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Hyrule Warriors Details Emerge: The Spinoff Gets More Interesting

A few weeks ago, we put up an article about what Nintendo’s bringing to E3, and one game on that list was Hyrule Warriors. A blend of the Legend of Zelda and Koei’s Dynasty Warriors, this spinoff to one of the most prestigious gaming franchises in history takes Link and puts him in a whole new genre: the hack ‘n slash.

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This week, the folks at Tecmo Koei, the publishers of the game in Japan, have been spilling a bit of info on the game, with Nintendo following suit over here. Even though E3 is a few weeks away, they believe now is the time to familiarize what the game’s about before the crowded week of E3 where it could easily get buried, especially if Nintendo announces a new core Zelda experience on Wii U.

Characters

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The Hyrule from Hyrule Warriors looks unlike any other, meaning it doesn’t directly connect with any other Zelda, though it’s probably within its timeline. Link seems to start off as a normal Hyrulean soldier who will learn his fate and obtain the Triforce of Courage.

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One of the most important bit of news to this is that Link won’t fight alone. For the first time, Princess Zelda’s Sheikah guardian Impa will be playable. This Impa seems to look more like her Skyward Sword form, though instead of guardian or sage she’s the captain of the Hyrulean Guard, and looks ready to beat some face. Equipped to her is a gigantic katana alongside magic, confirming that she will not retain Link’s moveset.

It’s unknown who else will be playable, but Warriors games tend to have as many people involved with the conflicts playable. We usually see all sides of the story, whether that’s playing Samurai Warriors as Nobunaga Oda, one of his retainers like Mitsuhide Akechi, his successor Hideyoshi Toyotomi or some of his enemies like Shingen Takeda or Yukimira Sanada. These games can tend to have dozens of playable characters, and Nintendo may have unveiled there will be. In the official Hyrule Warriors site, it says, “Cut down entire legions of enemies as Link™, Impa and other Legend of Zelda™ characters using over-the-top powerful Dynasty-Warriors-style moves,” so a playable Zelda, Sheik or Ganondorf is actually possible.

Or perhaps we’ll be able to play as the new villains. Though he could still be there, Ganon will be taking a backseat to three very different baddies that Link and Impa must defeat to keep Hyrule safe (translated from the Japanese site courtesy of NeoGAF):

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Shia, The Black Witch: An evil witch who had her good soul chased out of her by dark forces. She has a strong sense of self, clearly states her desires, and a provocative and aggressive personality. She wants to make the whole world hers, but especially she wants to make Link hers.

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Wizro, The Dark Sorcerer: A ring that increased its power over many centuries by luring in numerous owners and absorbing their powers, Wizro was reborn as a sorcerer with Shia’s dark magic. It has pledged allegiance to Shia, who is effectively its mother, however, it has a tendency to follow those in power thanks to its many experiences. Wizro will attack with magic pulses like bullets, or magic from up above.

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Valga, The Incandescent Evil Warrior: Valga is a close associate of Shia’s. He traded his good soul for incredible strength in a deal with her. Differing from Wizro, Valga will face you head on like a true soldier, believing he can win. He looks for strong opponents and ‘heats up’ any battle he is in. With his lance, reminiscent of a dragon’s claw, and a bellowing war cry he will come at you with heavy blows repeatedly.

Personal Note: Valga’s design seems to come from the similarly named Volvagia, the dragon of Death Mountain in Ocarina of Time. His helmet also looks like its skull.

Developers

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Also unveiled this week is the developer. Usually all the Warriors games are developed by Koei’s Omega Force, but Hyrule Warriors is a collaboration of three studios. The producer of the Zelda franchise, Eiji Aonuma, is overseeing the project with Nintendo, Omega Force is creating the overall game and, in a surprising announcement, Team Ninja (Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden) will be crafting the combat. Since Zelda combat is usually a defensive one-on-one affair and Team Ninja has tradition in offensive combat ranging from one-on-one to multiple targets, Aonuma and Team Ninja both believed they should helm the combat portions. This will break up a formula that both Zelda and the Warriors games have been relying on in quite some time, and hopefully refresh both series.

Gameplay: Will it be like Zelda, Warriors or both?

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If you don’t know the Warriors games, picture yourself (with a few generic soldiers) combating thousands of enemies. Many will be dumb and will be there for sword fodder, but there are more powerful enemies among them. You may also see officers that may control a troop or a gate for reinforcements, and may have to be defeated in a timed objective so that your own forces don’t fall to them. The generals lead them and are your boss fights with much better AI and bigger rewards for their defeat, some being the end of the battle itself.

Hyrule Warriors seems to mess with this formula a lot because you’re not fighting soldiers, you’re fighting monsters in the Zelda universe. Because of this, there might not be the normal soldier -> officer -> general hierarchy and unique fights. In the initial trailer, we see Link lay waste to hundreds of Bokoblins, but also get more serious with a fight with a Dodongo, which requires more concentration.

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If you’re wondering if Link retains gameplay from the Zelda games, he does. Z-Targeting (or ZL-Targeting as it is on Wii U) returns and will be needed for the more personal one-on-one battles. Though he will also be unable to perform a traditional spin attack, and instead have to fill a Musou Gauge, a staple in Warriors games. The bar fills with each hit and fills automatically when you’re low on health, but when filled, it allows a very strong attack. For Link, it’s the Spin Attack.

Like Zelda games, there will be treasure chests that’ll let Link gain new items too. So far, we’ve seen bombs used as weapons, with Link launching several at enemies.

Should We Care? It’s a spinoff

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The Warriors games get a bad name in the West because they seem shallow in design. However, their fanbase loves the design and they can log plenty of hours in them (I personally dumped over 90 hours in Samurai Warriors 2 and its Xtreme Legends expansion on Xbox 360). So I’m not lying when I say that Hyrule Warriors is really shaking up the Warriors formula (and we can already tell it’s shaking up Zelda’s).

The artstyle is extremely vivid in comparison to the latest Warriors games: Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete (PS4, Vita) and Warriors Orochi 3: Hyper (Wii U and soon another rerelease on Xbox One and Playstation 4) thanks to some rich blues and greens among some crisp detail. Though it’s not the best looking Wii U game to exist, it’s got its moments and is actually one of the best looking Warriors games to exist, if not the best.

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The combat however is extremely upped in quality thanks to the Zelda gameplay and its unique enemies, so it really brings the Warriors games into in the next generation, something Omega Force didn’t do with the advent of the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii. And if this idea of a more offensive Zelda comes to life in the next Wii U Zelda, perhaps this collaboration will be the best thing for everyone. And hopefully the hack ‘n slashes continue on Wii U, because even though we’re getting Hyrule Warriors, Wii U is being surprisingly omitted in the console lists for Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete and the upcoming Samurai Warriors 4, which is hitting PS4, PS3 and Vita.

In the end I think Hyrule Warriors will enjoy a niche audience that can appreciate the idea of the game, and some Zelda fans who will fail to educate what the game’s about and walk away disappointed, like we’ve seen with other spinoffs like Halo Wars, Mario & Luigi and Metal Gear Rising. The game itself may not me totally revolutionary, but the effect it’ll have on future Zeldas and Warriors games will.

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So yes, you care. Hyrule Warriors launches this August in Japan and sometime in 2014 in the West. Expect more details at E3 next month.

 

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