All in all, a lot of Hyrule Warriors’ best attributes come from the sheer level of polish applied to an old, old concept. Dynasty Warriors 2 came out a decade and a half ago, and the series itself never pushed into big budget status. As such, all of them contained a B-movie, low budget level of charm that led to boring looking environments and what I call “janky” looking combat. When animations get interrupted, it looks awful, and that goes for most every Dynasty Warriors product I can name. Glitches abound, and character transitions continue to look hilariously bad. It does affect the feel of the game, unfortunately, and consiering the amount of time one spends with such games, it becomes a nagging concern around hour twenty or so.
Not so here! Hyrule Warriors may as well be called “Dynasty Warriors with a budget”, and there’s an extra sheen of quality that ensures you get no jaggies or any other weird glitches. Nintendo clearly wanted the game to looks its best, and I don’t remember seeing any of the strange stuff that plagues other Warriors entries. This probably comes from Yosuke Hayashi, the head of Team Ninja, and his input, to me, improved the entire game substantially. The flow and seamless of the combat, the expansive yet recognizable battlefields, and the brunt of steel upon Moblin bone all feel recognizably Zelda and yet also contain the impact you’d expect from a Ninja Gaiden outing. Nothing seems left to chance, and the Warriors formula holds through even amid a wealth of game-changing stuff.
On one level, I suspect we could call a lot of these changes “iterative”. And yet, I guarantee you won’t see them in future Dynasty Warriors games, which saddens me a great deal. These differences contain all those missing elements that the Warriors series needed desperately: not more stuff, but more refined, thought-out stuff. Arrange the obstacles in interesting ways, and you don’t need to recreate every historic battle or event. Zelda games, of course, have the advantage that you can just make up whatever you want, but there’s no reason to pile on content if it’s boring content. The aesthetics attract the consumer, but the mechanics keep them playing. Hyrule Warriors, thankfully, has all it needs to back itself up.
Do things get repetitive? Admittedly, yes; the Warriors formula remains entrenched as ever. But man, Hyrule Warriors put out a really good showing regardless. If you can find yourself with any interest in the game, Zelda fan or not, I encourage you to at least give the game a try. I’m not even that big of a 3D Zelda fan, and I just kept playing out of sheer joy from all the strange interplays of mechanics and the challenge. Weirdly enough, the game I expected least to entertain me ended up being my favorite game of last year.
I enjoy having my expectations subverted. I don’t love 3D Zelda, and I don’t love Dynasty Warriors, but together they somehow came together in a genuinely great package. It’s kinda the same subversion you see often in the Gospel of John. Most people know it as “the weird one”, and that’s because Jesus is less relatable and much more confusing. The Kingdom he brings subverts expectations, and does not function in the same way the world thinks things should work. It’s topsy-turvy day, every day, and even when before Pilate Jesus does the exact same thing: use intentional incongruity to show the true nature of reality.
33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this [j]on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom[k]is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not [l]of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?”
People fight for a king, right? Not here! Jesus deliberately undermines what we think is the truth by presenting an, often, counter-intuitive idea. There is a wide chasm between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of men, and the only way to understand it is to surpass your own expectations, predilections, and assumptions on life to see the greater whole. When Jesus dies, a man should not come back to life; we know this from experience. And yet, He did.
I suppose that says something for our own preferences and personality: never let something go just because its outward appearance. You might find something beautiful within it, no matter how much our perception changes our ability to see things aright. So there you go, a 3D Zelda game, however weird, that I actually bought and liked out of sheer morbid curiosity turns into a pretty awesome surprise. If you own a Wii U, give it a shot.