Hyrule Warriors Preview

A Dynasty of Zelda.

The stakes have never been higher for Dynasty Warriors. Even though the series is typically given average grades in the States, its commercial success in Japan has kept it alive for years without much of a care in the world. Every iteration hardly innovates on the last, doing just enough to sprinkle a few improvements to keep the formula moving forward. But now developer Omega Force, with the welcome assistance of Team Ninja, has been forced to break out some courage for Hyrule Warriors, a Zelda-centric Dynasty Warriors that needs to be much more than just a simple swap of a skin.

While I tolerate Dynasty Warriors and largely give the benefit of the doubt, Zelda usually comes out when it's good and ready, and Zelda fans expect nothing less. The main question is whether the developers have done enough to infuse enough Zelda elements without shoehorning them in. Merely having Link kill mobs and mobs of goblins in various bases strewn throughout some field isn't enough.

In this incarnation of the Zelda storyline, Link is a soldier for the Hyrulian Army who must save Zelda who has been kidnapped by Cia, the witch and protector of the Triforce, out of jealousy over Link (who just can't seem to control his attractiveness, it seems). Ultimately, Link and Impa (Midna will be available as well) must defeat her forces and save Zelda before it's too late. So with a bow, sword, shield, or magical staff, the Hyrulian Kingdom must be saved, protected, and cleansed of evil.

As you might expect, the playable character has access to a string of weak and normal attacks with various ending effects that could be strong against individual foes or crowd control. Gathering enough magic from jars or would otherwise be a rage meter unleashes special damage modes and attacks; Zelda whips out a gigantic bow with an arrow of light that can pierce through a swathe of enemies in a wide line. Every once in a while, you can use an item whether it be a crowd-clearing bomb or a health potion. Luckily, you'll be able to find recover items in clay pots or hearts, in addition to showers of rupees, that spew from fallen enemies.

Meanwhile, your character must defeat semi-boss lizalfos and giant King Dodongos, protect Goron captains, and perhaps join with a friend for simple co-operative play. Working similar to other Dynasty Warriors titles, you must clear out bosses of all kinds to claim bases for the Hyrulian side, earning experience for leveling and an ever higher K.O. tally. Along the way, you'll open large chests with awesome items hidden inside

My only wish for Hyrule Warriors is that it doesn't take itself too seriously but also respects the Zelda franchise enough not to phone it in. (And that it also adds badass Ganondorf.) I don't think anyone should expect a glorious, groundbreaking title here; just a breezy tongue-in-cheek diversion that shows off the lighter side of the series. Hyrule Warirors releases for Wii U on September 26, 2014.