Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hyrule Warriors Master Quest out in Japan

It's official now. I won't be playing any other games for months. Maybe a little bit of Smash Bros., but overall Hyrule Warriors will take all my freetime. All of it.

I've been playing for over 220 hours now and still haven't finished the original Adventure Mode, but now they're releasing an entire 2nd Quest:


Oh wow... and look at all those costumes! There are 16 in total, which seem to be color variants of existing outfits. There is also a maskless Cia and maskless+hatless Cia, which seem to be her default costumes. Her second color scheme also comes in all three variants.

And the "Observer of Time" costumes for Cia and Lana are absolutely stunning:


I'm in love! :D

Next to all the unannounced costumes, there are also more 8-bit weapons to unlock. This actually gives me hope that there are more unannounced things in the future packs, mainly unannounced stages. A Clocktown stage is all I really want for now, because it would be awesome.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hyrule Warriors: Twilight Princess Pack Speculation

Now with the first new weapon being revealed to be Epona, I was putting more thoughts into what the next pack could offer, especially its weapon. Here I now see three interesting possibilities:

1) True Midna
Well, they already teased a 2nd weapon for Midna on the E3 and since she doesn't user her shackles anymore, the "weapon" or whatever it is would be wielded in her true form. Of course it could also make sense to have true Midna as her own character, because she has a different model, which might collide with future costumes (but those costumes could also work for both forms). The only problem is the actual weapon. I know that I want to see the real Midna, but I have no real ideas what she could fight with, except maybe the Dominion Rod. This is still a likely scenario, but after Epona I also got another idea...

2) Dark Horse
Link is not the only character in the game, who makes an intro on his horse. Ganondorf does so as well and it would be awesome and only very fair, if he received a similar weapon type, so he could duel Link on a horse again. This fits in the Twilight Princess pack very nicely, because that's the game, where Ganondorf did a horse battle. You could even use the ghost riders as one of his combos. The more I think about this idea, the more I want it.

3) But Net
Agitha was designed to be a weak character, which is allright. It makes sense for her and a game like this also needs some more challenging characters. Agitha was the perfect choice here. But what bugs me (pun intended) is that they designed her Adventure Mode missions around her weaknesses and made them very hard. The Lvl3 Parasol is the only weapon, which I haven't unlocked yet, because of this. So, it would be nice, if Agitha received a better weapon in the future. However, they already struggled with designing her first moveset, so getting ideas for yet another one might be difficult. So, it's probably more likely that we're going to see one of the first two options or something entirely unexpected again.


With the character slot, if it's not true Midna, I'm going to say that Yeto is still the best candidate. He brawls around and his weapon type would be "Fish" with the Reekfish and Hylian Loach being different tiers. The Hero's Spirit with a "Four Sword" moveset is another good possibility. But I honestly have to say that I'm more excited about the new weapon than the new character at this moment. The other games have more interesting characters left.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hyrule Warriors: Ideas for new Adventure Maps

So, they announced that there's going to be three more Adventure Maps with the upcoming DLC packs. They are most likely going to be used to provide missions, where you can get Heart Containers and Heart Pieces for the new character, as well as upgrades for the new weapons.

So, with that we need smaller maps. Of course they could just design their own environments like they already did in the small Rewards Map. I could imagine their own 8-Bit version of Termina in the Majora's Mask pack for example.

But another nice possibility, which also works with the current item card system, would be the dungeons from The Legend of Zelda:


This is actually the perfect size. For Cia, Volga, Wizzro and Epona we would need space for 24 Heart Containers, 24 Heart Pieces and eight weapon upgrades. Some of it might go into the new scenario, but overall this easily fits all of it, without being too large. The first dungeon has 17 squares in total.

The item cards would work differently here:

  • Compass: reveal secrets (as before)
  • Bombs: proceeding to the next area
  • Candle: light up rooms to reveal enemies
  • Power Bracelet: moving blocks to unlock rewards
  • Ladder: moving to the next area
  • Flute: making enemies vulnerable, so you can fight them
  • Ice Arrows: destroy flames
  • Hookshot: move over certain walls

The other item cards will probably not be used here, but it's actually a nice system, where items are utilized in a different way. For example you rarely ever need the Ladder, Flute or Hookshot on the overworld. In dungeons they could be a lot more useful.

The game offers 18 different dungeons, so they would have more than enough maps for all future DLC of Hyrule Warriors.

Update: Every character gets five new Heart Containers and at least one costume per Adventure Map, so we need about the same size as the original map. They could, however, use the combined grid:



But in a sequel they probably might go for another game and provide different items and visuals. Of course it would be cool, if they used Zelda II or A Link to the Past, but it makes more sense to use a game with an actual grid. Because how else would distribute the missions? With that in mind, not many games come into question:

  • BS The Legend of Zelda
  • Link's Awakening
  • Oracle of Ages
  • Oracle of Seasons
  • The Wind Waker

Those are the games, which use a grid for their overworld. And there's certainly some potential here.

The BS Zelda games would be more of a weird choice and they provide only half the size:


Probably not going for that.

Link's Awakening's Cocolinth on the other hand has twice the size of the current Adventure Map. But this might be a good candidate, if we get twice as many characters at some point...


In addition Link's Awakening offers a good item system (Roc's Feather, Pegasus Boots, Mirror Shield, ...), as well as nine very nice dungeons that could be used for expansions. So, Hyrule Warriors 2 might opt for Cocolinth! However, Cocolinth is not as iconic as Hyrule of course, it only was the land for one game. And with this it's not really fitting the magnitude of Hyrule Warriors and I'm saying this as a big fan of Link's Awakening.

I doubt that we will see anything from the Capcom Zelda games in Hyrule Warriors ever, because Capcom. Not after they sued Koei. And of course Holodrum and Labrynna are even less popular/know than Cocolinth. As much as I'm a fan of the Oracle games (study my blog, if you have any doubts), I already made my peace with those games never being a part of Hyrule Warriors. The same goes for The Minish Cap.


But what could be really nice is the ocean from the Wind Waker. Imagine small toon versions of all the characters going around on the Red King of Lions!


Of course this not even offers half the size of the current map, but they could easily expand the ocean with many new squares. But using the map from the Wind Waker probably would be the most charming way of creating an Adventure Map in Hyrule Warriors 2. This way you could also give the Wind Waker some love, since the art style otherwise would prevent bigger cameos in Hyrule Warriors.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hyrule Warriors Impa in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U?

Impa wielding her fiery naginata

I hope this rumor is true! This is exactly what the new Smash needs to get some love back from the Zelda fans. Impa as the next Zelda Smasher would probably be the best choice, since she has been there since the beginning and was included in many different Zelda games. And using her Hyrule Warriors form would even be better, because that's officially the most awesome Impa and it would be nice to see Smash 4 paying tribute to the new Zelda fighting game.

Hyrule Warriors: Epona Announced

Well, I assumed that we might get a surprise with the first new weapon and it certainly was!

I was hoping that Link wouldn't get new weapons for now. He already has four/five different ones and other characters certainly are in more need of new weapons. My Link is already on Level 99, so there's no real reason to keep playing with him for now.

However, in a way this weapon makes a lot of sense. Epona was already in the game in Link's sword victory pose and Koei Tecmo already made two weapons which had the sole purpose of making other characters in the game playable...

I wouldn't wonder if the new weapon in the Twilight Princess pack actually was True Midna, so that both new weapons are in a way new playable characters... I'm fine, as long as Fierce Deity Link won't be a costume... that's probably the only way how they could disappoint me, while I'm open minded about everything else with this fun game.

Another possibility would be giving Ganondorf his horse as a weapon, so Link and Ganondorf could duel on horses again.

Hyrule Warriors: My Progress Update

nearly completed Adventure Mode map

Getting close to the 100% here. But man, this game... so much to do! Around 220 hours now.

The screenshot above was taken four days ago, so it's not fully up to date. By now I only have two weapon upgrades left (Lvl 3 Parasol and Lvl 3 Portal), eight more Skulltulas in Adventure Mode and quite some Heart Pieces and Heart Containers, mostly from annoying Challenge Battles

This is what I just got:

The mission to get it was really tough, even with a Level 99 Link I only did very little damage, so it was hard to finish in 15 minutes. Link was by the way my first level 99 character. Zelda is getting close though, she's on level 92. Guess, I like playing with these two the most.

I really want to finish everything until October 16th, so then I can fully focus on the new characters and missions. Though unlocking all the badges might take a while. Especially Agitha and Fi, who both need lots of Imprisoned Scales... ugh.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hyrule Warriors DLC Speculation

Because it's fun... I put some more thoughts into what each pack could contain since my last post. So, let's go through each pack individually.

Master Quest Pack
  • 1 new Weapon
  • New Scenario
  • New Adventure Map
  • 2 Costumes

I think for the most part this pack will deliver content for the three new villains, Cia, Volga and Wizzro. You get to play them for free, but if you want their weapon upgrades, Heart Containers and Pieces, you need this pack. The new scenario might be new villain missions for those guys and the new Adventure Map takes care of the rest.

