Hyrule Warriors on Wii U gave the Warriors series the shot in the arm that it desperately needed. Although the main series had begun to feel a little samey, somehow, taking the series’ slap happy core gameplay and mixing it with The Legend of Zelda’s characters, lore and a dash of gameplay, has resulted in the best entry in the series for a long time.
Hyrule Warriors Legends brings the console game to the 3DS, but how does it compare to its console brethren?
For those of you that missed it, Hyrule Warriors is as a sort of Greatest Hits compilation. Encompassing characters and themes from pretty much every major console entry in the series, having Link and company face off against some of the series’ most iconic bosses while taking in some of its most memorable settings. The narrative was also suitably Zelda-esque as new character, Cia, attempts to resurrect Ganondorf by opening rifts in time and the Zelda multiverse (remember Zelda has one time line that splits in three), dragging all manner of nastiness through and threatening to unmake the whole of existence. So it’s up to Link, Zelda (who is playable for the first time ever – no those CD-i games don’t count!), Impa, and plenty of others seek to seal up the rifts and repair the time space continuum.
As you’d expect, Hyrule Warriors‘ gameplay is much more akin to Dynasty Warriors than Zelda with a large roster of playable characters facing hordes of enemies and batting them away with an array of flashy combos and over the top specials. Impressively, all of the moves and combos from the Wii U original remain intact and combat feels just as fluid, impactful, and, ultimately, satisfying as the console version.
If you’ve ever played a Warriors game in the past, you’ll know the drill, and the set up remains the same throughout the course of the game. Your character is dumped on a battlefield with objectives evolving and changing as the tide of the battle changes, though most of your time will be spent converting enemy bases and outposts to your cause by plowing your way through hordes of enemies and eventually the base commander before moving onto the next as you turn the map from red to blue.
Your ability to quickly and effectively conquer the battlefield has been greatly improved in Hyrule Warriors Legends. Now, rather than just picking a single character and being stuck with them throughout the course of the battle, in Legends you can switch to other generals in different parts of the battlefield on the fly with a simple tap on the touch screen. This shows you the current state of the world map as well as the status of each playable character on the map. This is a substantial improvement and one I wish they would attempt to patch into the original as it streamlines the action and improves the flow of the game immensely. No longer do you have to stop what you’re doing and make a mad dash to the other side of the map to protect a base or assist an ally in trouble. Instead, you can simply switch to another character close to the objective or, alternatively, order them to investigate the area, protect someone, kill a mob boss with a couple quick taps on the touch screen, or alternatively, you can teleport to Owl statues placed around the map by using your trusty Ocarina.
One of the best things about Hyrule Warriors was the wealth of locations and characters available to play in the missions; not only does Legends include all the characters and missions available in the original, but it also adds several new characters to the mix. These include: Toon Link, Tetra, and the King of Red Lions from Wind Waker, as well as Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask. However, the most interesting new character, and my personal favorite, is Linkle; believing herself to be the latest incarnation of the hero of legend, e.g. Link (who she bears a striking resemblance to), our young heroine picks up her twin crossbows and sets out on her own quest to save Hyrule. During play, she’s a fast and nippy character that offloads volleys of arrows into any enemy foolish enough to get in range in a manner that reminded me a little of the gun kata (fighting) in Equilibrium. Her whole arc is all brand new and she has her own mini campaign which we’re told will remain exclusive to Legends.
In a nice bonus to returning players, all of Legends‘ additional content (aside from Linkle) can be transferred over to the Wii U with a code that comes in the box (or found on the receipt if you bought it on the eshop).
Hyrule Warriors was a pretty substantial game to begin with and with a ton of additional content on top and several levels remixed from the original version, Hyrule Warriors Legends will keep you busy for a very long time. There are hidden treasures and weapons to find along with Gold Skulltulas hidden on the map which unlock even more content.
