Feature Article

Don't Expect Hyrule Warriors to Fill That Zelda Void

Too much Warriors, not enough Hyrule.

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Dynasty Warriors is the antithesis of so much of what I love about The Legend of Zelda. Exploration and puzzle solving are nowhere to be found in that historical hack-and-slasher, nor is there that unbridled sense of discovery that propels me ever onward. Those elements that draw me to so many of Link's adventures are replaced by destructive combat in which hundreds fall to your spinning blades, empowering you in the ways of slaughter like few other games can replicate. Nuance has been replaced with bludgeoning, and though I don't shun those who are drawn to such exploits, I've stayed clear of the franchise since its inception. Hyrule Warriors exists as an uneasy union between these two franchises. The brief demonstration I played was blandly enjoyable, though doesn't offer much for those who want to wield the master sword again.

Hyrule Warriors is the first entry I've played in the Warriors franchise, but even though I was a novice at the chaotic exploits, I was massacring the scared inhabitants without any hesitation. It was incredibly easy to lay waste to all who stood before me. Hundreds of moblins crowded the screen, though they were less vicious than even one such enemy from The Legend of Zelda. I never noticed if they were even trying to mount an attack or were all too happy to fall to my blade, and as I plowed through entire families in one deadly swoop, I could understand why others are so drawn to this franchise. Embodying someone so strong fulfills a power fantasy. You see an entire field overflowing with enemies, and you just slice right through them without any resistance. I felt like an action hero to whom normal rules don't apply. I'm going to force my will on everyone, and if you don't like it, you can have a sword in your face for your troubles.

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Killing hundreds or even thousands of poor moblins might be fun to some, but I struggled to care. I wasn't bored as I carved through the masses, but I wasn't particularly engaged, either. I enjoy more nuance in my combat, something thoughtful and skill-based that poses enough challenge to make sure my focus never wanes. The only thing I needed to consider in Hyrule Warriors was which combo I wanted to unleash. There are two attack buttons, and depending on the order in which you hit them, you do different moves. But even though visual flourishes accompanied each action, the results were the same; I was lulled by the predictability as the tapping rhythm overtook me.

Hyrule Warriors exists as an uneasy union between these two franchises.

Objectives occasionally rush onscreen detailing specific tasks you must accomplish. Here was a chance to turn the mundane combat into something special, but these also lacked imagination. Parts of the map would flash, and I would sprint toward the area to help a recognizable friend survive enemy attacks or take over a stronghold from opposing forces. Once I arrived at the scene, I still tapped out combos without much thought, and the bad guys quickly perished to let me proceed unscathed. My attention never completely dissipated because of the various shout-outs to the beloved Zelda series. I saved a goron from danger and plucked bombs from a treasure chest. The musical cues were pulled straight from The Legend of Zelda, and even the art style would fit right in with one of Link's adventures. There are enough nods to what I love that I would occasionally smile, because any excuse to be a part of that world is good enough for me.

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It was during a boss fight that things became slightly more interesting. If you're a fan of Zelda, and you saw that I picked up bombs in this stage, you can probably guess what boss burst on the scene. That's right: it was Dodongo. It's gigantic in Hyrule Warriors, much bigger than it appears in other games, though its weakness remains the same. After shooting out streams of fire, it would inhale deeply, and then I would just have to toss a bomb in its mouth. This momentarily stunned it, opening the door for more senseless slashing as I stripped away its health. The fight was the first time I had to move defensively, and it was a nice change of pace being presented with a foe who required more than frantic mashing to defeat.

As someone who adores The Legend of Zelda, there just isn't much here for me to latch on to. Yes, I'm as weak as anyone to the aesthetic charms of the franchise, but that's the only part of Zelda that has made the transition. The rest is pure Dynasty Warriors. I thought the game was fun enough, and was impressed by how I could kill so many enemies with so little effort. But I need more than window dressing to make me care about a game. For those who are in my position, eager for a new Zelda and hopeful Hyrule Warriors will fill that role, keep your expectations very low. None of the inherent appeal of Zelda is present here, so you need to care an awful lot about the characters and music to remain interested. If you already enjoy the Warriors series, Hyrule Warriors won't spoil what draws you to it. At least from what I've seen, It sadly doesn't reach an interesting balance that could have expanded the audience to include those who love The Legend of Zelda, too.

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