Let me say this to start: There should be Dynasty Warriors games for every franchise. I want to see Atlus and Tecmo Koei putting out Persona Warriors; or Tecmo Koei and Square-Enix putting out Final Fantasy Warriors; or Tecmo Koei and Nintendo putting out Mario Warriors. Or Tecmo Koei and Bandai doing a Kamen - oh, wait, wait, no, that's essentially what Battride Wars was.
It's a very malleable formula that can be applied to pretty much any franchise, so I hardly see why not.
But today we're talking about Hyrule Warriors, a Dynasty Warriors type game set in the world of Legend of Zelda. Playing as any of sixteen characters, including Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, and one-game bug obsessive little girl Agitha, you are pitted against hordes of disposable enemies and tasked with capturing bases and defeating enemy commanders. Play in Free mode, or in the story-driven Legend mode, in which a time-and-space manipulating sorceress, Cia, attempts to steal the Triforce and take over Hyrule.
I'm not going to talk about the story too much, because nobody bought this game for the scintillating story, and Nintendo provided only the most perfunctory story-related marketing: Which is fitting, because it's only the most perfunctory story. The story exists solely to get you from one big battle to another, and occasionally to justify the odd things you're doing in battle (why is Ganondorf beating up monsters who would usually be his allies? Well, as a display of power!) and is swiftly shuffled off to a box of shame somewhere at the side when it isn't being used for that purpose.
|In this game, Ganondorf has more hair than any other iteration of him.|
So, you'll never find yourself invested in the story, and chances are you won't find yourself hugely invested in any of the new characters either - there are four: Lana, Cia, Volga and Wizzro, and while they're all neat characters, the story doesn't put in much (or really any) effort to having you like them. Lana and Cia both get brief stints at being the bearer of the Triforce of Power, though, so that's nice for them, one supposes.
But what pretty much anyone who bought this game bought it for was the gameplay, and that's top notch. It's marvelously relaxing to be able to stride through a battlefield effortlessly beating up hordes of weak and easy to kill monsters (it's also not the first time Legend of Zelda has done this - they had an entire late-game section of Skyward Sword devoted to the same principle), who will very often go flying in waves when you hit them. While there are sixteen playable characters, I found after playing them all that there were only really five I found enjoyable: Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, Volga, and Cia, all of whom have the defining trait of being fast with wide reaches. There were a few characters, like Sheik, Lana, Fi, and Darunia, that I found absolutely intolerable - usually because they had awkward, finicky attacks.
There's enough variety that any gamer will be able to find at least a few characters that they like, though, and the game doesn't often lock you into using a specific characters - there's one mission where you have to play Lana, and a few missions where you have to play Link or Ganondorf, but other than that, you'll always have the freedom to choose from at least two characters.
|Lana, people have died. Thousands of people have died.|
(And, if you feel like sixteen characters still lacks for variety, you can get any of the DLC that include new characters - one has Midna in her true form, wielding the twilight mirror; and one has Young Link and Tingle.)
Because you are essentially a godless war machine who no force on Hyrule can stop, tension and challenge often come from completing your objectives before the enemy has the chance to overrun your usually far less competent allies - because while these characters may be unstoppable in your hands, have them controlled by an AI and they suddenly become incapable of doing much of anything.
(This is also true of enemy commanders, who despite being forces to be reckoned with when under your control, can all be defeated by locking onto them, running close, and repeatedly spamming the quick attack. Except Zelda, oddly: She's too fast for that strategy.)
|It's actually impossible to hit downed enemies, so stop pointing your sword, Zelda.|
It's a good way of adding challenge in a game which is so heavily built around your enemies not presenting a physical challenge to you.
All in all, it's a very good video game, provided you go in expecting wacky hack-and-slash fun rather than a proper Legend of Zelda game. It is, after all, a Dynasty Warriors game, and one of the better ones at that.
Also, I will never get tired of pointing out that when Ubisoft was declaring that women playable characters were simply impossible, Nintendo and Tecmo Koei were providing us with sixteen playable characters of which nine are women.