Hyrule Warriors Legends
Imagine taking a Dynasty Warriors approach and throwing it on Zelda, and then imagine that game being Hyrule Warriors. Nintendo, Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo did just that back in 2014 and we get to return to the adventure on the 3DS with the latest port. The game focuses on hundreds of enemies on a rather large map attacking bases while you control several heroes to combat them all, and lead your army to victory. The game surprisingly transfers well to the 3DS and makes for a perfect on-the-go experience, but overall technical drawbacks nearly cripple the experience on older 3DS units.
One thing you expect with a Dynasty Warriors approach is a really long repetitive nature, and Hyrule Warriors is no different. You could spend an hour in a single mission doing the same attacks against very repetitive enemies, and yet it keeps your attention. The reason being that the game has so many larger scale things going on that your focus isn’t necessarily the enemy in front of you. Instead you are controlling bases, helping friendly soldiers, and watching as a full scale plan develops.
While that is great, the game can be tasking. If one of your heroes dies you lose the mission and need to start over from a checkpoint. That could be a lengthy amount of repeat time if not handled correctly, and yet it’s an experience I love on a portable device. The game is so easy to access and get going, and there isn’t a learning curve or anything tasking at hand. You could close your 3DS mid combat, then continue right where you left off later. It’s great for wasting time while you wait at the office, or stand in line for E3, then when your attention is diverted elsewhere you can close it and continue later. Personally I pretty much prefer this game as a handheld title.
That being said I have only played Dynasty Warriors so I know how those mechanics work, but I never played Hyrule Warriors on WiiU. The port to 3DS adds all the DLC from the original game, plus a new characters like Linkle. Linkle plays a lot like a female Link, but she has some advantages that could change strategies throughout the game along with the addition of the other 9 characters. I have no way of comparing if these additions make the game worth buying again though. Personally I think your thought process should be in terms of taking the game with you, and not so much the content provided.
The game isn’t like the original, from what I have seem, and it isn’t like Dynasty Warriors anymore. On 3DS Hyrule Warriors is more objective based, giving you tasks to accomplish to finish a mission instead of completely wiping out the enemy army all the time. Granted maps will dynamically change based on your decisions, so you will still be wiping out a lot of the enemies to accomplish these tasks. This means the game can spread your characters out rather far, and even spread your army out thin to create a risk. You need to keep an eye on the entire battlefield to make sure your front is strong, and your home base is protected. Not only that but the army around each hero needs to be strong too and if their health starts slipping it might be a good idea to get that character to safety. If your home base or one of your characters dies you lose.
The first few levels allow you to grasp this concept and carefully trains you to look out for certain things, but then the game hits a stride of difficulty and tests what you paid attention to. This is the point where the game can become ultra-repetitive as you constantly redo checkpoints or full missions to get things done correctly.
The only aspect of this gameplay that I find rather annoying is the fact the AI has a bit too much control. There were many times when my army would retreat, or threaten to retreat, but there wasn’t too much danger. Maybe a boss was walking by or something, but it wasn’t anything major. I’d then have to take one of my heroes and travel to that spot so that I could kill a few enemies and keep them from retreating. This little aspect makes the game become rather frustrating because simple AI decisions can make you lose a mission, forcing you to start all over.
Now the real complaint I have with Hyrule Warriors is how restricted the game becomes. Facing facts you will have two entirely different experiences if you play the game on an “old” 3DS vs a “new” 3DS. The game if bluntly advertises the “new 3DS” within the loading screens and game tips.
Diving into that, the game is supposed to throw a lot of enemies at you at once. That is the whole purpose of the game. Yet on old 3DS systems you will get maybe 20, 40 at most, enemies at a time. There will be hundreds more throughout the map, but you can’t physically see them. The only way to navigate big fields of enemies is to look at the mini-map and watch the red dots moving about. Once you come across them and they are directly in front of you, they will pop up and you can attack them. Personally it isn’t a huge deal to me, the game is still playable, but there were multiple times when an invisible enemy ended up attacking me. The enemies could also technically move far away from you to a point where they simply vanish. It was the only technical drawback that was entirely noticeable to me.
The game has noticeable pop-in issues with things loading abruptly, and a majority of the effects were removed on the old 3DS units. For example the boss characters destroy objects in the game and on the new 3DS there are animations to show it. Yet on old 3DS units, the boss simply approaches the objects and it vanishes. 3D features also do not exist on old units as the game won’t allow you to turn it on, but even on new units this harshly affects the frame rate. Luckily there was a big update to the game just before I started playing that I’m assuming addressed the frame rate issues. Some users were reporting extreme frame rate issues, but I personally haven’t come across anything too severe. (I believe keeping visual enemy count in check addresses that issue.)
That being said the game is too fun to put down. I keep picking it up and advancing further because the gameplay is so addictive and easy. The story also does a great fan service to Zelda fans by keeping you interested and throwing hints of everything into the entire game. Everything has a small taste of the original titles, even the theme song will start playing at the perfect moment to make you smile. The game proves that this type of game is fantastic for mobile devices. The bottom touch screen of the 3DS even adds some new features allowing you to quick swap characters, or remotely guide them to areas of the map. This helps during tense moments where a quick on-the-fly strategy needs to develop. The 10 new characters add a lot of depth to the character selection, and the 10 hour story is fantastic.
I've already spent countless hours in the game and even had my 3DS die multiple times while playing the game, something that normally doesn't happen to me. The combat system works rather well, but has some times that can be frustrating. Though nothing too problematic. The core game simply just works as a handheld title and I hope to see more titles in this franchise hit the 3DS or future Nintendo handhelds.
While I highly recommend playing this on a new 3DS, no matter how much that makes me cringe, I do think it is now playable on an old 3DS. You won’t get the full experience and those that played the game on WiiU will totally notice the drawbacks, but the core game is still fun as heck and perfect for an on-the-go experience. Those that are new won't really notice all the drawbacks, just the hiccups.
That being said both new and old 3DS owners will notice the horrendous textures directly downscale from the WiiU version with no touch up. Those that played the game on WiiU will notice a lot more flaws on old 3DS units than those that are new to the game. I think those that are new will have an enjoyable experience regardless of which 3DS unit they have.