Hyrule Warriors Legends is a spinoff hack and slash beat ’em up RPG of The Legend of Zelda series for the Nintendo 3DS. This is actually the second version of the game Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U and a third version, Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition, was released for the Switch. I’ve only played this particular version so I’ll be basing my review on the 3DS version, but much of it will apply to all versions. The plot of the game basically revolves around Link, a skilled Hyrulean guard, that gets roped into a quest of using the Master Sword to save the land from certain doom. He also ends up teaming up with Lana, a newcomer to the series, that is a sorceress trying to stop the evil sorceress Cia. Ganondorf and his evil minions are also plotting to take control of the land themselves while Linkle, another newcomer, is on her own journey that soon becomes intertwined with all the madness. Who will come to a happy ending this time? Play the game to find out!
The basic gameplay is a mouthful but nearly all battles work essentially the same way. You can use light attacks, heavy attacks, and chain them together in different ways to use a variety of combos. There’s a special meter that builds up as you hit enemies that can be used to unleash extra powerful special attacks. There’s also a magic meter that fills up when collecting magic vials from destroyed objects or defeated enemies. You can either use this meter to enter focus mode which increases your combat potential, or if you have enough you can use your fairy companions power. The fairy’s type will determine the area of effect damage and the skill the fairy knows will linger in that area of effect as well. The skills can do things like increase the status of all allies or decrease the stats of all allies within the area of effect. These skills are determined by the traits of the fairy in question, which are altered by feeding them fruit found throughout the battles. You also have items that you can use. These items all stem from the Zelda series and have a few uses. For example, bombs can be used to stagger certain enemies at key points in their attack animations as well as blow up rocks on the battlefield.
The map shows off a few important types of locations on the battlefield. First and most importantly are bases. There is typically one allied base and at least one enemy base. If the allied base falls, you lose. Typically the overall goal will be to take over the enemy base in order to win. To take a base you must infiltrate it, defeat enough enemies inside to reduce its health meter, and then defeat the major enemy guarding it. Keeps work similarly to bases except that they are easier to take and are not necessarily a victory or defeat condition to take or lose. Sometimes they’ll have some extra effects to them based on the specific battle such as an effect on the battlefield or opening previously locked doors. After lowering their meter a keep boss will appear and upon its defeat the keep will change hands. Then there are outposts which are very small points on the map guarded by low level AI. In general, having more forts and outposts will give you more troops and help their morale, thus giving you an advantage over the battlefield. These keeps and outposts will also slow down moving enemy units as they will usually try and claim them before pressing forward.
There are also a number of different kinds of AI units. The weakest grunt-level units barely put up much of a fight or pose much of a threat aside from when they travel in large groups. Units a step above them will sometimes lead small charges around the map, guard outposts, and serve as keep bosses. Captains tend to be a bit beefier and do things like rally troops to lead more effective charges. Elite units are tougher yet and will often sport special effects like improving the morale of units, summoning more units in the case of summoners, heal units in the case of healers, and some are keep saboteurs that rush for keeps as fast as possible. These units tend to also have weak point gauges that pop up after they do big attacks or once staggered while trying to prepare said attacks. Once the weak point gauge is depleted your next attack will be a devastating blow compared to your other damage and if the unit is not defeated the gauge will be reset. Then there are character units based on playable characters in the game. These units use abilities and combos that you yourself can use were you playing as them. They are generally quite strong and will similarly have weak point gauges appear after executing a big combo move. The biggest of all units are bosses. These units can deal massive damage and take many hits to defeat. Usually you’ll have to use a specific item, such as bombs in the case of King Dodongo, in order to topple the boss, then hack away at its weak point gauge until you can get a good chunk of damage at the fully depleted gauge. Rinse and repeat.
Most battles will have many missions to complete along the way. Some missions can be completed or failed and change the course of battle accordingly. Some are even simply side missions that are inherently optional in this way. Some missions will change defeat conditions and will result in a loss of the entire battle should you fail them. You’ll also fail if your battle lasts more than an hour. In Legend Mode you’ll go through the game’s story battle by battle and unlock more characters and branching paths as you go. You’ll also unlock different weapons for each character to choose from. Each weapon has its own element as well and battles tend to have a recommended element that will be good against most enemies there. There’s also Free Mode which allows you to play any scenario you’ve completed in Legend Mode but with any currently unlocked playable character rather than just being limited to the fixed story characters.
You’ll level up characters and collect weapons, materials, and rupees from battles. The higher your level, the stronger your attacks are and the more health you have. You can use your rupees to level up without battling and also to fuse weapons or enhance badges. You can also find heart pieces and heart containers hidden in the levels. Some hidden items are universal while others are character-specific. Between battles you can use manage your weapons by selling them or fusing weapons to together to combine their skills. A weapon can have up to four skill slots that give some sort of passive boost like increasing item drops, powering up combos, dealing elemental damage, and more. Some skills require you to kill a certain amount of enemies with the weapon before unlocking while others have special requirements. The materials are mainly used to create and enhance badges. Badges work like skill trees for each character, essentially upgrading their offense, defense, and supportive abilities. While every character is different, their badge trees are largely the same. These menus are also where you can teach your fairies new skills and feed them food to increase their level and traits.
