If you hop in the way back machine to 2014, you have a good chance of catching me in the middle of a conversation about the latest Wii U hit Hyrule Warriors. Koei Tecmo and Nintendo seemed to have made an odd couple relationship with two series that have completely different styles. While it’s a great game, and one of the better titles to come to the console in some time, I always felt like it would work better on the 3DS. Jump back to the present day, and I’m now seeing that reality and It turns out I was right. While it is almost beat for beat the same game as its Wii U counterpart (with a few additions) Hyrule Warriors Legends is much better suited to Nintendo’s handheld than their home console, and that’s mostly because the game ’s style works better when you can walk away.
That’s not a knock on the game itself; the Dynasty Warriors style gameplay is just better designed for on the go gaming. If you’ve ever picked up a Warriors game, you’ll feel right at home. You fight waves of enemies while trying to capture enemy outposts. Between that chaos, smaller side missions pop up to make life more hectic. When done right, Dynasty Warriors type games can be really rewarding and Hyrule Warriors might be one of the best examples of that style. While it doesn’t deviate from the original formula much, the addition of characters and items from the Legend of Zelda series makes for an original experience you can only find in this game. Whether that’s using Link’s bow, or escorting a giant bombchu across a battlefield, Hyrule Warriors is unique and different from any other Warriors title out there.
And it just works on the 3DS. Obviously, because of the hardware, there is a visual downgrade. Instead of that really pretty HD Wii U title, we have something more akin to a GameCube game visually;but it still looks really nice. The best thing going for it is its combat just lends itself to the shorter playtimes a handheld system accommodates. It keeps the repetitive hack n’ slash fighting style fresh, so it never overstays its welcome. That was one of the biggest issues on the console version. I couldn’t sink my teeth into the game as much as I wanted to because it’s just not designed for longer play sessions. With that being said, Hyrule Warriors has a surprisingly complex battle system that requires a lot of attention. Since there is so much happening on the battlefield at any given time, players can control any main story character on the map. That means you can hop over and play as whichever character, or even send them to specific areas of the battlefield. On top of that, the addition of the golden ocarina lets players teleport to other portions of the map wherever another statue resides. It makes traversing larger levels much easier and more streamlined. It’s really easy to discount the game because it’s a Dynasty Warriors spin off, but the amount of focus required for each battle makes it really engaging.
What’s a little less captivating is the story. It’s not different from any of the simplest Legend of Zelda plots, but the scale of the situation mixed with one of the coolest art directions the series has ever seen makes the game feel epic. Hyrule is at war. The citizens are under constant attack from evil monsters like Moblins, Poes and Stalfos. Amidst this horror and bloodshed, Princess Zelda believes the hero of legend will save them. It turns out he’s the only Hylian Soldier who doesn’t wear a helmet making the selection process very streamlined. Before she can know for sure, she’s kidnapped. This leads to Link, Zelda’s protector, Impa, and whomever you meet along the way to traverse the war torn Hyrule in search of her. There’s also something about the Triforce and the Sword of Evil’s Bane because this wouldn’t be a Legend of Zelda game if there weren’t at least a casual reference to these items.
It’s pretty much the same plot as the Wii U game, but with some new characters, like the King of Hyrule, Tetra from Wind Waker, and Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask. This is also the debut of Linkle, the oddly named female Link. She’s a faster character with twin crossbows, so you know she’s badass. Personally, I found Link and Shiek to be my go-to characters to control, so I didn’t stray much. No two characters are the same, and there are many weapons and variations, so different play styles are accommodated.
There is a good chance that I am giving this title more leeway than it deserves because it’s in the Legend of Zelda universe, but whatever, it’s fun and I’m a fan. It’s kind of crazy to think that after all the horrid reception from gamers and critics that the Dynasty Warriors franchise has not only continued, but also flourished. Hyrule Warriors Legends might be the best incarnation of this style. It’s one of the better offerings in the already robust 3DS library. Even if you’ve played the Wii U version, this should be on your radar. The gameplay tends to work better on Nintendo’s handheld, and the new playable characters differentiate the title from 2014’s offering. I had a blast returning to this alternate take on my favourite franchise; this is a game that I will constantly come back to.