Hyrule Warriors improves on the Warriors franchise by leaps and bounds First and foremost: The game isn’t just about you slaying thousands of monsters, but how you slay these thousands of monsters, as well as what else you can accomplish on the way. Mindless killing gives way to specific objectives and thought out combos, and I really feel like I am accomplishing something, rather than mindlessly hitting X. Though Hyrule Warriors is better than previous “Warriors” games, it is still a warriors game far more than a Zelda game, and Zelda fans will need to keep this in mind when picking up a copy.

Hyrule Warriors offers four main modes: Legendary Mode, Adventure Mode, Free Mode, and Challenge Mode. Legendary Mode is the Main Storyline, in which Link, Impa, and Zelda find themselves in a war against the sorceress Cia, who wishes to possess both the Triforce and Link’s soul. While it is interesting to see how Koei-Tecmo and Team Ninja handles the storyline, don’t expect to find any genre-defying narrative here. The story mostly serve to get characters from Point A to Point B. But that’s ok, because this shouldn’t be the kind of game players expect to pick up for $59.99. More importantly, Legendary Mode feels more like an introduction to the game to prepare players for the vast Adventure Mode.

Adventure Mode is where you will be spending the bulk of your time. Koei-Tecmo has completely recreated the original Legend of Zelda map, with a different battle scenario in each square. Sometimes, you will be in a standard battle, where your army will be pitted against an enemy, but many times there is a twist. The enemy may unleash bombchu’s against your bases, or you may need to break through enemy lines in order to reach allies who are in trouble. While failing some missions won’t net you a game-over, it may make your battle that much harder. In order to get the best results, players will need to prioritize their time on the battlefield, instead of simply knocking enemies left and right.

There are Adventure Mode stages aside from taking out the enemy commander. One scenario has you battling two officers at a time, but you can only defeat the one the game points out. Other types of scenarios involve boss gauntlets, a race to take out as many foes as possible, and a battle, in which you can kill others in one shot, but they can do the same to you . These kinds of battles are good for both hunting rare materials, and acts as a good break to the monotony of enemy smashing.

For those of you who have the itch to collect, Hyrule Warriors offers plenty of items. Hidden weapons are found throughout the Adventure Mode map, and requires compasses, bombs, hookshots, and other items to discover them. The possibility of capturing a powerful weapon is great, but more often than not, you’ll need to repeat certain stages in order to gain the necessary items to unlock these secrets, padding the game’s length. One-hundred Gold Skultulas are also scattered throughout both the Legendary and Adventure Modes, and collecting more will increase the size of your apothecary and effectiveness of your healing potions, so there is plenty of incentive to collect them. Certain stages offer powerful weapons, heart pieces, and heart containers as a reward, keeping players occupied for weeks.

In Hyrule Warriors, it’s not just you against the enemy officers, there are many times where a large boss character will make the scene. While fighting some of them are fun, others become a frustrating to the point where I dreaded seeing them. I’m looking at you Manhandla. However, once you get the pattern down, these battles become quite boring…as long as they are one on one. While you shouldn’t expect a boss in every battle, you should expect a battle with multiple bosses. Unless your character is way over-leveled, you’ll need strategy and precision to take them all down.
Each of the fighters’ attacks feel distinctive and taylor made to that character, leaving players with a unique experience. Character combos have the right balance of flashy and powerful, and some characters are really a delight to play. Some fighters have special charge gauges that work only in certain conditions, and mastering these gauges adds an extra bit of fun to the fighting. Even switching between weapons of one character can have a drastic effect on how you take down enemy armies. Each character has their own strengths and weakness, so players can’t simply carry one character throughout the entire game. Link does have a bad case of dominant strategy syndrome, in which using the spin attack will just about annihilate everything in his path. Don’t worry, as Hyrule Warriors isn’t about to let you spin attack your way to total victory. In both the Legendary Campaign and Adventure Mode, levels can limit everything from the type of character used to the type of weapon required to complete the stage. This gives players a chance to sample everything Hyrule Warriors has to offer. However, in the second-half of the Legendary Campaign, the game recommends Link take the lead, causing him to become far stronger than his allies by the end.

While the X and Y buttons still get a work out, Hyrule Warriors gives you different ways to take out enemies. The aforementioned charge gauges are by far the strongest way to keep the combat from growing stale. Players also have access to special attacks and a focus gauge, in which the character becomes a powered up version of themselves, dealing massive damage to everyone around them. Zelda staples, such as the bow, hookshot, and bombs are used for some platforming, but mostly combat. For example, bombs can toss enemies around, giving you an opportunity to start a combo. I will admit that I found bombs far more useful than any of the other secondary weapon, especially when they are powered up; everything else just gathered dust until I came across a specific situation where I needed them. Rather than attacking head-first, fighting enemy officers require some strategy to defeat. Some enemies an only be attacked during certain moments, while others leave themselves open to attacks from the secondary weapons.

A trip the the smithy allows players to merge traits from certain weapons earned throughout the game. Unfortunately, the customization is very stiff. You cannot replace traits, you can only place a new trait into a weapon with an empty slot, and you cannot add new empty slots to an already existing weapon. Furthermore, you can only craft one trait from an old weapon into a new weapon, meaning other the other traits will be destroyed in the merge. Some of the characters can have other weapons to choose from, such as Link’s gauntlets or Zelda’s baton, but many are limited to only one. For instance, Lana has three weapon layouts, while Midna only has one. This leaves characters like Midna to become stale, and end up used less often. While underused characters can become a problem, the Training Dojo is here to solve your woes. Spending your hard-earned rupees can increase a character’s level, but only to match the highest character you have available, which prevents you investing all of your money into one character as a quick scheme to get to level 99.

Your hard-earned rupees can also go towards badges for your characters. By collecting rupees, and materials, players can create perks, such as the ability to take an enemy keep faster, or unlock new combos for their weapons. Materials for low-ranking perks are abundant, but players will have to invest a bit more time to fully level up these trees. Luckily, this is not the case for the combo tree, so players can quickly explore the world of possibilities with a character’s fighting style. This mechanic, again, places emphasis not on slaying as many enemies as possible, but what you can collect along the way. It may not seem like much for most games, but for this title, the badge system adds a lot to the experience.

For Zelda fans looking to pick up this title, keep in mind that this is still a Warrior’s game. However, it is one of the best in the franchise, and not because it takes place in the Zelda universe. One of the best improvements to the Warrior’s series is that Hyrule Warriors gives the player a lot to do on and off the battlefield. Yes, the ability to KO thousands of monsters is still there, but looking for weapons, heart containers, and skultulas, while fending off bombchu’s, and bosses keeps the gameplay exciting. If you are a Warriors fan, or interested in the series, I definitely recommend you pick this up.