Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hyrule Warriors: Boss Pack (Review)

Ganon fighting the Imprisoned with a huge trident at the Gerudo Desert

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

On Thursday the last of the four DLC packs for Hyrule Warriors was released: the Boss Pack. It's also part of the Hero of Hyrule Pack and adds two new modes to the game, which revolve around one thing: bosses. While the previous packs were all about adding new characters, weapons, and Adventure Mode maps, this time it's all about the Challenge Mode, which gets extended by both the free update of version 1.6, as well as the Boss Pack.

It costs 2,99€ on its own, where it's much cheaper than the other three packs for 7,99€ each. If you get the Hero of Hyrule Pack, then everything together only costs you 14,99€.

Version 1.6

The best things about the whole update is that they've finally fixed the long loading times from version 1.5.0. Battles now load as fast as they did in version 1.4 and before, which means that it's usually done around the time when Link picks up the Triforce during the loading animation. In version 1.5 you had to watch him getting chased away by an Octorok and all that... According to Koei Tecmo this got caused by a bug, but what matters is that it's fine now.

The update also increases the level cap one last time to 255. In case you're wondering about this odd number, it's another 8-bit reference to the original The Legend of Zelda. 255 is the highest possible number for an 8-bit value (which includes 0) and was also the maximum amount of Rupees in the NES classic.

Cia in the Training Dojo on Level 255

So, there's now one level for each Rupee, but leveling your characters takes much, much longer than collecting Rupees in Zelda. In fact, it takes so long that you now will have to invest countless hours to get all the characters to the maximum. This problem got already discussed with the Majora's Mask Pack and meanwhile the community got obsessed with a glitch that lets you get 9,999,999 Rupees at one go. But even that sum is not enough to level a character to the max by now. In fact, this takes almost 25 million Rupees.

It can be worth the effort, however. The "Hero" difficulty in Legend Mode plays more like the other difficulties in the beginning once you've reached level 255, so that you can take out giant bosses with two weak point smashes and you also won't take any excessive damage. It doesn't help that much with the Twilight Map, though, where you still take at least one and half heart of damage from everything, even at 255. But at least you'll do more damage, which should make scoring some of the A-ranks easier. The new Challenges can also be still quite tough, even on the highest level.

Then there are some new potion mixtures in the Apothecary, which are mainly about fighting big bosses, like dealing more damage to them. Like the new mixtures from previous updates, these eat up a ton of bronze materials, which can be used by fairly quickly by now. Silver materials could have been an alternative here and there, especially since you can get lots of those from the "divisive plan" battles, which are also good for leveling, where some players might sit on a mountain of Fi's heels by now.


New Challenges

Also part of the version 1.6 update is an extension of the Challenges, which is where the new game modes of the Boss Pack can also be found. The Challenge Mode was originally added in version 1.2, but it only featured one Challenge, named "Running Battle in Faron Woods". At the time it was announced that more Challenges will be added gradually, but this never really happened until now and this free mode is yet another appetizer for the paid DLC.

Two free Battle Challenges got added, but those were simply taken from Adventure Mode. One is called "Rush Battle" and works like the "Rack up your KO count!" Challenge Battles, while the "Defeat 800 enemies!" is exactly what you would expect. Rush Battle can be fun, but overall this is far from creative, which is a shame, because the first Challenge actually came with some new ideas. For example, you had to defeat enemies with Special Attacks or during Focus Spirit, where the two new Challenges simply feel uninspired next to this.

A list of highscores was also added for each character, which is sorted by Rupees and has some other statistics as well, e.g. how many giant bosses were defeated. You can now also score ranks, just like in Adventure Mode, with the difference that this is saved for each character individually.

There are ten new Boss Challenges in addition as part of the paid DLC, which work similarly, so that there are 13 A-ranks to achieve per character. That's 247 additional A-ranks to fully complete the game. But this is even more repetitive than Adventure Mode, since you're just playing the same 13 missions over and over again...

Boss Challenges

In the Boss Challenges you either have to defeat a number of enemies (between 1000 and 2000) or as many enemies as possible within a timelimit. The latter works the same as "Rack up your KO count!" again, only that it's called "Brave Battle" here for some reason. The only real difference is that you constantly have to defeat giant bosses, so that more enemies will spawn.