The main campaign by itself is a substantial experience. Remarkably, they’ve managed to pack in almost all of the modes from the original, with only challenge mode and multiplayer getting the chop (I always preferred playing Hyrule Legends solo anyway). If you want a break from the main campaign, you can always play around with Free Mode, which allows you to replay any mission with any unlocked character you have or try your hand at Adventure Mode, which has you working through a series of battles in order to traverse the map from the original legend of Zelda in order to unlock new characters and weapons for use in the other modes.
The original Hyrule Warriors was a game that you could easily lose several weeks of your life to and, with even more content, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the same happened with Hyrule Warriors Legends.
So far, it would appear that Hyrule Warriors Legends is a game that I would highly recommend, and I do, so long as you intend to play it on a New 3DS because, for the first time since its launch, the new handheld’s power has actually made a noticeable difference to the performance of a game. On the New 3DS, the game runs along at relatively stable 30 frames a second. With so much happening on screen at once and considering the developers have basically managed to squeeze a full-fledged console title onto what is still (compared to the Vita at least) a relatively modest handheld, it’s no small feat to say the least. On the New 3DS it runs well. With the 3D turned off it’s smooth as silk, with it turned on all the way up you might notice a tiny bit of slowdown when there’s several dozen enemies on screen at once.
However, when played on an original 3DS, even though you can’t even play the game in 3D, Hyrule Warriors Legends chugs along with a highly variable frame rate that can completely cock up the combat. This can make battling through waves of enemies feel like an absolute slog, to the point where I wonder why they didn’t just simply release it as an “only for New 3DS” game like Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.
Put simply, if you want the best experience possible, play it on new 3DS, and if you were thinking of upgrading, now might be the perfect time, because I have a feeling Legends won’t be the last game with substantial gains by playing on the revised hardware.
Although the game’s functions are pretty much the same, graphically, the game looks a lot more cartoony thanks to it running on the same engine as Smash Bros. for the 3DS, which is why the likes of Toon Link and Tetra fit in so well. Though it no longer has the high poly models of the Wii U version, it still looks lovely and adds its own unique charm to the port, although the backgrounds do feel a little low-rent compared to the original game, being comprised of much lower resolution textures. It’s a small price to pay for such a competent port.
The audio is also superb and of the highest quality, comprising what pretty much amounts to a direct rip from the Wii U version. All of the songs, sound effects, and most of the speech from the narrative remain intact, and most of the cutscenes from the original are also included, though some of them have been trimmed down slightly; on the plus side, they are all now presented in 3D.
With more levels, more maps, new characters, and new weapons, and much more refined gameplay, I would be almost tempted to say that Hyrule Warriors Legends is in fact the “definitive” version of the game. Its pick up and play nature is perfect for handhelds and the new ability to save at any point during a battle just makes it work even better.
The only question left to answer is whether Hyrule Warriors Legends is worth the double dip. The new content is a lot of fun, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily worth putting down another £30 for, even if most of it can be transferred over to the Wii U, especially considering that all of the DLC is coming to Nintendo’s home console version anyway.
As someone who played the game on the Wii U when it was originally released and has been sinking considerable hours into it ever since, I found myself being just as taken with Hyrule Warriors Legends, maybe even more so due to the fact I could sit on the train to work and plug away at it in my spare moments by simply opening up my New 3Ds and jumping right in.
That being said, at its core, for good or ill (I lean towards good), it’s essentially the same game we played back in 2014, and the tweaks, changes, and additions to the game probably won’t be enough to sway those that didn’t like the original.
On the whole though, I’d say Hyrule Warriors Legends was impressive to say the least as it effortlessly accomplishes something a lot of games have attempted over the years and failed miserably: take a console game and make a handheld port that is in many ways better than the original. Graphics (and the unfortunate case of the original 3DS performance) aside, Legends manages to breathe new life into Hyrule Warriors, creating a game that is brilliant in its own right and one of the finest games on the (New) 3DS.
Hyrule Warriors Legends was reviewed on New 3DS XL with a copy provided by the publisher
Publisher: Nintendo| Developer: Omega Force/ Team Ninja | Genre: Action Adventure | Platform: 3Ds | PEGI/ESRB: 12+/T | Release Date: March 25, 2016