapons. It’s also this mode that takes a whole new approach to the game – you have a game map, which follows the world from the original Legend of Zelda. Each screen has a new mission; whether that be to defeat all the giant bosses (and when there’s three of them, they can get a little tough), defeat specific enemies, save rescued allies or battle through a level where one hit kills are the name of the game.

RPG systems are go!

Badges

Even the levelling up refers to items in Zelda games!

We have ways of levelling you up! First there’s the bog standard EXP. You get this for defeating enemies. Each time you level up on the field, you regain all your hearts and you get slightly stronger. And don’t worry that you have to tackle a missions with a specific character that’s of a low level – you can easily raise the level of that character in the Dojo using rupees (for which you’ll have a butt-load) up to the highest level in your party. So if you had Link at level 35 and Sheik at level 15, you’ll be able to throw rupees at Sheik to level her all the way up to 35. Saves unneccessary and repetitive grinding!

Then there’s the badges system – for which every character has the same abilities to unlock – things like being able to use bottles multiple times per battle, reducing damage taken from certain elements and being able to do longer combos. These you increase by collecting materials dropped by enemies – with each character requiring different materials to power them up.

And finally, there’s the weapon upgrading system – where you can transfer skills from one weapon to another – which is pretty confusing at the beginning of the game. It took me a while to figure out when this would be useful – when you start getting weapons with greater numbers of slots available.

The fanservice! The fanservice!

Cuccoos

Cuccoos, they can be helpful allies or deadly foes…

Every aspect of this game is fitted with the Zelda theme. In fact, there’s only a handful of characters that are actually original. That includes the bad guys. And you know what? It doesn’t even matter. If you like Zelda’s aesthetic, you’ll love this. It’s a total love letter to the Zelda franchise, and it’s a damn good one at that. As I said earlier it couldn’t be considered canon, but if I had to force it somewhere into the timeline, I would place it either before Skyward Sword or after Twilight Princess. Either way, it’d be on the young-link timeline.

Worth playing?

paulgood This game is definitely for the fans. And it’s multiplayer – while it does slow down a bit, it’s still a really nice touch. Not just having a separate mode, but the ability jump in before a match just works. And the fact that you have the screen to yourself means you can experience the glory of battle without having to share a screen. It’s wholeheartedly got me addicted to it – in a good way. I would definitely recommend it to Wii U owners and to Zelda fans.

The reviewer wrestled his own copy of the game from a Moblin corpse and has never looked back.