Link facing a horde of King Dodongos

The bosses effectively inhabit the battlefield in these modes and will even fight each other in the "Defeat x enemies!" Challenges, which is something that doesn't happen anywhere else in the game and certainly a sight to behold. But this also takes away from the challenge, since the bosses are busy with each other. Fighting multiple bosses at once can also be very dangerous, but here it never seems to get as bad as in "Boss Rush" on the Rewards Map.

To unlock more Boss Challenges you will have to finish all the available ones with an A-rank, but the criteria seem well adjusted to the individual Challenges, where everything should be doable as long as your level is high enough. The bosses also never have an excessive amount of life, so that you can usually defeat them with one or two weak point smashes.

There there is a third type of Boss Challenge, called "Survival Battle", which is probably the most interesting one and works like a classic survival mode. You will have to endure multiple waves of incoming enemies by defeating the commanders and giant bosses. But you won't be able to heal and hearts can only be obtained from special Transport Troops. But your taken damage doesn't matter for the A-rank, where finally there is something in Hyrule Warriors where collecting all those Heart Containers and Pieces of Hearts has some value. This was rather pointless before, since the A-ranks usually required you to stay below a damage threshold. 

However, you will have to brace yourself for some longer battles, where levels 3 and 4 of the Survival Battle can take half an hour or even longer. This is really a test of endurance.

Link fighting Dark Ganon at the Sealed Grounds

The Survival Battles also come with dark giant bosses as a new feature. Those never show their weak point, even if you use items on them. At the same time they are much weaker to your other attacks. With the exception of Argorok, who is slightly harder to hit in the air, this actually works quite well. In fact, this works so well that it should be possible to defeat every giant boss in the game this way, since waiting for their exposing attacks is often too random and results in lots of waiting for the right moment. The giant bosses would probably work a lot better if you just could attack them normally in addition.

Ganon's Fury

If you don't just want to play against giant bosses, but play as one of the giant bosses yourself, then Ganon's Challenges will have you covered. There you will take control of the biggest and baddest monster in the game, which was actually quite the surprise, because this essentially adds another playable character to the game.

Ganon plays quite differently from the normal characters, however, and offers a whole new perspective on the battlefields, where even the other giant bosses are smaller than him and everything else looks like puny insects. While there already is a way of playing as the Great Fairy, Ganon is on a whole other level and can also punch the other giant bosses all over the map. This even cancels their usual attacks, which isn't possible for the normal characters, at least not that easily.

This may sound awesome and also is quite fun at first, but you will quickly notice why Ganon keeps losing to Link at the end of any Zelda game. While he can play soccer with the other giant bosses, it's the small enemies that give him trouble. He isn't very agile and you can't see any enemies behind you. And this can lead to a single Lizalfos sneaking up on you to deal some good damage. Ganon is just one giant target and the playable main characters can all be a huge threat to him (which curiously only appear in their dark forms). You will have to be really careful and the appearance of playing as a giant destroyer quickly fades away...

Ganon Punch!!

Ganon is also quite weak in the beginning, where the aforementioned Lizalfos can hurt you quite badly, while tanking multiple of your own attacks. Even those red beams of death, which could cause you above 15 hearts of damage in the other game modes, doesn't really do much damage here at all, which is really disillusioning and feels ridiculous.

And that's because Ganon needs to be leveled up at first, just like any other characters. But unlike all other playable characters he can't just go into the Training Dojo. And you're limited to the ten challenges available to Ganon, which you also have to unlock one after another. Well, luckily you get a lot more EXP thanks to the high amount of enemies, but it still takes a lot of patience to bring Ganon to the higher levels. And this can get highly repetitive with the same few battles.

Ganon's controls will also add to the repetitive gameplay, because he doesn't have the usual combo system. Instead he mainly has two attacks: punches and the read energy beams (which don't make as much damage as you would hope). He can also spin around via ZL, which replaces the blocking, and you can trigger a charge attack via the D-pad. He also has Special Attacks and Focus Spirit, but he can't use any of the usual items.

Instead you will collect the attacks of the different giant bosses, where you can shoot fireballs like King Dodongo or the rapid fire burst of Manhandla, just like Ganon does as the final boss. These are sometimes dropped by the other bosses when you defeat them and can be selected via the D-pad or the touchscreen, just like the normal items. Each of them is effective against one of the other bosses and exposes their weak points, where King Dodongo's fireballs work wonders on Argorok for example. However, you don't get to keep them between Challenges, which means with each battle you will have to re-obtain them.

