|Never has a scarf caused so much strife. Not until Sonic Boom.|
I can't really say I'm a fan of the Warriors franchise- I've played some of the games and I think it's a very unique franchise in the action genre, but it has several flaws that are a bit obvious and/or downright bizarre. However, when you mix the gameplay style with a franchise or concept I love, you have me hooked. And Zelda, well, that's a bit of a weak point for me.
So I needed, nay, I craved my some Hyrule Warriors, and the resulting experience has been a delightfully strange one.
-Hyrule Warriors is indeed a love letter to Zelda, in the way it draws upon characters from across the mythos, and even in small details like boss fights and exploring the battlefield.
-There's a massive amount of content in the game, from a story mode to challenges and a neat adventure mode with tons of goodies to unlock.
-Ultimately, Hyrule Warriors, and the Warriors franchise in general, amounts to killing thousands of enemies ad nauseum, so if you can't get behind that concept, you'll get bored fast.
-Lots of DLC hides some of the better weapons and more difficult challenges.
Let's face it- if you like Warriors' titles and you own a Wii U, you should probably already own this game. If you're a fan of Zelda, however, this might be a bit awkward for you. Hyrule Warriors is a fast-paced game with lots of alternating objectives within missions and the game has lots of text to keep track of. However, if there's something comforting in all of this, it's that the game's combat is very similar to Zelda, with a few twists.
Hyrule Warriors doesn't attempt much in the way of innovation- it's a standard Warriors title, through and through. The Legend mode is a nice little side-story that manages to respect most of its characters without disgracing the timeline. Ganondorf is especially amusing to behold in all of his ridiculous splendor, and even the characters you might have expected an eye roll towards turn out quite well- except Agitha, the Bug Princess, who makes absolutely no sense in or out of context and isn't very fun to play as.
The series' inventory-based progression is present, though not utilized very often except in boss fights and when the developers feel like having you switch items. However, concepts like Z-targeting, cutting grass, and more feature throughout the experience, so it really does feel like a Zelda title in a combative sense, though with a little more combo chaining. I mean, they were decent enough to throw in boss battles, as well as an extremely satisfying final boss that I wasn't sure would make the cut or not. But he did. And that's nice. While Legend mode is brief, the Adventure and Challenge modes offer a hefty post-game experience and are by far the better modes, with satisfying homages to the series.
Maybe I'm a bit biased, as even if Hyrule Warriors lacks depth in combat and structure, I still feel it's an exemplary representation of the franchise it emulates. The most investment comes from getting new weapons and equipment for your characters so that they can beat the snot out of their enemies even faster and more efficiently, though the inconvenience of grinding each character to make them viable in Adventure mode is... tedious, at best. But, some call it lengthy, others say that this is the kind of content games should be serving us, so who knows? What I can say is this- the game may be a tough sell for someone interested in Zelda but unaware of the trappings of Dynasty Warriors.
The main problem, of course, is the repetition of it all. Even at its most tense moments, the game is okay with you taking a cautious approach. I found that dodging all over the battlefield like a deranged, homicidal monkey did little to substantially improve my effectiveness and sometimes harmed it. The game commits the sin of the Zelda franchise, which is essentially "wait for them to do something, and then counter with your own something" far too often, and while it's representative of the series that doesn't necessarily make it a good thing. Still, as you progress with your characters and their weapons and upgrades the battles become more easily won and satisfying because of the number of ridiculous combos there are.
I will also say that the specific unlockable weapons and maps hidden behind Amiibo and DLC feel a bit cheap, though this is a Warriors game so it really wouldn't be complete without it. The weapons that are purchasable definitely feel much more chunky and satisfying than some others, though there's only a few. And we're still halfway through the woods in regards to the DLC, so I can't comment much on the whole thing until I've picked it all up. Even so, the normal challenge and adventure mode feel substantial enough to warrant a full release on their own, it just feels as if the DLC was well-thought out. A bit too well-thought out.
Final Verdict: While it's nothing groundbreaking, Hyrule Warriors mixes the elements of both franchises into an over-the-top, warring edition of Nintendo's adventure characters. With a little bit of added "oompf" in the content thanks to Adventure and Challenge Mode, the game is an overall nice package that one can sink many hours into... should you be able to tolerate the trappings of the Dynasty Warriors gameplay.