The new scenario for Legend Mode could also be something really tough to stay true to the "Master Quest" name of the pack. Maybe it's really 2nd Quest for the Legend Mode, where all missions are tougher in their strategies. But I honestly would prefer an all new villain campaign, because I love those three baddies. It could also be something, where you replay the original missions as them. But I'm not sure, how this would work, since most of the time they just stay put in one place.

I'm not sure about the weapon. The Bongos for Darunia would be better in the Majora's Mask pack, the Crossbow should be reserved for Linkle/Aryll, the Scythe should come with Batreux, and Cia already fights with a whip-like weapon, so introducing the Whip here wouldn't be as exciting. So, I'm expecting a surprise here. Maybe something new for Zelda or Impa.

As for the costume, I thought it would be nice to make some of the concept art a reality, like Valkyrie Zelda or the feather outfit for Ganondorf:


source

Impa should also get her Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time versions at some point. And Sheik her Ocarina of Time version. But maybe this will happen as a fifth costume pack, whenever they decide to release the four existing packs in the eShop.

Cia also needs to have two costumes, one with the mask and one without. But I believe that this will be available from the get-go with the 1.3 update, because this is already in the game and not a major change of her model. You can already look at both her costumes whenever you want, so you shouldn't have to pay for it.


Twilight Princess Pack
  • 1 new character
  • 1 new weapon
  • New Adventure Map
  • 2 Costumes

The "1 new weapon and 1 new character" might translate into "2 new characters". If you remember the E3 demo, there Midna originally had a 2nd weapon, which didn't make the cut. Fans speculated that this 2nd weapon would be wielded by her true form. It could be the Dominion Rod or something like the Twilight Mirror, but whatever the weapon is, Midna doesn't have the "shackle" anymore. So, maybe true form Midna is the weapon.

This leaves place for one more character like Yeto (weapon type "Fish") or the Hero's Spirit. The Spinner could also be a new weapon for Link, but at this point they shouldn't really add any more weapons for Link and focus on other characters, who don't have a secondary weapon type. I also would like to see Agitha with a Bug Net, though I don't really know how a second moveset for her could be like.

Of course the new character could also be Linkle with a Crossbow. Her design was inspired by Twilight Princess and the Crossbow is the main weapon from Link's Crossbow Training, which is a spin-off based on Twilight Princess.

I'm not sure about the costumes. Maybe those really are just the Zora Armor and Magic Armor for Link. It wouldn't be a bad choice, even though Link already has lots of costumes (8 in total). But he's Link, so... his Ordon clothes would be another possibility for a costume. Or maybe the robed Zelda, but this might be boring. Ah, I know... Puppet Zelda! That would be cool.

The pale Midna could also be it, but this would probably be too "sick". I thought about the Hero's Spirit as a costume, but costumes don't change the sound of a character, so it wouldn't fit. Also, the Hero's Spirit has too many unique trades like the golden wolf or the ability to multiply, so it should be its own character and not a costume.


Majora's Mask Pack
  • 2 new characters
  • New Adventure Map
  • 3 new costumes

The most iconic and popular choices for the characters would be Fierce Deity Link and Skull Kid. There are some people at GameFAQs, who want to have Fierce Deity Link as a simple costume and not a character, but there are many reasons not to do this:

a) Smash Bros. 4 already did that.
b) Fierce Deity Link is about 1,5 times the size of Adult Link.
c) He needs that sword and a sword beam moveset!

Since the pack doesn't come with a new weapon, the Fierce Deity's Double Helix Blade could only be part of a new character.

Skull Kid (weapon type "Mask") is a must for two simple reasons:

a) He's an Assist Trophy in Smash Bros. 4, like Midna or Ghirahim.
b) He has his own First 4 Figures statue.

Actually both Skull Kid and Fierce Deity Link have F4F figurines. And with them Koei would have every F4F Zelda character playable in Hyrule Warriors. And with Skull Kid, Midna and Ghirahim they would have all the characters playable, which people didn't want to have only as Assist Trophies.

Of course there are other potential characters from the game. As you know I would like to see Mikau and the Deku Princess. I also often see requests for the Happy Mask Salesman and Kafei, though I don't see their appeal as fighters.

Hopefully this pack also comes with a Clocktown stage or otherwise it wouldn't feel complete. None of the packs say anything about new stages though, which would be a shame, because stages help with the variety as much as characters do. And we need that setting for Fierce Deity Link and Skull Kid. Also, Clocktown already has these perfect wide stairs between the areas and square places, which the battlefields in Hyrule Warriors need. I guess they could translate Clocktown in a way that it works nicely for Hyrule Warriors, but still look familiar.

That leaves the costumes. Three new costumes is quite a lot, but I have some ideas. For Ruto you could have Lulu's dress as a costume and Darunia could get a Goron Link Costume. With that I don't mean a full "Darmani skin", but just Link's hat and the pants to resemble Darmani in a way. Problem with Darunia and Darmani is that we don't really need both, because whatever moveset one has, you could also give the other. So, a costume for Darunia and a 2nd playstyle for Darunia using bongos might be the better choice here instead of having Darmani as his own character.

Last costume could be a Twilight Princess skin for Skull Kid, just for the sake of completion. Of course this wouldn't fit the Majora's Mask theme, but the Twilight Princess pack gets released before this one and it wouldn't make sense to include a costume for an unreleased character there.


Ganon Pack
  • 2 New Game Modes

This is supposed to be a small and cheap pack, so I don't expect anything big here. A Survival Mode would be nice, where you keep fighting enemies until you die or your base falls. No healing items.

A boss battle mode could also work, even though we already have the extra battles. But there you fight all the bosses at once, which can be fun with the characters, but really annoying with the huge bosses. And it would be nice to have something, where you battle each boss and strong character in a row.

It could be also some sort of strategy mode, where you fight for territory. Imagine the map from the Legend Mode as some sort of battle map, where you try to conquer all stages.

But maybe they also go back to their dungeon ideas, where you have to complete actual dungeons, but this would require them to design new areas. Probably too much effort for this small pack.

I also won't expect a versus mode, because for that the characters are way too unbalanced.


Costume Packs

So, we got these already:

  • Ocarina of Time Link and Zelda
  • Twilight Princess Link and Zelda
  • Skyward Sword Link and Zelda
  • Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess Ganondorf

Following these patterns there could be more packs like this for existing and potential upcoming characters:

  • Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword Impa
  • Ocarina of Time Sheik
  • Twilight Princess Skull Kid
  • Demise Costume for Ganondorf

The costumes for Sheik and Impa could be one "Sheikah Pack". And I already mentioned the Skull Kid costume as part of the MM pack. The Demise costume could be content for a later Skyward Sword pack.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hyrule Warriors (Review)

Hyrule Warriors logo

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2022 by the same author. Nintendo had provided an early download code.

After spending over 180 hours with Hyrule Warriors it's time to give a judgement – right on time for yesterday's release. Does this crossover between The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors work? Is it fun? How are the characters? What's missing? This review will tell!

If you're not familiar with Hyrule Warriors as of yet, it's best to read my preview first. It will tell you how the game is played, how the controls look like, and what features there are. The review will now evaluate the game in different categories with a summary at the end. Spoilers about the later game are either avoided or put in spoiler boxes to be safe.

All images used in this review are from post-processed promotional material, which doesn't reflect the actual ingame graphics.


Zelda All-Stars

To play as Link, Zelda, or Ganondorf in Super Smash Bros. always was nice, but there was always the dream that Zelda would also get something of its own, where you can play as different characters. And Hyrule Warrios now makes this dream come true, where it uses the foundation of Dynasty Warriors to create a "Zelda All-Stars" game.

The focus of this were the following four titles: the original The Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Those are the games from where the playable characters, the enemies, weapons, and battlefields stem from. Majora's Mask will also get a DLC pack later on, while A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening, and the The Wind Waker got some smaller references, like weapons, badges, or music. But don't expect anything from the other Zelda games, especially not the ones made by Capcom.

So, sadly Hyrule Warriors isn't the absolute all-stars title spanning the entire Zelda series; it's really just a start. But what it offers was put together with lots of love for the originals, where hopefully Hyrule Warriors will do the same for more Zelda games in the future.


Gameplay

Running all over the battlefield, whacking tons of enemies – this may sound very monotonous at first, but it can actually be rather addicting. It's fun to charge into enemy lines and clear a hundred foes with one Special Attack. It feels good to learn the combos and using them at the right time. It's not the most challenging game, far from it, but it's ideal to let off some steam after a hard day of work. And this game really manages to give you the feeling of being a true hero of Hyrule, more than any Zelda game ever did in the past.

Link unleashing a magical explosion while raising his sword in the air

Of course there aren't just the cannon fodders, but also some stronger enemies, where simple button mashing won't do the trick. They like to block, attack you aggressively, and demand a bit of skill, just like the bosses and mini-bosses in a Zelda game.

