Dynasty Warriors: A Link to the Past.
There’s something very nice about games like Hyrule Warriors: Legends, those games that encourage mashing a few buttons to thoroughly trounce an army of faceless bad guys, meeting a few objectives like “take over such-and-such keep” or “defeat Bad Guy X” before happily sauntering off to rip through more of the faceless, nameless “enemy.” It’s typically just enough thought to cause confusion when you lose a mission and don’t quite understand why, but provides enough zen satisfaction that after you’re done throwing the tantrum about why you weren’t able to proceed forward on one battlefield, you can come back to it later with little memory of why you put it down in the first place (unless, of course, you make the same mistakes again and wind up in mouth-foaming rage… is a thing that I have heard).
In typical Dynasty Warriors tradition, Hyrule Warriors: Legends sends its characters in the fields and castle walls around Hyrule to beat up floods of baddies (though very few of them human-type baddies, can’t be setting THAT precedent in this series) to find a way forward in stopping an evil spirit from taking control of the land of Hyrule and saving the magical Princess Zelda once again. On the small screen, the first thing to notice is the cel-shading effect on every moving character, which is a lovely long-term viewing angle. Every character appears crisp and lovingly detailed, even in the heat of battle, and it all looks fantastic with the 3D turned up. It’s taken time for developers to take full advantage of 3D that doesn’t burn your eyeballs out of their sockets, and this might be some of the loveliest yet.
Once you’re thrust into the battle, it’s clearly a Zelda-skinned Warriors game to the core. Multiple characters handle in their own unique way—the good all-around (Link), the slow-but-powerful heavy (Impa), weak-yet-quick combo machine (Shiek), and the bevy of other fighting talents that, while not always available for the main missions, you can go back and play as again in Free Mode whether or not they are main hitters or a normally-supportive character (so long as they’re playable, of course). And there are multiple ways to unlock further characters, starting with Legendary Mode which is the story standard or through Adventure Mode which contains more bite-sized missions with a more limited set of objectives—defeat X number of bad guys, defeat the boss, what have you.
The controls are simple: one- or two-button combos, a strong attack, an “unleashing” attack once a meter is charged up, and maybe another special bar (like Linkle’s reloadable rapid-fire crossbow-ing) that can be spent here or there. All controls are super-responsive, though specific to the number of taps you press even in the heat of battle, so unless you really mean to shoot three arrows or toss an extra set of bombs into an emptied patch of grass, be mindful of your mashing. Along the story’s path, those extra weapons—bombs, arrows, the Ocarina, and others—are unlocked to deal with an obstacle on a given map, so once you’ve discovered something like the Boomerang, in traditional Zelda fashion you’ll be using it immediately. Some are more useful than others, but they all have a worthwhile place, and don’t feel tacked on to make things more true to the franchise.
I feel like going in, there was added hype for a character like Linkle, since she is touted as a sort of gender-swapped Link with crossbows instead of the expected sword-and-shield combo. And as a warrior she handles quite well; she might not have the same kind of reach that the Hero’s Sword has, but her AoE attacks shoot down everything in her path. I enjoy using her as a character, but instead of the more Link-like “hero,” she’s portrayed only in side-stories (and so, not a usable alternative to everyone’s green-clad mute to the main story) and as… a ditz.
Specifically, her victory animation is whipping out a map and charging the wrong direction, while a sign five feet behind her points towards the castle so that she might join the battle properly. C’mon… she's oblivious? Really? There was so much potential for this character (ignoring the silly name, the alliteration sure ain’t Luke and Leia) to be more than a side-story gender swap, so it’s disappointing to see her instead presented as simply the wannabe hero.
Beyond that, there are other characters specific to the Adventure Mode who can be unlocked, like Toon Link, as well as continuing to power up your existing cast. I wouldn’t say Adventure Mode is easier than the main game, but it’s significantly more straightforward and without the combined screams of the main game with having to manage large numbers of concurrent missions. This makes it more fun than the main game and significantly less frustrating if I can’t work through a given stage… at least I still know what’s going wrong and can readjust, rather than bounce around the map like a Superball wondering why saving one character means I’ve lost, but letting another flee and everything’s going to plan.
That’s a general gripe with Dynasty Warriors, though, and it seems more clean and understanding here (especially when using the Ocarina to jump across the map instead of running, running, running). Though, like previous DW games, you can swap to another selectable on-map character at will, so you’re not even stuck with a single hack-and-slasher all the time.
I do like this style of game, and Hyrule Warriors: Legends might be the best incarnation of it so far. [Along with Dragon Quest Heroes on PS4. ~Ed. Nick Tan] With some hidden spots across the maps that include unlockable panels à la the 3DS’s Mii Plaza pictures, quarter or full Hearts from previous Zelda games, or the temporary power-ups for accumulated items (throwing one really big bomb gives me my satisfied smile when it goes “boom” and everybody flies away), even the flexibility of Legendary Mode’s 30+-minute stages and Adventure Mode’s more modest 5-10 minute fights are a welcoming sidestep in the series.
It doesn’t have the same level of depth or detail a traditional LoZ game employs, but it’s satisfying, and I can see keeping Legends in my system for a long time coming. Sure, it can make you want to yank your hair out by the roots sometimes, but if it didn’t, would you really want it?