It's an exciting time for Legend of Zelda fans. Following the release of last year's brilliant A Link Between Worlds on 3DS, Nintendo is working on a brand-new, open-world Zelda that's shaping up to be Link's most exciting adventure in years. But while Wii U owners anxiously await that game's 2015 release, Nintendo is launching something a whole lot weirder this month: Hyrule Warriors, a game that blends the Zelda universe with an obscene amount of action. It's not what you'd expect from the series, but it can be a lot of of fun.
Hyrule Warriors is actually a mash-up of two different games. It's part Zelda, and part Dynasty Warriors, an action series that dates back to 1997. What's most surprising about Dynasty Warriors' lasting appeal is that all of the many, many games are basically the same, and they feature some of the most simplistic combat around. In most cases you can just mash the attack button without actually thinking about what you're doing. What makes the games interesting, though, is their sense of scale; Dynasty Warriors is basically a game version of those insanely huge battles from the Lord of the Rings movies, except you play as a massively overpowered character that can take out dozens of enemies in a single move.
If this doesn't sound anything like a Zelda game, that's because it isn't
This remains unchanged in Hyrule Warriors. To give you a sense of just how crazy things get, in my very first mission, less than 15 minutes into the game a pop-up appeared announcing that I had already defeated 1,000 enemies. I hadn't even faced off against the first boss yet. The combat is simultaneously thrilling and tedious, but it's helped along by some light strategies that force you to take over different areas of the map before you're completely overrun by bad guys. There are also some cool — and, of course, gigantic — boss creatures that require you to do things like aim and dodge instead of just mashing a single button.
If this doesn't sound anything like a Zelda game, that's because it isn't: Hyrule Warriors is developed by the team behind Dynasty Warriors and features virtually identical gameplay. What makes it Zelda is all of the fan service thrown in. There's a huge line-up of characters you can play as, from Link to Sheik, and you'll be battling across iconic Hyrule landmarks like Death Mountain and those colorful floating islands from Skyward Sword. You'll even hear the all-too-familiar "hey, listen!" to alert you to action happening elsewhere in the level. It's little more than a Zelda-themed coat of paint, but it's surprisingly effective: I've always found the Dynasty Warriors games to be bland and tedious, but it's a whole lot more interesting when you're playing as Princess Zelda and wielding familiar weapons like bombs and boomerangs.
Nintendo has a very spotty history when it comes to letting other developers handle its properties — Other M is definitely not the Metroid game I was hoping for — but Hyrule Warriors is a surprisingly good use of the Zelda license. It's not a particularly deep or challenging game, but it's mindless fun with plenty of moments and details that longtime fans of the series will pick up on. It's crazy, sure, but crazy enough that it works.
Hyrule Warriors is coming to the Wii U on September 26th.