My fundamental issue with the various iterations in the Warriors series has always been the presentation. The games’ pseudo-historical pretenses have never interested me. The (overly) simplistic gameplay, on the other hand, has always held some appeal, so I’ve been waiting for a Warriors game that married it with an idea I’m already intered in. Gundam was not it. Zelda may be.
Hyrule Warriors, for the most part, is every bit as uncomplicated as its brethren. There are just a couple of buttons that you press, and pressing them kills things. Some of those things are attacking you, but what has always stuck out to me is that most of them are not. At lower difficulty levels, enemies just stand there, waiting to die. That’s kind of weird, right? But genocide doesn’t discern between combatants and awkwardly armed civilians. And the Warriors series are nothing if not genocide simulators.
But in Hyrule, there’s something new: Breaking up the mindless mass-murder are occasional not-entirely-mindless boss fights. In the demo I was given, I ended up pitted against a big fire-breathing lizard that was impervious to attacks unless I threw bombs in its mouth while it was charging up. Doing so left it open. Wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s a simplified version of the style of boss fights you might find in an actual Zelda game (or any game like it), and exactly the sort of thing I wouldn’t expect from a Dynasty Warriors game. It’s the mechanical antithesis to the button mashing that Tecmo Koei has built its empire on. In Dynasty Warriors, you don’t really need to do anything other than press X forever, but you do because that would be boring. You spice it up for yourself, changing weapons, using spells, pressing Y, and even using specials at times. You don’t have to do any of those things, not really, but neglecting to do them deprives you of the little bits of variety that the games offer.
But here is an enemy that actually doesn’t respond to any of those buttons except at a specific time. That totally changes up the dynamic, and it’s weird. How it will ultimately play in the final product will depend on how many different bosses there are and how different their weaknesses may be. If it’s just the same fire lizard breaking up every battle (or a different enemy with an identical attack pattern), I’d rather the system not be there at all. But if a dozen or more different large enemies could show up at any point and impede progress? That would be something. In fact, it would quite probably be the most fundamental change to the gameplay since Dynasty Warriors 2 kicked this whole thing off.
But the success of Hyrule Warriors won’t have anything to do with its success or failure in changing up the well-established Warriors gameplay: It will come down to raw numbers. The Warriors series is less about depth than breadth (not inherently a problem), and this game won’t get away with shying from a ridiculous amount of surface-level content. I mean, if there aren’t at least 40 different playable characters (Dynasty Warriors 8 has 83), then why even bother? Everyone has a character from the Zelda franchise that they want to play, and every single one of those characters should be available. Even if it requires a little bit of trickery (like cloned movesets), there’s literally no excuse for not having everything a would-be fan might dream of.
The fact that costume DLC has already been announced is worrying, but only if it feels like the content came at the expense of what’s on-disc. If it seems like things were held back, that’s a problem. But if everyone already has five extra costumes and you’re just buying more? That’s totally fine.
Without actual numbers of weapons, characters, locations, and other fan service-y features, it’s hard to know exactly what Hyrule Warriors will be bringing to the table. And without more playtime, it’s impossible to tell if the Zelda influence goes beyond those bosses or just how much of an impact they will have on the button mashing that players already love, hate, or love to hate.
When Hyrule Warriors was first revealed, I think everyone (myself included) wrote it off as nothing more than Dynasty Warriors + Legend of Zelda, but that doesn’t seem to be quite right. I’m now a lot more interested in Hyrule Warriors than I was before, though I’m less sure that it will actually be a cohesive gameplay experience. There’s potential here to make a crossover that really brings the two franchises together in interesting ways. It could also totally fail. Either way, this September has gotten a lot more interesting.