Last year, Nintendo and Koei Tecmo combined two things that Japanese gamers love: Musou and The Legend of Zelda. The result was Hyrule Warriors, a Wii U exclusive that allowed gamers to pummel thousands upon thousands of mindless foes as Link and many of his beloved friends. For some, this was a match made in Gaming Heaven, but the experience wasn’t for everyone. Still, due to its subject matter, fan service and uniqueness, Hyrule Warriors managed to do quite well, and has sold well over one million copies worldwide.
As of today, what was once a Wii U exclusive is no longer that, as Hyrule Warriors has migrated its way to Nintendo’s portable 3DS with a new subtitle: Hyrule Warriors Legends. Combining everything that its console counterpart had to offer, with new stages, themes, locations and characters, it’s a content-packed affair that feels right at home on the device’s smaller screens. At least, as far as the New 3DS is concerned.
Like certain others, this is a title that was developed with the power of the New Nintendo 3DS and its extra large sibling in mind. This is something that those who only own an original 3DS or 3DS XL will want to take note of, because people are reporting that performance on those models leaves something to be desired. It’s apparently sluggish and runs at a noticeably lesser framerate than it does on the New 3DS/XL.
For the uninitiated, Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors Legends are games that fall into the Musou genre, which has been around for years in the form of Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors and series like them. Popular in Japan, and carrying a cult following in North America and the rest of the western world, these games are known for pitting playable heroes against never-ending amounts of baddies.
The player’s goal is to complete objectives — such as taking over forts, protecting important characters, awakening fairies or defeating bosses — and each open world map has its own completion requirements. They’re often quite similar, though, and are generally taken from the above list.
Hyrule Warriors changed things up by moving the action from Feudal Japan to the colourful land of Hyrule. The result is a major thematic difference, and a more visually impressive take on the formula. Though forts still exist, and are basic by design, they’re more fun to take over and feel more interesting when they’re set in Hyrule and filled with memorable enemies from the Legend of Zelda franchise.
With Hyrule Warriors Legends, the development team has implemented some fixes and done some fine tuning, in addition to incorporating new characters and environments. For starters, players can now warp to owl statues by using the ocarina, which allows for saved time and less manual travel. Having more than one hero approach a level’s boss also gives you some benefits, such as refilled magic and heightened damage, and it’s easy to command your allies towards a certain part of the map. Adventure Mode — which has a map that takes after the original Zelda game’s design, and tasks you with completing challenges to unlock new characters, costumes and other benefits — has also been refined.
Returning fans can look forward to a wealth of wholly new content, as well. This includes five new playable characters (Toon Link and the Red King from Wind Waker, a female Link named Linkle, Tetra and Skull Kid), a fairy raising mini-game, 5 new Adventure Mode maps and 9 new story scenarios. The latter list is notable for marking the introduction of Linkle, who’s a brand new badass that wields dual crossbows and deals heaps of damage.
Linkle’s actual story introduction makes her seem quite dumb, because she’s overeager and is unable to read signs that point the way to Hyrule. However, her inclusion is a great thing, because it gives female gamers a heroine to identify with, outside of her questionable I.Q. I’d be more than fine with the mainline Zelda series switching gears one day to centre upon Linkle as its main protagonist, as opposed to the always male Link.
Legends‘ added content is available to Wii U owners, and those who buy this 3D port will be able to incorporate its extra features into the console version — providing they own it — through the use of a packed-in code.
In the past, when I played the original release, I quickly discovered that it wasn’t doing much for me. It started out fun, but became somewhat boring due to its repetitive nature and design. That’s generally indicative of how I feel about all Musou games, though, as I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed any of the ones that I’ve played. That said, I knew what I was getting into this time, and was surprised by how I ended up enjoying this version more than I did its console predecessor. It does have the same issues, though.
You’d think that an experience of this scope would also suffer on handheld, but in some ways it’s more fun. Sure the screens are smaller, but our New Nintendo 3DS XL’s screens felt perfect. There’s tons of action on-screen, but it’s easy to follow and get into. There’s also quite a few enemies on-screen at all times, and things run really well, outside of the odd hiccup.
Given the nature of this game, being on handheld is also a benefit. You can take it wherever you go and jump in for short bouts of gameplay whenever you find the time. That way, you won’t get tired of the formula as quickly as those who play in long sessions will. This is, after all, a very repetitive game, and though it’s great to be able to play as these characters (and use their visually impressive special moves), there’s not a ton of variety to be found in the core mechanics.
In order to run well on the 3DS, Koei Tecmo altered its game’s visual style, changing it from a full 3D affair to a more Cel-shaded look. This is most evident when you see close-ups of characters, or when you actually look at the enemies you’re dummying, and it’s quite impressive overall. Some may prefer the original graphical style, but I actually like this more and find that it fits in perfectly. It’s not a major, night and day change, but it’s suiting and nice to look at.
With all that being said, Hyrule Warriors Legends is an interesting beast that will appeal to some and bore the Hell out of others. This genre isn’t something with wide appeal, and even with the inclusion of Link and company, that hasn’t changed. If you enjoy this type of thing, though, and own a New Nintendo 3DS, you can’t really go wrong by picking this port up.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game, which we were provided with.
If you like this type of game, and happen to own a New Nintendo 3DS, then you can't really go wrong with Hyrule Warriors Legends. It somehow manages to be more fun than its console peer, and packs a ton of content into its small game cart.