What's different here is the weak point system, where there's a gauge whenever an enemy is vulnerable. In case of overpowered foes or the giant bosses this even the only way of dealing some real damage on them, but this usually puts you in a situation where you simply circle the enemy, dodge their attacks, and wait for the right moment to strike. With some of the bosses, like King Dodongo, this can be quite annoying, because they love to take their time before they do the one attack where they are actually vulnerable.

Other than fighting stronger opponents, there is also a strategic factor to the gameplay. You're a one-man-army (or a one-woman-army) and the key to victory of each battle. You are the most important resource and there is demand for you everywhere. A keep is about to be conquered by the enemy in the west of the map, while someone needs healing on the opposite end, and assault troops are coming from the north. Of course you can't take care of all of this at the same time and this may be overwhelming at first. But you'll quickly learn to filter what needs your immediate attention and what doesn't. It's even part of the thrill to make the right decisions in all the turmoil. However, the bad side of this is that your allies are usually completely incompetent, where they normally can't get anything done on their own. It's all up to you, which can also be frustrating at times.

The battles are also scripted for the most part. This means that your enemies always follow the same plan, instead of truly reacting to your movements and actions. You can greatly influence the course of the battle with your own actions, of course, and some things are really up to chance, but for the most part the battle plays out the way how it was intended by its script. So, if you play the same battle multiple times, you will already know what's going to happen and can prepare accordingly. This can be fun, but of course it also makes things less interesting than going against a proper AI. The game mostly compensates this by offering lots and lots of different battle scenarios to go through, mainly in its Adventure Mode.

Zelda aiming her Bow of Light at a Manhandla

But none this will be news to anyone who has played Dynasty Warriors or similar games by Koei Tecmo before. What makes Hyrule Warriors more special are the different Zelda gameplay elements that went into all of this. You can cut grass or smash pots to find Rupees, hearts, Magic Jars, or similar goodies. You'll search for Gold Skulltulas and Pieces of Heart on the battlefield. You'll use potions to refill your heart meter. Bombs, Bow, Boomerang, and Hookshot are utilized to clear obstacles and to fight against the big bosses. Giant Bombchus crawl over the battlefield to destroy rocks or clear keeps. A Great Fairy waits at a Fairy Fountain to offer her aid in desperate situations. And don't mess with the Cuccos...

So, they've put quite some elements from Zelda into the gameplay, where it's not just a mere coating of Dynasty Warriors. Of course you shouldn't expect complex dungeons or any puzzles, it's still all about the battles. But just like Link's Crossbow Training isn't just a simple target shooter, Hyrule Warriors isn't just a simple Warriors game. The Zelda charm makes all the difference.


Story & Character Portrayal

Every battle in Legend Mode gets accompanied by either cutscenes or narrations with storyboards to put you in the right mood or to show you what's at stake. And as you would expect from Koei Tecmo, they've released a fan service firework, but the good kind. The story of Hyrule Warriors is all about bringing together characters from different eras, where Zelda fans are greeted by one highlight after the next. It's like a popcorn movie in many ways. The dialogues are short, there are some clich├ęs, but it's a lot of fun. There are even some twists and turns towards the end that you might not expect.

Ganondorf raising one of his sword skyward, so he gets surrounded by lightning blasts

In all of this you have to praise the portrayal of the characters themselves. Not only do they have really nice designs, but the behavior and interactions all feel very faithful to the originals and even surpass them in many ways. A good example would be Ganondorf, who never has been as "badass" as in this game and also combines different aspects of all his incarnations, even aspects of Demise. Or Impa is fantastic as well, even though she seems a little naive at times in her interactions with Sheik, but all in all she's the type of ally you want to have on your side. When Zelda fans think of Impa in the future, it will be her version from Hyrule Warriors that comes to mind.

But all the characters in the game are as well-made. Link looks great with his new scarf and even comes with a little moral to his story. Princess Zelda is simply charming, Midna is very cool, and Fi's percentages may even make you laugh in this game. And all the interactions between the characters, both during cutscenes and the battles, are splendid and sometimes also quite funny. It's of note how the developers were Zelda fans themselves, who truly wanted to create something for other fans. And they've succeeded.

It's not some intelligent and thought-provoking epic by any means, of course, but this wasn't the goal anyway. But even with the simple goal of bringing everyone together, there are some plot holes here and there, for example...

Other than the familiar faces, Hyrule Warriors also comes with four original characters of its own: Lana, Cia, Volga, and Wizzro.

Lana facing a Shadow Link summoned by Cia

Lana is a sorceress, where her design seems to be somewhat influenced by the three Oracles, while she also borrows from Saria with one of her combat styles (the Deku Stick). She's a central character to the story, where some female fans might be able to identify with her a bit, given that you like to be a cheery pop idol. This character got a lot of criticism from fans in advance for her over-the-topness, but overall she works quite well for this game's story, where she is the most important guide for the heroes. And she does have a sad background story, so don't be fooled by her appearance.

Much cooler are the three new villains, however, where their designs got mainly inspired by enemies from Ocarina of Time and other past Zelda games. The most obvious example is probably Volga, who is basically a human incarnation of Volvagia in this game. They are also somewhat reminiscent of the villain trio from Oracle of Ages & Seasons – Veran, Onox, and Vire.

Their design influences aside, they all work very well as villains in their own right. The sexy and seductive Cia is obsessed with Link, where she wants to possess the hero's soul. But she is also someone who observes all times, giving her an edge over her enemies. Volga is an absolute powerhouse, who will offer you some tough fights throughout the game. Wizzro always tries to deceive the heroes with tricks and illusions, where his cunningness can also be funny. And his background story, where he originated from the rings in The Legend of Zelda, is quite fascinating.

(These three villains will also become playable in an update on October 16th!)


Graphics & Sound

Let's just say that the graphics are very purposive, which means that the focus is on the characters and the action. The character models all look great and have nice animations. The fighting effects are fantastic as well – which is important, because you will see those a lot, where you shouldn't look your fill so quickly. Koei Tecmo also understands to put hundreds of animated enemies on the screen without the performance being terrible.

Agitha summoning a giant bug made out of light which fights Bulblins and an Aeralfos

However, what went into the combat and characters was saved in the environments, which are completely devoid of details and rarely come with pretty textures. Of course this isn't really a game where you go sightseeing – you might not even notice some of the details that are actually there. But if you take the time, don't expect to find beautiful and breathtaking landscapes, because there aren't any.

At least the sound is great for the most part. Some sound effects were directly taken from a variety of Zelda games, mainly the 3D ones, where you can't really go wrong with that. The "voices" of the characters got all recorded for this game, but it all sounds very authentic, where it even seems like they got the same old voice actors in some cases.

There is no actual voice acting, however. Well, there is the female narrator, who will tell you some story parts in a beautiful voice, but other than that you'll get the usual noises. Maybe Koei Tecmo should have dared to try something more here, but it's not that you can blame them for staying true to the conventions of the series. In the least you'll still get the gibberish of Midna and Fi, while all other characters offer a good impression via the usual noises, just like classic 3D Zelda.

While the lack of voice acting may be disappointing, the music is probably not. It rocks, quite literally, because Koei Tecmo loves to put the sounds of guitars and drums into their action, which is very unusual for Zelda, but works quite well for this game and gets nicely combined with classical instruments. And the majority of the songs are just super motivating, where one of the highlights is "Eclipse of the Sun" (the song from Lana's trailer), which gets played during your first battle at the Valley of Seers (Lanayru Valley) and is simply perfect for this mission.

Some old songs from the Zelda series also got remixed, where you might not even recognize some of them. A good example is the classic "House" melody from Ocarina of Time, which got newly interpreted with trumpets as a march music for battle preparations. 

However, some songs in this game are awfully repetitive and then even get played continuously. A good example is the song "A Great Evil", which gets played during the main campaign whenever there is impending danger. But the worst offender is with all certainty "Under Siege", which gets played all the time during Adventure Mode. That's just very disappointing, because this game has so many great songs to offer, where instead they prefer to play the same five-second-loop melody. But if you want to listen to a song of your choice, there is a music gallery for this.


Controls & Interface

As mentioned in the preview, the controls should be very intuitive for Zelda fans, where there is even a special Zelda button layout, where you can dodge with A and attack with B. The current version of the game (1.2.1) even let's you freely modify your controls, where this should leave nothing left to desire.

Only swapping between the items, which is done via the D-pad or touchscreen, is somewhat inconvenient, because it can't be done easily on the fly. You either have to stand still or take your entire right hand off, which can be troublesome in frantic situations that require you to change your current item.

Link fighting Ghirahim at Skyloft

Another problem came with the targeting, which usually goes for the strongest enemy first. This isn't wrong in principle, but sometimes you just want to target what's right in front of you and then it's annoying when the camera turns into a different direction. Swapping targets also doesn't always work intuitively, especially with multiple stronger enemies around. But the worst part is that the camera may go behind objects or walls while targeting, in which case your view gets blocked.

You can play via the Wii U GamePad, where you can switch between TV and GamePad screen on the press of a button. When you play on the TV, however, the GamePad screen itself doesn't prove itself very useful. You can only see the life energy of your most important allies and the latest battle log entries.

