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After a several-month-streak of underwhelming announcements, Nintendo used the most recent Nintendo Direct to reveal a proverbial bombshell regarding an all new Zelda game. It has since been met with some very contrasting opinions that range from love and excitement on one end of the spectrum to frustration and malice on the other end. Judging from the opinions of commenters and other outlets, the general aura surrounding Hyrule Warriors is one of uncertainty.
First and foremost this is not Zelda Wii U. It never was, never will be, and the fact that it looks like a Dynasty Warriors game, sounds like a Dynasty Warriors game, and plays like a Dynasty Warriors game should shed any confusion from the slightest possibility that this could even be Zelda Wii U. I assume Hyrule Warriors exists primarily to keep Zelda fans busy in 2014 until the game we've been waiting for makes its way to us sometime in 2015.
For starters, Dynasty Warriors is developed by Tecmo-Koei. Zelda U is developed by Nintendo. This is important to note since this is a direct crossover. That almost assuredly means Tecmo-Koei is handling all of the development. All Nintendo had to do is hand them some graphical assets, such as the Bokoblins and Lizalfos from Skyward Sword. Eiji Aonuma may be needed to give the game final approval, but beyond that the teams at Nintendo don't have a lot to do with this game. Dynasty Warriors may not be the exact type of franchise most clamor for the Wii U to get in terms of third party titles, but historically it's been a decently popular franchise. While never a huge seller like a traditional Zelda game, it certainly has a passionate following. However, it's clear that poor sales of most every other third party game on the Wii U suggests that a pure Dynasty Warriors game on the system simply wouldn't sell. However, taking it and tossing Zelda into the mix? Now you're looking for at least 500k in sales, if not more, depending on the Wii U's install base. It also adds much needed variety to the Wii U game library. A library that is slowly becoming rich with quality platformers and very little of anything else.
Koei has experience with this via Warriors Orochi.
Warriors Orochi manages to tie in the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors universes together. The story allows characters from Han China and Sengoku Japan to team up or feud with one another to create the ultimate "Warriors what-if?" game. Hyrule Warriors could take the same approach by absorbing the different branches of the Zelda Universe and pull off the ultimate Zelda crossover where it would be natural to see Ganondorf fighting alongside the likes of Majora, Onox, Vaati, employing Bongo Bongo, Volvagia, and whatever other enemies can fit into the AI structure of a Dynasty Warriors title.
This could create a lot of division over the game, but it could also revive some of the older Zelda characters and throw some weight behind something like a a Majora's Mask remake. With such a vast array of characters, it would make sense to include the characters in an all-out brawl like your average fighting game. Dynasty Warriors in it's most basic form is a fighting game and has the core framework of a fighting game. From a gameplay and storytelling standpoint, it seems like the more viable route to take would be to include the larger roster of characters and make them all work together on a Dynasty Warriors Hyrule battlefield.
If Tecmo-Koei produces this under the watchful eye of Nintendo, with the intent that it will not be included in the Zelda canon, then the story can go in any direction. It could be something as simple as some strange event that brings all of the Legend of Zelda game's worthy fighters onto a large battlefield where they can duke it out to see if they can claim the Triforce. It could go deeper than that, or stay shallow and just have a simple non-complex Story mode. Additionally Tecmo-Koei can take a few characters and make a more controlled set of shorelines for each of them where they go and fight various battles in a style similar to an arcade fighting game. Either direction creates no possibility for canon-bastardization and can keep the game focused on the action and less on the story. A game that is a crossover between Zelda and Dynasty Warriors can benefit from having less focus on a story.
The main components of Dynasty Warriors are likely to be included in Hyrule Warriors. The EX attacks that have been in the game since Dynasty Warriors 7 will likely be usable in Hyrule Warriors. These moves are unique to each character and their preferred weapon. For instance, if Link is using a sword he can perform his EX attack on a specific charge attack allowing him to perform a move that does more damage, or attacks more enemies on screen.
Another mechanic introduced in Dynasty Warriors 8 is the Heaven, Earth, and Man weapon varieties. Each weapon that was found from defeating an enemy officer had it's own characteristics as well as a designation of Heaven, Earth, or Man. This balance system will likely remain in Hyrule Warriors to encourage players to switch their weapons in order to gain an advantage over their enemy. Using a weapon with an advantage over the enemy officer let the player perform an attack called 'Storm Rush,' which is a multi-hit attack that does a large amount of damage after a few successive hits on an enemy officer. Weapon affinity would likely be renamed to something that included the trinity of the gods each offering an advantage over the other. So in place of Man having advantage over Heaven, Heaven having advantage of over Earth, and Earth over Man, it could become Farore having advantage over Nayru, Nayru over Din, and Din over Farore.
