Since its release last week, I’ve put almost 30 hours into Hyrule Warriors. Which is kind of a lot for me! Turns out, HW is actually my second most-played Wii U game, after Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. And that’s in just a week!
First, I played through Legend (story) mode co-op with my wife, Lindsey. The story itself is absurd, awesome, fanservice with some lovely CGI that culminates in a pretty intense and rad final boss fight. What made the experience even better was that we each had our own screen as we sat on the couch. I played on the TV with the great-feeling Pro Controller while Lindsey slashed away on the GamePad. It was awesome frantically shouting orders at each other as we divided and conquered the map. The only downside to this is that resolution and frame rate take a noticeable hit in co-op mode, but we were having so much fun that we got used to it pretty quickly.
From here, we went our separate ways in the game to tackle Adventure Mode on each of our individual NNID accounts. The original Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game of all time, so the use of the overworld map from that game as the way of progressing through challenges won me over immediately. Like the original LoZ, Adventure Mode is fairly non-linear, and you can progress through the challenge screens in pretty much any order you wish (although some areas of the map are locked away until you complete Legend mode). As you play, you earn heart containers for specific warriors and even some secret playable characters. You also acquire items like bombs and candles which can be used to find secrets on the map (which are, awesomely, in the same spots as in the original LoZ). The 8-bit sprite versions of characters are cute, and look great in the context of this mode.
Occasionally I would get stuck in Adventure Mode when I had to take on tough enemies with a character I hadn’t leveled up much and wasn’t super comfortable with (like Fi). Fortunately, all of the progress you earn in the various modes is connected, so for example, you can use rupees you earned playing Legend Mode with Link to level up Fi in The Bazaar (the game’s shop) for use in Adventure. It’s a great system that really gives you the feeling that you are always making progress in the game, no matter how much you play or in what mode you’re in.
While I’d consider leveling up each playable character to 99 a noble goal, for me, the biggest character progression hook is getting the materials to craft badges. Badges give your character permanent power increases, like the ability to do more damage when attacking a blocking enemy. You get the materials for these badges from enemy/boss drops, and like in Monster Hunter, some are rarer than others.
Completing Legend Mode opens up two additional difficulty levels, Hard and Hero. In these modes, the enemy material and weapon drops are better, and you receive more rupees for your troubles. Hard mode is a natural step up after finishing the story mode for the first time, but I definitely wouldn’t suggest Hero mode right out of the gate. Even at level 44, the enemies just take FOREVER to defeat, which quickly becomes frustrating. I definitely plan to tackle it eventually, but not until I power up my warriors a bit more.
So about those warriors. Plowing through hordes of enemies as Impa or Darunia is inarguably B.A. If you’re into a quirkier experience, Midna and Agitha are pretty rad in their own way. While I feel like the two villains Tecmo-Koei created for the game, Cia and Volga, are pretty lame, newcomer Lana is completely awesome. Fighting with spells or a deku stick, Lana super fun to use and injects a ‘lil bit of anime into the game.
Although I have plenty to do in the game, I still bought the season pass. This is actually the first time I had done so for a game, but I finally found a game where it felt worth the extra money. New characters, scenarios, and modes through spring? Sounds good!
Even without the DLC, I could still see myself playing Hyrule Warriors well into next year. It’s fun, packed with content, and a true love-letter to the series, done with a unique and unexpected approach. Nintendo, Tecmo-Koei, Omega Force, and Team Ninja made a fantastic game worthy of the Zelda name and I truly hope they continue with the series.