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Hyrule Warriors: Great Potential or Potential Letdown?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you’ve no doubt heard of Nintendo’s upcoming spinoff from the Legend of Zelda series “Hyrule Warriors”. Nintendo has given Tecmo Koei the keys to this new Zelda game, and as such this game will be a departure from the traditional action/adventure genre for the Zelda series, and instead will emulate the gameplay of Tecmo Koei’s “Dynasty Warriors”. If you’re unaware of “Dynasty Warriors”, it is the hack n’ slash franchise that pits the player against literally thousands of opponents during their playthrough. The thing about the Dynasty Warriors franchise however, is that there is nothing else to the gameplay beyond simply hacking and slashing away at enemies like a madman. Later iterations of Dynasty Warriors give the player more strategic options, but no matter how it’s played, Dynasty Warriors sooner or later always boils down to mindless hacking and slashing. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes that’s all you want from a video game, and that’s a big reason why the franchise has sold over 18 million copies worldwide. Those aren’t numbers to sneeze at.

As Tecmo Koei surely realizes however, they certainly have a different beast on their hands with the upcoming Hyrule Warriors. Our beloved Hyrule has been placed in hands other than Nintendo’s own in the past, with mixed results at best. Tecmo Koei need to be sure that they get this one right. One slight gripe I’ve always had with Zelda games is the limited and super simple combat. So many times have I longed for a more in-depth combat system while playing as our sock-capped hero. This new Zelda game finally might be able to give me what I’ve been wanting. We know that, among others, Link, Impa, and one of my favorites, Chief Darunia (!) will be playable characters. With these characters, Koei really has a unique opportunity to give players a truly diverse catalog of combat, and more importantly, an opportunity to show Hyrule faithful just exactly what these characters with whom we’ve all been fascinated for so long are truly capable of on the battlefield. Who hasn’t imagined what it would be like to get behind the wheel of Darunia or Sheik for awhile, rather than our favorite Kokiri kid? We also know that players will be given the chance to wield weapons such as the Ball and Chain, the Magic Rod, and the Megaton Hammer. If Koei can give each one of these characters and weapons the attention and care that we know Nintendo would, then this game has the potential to be one of the best surprises of the year.

If, however, Koei takes the opportunity they’ve been given with this new Zelda game, and they squander it by creating a simple button mashing Dynasty Warriors clone, come up with a few character specific animations, and call it day, then there will undoubtedly be some unhappy gamers. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with the Dynasty Warriors formula. But with Hyrule Warriors, Koei has now been entrusted with honoring the highest pedigree in gaming. On Metacritic, Dynasty Warrior games usually chart in around the 55-70 range, with a small number of exceptions on either end of that spectrum. Koei needs to know that the 55-70 range does not cut it with the Zelda pedigree. Even a score in the low 80s would be considered a disappointment among the Zelda faithful. Now I know that, this is a spinoff and some might argue that because it’s a spinoff it shouldn’t be held to the same standard as canonical Zelda games such as OoT or Skyward Sword or what have you. And to those people I would say that that simply cannot be the case. We cannot cut this game any slack simply because it is being developed a company other than Nintendo. If Nintendo wants this new Zelda game to be recognized as a legitimate game, and not just as a cash-grab spinoff, then it needs to be held to higher standards, like so many Zelda games have been before it. The trailers look promising, however, so I am cautiously optimistic about this one. Let’s hope that Tecmo Koei can get this one right, and in doing so, bring the Hyrule universe to life in a way that we’ve never seen before.