In the very least it should have offered a larger view of the map, which is crucial to the game, because it provides all the important information about troop movements. To have the larger version from the pause menu visible at all times, where you can also see the positions of your major allies, would have been very valuable. In addition, it should show you the elapsed time, where this is always important in Adventure Mode.

The way it is now you have to keep pausing the game to learn how much time you have left, where your allies are, or how much health they actually have left in case they need saving. And with the Wii U GamePad all this information could have been offered comfortably on the fly. Also, the contrast of the text boxes is not high enough, where it can be hard to read, in which case you also have to pause and go back into the battle log to not miss anything important.

While it's still advised to use the Wii U GamePad or a Pro Controller, you can also use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk. In this case you have to swing the Wii Remote to perform normal attacks, which is far from ideal. But it's nice to have and still better than the support for a Classic Controller (Pro) – there is none, despite the fact that it has the same button layout as the Pro Controller.


Cooperative Multiplayer

What makes all these controller options actually important is the multiplayer, where Hyrule Warriors offers the possibility to add a second player before every battle in any of the game modes. (Only the very first battle has to be played alone, afterwards the coop mode is unlocked.) For this the supporting player gets to choose from any of the available characters, which gives you some options that you may not have otherwise.

Impa and Fire Rod Link fighting together in the Eldin Caves

For some this may be the only true way of playing a Warriors game, because it can be a lot of fun to dominate the battlefield together. It's also a huge advantage, because you can focus on two problems at the same time. Plus, it looks really cool when a weak point attack gets performed by two fighters at once.

One player uses the GamePad to play and the other the TV screen. You can choose this freely, but there is no split screen mode. Also, the performance is really bad during coop play. Basically everything gets halved: resolution, frame rate, even the number of enemies. The Wii U really struggles with this, which doesn't mean it's not playable, but it's messy when compared to the singleplayer experience.

Theoretically, this wouldn't be an issue with an online coop mode, where every player gets their own Wii U, but that's missing completely. Well, Warriors Orochi 3 on Wii U had an online mode, which apparently didn't run so well and got a lot of criticism for it, but to drop this completely for Hyrule Warriors instead of optimizing things was certainly a mistake, especially since some players might love to play this with friends online.


Playable Characters

If there's one reason to get this game, it's without a doubt the opportunity to play other characters from the Zelda franchise. If you always wanted to play as Princess Zelda, Midna, Darunia, or even Ganondorf, then this game will entertain you. So, let's take a look at the full list of characters that caome with the main game, together with their weapon types:

a view of the original roster screen

  • Link (Hylian Sword, Magic Rod, Gauntlets, ???)
  • Impa (Giant Blade, Naginata)
  • Sheik (Harp)
  • Lana (Book of Sorcery, Spear, Summoning Gate)
  • Zelda (Rapier, Baton)
  • Ganondorf (Great Swords)
  • Darunia (Hammer)
  • Ruto (Zora Scale)
  • Agitha (Parasol)
  • Midna (Shackle)
  • Zant (Scimitars)
  • Fi (Goddess Blade)
  • Ghirahim (Demon Blade)

Those are 13 fighters in total with 20 different weapons (Link's fourth weapon type, which will be kept a secret here, as well as Lana's gate also bring some other characters and enemies from the game into the battle). This selection covers the most popular characters from the respective Zelda games, which are Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword, which includes some of the more common requests for Super Smash Bros., such as Midna, Ghirahim, or a Ganondorf who isn't a Captain Falcon clone. You always wanted to play as them? Well, in Hyrule Warriors you now can.

Only Agitha seems like an odd choice, who apparently had a huge fan inside the development team, but who also could smooth the way for other curious character choices in the future. And future characters there will be, starting with Koei Tecmo's villain trio – Cia, Volga, and Wizzro – via a free update on October 16th. In addition, one more character from Twilight Princess and two characters from Majora's Mask will became available via paid DLC packs in November and January, as well as new weapon types for existing characters.

So, the show will go on and the upcoming additions will take care of the most obvious omissions right now: the three new bad guys already in the game, as well as Majora's Mask. The only other omission, which stands out in what this game was trying to do, is probably Groose. Skyward Sword is the only era in the game with only one, instead of two supporting allies – Fi in this case. And one of the missions makes even use of the Groosenator, but the Groose himself isn't there, despite this forward pass. He would have been a very good fit and will certainly be missed by some fans.

Anyway, a game like this lends itself to expansions, where they could keep adding characters and things from all sorts of Zelda games in the future, whether this happens via DLC or sequels. Not everyone will like this, but even with this start of 13 fighters there is already enough to do. Each character gets his own level and heart meter, as well as a skill tree and at least one weapon, where every weapon has two upgrades to unlock. You can already spend many hours building a single character in this game.

Ruto doing beautiful water things

All the characters and weapon types are also very rich in variety. That every character plays so differently is even the main reason why this game doesn't get boring so easily,. Not only does everyone have different combo and special attacks, but most characters also offer a special gimmick to be mastered, making them unique.

The different movesets are also full of references to the Zelda games and really well made. Koei Tecmo has done an amazing job to develop individual and fitting fighting styles for every character, where it's a lot of fun to give everything a try. Of course some are better than others, where everyone will have different preferences. But in this Link does definitely stand out with the highest number of different weapons and some of the best allrounder toolkits. Well, he's still the hero after all...

 

Troops

Everyone of the playable characters can also appear as an opponent in battle, but for the most part the troops are made out of special units that roam over the battlefield or defend the outposts and keeps. While the giant bosses, which appear sparingly, are impressive and offer a challenge that feels close to what you would expect, the same can't be said about all the "cannon fodder". Most of these are a complete joke and quite honestly an insult to their counterparts from the Zelda series.

Zant fighting a horde of Gorons

This is mainly about the small foes, like the many Bokoblins, Bulblins, and Stalchilds, where there are thousands and they understandably offer little resistance. It's part of the gameplay to simply mash through them in order to charge your meters. The real problem is with the captains, which are supposed to be stronger. Some of them arguably feel quite similar to the originals, like the Lizalfos and Dinolfos from Ocarina of Time, as well as the Moblins from Skyward Sword. Others are even undeniably stronger, like the Poes from Ocarina of Time or the Gibdos from Twilight Princess.

But then there are the outliers, who just feel wrong: the Stalfos from Ocarina of Time, the Bulblin Captains (which look like King Bulblin), the Darknuts from Twilight Princess, and the Stalmaster from Skyward Sword. Those were all formidable mini-bosses in their respective Zelda games, which became a complete pushover in Hyrule Warriors. That's just not okay, where it also would have been much more interesting to have some more challenging enemies in the game.

And there shouldn't just be more challenging enemies, but more enemies in general, because there is a severe lack of variety here. It's always the same five different types of troops, where the forces of good only send Hylian and Goron soldiers into battle. There are no Zora or Gerudo forces and even the knights on Skyloft are still portrayed as Hylian soldiers. Or Zant's forces could have employed the Shadow Beasts, but instead it's just Bulblins all the time. In a game that is all about fighting hordes of enemies, this is just bad and boring.


Battlefield Stages

There is a total of 14 different stages in Hyrule Warriors, which get used for the different scenarios in Legend Mode. Adventure Mode reuses these stages, where you often find yourself in shut off sections.

Pumpkin Island stranded in the middle of Skyloft

Anyway, for the most part this features familiar places from the 3D Zelda games, like Skyloft or the Gerudo Desert. However, you shouldn't expect accurate conversions, in some cases the places are hardly even recognizable. This is because the battlefield were designed with a certain width in mind, since the giant bosses are all mobile and a King Dodongo wants to fit through all doorways. And everything looks accordingly, where often the only things these stages have in common with the originals are the overall setting and some landmarks.

There are also some new locations, which you don't know from the Zelda series, where one of the highlights is the Temple of Souls. This is Cia's twisted palace, where everything is plastered with statues and paintings of different Links, which perfectly portrays her obsession with the hero.

statues of Young Link, Toon Link, and Wolf Link in a rose garden

Having different stages is also important to keep things interesting, just like the variety of playable characters. Each stage offers a unique setting and layout, where the whole atmosphere and the strategies can be quite different. This works very well in Legend Mode, where the majority of the scenarios have their own stage, so that no mission feels like the other. In Adventure Mode, however, you keep playing those 14 stages over and over again, where those locations can get stale very quickly and you'd wish that there are many more.


Modes & Progression

Legend Mode has a total of 18 story scenarios, where those all offer a good amount of entertainment, variety, and replay value. To obtain all the hidden Pieces of Heart, Heart Containers, and Gold Skulltulas you'll have to repeat every battle at least once, sometimes even more. You can also just replay them for fun or to grind levels, unlock weapon skills, and collect rare materials.

Thanks to the story, these scenarios have that certain something, which is usually motivating and offers a good flow. Plus, with the Free Mode you can replay each scenario with any of the unlocked characters. Going through the story once will take at least 10 hours, probably more, where it offers about the same length as your usual Zelda game.

