System: 3DS (review of Wii U original here)
Release date: March 25, 2016
Developer: Koei Tecmo
When I first reviewed Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U back in 2014, I fell in love with its epic battles and large scope surrounded by Zelda references and throwbacks galore. Now that Nintendo and the folks at Koei Tecmo have decided to dive back into the Zelda world by porting the game into Hyrule Warriors Legends on the 3DS, will sacrificing a bit of the scope for more content help this game become the definitive version, or will it just become a legend of the past?
I feel the first thing I should address is the difference between Hyrule Warriors Legends and its Wii U predecessor. Along with numerous small changes to gameplay to fix the overall flow and difficulty, the 3DS version has every single piece of content and DLC offered in the original. Yes, every character/weapon, every costume, and every mode (with the exception of Challenge Mode) all make a return alongside the new content. The developers have also packed in five new characters, additional story segments depicting The Wind Waker and Linkle’s adventures, and tons of new missions for you to just hack away in for hours. Plus, controlling up to four characters at one time, a new addition to the gameplay, is a much welcomed change as it helps speed up some missions that have you forced to play lower level characters or have you running back and forth. Also added is a new ocarina item that allows you to instantly travel to any Owl Statue you’ve activated on the map.
Hyrule Warriors Legends’ changes mixed in with the new My Fairy mode (fairies that can be raised in different ways that can provide assistance in Adventure Mode) all come together to create a lot of fantastic content that you just won’t find in the Wii U version. What’s great about these new features and being able to switch around at will is that the battles become just as much a hack-and-slash as it is a constant test of mechanical mastering and picking the best places to send and times to control certain units. When I went back to the Wii U version for comparison sake after becoming adjusted to the new gameplay options, it made me appreciate the new features so much more.
But how does all this content transfer over you ask? Well, I can confidently say that the content is just as much fun the second time around, and I’d even argue that some of it works better on the portable system. Unfortunately, the game isn’t as visually outstanding as it once was, but for a 3DS game, it’s still quite easy on the eyes. The character models look nice both close and afar, but some of the textures in the environments are a bit too fuzzy at times which can take a bit getting used to. On the New 3DS system (where I spent most of my playtime), I still felt the same feeling of satisfaction after successfully executing a special move and killing tons of enemies, but on the regular 3DS system, fewer enemies appear on the screen at one time, lessening the effect that the epic battles are supposed to convey. Frame rate issues are also more common on the standard 3DS systems. However, the fact that a game like of this caliber could run on the 3DS at all is impressive in and of itself, yet still doesn’t justify it’s shortcomings.
Aside from the visual flaws, everything else gameplay and upgrade-wise works incredibly well. The best example is the Adventure Mode maps, which have you taking on a large number of short missions in order to clear a map filled with puzzles inspired by their origin game. Thanks to the portability of the 3DS systems, these are much easier to tackle as picking the game up and playing a few missions while you have some downtime is a more approachable way to play as opposed to how you would experience it on the Wii U version. You’ll find yourself dabbling with this mode well after the credits have rolled too, as leveling up your characters to their maximum and obtaining all the collectables is a constantly rewarding experience.
On top of that, the ever-increasing large roster of characters are still just as much fun to control, and the new additions such as fan-favorite Skull Kid and a completely new face, Linkle, all provide some of the freshest and most unique ways to play. Thankfully, they’ve worked all the old DLC characters into a story or Adventure Mode map so well that they feel like less of an afterthought, which was one of people’s biggest problems before. Not to mention the music, which ranges from rock remixes of Zelda classics to completely original pieces, also sound just as epic on the smaller screen.
The story in Hyrule Warriors Legends remains largely the same, but this time around the villains, Linkle’s story, and The Wind Waker epilogue are all thrown in at once so you play them as you go, leaving the length at least twice what it originally was. They do a great job of keeping each and every story mission feeling like a new experience instead of treading the same grounds over and over again (something I can’t say for this title’s Adventure Mode as much). You don’t have to be a Zelda fanatic like me to enjoy the story either, as it requires no prior knowledge to understand what’s going on – mostly thanks to its introduction to a variety of original characters. However, having background information does make these characters coming together that much more exciting. Going back and attempting to complete these missions on harder difficulties or to gather more collectibles (such as gold skulltulas and heart containers) also breathes more life into missions you’ve already completed once before.
I have to admit, when Hyrule Warriors Legends was first announced, I was a little more than skeptical. I just couldn’t see how a port of an already great Wii U game to a less powerful system could not end up the worse, but after playing over 45 hours of this 3DS title, it’s become clear that this version might just be the definitive way to experience Hyrule Warriors. If you could look past missing out on the 60 frames per second and HD visuals the Wii U title brought to the table and instead embrace all the changes that this new iteration has provided, you’ll find an addictive portable title rich with content and fun gameplay. For those of you who also experienced the Wii U version and are on the fence about treading these waters once more, I can assure you that this version offers just enough to make it worthwhile. After nearly two years of constant Hyrule Warriors content and news, with the release of Legends it seems we’ve reached the high point of fan service and joy this game could possibly give.
In case it wasn’t obvious enough, I greatly enjoyed Hyrule Warriors Legneds. However, I can’t help but attribute some of that joy to my personal infatuation with The Legend of Zelda series itself. But at the end of the day, this is still an excellent title to pick up, Zelda geek or not, especially if you happen to be in possession of a New 3DS. If you only have access to a standard 3DS, I wouldn’t quite swear off this game, but just be willing to face some scattered frame rate issues and not as many enemies on screen at one time.