There’s also Adventure Mode which places you in a large map full of tiles. Each tile is a battle with specialized rules. Some of them make all enemy attacks deal deathly blows. Some place you in a K.O. contest again an AI opponent. Some have you rushing to beat bosses as quickly as possible. Some are even quizzes that ask you to defeat the enemy the clue is referencing. Depending on how quickly you complete the mission, how much damage you took, and how many K.O.s you scored, you’ll be given a rank of A, B, or C. Some missions have rewards locked behind a certain rank. Sometimes your rank will determine how many adjacent tiles are uncovered upon victory. There are also item cards that you get for beating missions with that item card icon as a reward. These will also regenerate on the tiles over time. You use these item cards on certain spots in each tile on the map in order to uncover secret paths or hidden rewards. Usually these will correspond to items you would need to use on these obstacles in the Zelda games they are based off of, such as bombing certain walls like you would in the original Legend of Zelda. This is another way to unlock more playable characters and get more hearts and weapons. You can also get higher levels of the weapons you already have, meaning they play the same way with the same element but have higher stats. You can also find Gold Skulltulas both here and in the main story missions. Generally you’ll get one from defeating a certain number of enemies and then finding it within the web pattern that shows up on the minimap. The secondary ones tend to require you to fulfill specific requirements such as doing things in a timely manner, a certain order, or using certain characters and weapons. Each Gold Skulltula uncovers part of a portrait. Once you complete a portrait it is added to the Rewards Map in Adventure Mode, allowing you to take on challenges for more rewards. Essentially, the game is over once you complete Legend Mode and all of the Adventure Mode maps, though I did not 100% complete the game nor did I get any of the DLC.
The concept of a spinoff of the Zelda series is certainly interesting, The hack and slash gameplay lets you take out hordes of enemies at a time yet also has moments that require strategy and skill when dealing with more formidable foes. Playing as a bunch of Zelda characters is pretty neat. Hey, any game that gives more more imp Midna is okay in my book. The story isn’t canonical and really has barely anything to do with how you go about playing the battles anyway, but it’s entertaining in that it’s just an excuse to show off how cool all of these Zelda characters from different games are. It’s essentially a Zelda fan-fiction on crack. I appreciate the simplicity to the combos and the nods to Zelda staples like bombs blowing up rocks and being used to fight King Dodongo. The music is just as crazy in terms of fan service, dishing out action-packed metal renditions of classic Zelda tunes. Personally, I actually found the visuals to be charming. They’re fairly colorful and even though they are limited by the 3DS, I think the texture quality and effects go a long way to making it feel a bit grittier. It helps blend the old and the new a bit more nicely, I guess. And looking closer to an N64 game is an easy way to please me, I guess. Leveling up made me want to mow down lots of enemies and really try to get good materials and whatnot to keep improving and making things easier. The Adventure Mode is the star of the show for me. Taking the game’s mechanics and actually changing up how I played battles was so refreshing and fun. It even made me use characters, weapons, and strategies I otherwise never would have. It was probably the most fun I had with the whole game.
The thing is… as interesting as the idea is, I would rather just be playing a Zelda game. This is no Zelda game. The visuals could be offputting but the console versions could easily remedy that for you. The story isn’t really worth paying attention to since it has so little to do with the battles or the canon of the series. The combos are a bit hard to remember how many presses of one button come before the other for each characters and all the different possibilities. Without much distinction in buttons it’s a tough game of memory or trial and error each time. Largely you’ll find yourself using the same few characters, weapons, and combos because they are strong, simple, and effective. Personally I just used Link with the Master Sword and the spin attack unless the game forced me to do otherwise. It was just so easy and he was so overpowered. I didn’t necessarily WANT to play as Link the entire time as a character but the way he played was the dominant strategy. And after a while the whole game just gets so repetitive that it turns into a chore. You end up grinding for materials and rupees and levels. You play easy Adventure Mode battles over and over to get the item cards to unlock more to complete the maps. You play on different difficulties to get the skulltulas. And you upgrade everyone’s samey badge trees that almost all take the same few rare materials so it just takes forever. After you finish the first Adventure Mode map and the Legend Mode levels there’s not much incentive to play more because you’ve seen all there is to see. The battles all play practically the same. The scenarios only have so much variety. And the only variety afterwards is typically more interesting on paper than it is fun in practice. The game just culminates in a grindfest chore of a time-waster.
Hyrule Warriors Legends is fun within reason. If you’re looking for more Zelda stuff that doesn’t play like a Zelda game, then this isn’t bad. It’s a simple way to gauge your interest in the Dynasty Warriors style of gameplay. It’s just not worth completing 100%. At this point I’d say that this version is something you should look at in the 15 to 20 dollar range. It has lots of content but not all of it is worth playing. This is the most portable version of the game as well. If you want it the cheapest and with the least amount of content then the Wii U version is likely where you want to go. But if you want the most content and the option to play both on the TV and on the go, the Switch version is the way to go. Just note that this is the most expensive version. However, if you already have one version, there’s not much reason to get another. It’s all the same game and the content is recycled enough within a single version. I can’t imagine playing through all of that crap multiple times! Hyrule Warriors certain has the power of the Triforce of Try Harder Next Time.