But beating the story isn't where the game ends, in fact it's just starting and invites you to explore its extensive Adventure Mode with its 133 missions. This is where you'll unlock most of the additional weapon types and upgrades, as well as Pieces of Heart, Heart Containers, and Gold Skulltulas.

In addition, four more characters can be unlocked in Adventure Mode, though this isn't really a good thing, because the way it is you aren't able to play as these characters in Legend Mode, which feels like a missed opportunity. Two of the heroes even become completely unimportant later in the story and only act as a replacement, should you play as certain characters.

Anyway, the missions in Adventure Mode come in two types: "Challenge Battles" and "Adventure Battles". In the former you're usually on your own and have to solve smaller tasks, like defeating a number of enemies. Some of those can be really fun, others not so much. For example there are the "All attacks are devastating!" missions, where both you and your opponents will go down from a single hit. This sounds interesting at first, but will simply result in you sniping everything with a bow after a while just to be safe, which isn't much fun after all.

The Adventure Battles are much more similar to the scenarios in Legend Mode, just without any story, where they seem like they were put together rather randomly. Creating scripts and cutscenes for this many battles probably was too much effort, but in the very least it would have been nice to get a small text to explain the scenario and maybe also something that respects the game's factions of good and evil. But the way it is you may wonder why Link and Ghirahim join forces to battle against Fi (even though some Zelda fans might understand the urge to do so), or why Zelda is fighting against Sheik. It's all very motley, where Adventure Mode is mainly there to keep you occupied.

Sheik in front of a Gold Skulltula in Faron Woods

At least you're constantly rewarded. Once all the characters have been unlocked, you can focus on building and upgrading their weapons. The third tiers are not only quite powerful, they all look great and also offer some nice references to the Zelda classics. In addition, you'll be collecting Gold Skulltulas, more hearts for all your characters, and materials, where there is always a reason to go into the next battle.

It's a self-justifying gameplay loop, however, where you're getting things to get more things. And there can also be some frustration, because to earn most of the rewards you'll need an "A rank", where this rank is based on the K.O.s, your time, and the amount of damage you took. For the latter it makes collecting any additional Heart Containers completely pointless, because you are usually not allowed to take more than ten hearts of damage anyway, which is what everyone has right at the start of the game. 

So, a victory can feel like a loss in this game, just because you didn't fulfill all the conditions. And unlike in Legend Mode, you also can't create any checkpoints during an Adventure or Challenge Battle. This means that you'll have to start over, should you make a mistake that might cost you the A rank... That's just another layer of artificial difficulty, which leads us to the next point...


Difficulty

It's really all about the levels. The difficulty level of every Adventure Mode battle is fixed, where sometimes you will jump in at the deep end, because the enemies are way too strong. A Moblin then may cause eight hearts of damage with a single blow, while he takes very little damage himself. Then you'll need to level up, but should you be over-leveled a mission also may become too easy. So, your experience really depends on your character's level, where it would have been good to see a recommended level for every mission. (The Network Links actually have those, which are randomly generated battles gotten via friends).

In Legend Mode you can initially choose between three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, and Hard. This affects how aggressive the enemies are, how much damage you do, and how much damage you take. Those values are all still based on your current level, so even the hard difficulty will become easy eventually, once your level is high enough. And this can be satisfying, where you can truly feel the growth of your characters, but at the same time this can completely remove the challenge in all missions where you are over-leveled.

That's probably why there is an unlockable fourth difficulty, called "Hero". In here you will have a tough time even at level 99 for a good challenge. But the game lacks something in between. When you're characters are around level 60 or 70, then the "Hard" difficulty will be way too easy, while "Hero" might still just be overwhelming.

 

Length

Should you decide to complete this game, then you will be occupied for a long time, maybe even up to 200 hours. This includes grinding, however, like leveling your characters, in some cases even to the maximum. Certain battles also want to be played multiple times in order to complete everything, usually because of the second Gold Skulltulas. So, be ready for lots of busy work. Also, most of your time will be spent in Adventure Mode, while Legend Mode only takes up about 10% of the game.

But this is also a game that can be enjoyed in small doses. Battles in Legend Mode usually take between 15 and 30 minutes, while battles in Adventure Mode were designed to be beaten in ten minutes or less, where this is ideal to be played in between. That's not something you usually do with a Zelda game and unlike a Zelda, where you may put it aside for longer time after completing it, a title like Hyrule Warriors can accompany you for many months.

 

Conclusion

While there are quite some things to criticize about Hyrule Warriors, it doesn't change the most important fact about this game: it's fun! It's fun to play as different characters and it's fun to take out hordes of monsters with them, where with this Hyrule Warriors is also the perfect supplement to the Zelda series. It's a solid start for a new spin-off series, but one that leaves a lot of boxes unchecked for the future.

The design of all the playable characters is also fantastic, where they are the main reason to recommend Hyrule Warriors to all Zelda fans. And if this type of gameplay is for you, then you will be able to spend a long time with it.

The Good:
  • Excellent Zelda action game
  • Fantastic character and weapon design
  • Diverse cast of playable characters
  • Up to 200 hours of game time
  • Lots to unlock and collect
  • Good integration of Zelda gameplay elements
  • Intuitive Zelda controls
  • Entertaining story and cutscenes
  • Rocking soundtrack
  • Addicting action
The Bad:
  • Lots of unfulfilled potential
  • Adventure Mode puts quantity over quality
  • Obscure difficulty levels
  • Ugly environments
  • Pathetic troops with little variety
  • Combat too focused on weak point system
  • No online coop mode / local coop with bad performance
  • Some camera issues while targeting
  • No good use of the touchscreen
  • No support for Classic Controller

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hyrule Warriors Character Site Update

So, they updated the official site:


Hmmm, so good! I'm really excited for the new characters, since I have been playing for 180 hours now (review copy) and the new villain trio really looks like a lot of fun. For a game like this it's important to keep it fresh with new content. But don't worry... with the original 13 characters there is so much to do that you will be easily busy until October 16th, when the first update gets released. After 180 hours I still haven't unlocked all weapon upgrades yet, Adventure Mode is a beast! So, the release of Cia, Volga and Wizzro should be perfect timing.

The amount of content in this game also let me forget my initial disappointment about how certain characters were not included yet. There's simply so much to do with each character that the DLC system with new characters every so often should work perfectly. Hyrule Warriors will keep you busy for a very long time, maybe even until the release of Zelda U.

I'm currently finishing my review for ZeldaEurope, but to make things short: I love this game. It's probably my new favorite game. It's fun and awesome. And I'm really excited for the updates. Hyrule Warriors is exactly what the Zelda franchise has been missing!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hyrule Warriors DLC Announced, Cia, Volga, Wizzro for free


There she is... <3 And for free. How nice! Hopefully she has a second costume without her mask. But maybe that's part of the first pack. And I suspect that their Lv2 and Lv3 weapon upgrades will be part of the first DLC pack, because you probably need the new scenario and/or Adventure Map to unlock them. This is what the packs contain (source):

Hyrule Warriors Master Quest
  • October 16th
  • 1 new Weapon
  • New Scenario
  • New Adventure Map
  • 2 Costumes

Twilight Princess
  • November
  • 1 new character
  • 1 new weapon
  • New Adventure Map
  • 2 Costumes

Majora's Mask
  • January
  • 2 new characters
  • New Adventure Map
  • 3 new costumes

Ganon Pack
  • February - 500 Yen
  • 2 New Game Modes

They're also using the same DLC system as in Mario Kart 8. You can preorder all four packs for a discount and receive a Dark Link costume as a gift.

This is actually not unsimilar to my previous expansion ideas, you basically get one pack per game.

I'm happy that Majora's Mask will finally join the roster, but I'm worried about what we will get here. With two characters I'm hoping for Fierce Deity Link and Skull Kid. Those are the two most important characters from the game. But it says that it will have three costumes and I'm somewhat worried that Fierce Deity Link will just become a costume for Link like in Smash Bros., which would be boring. But you would want that Double Helix sword and the pack doesn't say anything about new weapons (only new characters that come with new weapons). However, another point of concern are stages. With these two characters I really would like a Clocktown stage, but the packs don't say anything about new stages at all, which is a shame.

About the Twilight Princess pack: I suspect Real Midna here. Yeto would be my second choice, but Real Midna is probably the most important thing and she wouldn't require any stages or alike. She would be something that you could add to the game as a bonus. As for the costumes, I could imagine to get the Zora and Hero Armor from Twilight Princess for Link, even though he already has the most costumes in the game.

It's a shame that they didn't announce any packs for Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time, because this means that we won't see Nabooru or Groose in the near future. But maybe they'll announce more packs next Spring. Also, where is Linkle????

I guess, troops and new bosses probably won't happen until Hyrule Warriors 2, so I probably shouldn't put all to much thought into them right now. But overall I'm excited. I really missed the anticipation from all the trailers and it's exciting to get new additions in the future. And the timing right before the European release was absolutely perfect. This should rekindle the hype for the game.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hyrule Warriors: Expansion Ideas

Following my previous post for new characters I already put some thoughts into potential updates for Hyrule Warriors, what I would like to see and such... of course these update ideas can be split into smaller packs or may be content for a sequel. The character ideas I already explained in previous posts, so I will focus on things like stages and troops in the explanations.

