So, I’ve been following the hype surrounding Hyrule Warriors quite closely over the last few months since I first heard about it, and I’ve had some thoughts.
The long and short of it, is that HW is probably one of the most important Zelda games to come out in the last decade.
There are many reasons for this, and I use the term “Important” with good reason. While I loved Skyward Sword, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess, they are all very much “Zelda” games. This isn’t a bad thing, but when you take overall game design into account, there isn’t too much variation going on here.
You can distill the 3D Zelda games down into several flavors and sections, starting with the N64 OoT and moving up to Skyward Sword. We see massive repetition of themes, weapons, characters, play style, and general, overall, look and feel. HW keeps a lot of these elements, for better or worse, but injects a huge amount of freshness into the franchise.
I am slightly disappointed that HW is going to be a hybrid game, in the same flavor as Dynasty Warriors, but small steps are better than no steps at all. Looking at all the screenshots, the trailers, the characters to come out and be on display has captured a fundamental excited level that just hasn’t been present in the last few offerings. Starting with Majora’s Mask, I’ve found that immersion is lost when you’re playing through, and you start identifying stuff you need to do later on. Say, you spy an out-of-reach heart container, sitting on a ledge with a seemingly out of place gold mesh square next to it, you know that in a couple dungeons, when you acquired the hookshot, you’re gonna’ have to come back here and grab it. Things have become formulaic, and stagnation is never a good thing.
The addition of Midna and the Twilight Realm was enormous in Twilight Princess. A fully fleshed out new character, back story, lore points, and race added volumes to the Zelda universe. If you replace any of that with something established, even if it’s something that fans know and love such as the Zora, it becomes a better bet, but is also boring. Nothing’s been added, it’s just a general rehash of stuff we already know and love. But you need variety.
We see an amazing example in dresdencodak's Legend of Zelda, The Clockwork Empire. It is undeniably Zelda, but at the same time, unlike any of the other existing games.
At the core of it, Zelda is about the struggle, and balance, between Ganondorf, Zelda, and Link (at least in the console versions), and the fight between good and evil. With just those two aspects, you can come up with countless story lines. Just a shake of the dice, and you have:
An evil Link, where Ganondorf and Zelda team up to rein in a crazed vigilante.
A well intentioned, but totalitarian Zelda, who uses her royal power to impose her will upon the populace, show her the cost of such power use, and develop along the lines of either Power or Courage, in some kind of a morality system, embodying either Ganondorf or Link.
A brash, headstrong young Ganondorf, being subverted and influenced by someone with dark purposes, intent on using his Power for their own needs, and then in the second act you team up with Zelda and Link and turn the tables on them.
And so on. The ‘universe’ as it is has so many options available that there’s really no limit as to the stories you could tell. Getting roped into the same old tales that have been told over and over is uninteresting, when you consider the possible alternatives.
So HW might not be a perfect game. It pulls heavily from another existing franchise. It re-uses a ton of characters we already know and love. And it might not ‘technically’ be a ‘true Zelda game’, but it represents an important step in the right direction. I, for one, hope that we’ll see much more innovation along these lines. It might have a misstep here and there, but overall, it’ll be good for the gamers, and good for the series.