Maybe you noticed, but we’re big fans of The Legend of Zelda here at Invisible Gamer. Okay, I probably shouldn’t speak for others: I am a big Zelda fan. And this current generation of Nintendo consoles has been nothing short of the best for Zelda fans: we’ve seen transformative re-releases of the three best “console-style” Zelda games, a stylish new multiplayer game let down only by its net code, and the best Zelda game since 1993 in A Link Between Worlds. And, oh yeah, somewhere along the lines, we also got a hack-and-slash action game from the makers of Dynasty Warriors.
About that hack-and-slash game. Hyrule Warriors isn’t a game that comes to mind immediately—or really even at all—when I’m in the mood for some Zelda. That doesn’t mean it’s not a ton of fun—it really is!—it’s just not really a Zelda game. So when Hyrule Warriors Legends was announced for the 3DS, I grudgingly accepted that I’d have to buy to keep my Zelda collection current, but didn’t really give a thought to playing it too much. I played a ton of Hyrule Warriors for review, and kept up with the DLC for awhile, but haven’t touched it in almost a year.
Thanks to the wonders of owning a Japanese New Nintendo 3DS, I had a chance to play a demo of Hyrule Warriors Legends this week—released recently in Japan as Zelda Musou: All-Stars—and I have to say my anticipation level for the upcoming 3DS port has gone from “okay” to “ooooh yeaah!” Despite the significant gulf in processing power between the Wii U and New 3DS, Hyrule Warriors looks great in handheld form, with a new cel-shaded look designed to simplify character models and keep the action moving at a steady pace. I’m not a frame counter by any means, but there is a demonstrable, if not remarkable performance gap between this version and the Wii U version; the demo I played on the new 3DS feels ever so slightly slower than the Wii U version. That said, the action remains consistently smooth on the handheld, even when enemies fill up the screen, or I unleash one of the playable characters’ special moves.
About the enemy count: there are definitely fewer characters on the screen, which is a screen resolution issue as much as it is one of processing power. But the thing is, I never felt like I was missing out on anything by playing on the New 3DS. That said, I have seen some videos of the final game running on an OG 3DS, and the experience definitely looks compromised: the action runs along at a steady quip, but there are far fewer enemies on screen, more pop-in, and an overall lack of spectacle, which is the main selling point of this game. Surely this could have been a New 3DS exclusive? God knows the updated console could use a few more of those.
I’m a huge proponent of portable gaming—always have been, always will be—but for those of you who prefer to play at home or aren’t sure about whether you want to buy Hyrule Warriors again, I’ll have to wait until the full game comes out in the U.S. to give a recommendation on whether to double-dip. One of the main selling points of Legends is that it adds new characters and content from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which has become something of a born-again gamer darling since the release of Wind Waker HD. I can’t speak to that new content as the demo only lets you play a portion of the opening level, but I can say the new content is slated to come to the Wii U version as well… but as of now, only if you’ve purchased Hyrule Warriors Legends. I’m sure that’ll change at some point, but for now, if you want to play as Tetra and The King of Red Lions in Hyrule Warriors, plan accordingly!