Extreme Legends

  • New characters: Cia (Staff), Volga (Lance), Wizzro (Ring), Linkle (Crossbow), Nabooru (Axe), Twinrova (Brooms), Groose (Cannon), Batreaux (Scythes), Yeto (Fish)
  • New weapon types: Copy Rod (Midna), Net (Agitha), Whip or Fishing Rod (Linkle)
  • New weapon skins: Skull Hammer (Darunia)
  • New stages: Gerudo Fortress, Sand Sea, Snowpeak Ruins, Outset Province
  • New troops: Zora, Gerudo, LD-301
  • New captains: Gerudo Warrior, Zora Warrior, Iron Knuckle, Scervo, Skipper

This is basically an expansion of what we already have, meaning new characters, weapons, stages and troops from the Hyrule Warriors universe and the three games Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword.

I think they should start simple with making the original villain trio playable and maybe adding Groose and Linkle. Since having some female Link wouldn't make much sense in the storyline, they should introduce Linkle as Link's sister and maybe even call her Aryll. I thought, it would be interesting to have Link's home as a battlefield, which I called "Outset Province". Could be some kind of village map.

In total I aimed at three heroes and one villain for each era. So, Skyward Sword gets two more heroes, Groose and Batreaux, Ocarina of Time gets Nabooru and Twinrova, while Twilight Princess only gets Yeto - but it is currently the game with the most characters anyway.

There's also one new stage per era... but I realize that we would have one too many desert stages with my ideas. We already got Lanayru Valley and the Gerudo Desert, so adding the Gerudo Fortress (+ Desert Colossus) and the Sand Sea might be overdoing it. However, that's where the interesting characters and awesome new troops come from. The game really needs more variety in the troops, right now you keep fighting Bokblins, Stalchilds, Bulblins, Hyrule Soldiers and Gorons all over again.

As for how the troops work, I realized that the Skipper will most likely just be a robot captain similar to King Bulblin and not a playable character. The robot troops would be led by Fi. With the Zora it would be awesome to have the Zora Warriors from the Nintendo DS games as their captains, which resembled the classic hostile River Zora from the older 2D games.

Concerning Twilight Princess, the only interesting thing left would be Snowpeak as an ice stage, maybe with Yeto as a character. I guess, you could even have ice troops made out of Chillfos, Freezards and Darkhammers...


Termina Warriors

  • New characters: Fierce Deity Link (Helix Sword), Skull Kid (Mask), Deku Princess (Pipes), Mikau (Guitar)
  • New weapon types: Bongos (Darunia)
  • New stages: Clocktown, Woodfall, Pirate Fortress
  • New troops: Deku, Garo
  • New captains: Deku Warrior, Garo Master, Gomess
  • New bosses: Odolwa

Majora's Mask should be the first game to expand to, since it provides the necessary visuals and lots of good potential. Again, it's a total of three heroes, one villain and three stages for this era.

Next to the funny Dekus, I thought it would be interesting to have Garos as troops. They match the established troop designs very well and could have Garo Masters and Gomess as their captains. Of course overall Stalchilds could just work for the Clocktown setting.

While Mikau might provide a different enough character from Ruto, who also fits the entire style of the game very well, being a rockstar and such, I can't say the same for Darmani. It might be more interesting to give Darunia a second moveset based on the character. Overall I didn't have all too many ideas for secondary weapon types and we really have a lot of one weapon characters...

I don't know, if they would add any bosses. Right now we have one boss for each item and the Imprisoned, who's designed around using special attacks. But the way each boss works is that you knock them down for their weak point phase. Not many bosses qualify here for something that fits in the established mechanics. But Odolwa might be worth a shot for something different, where you can bring him down with any attack, but he's very quick on the battlefield.


Lorule Warriors

  • New characters: Ravio (Bracelet), Hilda (Scepter), Yuga (Brush)
  • New stages: Lorule Field

Ravio would use all the items from his shop for different combo attacks and specials, which get pooled by the Bracelet as a quite special weapon type. It's basically a weapon that lets you use many different items at once. In a way that's similar to Ghirahim's Demon Blade, only a little crazier. And Yuga naturally would fight with painting attacks, maybe even with paintings coming to life. I don't really have any great ideas for Hilda except for using dark tentacles with her scepter, but that's a start... Ravio and Hilda would both math the designs of Link and Zelda in the game.

With Lorule Field I could actually see them using the Hyrule Field stage from the beginning of the game and just redesign it in the visuals of Lorule. So, instead of a river, you get a huge dark gorge dividing the battlefield, etc.

This would actually be a nice and small pack, so maybe...


Other games

Well, as I pointed out in an earlier post, the characters from Oracle games were already used as a source of inspiration for Lana, Cia, Volga and Wizzro. And with the whole Capcom suing Koei thing recently, I doubt that we will see anything from the Capcom Zeldas in Hyrule Warriors. We also already know that Capcom has the rights to the music (they couldn't play songs from their Zelda games at the Symphony of the Goddesses), so that's already a problem.

I honestly don't think that we will see any characters or environments from any of the Toon Zelda games, because they just don't fit visually and reworking them might destroy their original charme. Overall I expect to see more references like the Wind Waker or the Deku Leaf, but nothing from the actual Hero of Wind era. But never say never. Byrne for example could make an interesting fighter... but actually touching the railway Hyrule might be too early at this point, especially if we have more fitting games left to chose from.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

2015 Zelda Calendar

Got the official Zelda calendar again. Same very basic design as last year. It almost seems like they don't put much thought into the choice of artwork with the exception of October, where you get a Poe, fitting Halloween very well. A Link Between Worlds only gets featured with the same artwork twice, while being the newest game in the series... and it only has Link, nothing from Ravio, Hilda or Yuga...




Friday, September 5, 2014

Hyrule Warriors Artwork from 1998

Believe it or not, but Nintendo released their first artwork for Hyrule Warriors back in the year 1998:


Well, actually this was made for Ocarina of Time. However, this particular scene with Link and Sheik surrounded by lots of monsters never happens during the game. It even made fans fantasize about this art for years...

Now in 2014 Hyrule Warriors makes this old artwork come to life. This is what you get in the game. Fighting side by side with Sheik in a dark valley against lots of monsters.

(Well, normally there aren't as many strong enemies at once, but the Echsalfos and Stalfos are in the game, we even have the Skyward Sword Moblins, which are kind of similar. But the idea of the artwork certainly got realized.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Preview: Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors logo

This preview was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2022 by the same author.

After having the opportunity to play the Legend and Adventure Modes of Hyrule Warriors early, let's provide you with a spoiler-free first-look for the game. This preview will tell you how the battles unfold and what you can expect from Hyrule Warriors as a Zelda fan.

There won't be any details about the story or the missions, so you can read this article without any concerns. It's also aimed at Zelda fans who have never played any other Warriors game before, like Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, or One Piece: Pirate Warriors.

Let's start with the obvious: it's not a typical Zelda game, where you beat dungeons or solve puzzles, but it's primarily based on the Dynasty Warriors gameplay as known from Koei Tecmo – a strategic action game, where you fight your way through the battlefield as a one-(wo)man-army. This formula has now gotten a Zelda coating, creating some ripples amongst the fans.

In Hyrule Warriors different characters and places from the entire Zelda universe are brought together as fighters and battlefields in a war between good and evil. It's essentially a "Zelda All-Stars", where the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors was used as a platform to make it happen.


Into Battle!

The game puts you right onto the first battlefield around Hyrule Castle, where you will instantly notice the countless troops: a large amount of Bokoblins fights against Hylian soldiers and Gorons. But they don't feel like much of a threat when compared to their counterparts from Skyward Sword, which used to hit you all at once for some real danger, especially during that game's infamous horde battle. You will notice a swing here and there, but for the most part they simply act as harmless cannon fodder. This is part of the gameplay, however, and you quickly get used to taking out dozens of enemies in a single blow. Yes, it's even a lot fun.

Link attacking a group of Bokoblins with the Hylian Sword

More crucial to the battle are the various captains, which are stronger foes, like Lizalfos, Stalfos, Big Poes, or Moblins. They can take more damage and will also attack you directly, where a little bit more skill is required to defeat them. If you do so, this will also shatter their unit of smaller foes. Stronger enemies can be targeted and also have a health bar above them, which sets them apart (though you can activate health bars for every single foe via the settings).

The real stars are the commanders, however, who lead the battle and are the main characters of the game. This includes Link, who quickly rises from a recruit to the hope of Hyrule, the powerful Sheikah warrior Impa, but also Princess Zelda, who for the first time is presented as a capable fighter and leader. The troops of evil on the other hand are initially commanded by the dragon knight Volga, the dark mage Wizzro, and their mistress Cia.

