Link and Zelda Illustration | Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors - Link | oprainfall

When Hyrule Warriors was revealed to the world at the end of last year, there was many a skeptic—so many, in fact, that I addressed them in an editorial piece within a week or two of the announcement. There were plenty of stellar announcements from Nintendo this morning, but I made it a point to play Hyrule Warriors first upon arriving at Nintendo’s booth.

First, my typical exposition when it comes to a hands-on piece. There were a handful of empty “?” character slots on the menu; that’s something I noticed immediately. Also apparent, this game has a “Zelda” level of polish. Example—the loading screen for Hyrule Warriors featured various tutorials, but the bar at the bottom of the screen featured an 8-bit Link going after a Triforce and being ambushed by an enemy. Apparently, the load bar’s 8-bit animations cycle through a few different ones; that’s just a tiny example of the little nuances thrown in to please longtime fans of the series. The menu in the demo allowed players to choose between Link and Zelda. Link had two weapons at his disposal: a one-handed sword and a Fire Rod. Zelda only had a rapier to wield, but…there’s more to Zelda than meets the eye. More on that momentarily.

Now, then, onto what I saw. All the people in front of me played as Link. I was able to see both the Fire Rod and blade in action. Let me assure you, both weapons yielded two different types of destruction. Just watching, I was thoroughly impressed with the pyrotechnics and how much power could be packed into Link’s trusty sword. Link is apparently a trainee; the story involved rescuing Impa, then rescuing a Goron captain, then meeting up with Zelda to deliver the coup de grâce to the stage boss, King Dodongo. Even though their weapons were different, the players’ methods for achieving victory was the same: destroy everything, show no mercy. The action looks just like it did in the action-packed trailers you’ve seen during E3 2014 and well before.

Link Attacks | Hyrule Warriors Zelda Attacks | Hyrule Warriors

But how does it play? Well…it’s more Dynasty Warriors than Zelda, I’ll tell you that right now. I realize that may turn off a fairly large chunk of you, but…please do stick with me. Since this is the first time you’ve ever been able to play as Zelda in a game from that series… That’s the character I went with. The Nintendo rep asked me if I’d played a Dynasty Warriorsgame before. I told him I’d dabbled, and he replied outright by saying this was a lot like that series. The object, instead of defeating a foe (or a small series of foes) with fancy swordplay (or otherwise), was to cause large-scale destruction through a devastating series of combos. He told me the basic button scheme, as well as the basic combos—lots of pressing X, X, X then Y. Finishing with Y would allow me to deliver a stronger blow to wrap up my basic combo.

As I advanced through the Hyrule map, I slowly (re)learned the various bells and whistles associated with Dynasty Warriors. If you spend too much time focusing on the giant mob in front of you, the giant mob behind you will give you trouble. You’ve got to do crazy things like use your magic meter to make yourself faster/stronger or build up the gauge underneath your health to unleash a devastating special attack that obliterates everything around you/in front of you, whatever floats your boat. The controls felt natural; I got used to the combo system quickly. Even folks like me who haven’t done more than dabble in the long-running Warriors franchise will feel at home faster than you’d think. I’ve got to say, Hyrule Warriors feels like Zelda meets Michael Bay. The visuals are a treat-and-a-half, and the destruction is…well…an entire dessert that complements the visual treat.

Are my analogies doing anything for you? No? Maybe a few more screens will.

Link Charging Fire Rod | Hyrule Warriors Link Charging Energy | Hyrule Warriors Zelda Concentrating | Hyrule Warriors Zelda Charging Bow | Hyrule Warriors

Zelda uses the power of light in addition to her rapier. Particularly impressive is the way she finished off the Dodongo king by launching herself into the air, then firing a giant arrow right through him. She uses arrows to devastate foes during key moments, much like the way Link impresses with sword and rod. I’m sure each and every character within the Hyrule Warriors universe will offer many diverse ways to…obliterate and destroy.

That’s the point I’m trying to drive home. At its heart, Hyrule Warriors is indeed a Dynasty Warriors game that looks, feels, and has the charm and polish of a Zelda game. If that loses the ones I tried to sway when the game was first announced, I suppose that’s fine. But a great number of you are excited for Hyrule Warriors. If you are, everything I played says, “You should be.” The game will be released for Nintendo Wii U September 26th, 2014.

Jonathan Higgins
[Former Staff] Jonathan parted ways with Operation Rainfall on June 15th, 2014. You can follow him on Twitter @radicaldefect.