DISCLAIMER: This is a first impression of the Japanese version of Hyrule Warriors Legends. Things are subject to change in other regional releases. That said, if there are changes, they’ll probably be minor overall.
Do you remember that Wii U Dynasty Warriors game with a Legend of Zelda theme that you probably didn’t play? Well here it is on the 3DS, with all the good and bad that entails.
I went into this game expecting it to be a low-framerate mess on my original model 3DS (aka o3DS). I have to admit the seven hours I spent on it were more fun than I expected. It’s still a low-framerate mess, but it manages to feel responsive and playable… when it’s not dropping frames hard. The game is designed to benefit from running on the more powerful New 3DS (aka N3DS) with a higher enemy count, higher texture resolution, and a much higher framerate. Even on the o3DS, though, it manages to get a good amount of enemies on the screen and keep a (mostly) consistent framerate. It does dip down once in a while, though.
The frame-drops may not seem like a major concern, but it can be frustrating when you’re fighting an enemy (that isn’t one of the mindless masses that die when you sneeze at them) then the framerate drops to around 15fps and you start to feel a headache come on. It may not be a big deal to some, but others that are sensitive to it might feel nauseous at times. Keep in mind, though, this is only on o3DS, those on N3DS will probably be fine.
The story is your typical Legend of Zelda story boiled down to not distract from the action much. I won’t spoil anything for those that want to dive into the story blind, but if you’ve ever played a Legend of Zelda game, you can probably guess it. It does have a couple of new story elements from the Dynasty Warriors style of things. Overall, the plot is very similar to the Wii U’s Hyrule Warriors, just with a couple more things thrown in. Linkle being one of them.
Linkle is a new character who thinks she’s the newest incarnation of the legendary hero. When she was revealed, a lot of people chopped her up to being “female Link”, but she has one major advantage: she has a personality, which Link lacks (outside of Wind Waker). Her personality isn’t anything spectacular, but she’s an unassuming badass that is a bit oblivious and dense. She gets setup for comic relief, Dragon Ball’s Goku style, but she gets little attention early on. Hopefully she shows up more later in the game.
As for the rest of the story, it’s full-on fanservice. It is a combat power fantasy with Legend of Zelda. Most of your favorite Legend of Zelda characters are here. Why? Because it’d be awesome to beat the crap out of thousands of enemies with them. The plot doesn’t bother trying to make sense of everything. This is not a game to take seriously. Just sit back, don’t think about it, and just have fun. It would have been nice to see more love for the top-down Zelda games. I think Maple or Ravio could have fit in here perfectly. That said, I haven’t unlocked everything yet, so maybe there is some hope.
The gameplay is exactly what you expect from a hack-n-slasher like Dynasty Warriors, just handheld form. I was expecting it to be a bit clunkier like the older games, due to the lack of power that generally comes with handhelds, but it’s more responsive like its console counterpart. The low framerate does hurt how responsive it feels, but I imagine that problem won’t exist on the N3DS. The combos are about what you’d expect: basic but satisfying. If you’re looking for a challenge, it takes a while for the combat itself to ramp up to a challenging point. Though, even early on, there’s side objectives that can be challenging to juggle.
There is plenty of side content to keep people playing for hours. I played a little over seven hours and don’t feel like I’m even halfway through the game. I didn’t spend any significant time on the side-quests or any of the extra content.
The controls aren’t bad, beyond the typical complaints about the 3DS’s controls. Some abilities are assigned to the D-pad due to the limited buttons, but they’re not ones you’ll be using a lot.
In the end, you probably already know if you want this game or not. Do you want a Dynasty Warriors game on the go with a Legend of Zelda theme? Do you have a N3DS? Then you’ll probably love it. Are you using an o3DS? Then you might want to try it out yourself before buying. There were times where the framerate and frame-drops were bothering me enough to where I had to put it down. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing that they didn’t make it N3DS exclusive, options for consumers are always a good thing, but I can’t give it a solid recommendation for o3DS users.
I’d love to give this game a 4/5, but due to the performance issue on o3DS, I can’t give this game an overall recommendation.