The goal is often to take out the enemy commander of the opposing forces, who are in no way inferior to your own combat power. Because of this you get a mix of fighting through hordes of monsters like in Hack 'n' Slay and more classic duels. This goes even hand in hand, because the smaller foes will provide you with goodies for fighting against the stronger ones.

In addition, Hyrule Warriors also utilizes powerful bosses, like King Dodongo or Gohma. They appear more threatening than ever when they tear through dozens of troops with their gigantic claws. With their armored bodies they also take only very little damage from normal attacks, but you can expose their weak points with the right item in typical Zelda fashion, which lets you deal critical damage.

Sheik fighting two King Dodongos on Hyrule Field

These items include the Bombs, the Bow, Boomerang and the Hookshot. You will obtain them during the course of Legend Mode and keep them forever, which means that you will have them already in your inventory at the start of any upcoming battle. Items like the Bombs can also be used infinitely, so you don't have to search for any whenever a King Dodongo shows up or there some rocks in your way.

The power-ups for the items are temporary, however, which are sometimes dropped by defeated enemies or found in pot. The Power-Up Bombs for example let you blow up dozens of enemies at once, but only for a short amount of time.

Unfortunately, you're also the only character during the battle to be able to use these items. Other fighters are simply unable to fight against the big bosses or get past certain obstacles, which means that you are usually the key to victory. Without your help nothing much will get accomplished, so you can't expect your allies to get the job done for you, while you explore the environments in peace. They can be useful here and there, but this is the exception, not the norm, so you're the driving force for the most part. This can also be stressful whenever you have to be like at five places at once and then make strategic decisions about what requires your immediate attention and what may still wait a while.

For this you're also constantly communicating with your allies, no matter where there are on the battlefield. The fairy "Proxi" talks for Link, who is as mute as we know him, while all other characters can speak for themselves via text boxes. This creates an interesting atmosphere, where you feel like a part of a greater whole, but also like a real hero. That's something that Hyrule Warriors does better than most Zelda games, where the NPCs are usually more passive. You are fighting side by side with Princess Zelda and other characters, which is a rarity from the Zelda series that here becomes your daily business.


Collect & Conquer

All those troops, monsters, and commanders don't just run around aimlessly, of course, where there are keeps and outposts all over the battlefield, which want to be captured. The small outposts only consist of a small number of enemies and one easy-to-beat captain, where you only need to defeat said captain. But the outposts are taken back by the enemy as easily, where usually these points just act as a negligible distraction.

map of Hyrule Field

More important on the other hand are the Keeps – those are square-shaped fortifications all over the battlefield, which often act as crossroads between different sections of the map. Sometimes certain gates are even closed, so you have to take the keep before you can proceed. And that's not as simple as with the outposts, because the keep boss is initially hidden and only shows up after you've done a certain amount of damage on the other enemies inside the keep. Troops are constantly spawning inside them and the more you defeat, the more damage the keeps take.

Once the keep boss is fallen, the keep belongs to your side and your enemies will have to go through the same process. The game will even warn you when keeps are getting attacked and are about to fall. This is usually caused by assault troops, which are led by a bunch of captains, but your own armies can do the same thing. And the more keeps you have, the more troops you will get on the battlefield.

In the keeps you can find variety of different elements from the Zelda series, like Bomb Flowers, Beamos, and pots, where the latter may contain Rupees, hearts, or similar items. But the best thing are the treasure chests that appear in some keeps after capturing them, because in Hyrule Warriors every character gets a unique animation for opening chests, which is charming and sometimes funny.

Princess Zelda raising a Heart Container from a chest

In some battles you also have a base, the Allied Stronghold – should this special keep fall, the battle is lost, so you need to defend it at all costs. Sometimes you have other conditions of defeat, where for example you can't let certain allies flee. You can easily heal badly hurt allies by going next to them (a ring is displayed around them in such a case), but you will have to get there in time. You can't be everywhere at once, however, where this leads to one of the main challenges of the game: a lot of fires can burn at the same time and you need to make swift decisions which ones need your immediate attention and where you can make sacrifices.

And on top of all that are sidequests... During the battle you may find Heart Container, Pieces of Heart, new weapons, and even Gold Skulltulas. The latter appear somewhere on the battlefield, where it only shows a radius in the form of a spider web on the map, after you have cleared a certain criteria, mostly defeating 1000 enemies. But the Gold Skulltulas will appear for a short amount of time, which can be very distracting when there are other urgent things to do.

For the other collectibles you can usually take your time, though, and find them while exploring the battlefield, something that most Zelda fans should enjoy. Of course it's not like in a Zelda game, where you can take your time to fish, while evil waits for you. So, you always need to have an eye on the battle and try to explore whenever the situation allows for it.

Strong foes also drop materials and weapons on defeat, where it plays the short, traditional "get item" melody each time. This is fun and invites you to run over the battlefield to collect everything, while enjoying the many "ta-da-da-da-daaa" sounds. The materials and weapons only appear in the form of small bags, where it shows you the real items only after the battle. These things will also be automatically collected at the end of each battle, so you don't actually have to collect any of them, unless you want to.


Battles in Hyrule

All the things to find are not the only (amusing) elements that have found their way from the Zelda games onto the battlefield. For example you may encounter gigantic Bombchus, which automatically go to their target and can take out obstacles or instantly capture keeps. There are also Cuccos, which act like a neutral army and can spell doom for you or your enemies.

the Great Fairy luring you in seductively

Some stages have Fairy Fountains on them, where a Great Fairy (based on the Nintendo 64 games) waits for you and helps you out with dilemmas. And just like in a Zelda game you can cut grass to refill your life or magic.

So, even though the core gameplay is based on Dynasty Warriors, the battles in Hyrule Warriors are full of gameplay elements usually found in Zelda games, which adds a unique charme. And this makes it easier to get into the battles and over-the-top action of a Warriors game, even when those games are usually not your thing.


Controls & Combos

If you're accustomed to 3D Zelda games, then it will be easy to get into Hyrule Warriors, because the controls are in many ways similar. Koei Tecmo even offers a Zelda style button layout, where you dodge and interact with A, perform normal attacks with B, and strong attacks with Y, while the cinematic Special Attacks are triggered with X. The normal Warriors style is also there, where you attack with Y and X, but this preview will use the Zelda style as a reference.

In a Warriors game you use a variety of different "combos" to attack. But don't worry, this isn't like in fighting or other Hack'n'Slash games, where you have to perform crazy inputs, it's actually rather simple. You have a chain of normal attacks, where you just keep pressing the B button, just like you would in a Zelda game. Now, at any point during this attack chain you can perform a combo attack by pressing Y. This attack will be different depending on how many normal attacks you have performed before. So, pressing BBY will result in a different attack than BY or BBBY. It's simple to learn and also allows new players to just mash buttons and see what impressive actions will unfold. And experienced players will know what combo to use in which situation.

Defeating enemies and collecting Force Fragments will fill your Special gauge, which is right below your heart meter. With the X button you can then unleash a powerful Special Attack, which lets you target a large group of enemies at once. This even freezes everything around you, so you can use it safely.

A specialty of Hyrule Warriors is also the magic meter, which only fills by collecting Magic Jars. Those can be found in the environment or are rarely dropped by enemies. Once filled, you can activate "Focus Spirit" with the R button, where your attack power and speed are enhanced, which is especially helpful in duels against stronger foes. This will continuously drain your magic, but you can extend the duration by defeating lots of enemies. For every 25 K.O.s you get some magic back, as well as certain bonuses, like more Rupees or experience points.

Impa with the Naginata unleashing her red Focus Spirit

During Focus Spirit you can press the X button to perform a different, more targeted Special Attack, which is will reveal the weak point gauge of an enemy. This will empty your magic meter, where it's best to wait until the very last moment. Should the magic extinguish on its own, then this will cause a large area attack around you. So, next to multiple combos every character has three different special attacks, which all look very cool.

Decisive against commanders and bosses is the weak point system, however. Whenever your enemy perform certain attacks, it will leave them vulnerable for a brief moment, which is when their weak point gauge appears. Once you reach the end of this gauge with attacks, you will perform a powerful weak point attack for massive damage. With the giant bosses, like King Dodongo or Gohma, this is even the only real way of dealing damage to them, where you also have to use a certain item to reveal their weak points in good, old Zelda tradition.

Impa fighting Volga

Zelda fans should also get accustomed to the rest of the controls fairly quickly. The left analogue stick lets you walk around and the right analogue stick turns the camera around, like in The Wind Waker. The ZL button lets you block, but it also centers the camera right behind you. Unlike other Warriors games, you can target enemies with the L button, so they will stay in sight, which works like in any 3D Zelda game. Of course not every small foe can be targeted, only the captains, commanders, and bosses, but that's what counts. You can also switch targets with the right stick.

