Before I get into the meat and bones of this review there are a couple of things you should know. First is that I love the Warriors series, Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors are two series that I have been well acquainted with over the years. Second is that Hyrule Warriors is very much a Warriors game with nods and winks towards Zelda and if you don't like Warriors games then you won't like this. Although I should also point out that this is one of the best Warriors games I have played, so maybe it could win you over.
Hyrule Warriors follows a fairly conventional Zelda story. Hyrule is invaded, Zelda disappears and Link must work with the other Hylian heroes to find her and save Hyrule. Disappointingly you spend very little time playing as the villains in this story but otherwise the campaign allows for plenty of opportunities to play as key figures from the series and of course you can always get your villain fix in Free Mode.
There are numerous nods to the series along the way such as the use of different weapons and items, the discovery of chests with the famous accompanying tune and of course the iconic locations. Though the game is nothing like a traditional Zelda game, love for the series pours from every frame of the game.
This is particularly evident in the soundtrack and the visuals. Outside of the multiplayer (I'll get to that later) the game looks great. The cutscenes are stunning, the battlefields full of enemies and the character models rendered excellently. It's a taster of HD Zelda to come and it's whet my appetite big time. Sonically, as all Warriors games do, it excels. The classic Zelda tunes you know and love have all been metalled up and it's almost impossible not to get pumped up by them. And that main theme! The presentation of everything here is simply fantastic.
Gameplay wise those of you who have played a Warriors game know what to expect. For those who haven't I'll fill you in. You perform a mix of light and heavy attacks to kill your enemies, kill enough and a bar fills allowing for a stronger special move to be performed. You must capture bases and outposts to give your army more control of the field and must complete objectives along the way. You'll also face off against stronger enemies ranging from wizard's to officers to bosses. Bosses, such as King Dodongo, make appearances but sadly their fights just involve them having a lot more health than normal foes. The only attempt at mixing things up is that they have weak spots. For instance throwing bombs in Dodongo's mouth. Also after certain moves they become vulnerable and if you attack them quickly enough you can trigger a special attack to do more damage. Sadly each character only has one animation for this move so this can get a bit repetitive.
This gameplay remains largely unchanged across all modes and levels. The differences come when you swap characters or find new items or weapons and make use of their stat boots and elemental features. The thing is not all weapons and characters are unlocked through the campaign, some are withheld for Adventure Mode. Adventure Mode takes place on a pretty faithful recreation of the 8-Bit Zelda map from the original game, if you have a good enough memory you'll know where all the secrets are. You explore the world and initiate certain events such as killing a certain amount of enemies with a certain weapon. This mode is good fun and spices up the sometimes repetitive nature of the game.
On top of this you have the Challenge Mode which, as you might expect, gives you certain objectives to fulfil that are a bit trickier than those you'll find in the normal game. If you fancy something a little less guided then there's free mode. Pick a character, pick a map and fight. This allows you to experience everything as all of the characters and, if you like the gameplay style, is endlessly enjoyable.
Though there unfortunately isn't any online co-op mode (I hope this gets added at a later date) the offline co-op is fun and experiencing the power trip with two of you, one on the GamePad, one on the TV, is chaotic brilliance. Sadly though the graphics take a noticeable hit with things sometimes looking barely better than a Wii game. Not a deal breaker but certainly a nuisance and one that seems unexplainable as other games don't struggle with this to such an extent.
All in all whether or not you'll like Hyrule Warriors depends on whether the repetitive hack and slash, power trip style of the Warriors series is your cup of tea. If this style of gameplay isn't for you then steer clear whether you're a Zelda fan or not. If on the other hand you like the Warriors series or have never tried it but like Zelda then I urge you to jump in and try it.
For me personally it's a great game, one I'll be spending hours with, purchasing DLC for and hoping for a sequel to.