Release Date: March 25, 2016Platform: Nintendo 3DSDeveloper: Omega Force, Team NinjaPublisher: NintendoGenre: Action
Hyrule Warriors is a hybrid action game that takes the hack-and-slash gameplay of Dynasty Warriors and imbues that bombastic flavor into the iconic Legend of Zelda universe. The Wii U exclusive was praised for its fast-paced and successful meshing of concepts upon its release in late 2014. Now Nintendo has brought the unique Zelda spin-off to the 3DS in the form of Hyrule Warriors Legends, complete with new playable characters and game modes. But while the nature of the game translates well onto the portable arena, the uneven presentation can’t keep up with the constant onslaught of baddies at times.
The bulk of content from Hyrule Warriors has been ported over to this new handheld edition, including its main Legend Mode campaigns and old-school Adventure Mode throwback. Thankfully, the core gameplay concepts remain intact: players must fight their way across frenzied battlefields, clearing contested enemy outposts and using classic Zelda items to help take down massive bosses. One of the first improvements that I noticed in the 3DS version is the new ability to swap between different characters in the middle of battle by simply tapping on the touchscreen. You can also command computer-controlled characters to move to certain points on the map, which adds a much-welcomed element of micromanagement to the heat of the battle.
The biggest appeal of Hyrule Warriors on Wii U was how it serviced die-hard Zelda fans by bringing together numerous characters and locations from across the vast Zelda universe. Legends builds upon this Zelda love letter even more with exciting new additions like Toon Link and Tetra from the Wind Waker timeline, as well as the already beloved newcomer, Linkle. Outside of battle, the game’s weapon and badge system is incredibly robust, and the cycle of completing encounters, unlocking new characters, and then outfitting those characters with increasingly powerful weapons and badges is rewarding. And as with the original game, the option to level up your lesser-used characters with rupees instead of experience grinding is a pure delight.
But while Legends benefits from these small tweaks and inclusions, the 3DS port has been stripped away of other aspects, namely the removal of co-op functionality and the apt Challenge Mode of its Wii U predecessor. To make up for this deficit, Legends instead includes the all-new My Fairy mode, which brings a sort of Tamagotchi flair to nurturing powerful allies and works in concordance with the excellent Adventure Mode. Players canstumble across fairies throughout Adventure Mode stages, and then feed them and even clothe them in a meta-game of sorts which increases their power to help you in future encounters. It’s a bit of an odd juxtaposition to the fast-paced action found elsewhere in the game, but it surprisingly works here, and given the sheer strength of Adventure Mode, any sort of enrichment to the overall experience can only be a good thing.
The graphics in Legends are decidedly muddier than its Wii U counterpart, with bland environmental textures and blurry character designs. Visually, it reminds me somewhat of the black-outline approach seen in Super Smash Bros. 3DS. But where Smash Bros. used that style to make the characters really pop on the screen, Legends just comes across looking like a Nintendo 64 game at times. Far worse, though, is the game’s framerate, which noticeably slows whenever the 3D functionality is turned on (a feature that is only available if playing on the “New 3DS” hardware). The slowdown is certainly not ideal for a frantic action game of this nature, although it never reached a state that I would call unplayable in my time spent with 3D enabled.
But if things like graphics and 3D framerate aren’t a deal breaker for you, then there’s still a lot to be had from this portable package, and certain elements like Adventure Mode and the new My Fairy mode perfectly translate to bite-sized, on-the-go play sessions. The new characters and locations offer another level of depth and replayability to the Legends experience, thanks to a fun and rewarding gameplay cycle, and they are sure to delight Zelda fans both young and old. Otherwise, it’s hard not to recommend the superior Wii U version for all of your Legend of Zelda meets Dynasty Warriors needs.
Joe Jasko is a staff writer.