Also, you're quite vulnerable during these attacks, especially with other giant bosses in your proximity. So, usually it's much safer and more effective just to punch them around. Generally, the punches seem to be the way to go for pretty much everything, which is super dull. The combo system of Hyrule Warriors may be quite simple, but it's part of the appeal to find the best combos for the current situation, which is an aspect of the gameplay that's completely absent with Ganon.

Ganon is more about strategic positioning, which isn't all too easy with his size and lack of maneuverability. He basically plays like a tank, where you always want to have your enemies right in front of you, so that nothing attacks you in the flank or from behind.

In the end it's the eternal struggle with A-ranks, where you can only take a certain amount of damage, even though this mode gives you a bit more leeway. Playing Ganon would be a lot more fun if you didn't have to worry about taking damage all that much, but that's the same problem as in the majority of Adventure Mode...

You will need the A-ranks to unlock rewards and the other Challenges in Ganon's Fury. Just like the Boss Challenges, there are ten in total and they are split into three different formats: "Defeat 5000 to 9999 enemies!", "Giant Battle", and "Survival Battle". In the Giant Battles there are groups of giant bosses on the battlefield, where you will have to take down their leaders, the "Lords of the Horde". Obtaining the different boss attacks one after another feels somewhat more purposeful here and you will also run into Great Fairies as an enemy for the first time ever, who are trying to heal your opponents. The other two mission types are pretty much the same as the Boss Challenges with the same names, only scaled up to Ganon's dimensions.

Speaking of, any items on the battlefield, like Hearts, Magic Jars, or Force Gems, are rendered comically large, so that you can see them and also pick them up more easily. But with the Magic Jars it's a little bit hard to tell whether it's a small or a large bottle.

There is also a glitch in the game mode, where you can push the giant bosses into the fenced off areas of the map with your attacks. If you have to beat these giant bosses, then it won't be possibly to complete the mission any longer, simply because you can't reach them anymore. And this can be very frustrating if that happens at the end of a long Survival Battle.

In the Boss Challenges you may experience the opposite problem, by the way. After jumping off from a finishing move you can land behind an obstacle and then there's no way back into the actual battlefield for you. These kind of glitches aren't new, but they can be much more common now due to the high numbers of bosses in a small space.

Costumes & Extras

To have an incentive to play any of the new Challenges at all, there are of course some more costumes to unlock by clearing the third Challenge of each type with an A-rank. These are new recolors for Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, Lana, and Cia in the colors of the different giant bosses, which can give the characters a whole new look. For example, Link in Ganon's colors has red hair, yellow eyes, and a dark armor. Zelda in Argorok's colors gives her black hair. Only Cia's Manhandla costume doesn't really give her such a transformation, since she already had a green costume on the Master Quest Map, but the new one looks much better.

Link running after his horse in his new Ganon costume

The costumes for Link, Zelda, and Lana are obtained from the Boss Challenges, while the ones for Ganondorf and Cia wait in Ganon's Fury. Yes, that's not equal between the two modes, but to make up for it Ganon's Fury also has a special reward waiting for you...

The only thing that's really missing at this point are the dark costumes for all characters, which already exist in the game, but can't be used by the player, with the exception of Link. The new basic Challenges could have been a good way of unlocking those for every character, where this would have been a good incentive to clear all Challenges with everyone. And this would have also allowed for the three DLC characters, who don't have any costumes at all yet, to get at least one alternate costume.


If you still couldn't get enough of Hyrule Warriors, then this will be one last dose for you... at least for now. But the new Challenge Modes won't offer the same level of motivation and variety as Adventure Mode did, where they are easy to ignore once you've beaten them once. It's all the same missions over and over again.

The real appeal is playing as Ganon for a very different view on the world of Hyrule Warriors, which can be equally repetitive, however. Still, it's something else, offers some new challenges, and can be fun.

The Good:
  • Play as Ganon for a new experience
  • Giant bosses spectacle
  • Good survival mode
  • Fancy new boss costumes
The Bad:
  • New Challenges are very repetitive
  • Ganon plays sluggishly and levels up slowly
  • No dark costumes

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