This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Hyrule Warriors.
The trouble with banking your console on your limited range of first party IP is what you feed your kids on during those parts of the year when you don't have a tent-pole new instalment to dangle over the masses like a pair of freshly-laundered trousers over the incontinence ward. The answer is to grab the franchise as it stands, lift up its bra and motorboat your little heart out. Nintendo motorboats so much that even when it stops, those tits keep bouncing back and forth like an executive toy for anything up to a year, it's their fucking holding pattern.
The Mario franchise in particular is more holding pattern than tent-pole these days, what with Mario Golf, Kart, Tennis, Party, and Sonic, and Teaches Typing but its major stablemate Legend of Zelda has never really gotten the hang of holding patterns; there was Link's Crossbow Training and one hardly needs to go on at that point. Conversation abruptly stops like the dog has walked in and sprayed half-digested Winalot across the room from both ends.
So why waste the brain cells again? Let’s just take an existing proven game concept and paste Zelda characters over it, accepting as you do so that it might as well be splattering the words, "Blatant Marketing Exercise" across the sky like the fucking Bat-signal.
Hence Hyrule Warriors. It's Dynasty Warriors with Zelda in it. And I'm not terribly familiar with Dynasty Warriors as a series, but from what I've gathered from this game, it’s some kind of medieval battlefield simulator in which you are the only person present who hasn't recently suffered a near-fatal head injury. So while the player characters tend to be rather cartoonishly overpowered to the point of killing enough enemy soldiers in one special attack to fill out an open-mic night at a mid-range pub, all the battles you aren't directly involved with seemed to entail both sides making disapproving eye-contact as they get out their exercise books and compete to see who can deduce first which part of the sword is the pointy bit, and as the lone bastion of competence you have to field requests to run back and forth across the battlefield to bail out allies and strongholds because a small cat just sat itself down outside the gate and started licking its bumhole in what was interpreted as an aggressive way.
And this, as I said, has had a whole bunch of Zelda wallpaper spread over it and the Blatant Marketing Exercise signal pulsates softly as it disgorges old characters and locations from Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. No Wind Waker though, my favourite Zelda, no sign of the one that actually has a version on the Wii U. No biggie, I'm not bothered, just thought that the makers might have seen the value in a game with some actual fucking charm to it.
The amount of creativity the developers were permitted to use in coming up with new characters seems to have been entirely used up on the tits of the new villain. Fucking hell, I doubt Nintendo will reuse her because if they started motorboating those, they'd risk a concussion. Did I mention Team Ninja worked on this game? Shouldn't be surprised really, greasy baps are their bread and butter, if you'll see what I did there.
Duty bound, the game plot can't do more than go through the usual motions: Ganondorf wants to steal the Triforces of Courage and Wisdom, held respectively by Link and Princess Zelda, Princess Zelda being some kind of embodiment of wisdom which explains why she thinks she can pull that Sheik bullshit a second time and no one will figure it out.
Still I enjoyed the story mode, mainly because it kept making me laugh. Like at the start, Zelda's mooning about the castle going, "Oh If only we could find the new incarnation of the hero?", and then walks out into the courtyard and Link is literally the first person she sees. Well, that was easier than usual! Certainly more expedient than spending the first hour of Twilight Princess molesting goats on a farm, or when Link bursts into the stronghold of the villainess and finds it plastered in pictures of his face like a member of Boyzone walking into a teenage girl's bedroom. Then a boss shows up that I should by rights been able to wipe the floor with, but the cutscene had to pretend I was in real trouble until a bunch of secondary characters showed up and Link could learn that friendship was the true strength, also known as "standard hackneyed epiphany number six".
But my laughter was a little more bitter that time because all these precious and important friends of mine without whom I am nothing I'd had to bail out several times because they were being bullied by a flock of spring lambs, or couldn't take over a keep because they hadn't figured out that the keep boss was the guy with the word 'Keep Boss' hovering sneakily in plain sight over his head.
So since we're back on the subject of gameplay, I found it rather dull. The story missions usually have you follow a strict pre-determined sequence of events and there's never any sense that the training wheels are coming off and that the battles are being allowed to unfold more organically than a checklist. There is a certain catharsis in smashing up a whole pride parade with one combo attack, but not so much after you've done that one combo attack ninety-three times and your fingers continue pressing the button sequence for several hours after the game has ended.
The usual bombs/bow/boomerang spectrum of special items only seems to exist for A) authenticity and B) to use exclusively against specific monsters and otherwise aren’t really worth considering, since switching between them is incredibly awkward and requires letting go of one half of the controls to fondle the D-pad or the touch screen. And incidentally, there’s got to be a better use for a touch screen controller in a battlefield simulator, like as a targeting system for some ancient Hyrule magical bullshit equivalent of a drone strike.
Visiting worlds from the three vaguely realistically-proportioned Zeldas is an idea for potential, even while it underlines just how interchangeable the games can be at times. But the crossover abruptly ends about halfway through when the portals are closed and the creature from the tits lagoon is defeated. And having accidentally climaxed before the end, the game then awkwardly shuffles its feet for five missions. You become Ganondorf and conquer the land, you become Link again and you conquer it straight back. Hyrule is so easily conquered it hardly seems worth the bother of repainting the road signs.
But if the goal of a holding pattern game is to blandly and inoffensively remind you that the franchise exists until the next proper one comes out, then Hyrule Warriors certainly achieves that at least. Zelda fans’ll probably get a kick out of it, but that statement is meaningless. Of course they would, a Zelda fan would get a kick out of a Tingle-themed home pregnancy test because that what defines a fan of something. They are, to put it as generously as possible, untroubled by the complexities of life.
- Modest saviour of the land: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- So I did some experimenting and it turns out there are actually quite a few things that can't be achieved with the power of friendship
- So why is it still called Triforce when there's only one of them