Hyrule Warriors Legends
Nintendo and Koei Tecmo manage to cram the entire Hyrule Warriors experience onto the 3DS, but at a severe cost.
In theory, a portable version of Hyrule Warriors is a really good idea. The original game – which is essentially Dynasty Warriors with Legend of Zelda branding – expects you to play countless hours of repetitive, button mashy battles so where better to do all that grinding than on your commute to your daily grind?
In practice, Hyrule Warriors Legends for the 3DS is only a semi-successful venture, and even this depends on which model of the handheld system you happen to own.
So, let’s get that point out of the way first. Like several recent 3DS games, Legends can run on the standard 3DS and 2DS hardware but takes advantage of the extra horsepower included in the New 3DS. In a game like Super Smash Bros for 3DS this added power greatly speeds up load times and even opens up optional extras. Hyrule Warriors Legends, however, appears to have been built from the ground up with this extra power in mind as it runs sluggishly at seemingly below 30 frames per second on the standard 3DS architecture. It’s so off-putting to look at it here that, combined with my next point, I don’t know how you could play it for an extended period of time on a standard 3DS or a 2DS unless you are completely ignorant a modern video game frame rate standards.
Also on the troublesome side of things is Legends’ general presentation. Naturally, it’s expected that handheld systems can’t produce as high a fidelity graphics as home consoles or PCs. However, even compared to most games on the 3DS, Legends looks muddy and unappealing. It’s clear that in order to retain the large maps and army sizes from the Wii U version Omega Force has compromised basically all aspects of the presentation, keeping texture quality and polygon counts low. You can understand this trade-off to some extent but what’s completely baffling is why the graphics in the menus and outside of battles (even the static 3DS dashboard icon for the game) look so low resolution and poorly compressed. It’s almost as if they finished the game but realised they had overshot the maximum storage capacity of a 3DS cartridge so they had do so some quick and dirty bulk compression on every texture.
Despite these presentational problems, it’s actually fairly impressive how much content is provided on that little white cart. Legends essentially includes all of the Wii U’s version base content and all of its downloadable offerings plus some new elements of its own. Whichever way you look at it that’s some pretty good value.
There’s quite a bit of new stuff too; five playable characters, two stages, several mob and boss enemy types, a weapon type for an existing character, and two extra paths of the game’s Legends campaign mode. Perhaps most significant are the two new stages which are based on the bright and colourful The Wind Waker. Owners of the Wii U Hyrule Warriors know that this addition is a big deal since, despite all of that version’s post-game downloadable content, no extra locations were ever released meaning there were only about eight environments that would be reused over and over ad nausem.
As with prior DLC characters in the Wii U game, the new playable additions are fantastic. Each feel unique and built from the ground up rather than being clones of existing characters. The most notable addition to the cast is the dual crossbow-wielding Linkle, who is ostensibly positioned as a wannabe hero and a female alternative to Link. It’s just a shame that she had to debut in a game which has the most paper thin of stories to it.
While all the new content is great, the game takes its sweet time dolling it out. While Linkle’s underwhelming side story begins fairly earlier on it Legends mode, it’s sprinkled throughout the duration as individual side missions, meaning you’ll have to have beaten the base campaign to open it up in its entirety. Worst still is that the new Wind Waker missions come only after finishing not only the Wii U’s vanilla missions but also it’s villain-based side ones which were originally free downloadable content. Thus, if you’ve played the Wii U version and are coming to Legends to see the brand new bits you’re going to have to spend at least eight hours slogging through all that pre-existing stuff all over again. It would have been smart to let owners of the home console version either skip to the Linkle and Wind Waker content or transfer over their campaign progress (and perhaps even their unlocks and character progression too) to avoid repeating this stuff in this already extremely repetitive game.
Another bummer comes in the form of the content export to the Wii U game. If you buy a new copy of Legends you are given a code that unlocks a big chunk of the 3DS-exclusive content in the home console game. This was always a scuzzy move on Nintendo and Koei Tecmo’s part as they are essentially holding a DLC pack or two’s worth of content to ransom, forcing you to buy a £40 inferior port if you want said content in the big-screen HD version. Making matters worse though is that you’re not quite getting everything in the transfer that Legends adds. The five new characters and Ganondorf’s new weapon come over to the HD version but none of story, cut scenes and stages do. Losing the former is a particularly big blow for Wii U owners due to the previously mentioned reason of the lack of levels. Nintendo has now announced that this character and weapon content will come as its own paid-for DLC pack for the Wii U in the summer meaning you don’t need to buy Legends just for this stuff if you can hold out a few months, there’s been no word on the maps and other bits coming over. With a new slate of upcoming DLC announced for both versions of the game – none of which include new stages – I’ve got to ask; is it too much to ask for some new levels? Players are sick to death of the original handful of environments that were provided in the Wii U version. Surely they aren’t that development-intensive to make compared to all these new, complex characters that are being made?
In summary, Hyrule Warriors Legends is a really weird game. Yes, it manages to cram everything from the Wii U version and more down into a 3DS game but not without grave presentational sacrifices. I would say that this is a case of function over form but that’s not quite true. In an ideal world, the best possible 3DS Hyrule Warriors experience would have been built from the ground up for the platform, perhaps using smaller battlegrounds, a simpler visual design and maybe even 2D graphics.
But as it stands, who is Legends for exactly? Well, if you want a portable Hyrule Warriors, own a New 3DS, and don’t mind both enduring both ugly graphics and a lot of well-worn content, Hyrule Warriors Legends is worth considering. Everyone else should probably just steer clear.