Weapon switching has been shown to be a part of the game already with Link wielding both a sword-shield combination as well as the Fire Rod. Other weapons could include the Ice Rod, the Great Fairy's Sword, the Biggoron's Sword, and more. Maybe some more zany weapons like the Megaton Hammer could make an appearance. Different items have been shown in the trailer, namely the bombs and potions. These secondary items can fill the role of the Musou Rage from Dynasty Warriors 8 which allowed players do more damage for a brief period of time. Other side items like the Boomerang, Deku Nuts, and maybe even Bombchus have a chance of appearing in the game as well.
Having a cast of characters that don't speak may be troublesome for Hyrule Warriors. In Dynasty Warriors, there are times when text appears on screen to accompany what a particular officer is saying, or a command that is being shouted across the battlefield. This would be difficult to display just as text without a voice because the action of the game would make these text fields go unnoticed. This will likely be remedied by the usual Zelda talking sequences where a character makes a sound or has a language like Midna along with text to say if you've defeated an officer, boss or claimed a base.
Dynasty Warriors games have a certain charm to the right kind of player. Not having enough characters could make the game lose its luster sooner rather than later. This may be trouble for Hyrule Warriors because, from the trailer, we only see Link defeating a Lizalfos and a Dodongo as bosses. There are a few characters in the background, but right now it's unknown if these characters are playable or if they are simply there to help Link on occasion. In Dynasty Warriors the player usually defeats enemy officers, but thus far we haven't seen Link battle any enemy officers in Hyrule Warriors. An ideal situation would be to have some officers that are accompanied by Lizalfos, Dodongos as lieutenants, or just as bosses for certain stages.
What I'd personally desire for this game would be to have enough enemy officer units like Zant, Majora, Ganondorf, Ghirahim, even throwbacks like Onox and Twinrova, as playable characters that appear to fight you when you play as the 'good guys.' In addition to having these playable characters, it would expected of the game to have some larger boss enemies to accompany the more frequently appearing Dodongos, Lizalfos, Armos, Iron Knuckles, and other large enemies. Combining enemies from different era's of Zelda may contradict each other, but judging from what we've seen in the Hyrule Warriors trailer, it may be the case. Although they may be placeholders, there are Moblins from Skyward Sword, Hylian Soldiers from Twilight Princess, and King Dodongo from Ocarina of Time all on one stage. This can work out well if all of the enemies have a similar style.
I personally look at it as a great opportunity to tie the game into Zelda Wii U. The story of Hyrule Warriors doesn't need to have any bearing or connection to Zelda Wii U, but the characters and enemies that appear would benefit from having a related style with Zelda Wii U. This would create less confusion for buyers of both games and could help get Zelda fans get excited for The Legend of Zelda's jump to the Wii U.
Hyrule Warriors will be an action hack and slash game, so it's safe to say that there will be no puzzles in the game. If there are, then they will be very minimal and won't be a core gameplay element. What can be expected however is ambushes, traps, archers perched on mountaintops that rain arrows on you if you take a sketchy path, boulder traps, pincer attacks, using rams or siege towers to storm castles, and possibly using mounts to break down gates. These elements will make their way into the game whether it's one or all of the above listed since they've already been seen in Dynasty Warriors 8, which without a doubt was the starting point for this game. Puzzles would slow down the action of the game unless Tecmo-Koei plans to slow down the pace of the game by including a mechanic that allows them to design puzzles. Most likely, this will not be in the game and it's probably for the best. Pushing blocks, shooting arrows into specific spots, hitting targets, and specific orders aren't part of what Dynasty Warriors is about and would take away from the action that this game will have.
Tecmo-Koei have taken great care when making a games based off of other IP's. They've created some pretty tight spin-off games that have met with good reviews. While this is their first endeavor into such a well-known and popular franchise, I think it's in good hands. Nintendo won't let them make a game like the CDi Legend of Zelda games. They've learned that, in the right care, great games can be made with partnerships. Capcom created several Zelda handheld games, and those are held with high acclaim among Zelda fans. Hyrule Warriors has a ton of potential, and I feel that if the game takes a route that isn't heavy on involving a storyline, and limiting itself to one grouping of characters then it can be a great game.
It's also important to note how big of a spin-off this game is. It has little to do with the timeline, but is also clearly more than a mere cameo appearance, which you could argue is exactly what it was with Soul Caliber II. It a full fledged game that adds variety to the Wii U library, while offering something which Nintendo fans are familiar with in order to increase the appeal of a game that would otherwise not appeal. This could even be a great way to build a foundation for future Dynasty Warrior games on the platform moving forward. You may not like the style of play, and it's true this might not be the game for you, but it doesn't have to be. There is no point to get upset that the game exists. It's not bastardizing the franchise; it's something new, something the Wii U could certainly use. Zelda U is still in the pipeline, as are many of Nintendo's best franchises, but I am highly encouraged by this approach. Nintendo is actively going outside their comfort zone to bring quality content to the Wii U.
What do you think about Hyrule Warriors? Comment below and thank for reading!