Here's an over view of the complete Zelda control layout:

  • Left stick: walk
  • A: dodge, interact 
  • B: normal attacks
  • Y: strong attacks / combos
  • X: Special Attack
  • R: Focus Spirit (Magic)
  • ZR: item
  • L: targeting
  • ZL: block and center camera
  • Right stick: camera, change target
  • D-pad: swap items, zoom map
  • Plus: pause menu
  • Minus: switch between GamePad and TV

You can also play with a Wiimote and Nunchuk, but normal attacks will be performed by swinging the remote, similar to Twilight Princess on the Wii.


Characters and Weapons

The real appeal of Hyrule Warriors is without a doubt the diverse cast of characters. In this game you won't only play as Link, but with all sorts of different characters from the Zelda universe. Next to new incarnations of Link, Zelda, and Impa, there are also a couple of characters stemming from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword, which get unlocked one after another.

Before each battle you get to choose your character and their weapon. Some characters even have different weapon types, e.g. Link can use the mighty Fire Rod instead of his typical sword and shield combo. This completely changes all of Link's attacks, where these weapon types are effectively a whole other moveset.

Daruna causing a fiery explosion with his hammer

Each weapon type also belongs to one of five elements: fire, water, lightning, light, and darkness. Here is a short explanation what they do:

  • Fire Attacks cause explosions, which blow away enemies and create mighty sparks, which can hurt even more foes.

  • Water Attacks create a bubble above the heads of your enemies for a while, which lets them continuously take some damage (like poisoning).

  • Lightning Attacks cause more damage when they hit enemies in the air – this often gets supported by attacks that launch enemies up.

  • Light Attacks cause more damage against multiple enemies.

  • Darkness Attacks cause more damage against single enemies.

Next let's take a look at some of the characters to give some examples:

  • Link (Hylian Sword): Link with his sword and shield is the perfect allrounder, where you can't really go wrong. His normal sword attacks deal decent damage in duels, while his different spin attacks are effective against hordes of enemies. For Zelda fans this is the perfect way of familiarizing yourself  with the mechanics.

  • Sheik (Harp): Sheik is an example for a more tricky character. Kunais get used for the normal attacks, while the combos create attacks for all five elements. Based on your previous combo an elemental note appears below your special meter, where your strong attack (Y) let's you play a song based on this element for different effects. For example the combo BBBY creates a lightning attack, where you then can play the Song of Storms, which will wrap you in a lightning cloud.

  • Daruna (Hammer): If you just want to smash, then Darunia is your man. His hammering is slow, but powerful for some good damage on every swing. Combos will unleash explosive and fiery attacks to give your enemies hell, but you will often be left vulnerable after them.

  • Fi (Goddes Sword): Fi is unique in her ability to attack while moving, which for example can be useful to attack Bombchus on their way. Her combos are also good against multiple enemies, where she can strengthen her attacks with light energy. She has a special light gauge, which can be filled with her strong attack move for a short while. But she isn't very good in duel against stronger foes.

These characters are all rich in variety, where every weapon type has its own gimmick, as well as different advantages and disadvantages. And it can be a lot of fun to give them all a try to discover your favorites, just like in a fighting game. Depending on the game mode and missions you can either freely choose between the characters or are restricted to certain ones...


Game Modes

You will battle in one of the three different modes: Legend Mode, Free Mode, or Adventure Mode (there will also be a Challenge Mode available in a free update after release, but this wasn't available for testing as of yet).

Your entry into the game is Legend Mode, where the story of the game gets told battle by battle, via cinematic cutscenes and beautiful storyboards. The latter are narrated by a real voice actress in English (with subtitles for other languages). If you're hoping for any more, then you will be disappointed, because Koei Tecmo stayed faithful to the classic combination of textbox and noises, which feels somewhat outdated here in Hyrule Warriors, but still works and his its own charm.

They certainly weren't skimping on cutscenes, where there's one for the beginning and end of each major battle. These scenarios fit the story quite well and offer also some replay value, where you will play through multiple times to find all extras, level your characters, or simply to revisit the story.

Legend Mode only lets you use the characters who actually were part of the story during the corresponding missions. If you want to play as any character, you can do so in Free Mode, where all of your unlocked fighters are available. The main fighter of the scenario will then follow you wherever you go, which can be unintentionally funny. For example you will do all of Link's work during the first battle on Hyrule Field, where he always arrived only after the dust has already settled.

Overall, the battles in Legend and Free Mode are focused on quality and replay value, so this is where the meat of the game is. But if you want more at the end, then Adventure Mode will have you covered, which is all about the quantity. It gets played on the map of the classic NES The Legend of Zelda, where each square stands for a mission. If you do the math, then that's 128 missions in total, which can keep you busy for a long time. This is also where you can unlock certain other characters, new weapon types, and stronger weapons, which can't be found in Legend Mode.

early Adventure Mode map with most of it still covered

More than half of the missions in Adventure Mode are "Challenge Battles", where you are (mostly) on your own and have to solve different tasks. For example you might have to defeat a certain number of enemies or bosses within 10 minutes. Some of these Challenge Battles are also pure duels without any hordes of monsters.

Then there are "Adventure Battles", which are similar to the battles in Legend Mode, except that there are no story restrictions. This means that everyone can fight against everyone, which may lead to some weird scenarios, but also gives you the opportunity to fight against certain characters, which you normally wouldn't have to face in battle (which also helps to obtain their materials).

Winning battles will score you "Item Cards", which are classic items, like the Compass, Bombs, or the Candle. These can be used on the Adventure Map to reveal hidden rewards, like new weapons. Bombs open caves and the Candle burns trees, just like in the original. The Compass will show you the right spots to use the items, where each Item Card can only be used once. If you use on the wrong spot, it will be wasted, but you can always get new cards from (re)playing battles, so there is an infinite supply.

If you're familiar with the NES original, you can even rely on your memories (or guide maps on the internet) to save yourself some Compasses. There are also new items and hidden secrets, which didn't appear in The Legend of Zelda for some new discoveries, but these are mostly obvious because of the fact.

Finished battles in Adventure Mode will receive a score with rank of either A, B, or C. To obtain certain rewards or proceed on the map at certain points, you will need to score an A rank. And for that you will have to finish the battle quickly enough, defeat a certain amount of enemies, while not taking too much damage. This sounds stressful, but is usually quite doable, as long as your characters have the right level... Which brings us to the last topic of this preview.


Shopping and Leveling

In games with multiple fighters, like Super Smash Bros. or Street Fighter, it's usually so that you unlock them one after another, maybe give them a try and that's it. Not so in a Warriors game. Here every characters has a long-term development, controlled by yours truly.

It already starts with the fact that each character gets their own heart meter. Every Heart Container and Piece of Heart that you collect goes to a certain character, where during battle you can only open such treasure chests with the right character.

You also receive more Heart Containers by leveling your fighters from 1 up to 99, which also influences your attack power. This can make the difference between life or death in certain missions, where something that may seem impossible at first can become much more doable with ten more levels to your name.

To level up you simply need K.O.s – every defeated foe earns you XP, similar to Zelda II - The Adventure of Link or most RPGs. Bur the Bazaar also contains a Training Dojo, where you can invest your Rupees into level-ups. Those costs can go into sextuple digits, but you will earn such sums eventually and it's useful to bring the characters up to speed who you don't play as often.

Badge Market, Stamina Fruit I: Makes the Weak Point gauge diminish quicker.

The Bazaar can be accessed after each battle via the plus button, where you have other ways of strengthening your characters in the form of a menu. One of those is the Badge Market, where you can unlock different perks for your characters. The badges are the same for every character, but you'll need different materials for everyone. Some of the abilities you unlock here are as important as your level, maybe even more so, like for example additional combo attacks or upgrades to your Special Gauge. The badges are split into attack, defense, and assist categories.

The strong badges will need rare materials, which can only be gotten from defeating boss monsters, where it can take quite a while to unlock everything. More common materials, like old rags from Bokoblins, can also go into the Apothecary, which lets you create Mixtures and Potions for different effects lasting for one battle. And those can also make you stronger or give you better loot.

Similar effects can be found on the weapons themselves, which are managed in the Smithy. You can collect up to ten weapons for every weapon type, where these have different attack values and slots for weapon skills. Those weapon skills can be transferred to empty slots on other weapons for some Rupees, where the price depends on the weapon and skills. You can also sell your excess weapons for some good money.

You usually obtain a variety of weapons during a battle, which come with random skills. Some skills are still sealed, where you will have to defeat a certain number of enemies with this weapon, before the skill becomes available. These are usually the better skills, but some of them also have drawbacks, so be ready for some surprises here.

All in all, you can invest a lot of time into boosting your characters and taking care of their weapons. It's actually so much that you won't mind any longer that the game "only" has 13 playable characters at launch, because this can keep you more than busy until more characters get added via updates and DLC.


Conclusion

The first impression of Hyrule Warriors is mostly positive. It feels like Dynasty Warriors and The Legend of Zelda were made for each other, where both sides get something from this fusion. The gameplay of Dynasty Warriors gets extended by various elements from the Zelda games, while Zelda fans get the opportunity to play battle in Hyrule with a variety of different characters. It's a win-win and Koei Tecmo took good care to make sure that the fans will feel at home in this new title.