I've gotten a bit behind on blog posts, and one of the main reasons is Hyrule Warriors (the original version, on Wii U), which I've been playing obsessively, like it was a full-time job, haha. It's been a while since I've been this addicted to a game, and when I wasn't playing the game I was thinking about what I would tackle the next time I played the game. If you're a long-time gamer, you probably know the feeling. Even though the game came out a couple of years ago, I'd resisted getting too deep into it until I tried out more of the Dynasty Warriors series, but I found the first main game, Dynasty Warriors 2, to be fairly tedious and slow. It seems the early games of the series tried to take a semi-realistic approach and that Koei Tecmo didn't add flashier moves until later.

Anyway, it's easy to see why the game attracted my interest in the first place, and I was more than satisfied by the sheer amount of Zelda fan-service the developers included in the game. There were several things that pleasantly surprised me, however. One is that the game has a distinct aesthetic, which seems to have been a conscious decision to be a more Oriental take on the Zelda universe, which feels like a nice way of bringing in more of the Dynasty Warriors feel. I was also surprised at how much fun it is to play as familiar and beloved Zelda characters (Sheik! Impa! Darunia! Midna! Not to mention off-the-wall choices like Agitha, haha). This is in no small part because of how well designed their movesets are. Many of the characters also can use different weapons, which definitely adds to the fun, and the attacks are oftentimes ridiculously over the top. There's a lot of variety in the huge cast and array of weapons, and many of the weapons, such as Sheik's harp, have unique mechanics that have to be mastered, which also adds to the fun.

What surprised me the most, though, is how darn addictive the gameplay is. Usually i find beat 'em ups and hack 'n slash games to be repetitive and boring, but there are a lot of layers on top of the core gameplay that make the game much more interesting and strategic than the average hack 'n slash. The maps are full of "keeps", which you oftentimes have to capture strategically in order to gain a tactical advantage. The tide of battle ebbs and flows, and oftentimes you have to run from one end of the map to the other to put out various "fires", e.g. hordes of enemies attacking one of your allies who you need to rescue. (Incidentally, this kind of reminded me of Dillon’s Rolling Western, although I'm sure other games have similar mechanics.) Maps often also hold secrets and additional challenges, such as hidden heart containers or Gold Skultullas, which only appear after a certain point and for a limited time. In the Adventure Mode, missions are ranked, and getting an A rank brings its own set of challenges (usually defeat 1200+ enemies in less than 15 minutes with less than a certain amount of damage). There are only a relatively small number of bosses, but the game often requires you to battle several of them simultaneously, at times giving the game a sort of Monster Hunter feel. The game also often requires you to battle against other main characters. Having played as those characters yourself it's easy to time counterattacks, so these battles oftentimes feel a bit same-y, but it's still fun to see these characters in battle.

The Story Mode is fairly routine and basically just serves to introduce the majority of the characters and game mechanics. I alluded to Adventure Mode, and this is actually really the game's main mode. Tackling the 128 challenges seems daunting, but since you keep earned experience even if you fail a mission, it's generally not too frustrating. The Adventure Mode is where you'll unlock the last few characters and new weapons, and it's also where you'll unlock all the higher-level (level 2 and level 3) weapons for all the characters. The missions that unlock weapons limit you to that character so you can't just level up one character and use only her/him for every mission, and although with enough grinding you could probably get through most any challenge, getting through a mission with at the lowest level possible is part of the challenge and fun (most of the time you'll get further by creating badges anyway, which are made by combining materials dropped by the non-grunt enemies).

I've put more than 85 hours into the game, and still have barely touched the downloadable content, which features even more new characters, weapons, and additional types of challenges. I could easily spend even more time on the game, but now that I've unlocked most of the level 2 weapons, I'm forcing myself to take a break and catch up on other games. I never would have thought that a spin-off like this would make it to onto my list of favorite games of all time, but the game is extremely well polished, great enhancements of existing Zelda character designs, and a ton of satisfying challenges. I'm sort of simultaneously dreading and looking forward to revisiting this game, because I'm afraid of getting as addicted as I've been. I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time with the DLC characters, and I've actually already given in and gotten the 3DS game as well because I'm looking forward to trying out Linkle and I'm hyped for what new DLC characters they'll add in from the handheld Zelda games.

Koei Tecmo succeeded in what must have been one of their other goals, which was to get people introduced to the Dynasty Warriors games, and I'll definitely be checking out more of that series before too long. I'm also looking forward to seeing where the Nintendo Warriors crossovers go from here, and really hope they don't just stop with the Zelda games. But in the meantime, only a few more weeks until the latest HW DLC starts rolling out...

Obsessive Adventuring with these Hyrule Warriors links:
- Official site, includes a desktop wallpaper
- Page on Miiverse
- Review on NintendoLife, and Review of the 3DS version
There were a ton of official videos released for the game. Here are the E3 2014 reveal trailer and the Nintendo Direct feature
- IGN has one of the best guides I've found to the Adventure Mode and also a handy list of where to find all the Unlockable Characters and Weapons
- Post on lofi-gaming.org.uk from a fellow addict
- Here's a video I came across with footage from a huge number of the Warriors series games and spin-offs
- Entry at Wikipedia. I have to include this excerpt, because it summarizes my sentiments succinctly: "Jim Sterling of The Escapist praised the great variety compared to other Warriors titles, noting the 'meaty combat system' and different styles between each playable character, calling the game 'a mad idea that should logically get old after an hour, but never does'.

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