This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, and Nintendo certainly hasn’t wasted any time kicking off its big celebrations. The main event, a brand new Zelda game for the Wii U, is still some months off yet, but already we’ve had Twilight Princess HD, a long overdue remastering of arguably the second greatest game in the series (the first being Ocarina of Time), and now we have Hyrule Warriors Legends, a 3DS remake of one of 2014’s biggest Wii U surprises, Hyrule Warriors.
With its incredible combat and attention to detail, this mash-up of The Legend of Zelda and Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors series was an absolute master-stroke of fan-pleasing genius. This wasn’t simply a Warriors game with a new coat of Zelda paint; this was a loving, full-bodied homage to one of the most hallowed Nintendo franchises of all time, and there was simply nothing more pleasurable than watching all your favourite characters take on wave after wave of monsters with their beautifully rendered and completely over-the-top attacks.
^ For a 3DS game, the sheer number of enemies onscreen is very impressive
Legends is fundamentally the same game as Hyrule Warriors – so be sure to check outour original review for a more detailed look at what to expect – but this 3DS remake isn’t simply a mere like-for-like port. Instead, it goes even further than its Wii U cousin, adding even more characters (if such a thing were possible) to the mix and fine-tuning some of its mechanics to make it even more challenging than before.
It also adds a brand new face to the fray in the form of Linkle, a headstrong cucco farmer who’s absolutely convinced she’s the hero of legend reborn, but whose innate lack of direction often sees her accidentally wandering into much of the fallout left behind by her more famous contemporaries. Luckily, she happens to have an absolutely wicked pair of crossbows strapped to her boots, and her array of long-range attacks make a refreshing change from the up-close-and-personal combat favoured by Link, Zelda and the rest of their time-hopping entourage.
^ Linkle is a brilliant new character to the Zelda series and I hope this isn’t her first and last appearance
It’s a shame her missions always take place on the same battlegrounds as the main campaign, but their increased difficulty and alternative set of objectives make them anything but a tired rehash of the levels you’ve just played with other characters. She’s also a real pleasure to battle with, and her charming ‘duh-nun-nun-nuuuuh’ victory chant has already made her one of my firm favourites in the Legends character roster.
Of course, scaling the rest of the game down to fit inside the constraints of the 3DS is no mean feat, so it’s not surprising that Legends doesn’t look nearly as impressive as its Wii U source material. Environments, for instance, are noticeably lacking in detail, but it’s the special attacks which seem to have taken the greatest hit, as their sense of spectacle is sorely diminished when played out on such a small screen. Crank up the 3D and you’ll immediately notice a rather horrendous drop in frame rate as well, so I recommend keeping the 3D turned off in this case to keep your attacks flowing smoothly.
^ Midna is just one of the many playable characters in Hyrule Warriors Legends, but everyone has their own set of unique attacks
Still, it’s not all bad news, as Legends still manages to cram an impressive number of enemies onscreen at any given time, even if some of them do tend to ‘pop-in’ more frequently at close range. Each character is also accented with a black outline to make them more distinctive on the battlefield, a trick Nintendo’s no doubt borrowed from the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros.
This helps keeps battles feeling suitably busy during each mission, but when there’s so much going on, it can often be quite hard to make sense of the map when you quickly glance down at the lower touchscreen. Peering at its twisting, turning layout is one thing, but when you’re trying to work out where your AI-controlled captains’ pleas for assistance are coming from, not to mention keeping track of oncoming enemy generals you need to stop, the map can often be more of a hindrance than a help.
^ The map can be hard to read at times, especially at a glance, but the ability to switch characters and warp to different parts of the battlefield is a big help
Thankfully, Legends has a few new extra features to make traversing the map a little easier. Provided you remember to activate them, owl statutes can now be used to quickly warp to the other side of the battlefield, and the ability to issue commands to your fellow companions, telling them to move to certain locations or tackle certain enemies, for example, can be a huge help when it comes to managing your ever-growing list of objectives. It’s certainly a lot more useful than having them sit aimlessly in your captured keeps the whole time, and it really makes it feel like everyone’s working together as a cohesive unit rather than coasting on your one-man, uphill struggle.
Likewise, you can now switch between playable characters at will, giving you more control over the tide of battle. If insect princess Agitha is about to be defeated, for instance, and you’re on the other side of the map tied up in your own set of skirmishes, you can simply tap Agitha’s icon on the touchscreen and the action will immediately switch over to her, allowing you to make a hasty retreat back to a keep to find some hearts, or dispatch your assailants with a much greater degree of skill than the built-in AI.
^ Hyrule Warriors Legends adds an entire Wind Waker-themed epilogue at the end of the game
With so many more options to give you a leg up in battle, it only seems right that the game’s difficulty has also taken a similarly sized leap compared to the Wii U version. This will come as welcome news for anyone who found Hyrule Warriors’ Normal mode a little too easy, and it feels much more balanced and challenging as a result.
As a result, it doesn’t really matter that the levels and special attacks aren’t nearly as handsome as their Wii U counterparts, as you’ll be too busy chopping everyone down to size to really care. The map could perhaps be slightly better organised, but the combat is still as satisfying as ever, and Zelda fans will still revel in being able to take control of their favourite characters and watch them dole out the same amount of pain as the famed Hero of Time.
^ King Daphnes from The Wind Waker has one of the best special attack combos in the entire game
If anything, Legends’ increased flexibility and overall difficulty easily makes this feel like the more definitive version of Hyrule Warriors, even if it lacks the Wii U’s co-op mode and its sense of scale isn’t quite as jaw-dropping as the original. As a result, there’s plenty here for returning fans to get stuck in with (the Wind Waker epilogue is a particular treat), while newcomers have the best of both worlds.
It’s certainly more enjoyable than the combat sections in Twilight Princess HD, and it only makes us wish that Nintendo would combine these kinds of action-packed scraps with the puzzles and dungeons of a more traditional Zelda game. If Nintendo manages to achieve this with the latest Wii U Zelda game, then this will certainly be an anniversary year to go down in the history books, but for now, Hyrule Warriors Legends more than makes up for the mainstream shortfall, and is an absolute must-buy for all Zelda fans. It wins a Best Buy award.