Hyrule Warriors Legends for the Nintendo 3DS is a game that recreates the enjoyment of its Wii U predecessor but fails at representing the original’s performance. The plot of the game ties together various characters, environments, and themes from the Legend of Zelda multiverse with a blend of Dynasty Warriors gameplay. Though playing through this game is enjoyable as a genre experiment, much of a playthrough will be spent questioning the underwhelming presentation.
The combat mechanics of the Dynasty Warriors series function surprisingly well when paired with the thematic elements of Legend of Zelda. All enemies, environments, and items are representative of the characteristics that fans of Legend of Zelda have grown to recognize. Moreover, playing through this convincing mash-up is satisfying and immersive. Smashing through hordes of fragile foes is a genuinely powerful experience. The game makes this possible through a varied list of attacks and combos specific to unique characters that can be expanded through progression. Link’s moveset includes balanced, powerful attacks; Impa is a slow, devastating swordsman; Sheikh is a swift, nimble warrior. The potential that each character possesses is made unique by an honest consideration of their abilities.
Hyrule Warriors Legends offers a small set of new, charming elements to this system. An added touch-screen mechanic that allows players to command other characters on the battlefield is a welcome tool that can be utilized to approach challenges in more effective ways. Owl statues that let players transport themselves across levels similarly enhance the possible actions available, as much of the game would otherwise be spent dashing across battlefields in order to reach distant objectives. The game’s new cast of characters – Toon Link, Tetra, King Daphnes and Medli – continue the trend of characters with carefully plotted yet satisfying attack patterns, delivering highly requested experiences to fans. However, it is Linkle, an original female counterpart to the series’ protagonist Link, who highlights the new roster. From a list of stunning crossbow-themed attacks to the inclusion of an independent adventure of her own, Linkle’s appearances in the game are rewarding and enjoyable throughout.
Despite offering a thrilling experience, variability in combat is not capable of filling a voided sense of repetition during the game’s lengthier encounters. The excitement of rapidly disposing of enemies becomes stale when combating the game’s tougher monsters. The fault with these enemies is that they are not truly difficult to defeat. Instead, players will find themselves repetitively entering a randomized order of attacks as their enemies absorb damage until they collapse in moments of anticlimactic victories. Boss encounters in this game violate the Legend of Zelda‘s engaging boss experiences by creating repetitive, chore-like sequences that fail due to their unchallenging development. Most of the game’s bosses require the timed use of a particular item in order to reveal a weak point that the player must attack until the boss’ health is depleted.
Though this is familiar to traditional Legend of Zelda fans, this game lacks the intuitive level design that is necessary for these fights to be considered enjoyable, let alone memorable. Less engaging moments such as these could be forgiven if they were visually glorifying, but Hyrule Warriors Legends offers no such aesthetic. The graphical presentation of this game is unsettling, unpolished, and uncharacteristically immature in comparison to the Wii U version of the game. This is an issue that is inherent to both the New Nintendo 3DS model and its predecessor. None of the game’s environments or character models meet the graphical standards that modern handheld systems are capable of displaying. This is an issue that is made apparent through gameplay that is interrupted by beautifully rendered cinematics, only to return to unflattering designs.
The most appalling feature of this game is its tendency to mishandle minute details. Immersion is often severed through characters slashing at empty spaces and successfully inflicting damage upon airborne enemies, while environments that are destroyed during cutscenes disappear from the world and new enemies spontaneously materialize around the player directly after defeating a group of monsters. Framerates also drop to almost comical levels of sporadic movement when too many enemies appear on-screen at once. Any sense of engagement is short-lived in the presence of negligence for players’ attention levels.
Hyrule Warriors Legends is not an utterly terrible game by any definition. The entirety of the experience will offer much to players who enjoy a clever mixture of its parent series, but the execution of this concept appears to be clumsy on the Nintendo 3DS. This is not a concern over the system’s capabilities; rather, it is a criticism of the lack of care that characterizes much of the game. While still an enjoyable recreation of the Wii U experience, this version will ultimately to be disappointing, or even insulting, to many who were hopeful for a product of serious quality. The game keeps players busy, but fails to create an experience that pleases more often than it distracts.