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Game Review

Nintendo's new Hyrule Warriors is all about the fan service.

A fan what now? Allow me to elucidate. A "fan service" video game can contain a number of different elements aimed to directly please avid players. It might contain tons of funny-bone-tickling in-jokes or, well, gratuitous peeks at scantily clad females. And then there are games like this one—a fan service entry that blends two popular game franchises into one familiar-feeling but still unique hybrid.

So even though you might see the easily recognizable elfish Link wearing his pointy green hat and swinging his trusty sword on the game's cover, you shouldn't go in expecting a tried-and-true Legend of Zelda adventure. In fact, you should leave your love of puzzle-solving and dungeon-crawling at the castle gate. Because this game mixes a Zelda-like tale and various distinctive characters from that world with the hack 'n' slash bombast of a straightforward, clear-the-battlefield Dynasty Warriors game.

Hi! Who's the Ruler Around Here?
The Zelda part of the equation offers up a typical light-vs.-dark struggle. An über-powerful baddie named Ganondorf was long ago defeated and his evil soul broken into four parts, each sealed away in different moments of time to make sure he would remain banished. But as is usually the case with the malevolently powerful, especially in Zelda games, there's always a way for the wicked to rise again. In this case, Ganondorf surreptitiously manipulates a powerful sorceress to set his comeback plan in motion.

Of course, that means lots of attacks on the good guys. So as Princess Zelda's castle in Hyrule is besieged, Link, a Hyrulian soldier-in-training, rushes in to its defense ... and discovers that he possesses special Triforce powers. It's up to him to traverse timelines, battle Ganondorf and his thousands of monster minions, and find the snatched away Zelda.

1,000 Baddie KO's
This game is less about following through on a grand conundrum-filled adventure with Link, though, than it is about wiping out those thousands of minions I mentioned. Like other Dynasty Warriors entries, Hyrule Warriors repeatedly plops gamers down in a variety of bad-guy-choked maps (based on Zelda locations) and lets them fight their way through with one of a diverse roster of 13 playable heroes. You can fight as the ever-valiant Link, a gnome-like battler called Darunia (from Ocarina of Time), a sword-dwelling spirit named Fi (from Skyward Sword) and many others—including the arrows-of-light-wielding Zelda herself.

These characters all have their own unique weapons and abilities. And they can upgrade their skills and arsenal as they go along. But the big draw here is that they're all essentially the heroic equivalent of an 800 lb gorilla in a room full of 99 lb weaklings. One champion can wade into a swarming crowd of hundreds and cut them down like a gardener whacking a woodlet of weeds.

With that as the standard, then, gameplay becomes all about setting priorities and managing your ticking-clock objectives. Do you continue clearing the decks and finish up that next goal of 1,000 baddie KO's, or do you run off to liberate a nearby fort and save your fellow soldiers trapped there? Should you try to find special treasure chests and collectables or keep the evil masses at bay by facing off with the mission's next big boss? Choosing wisely in time-sensitive situations makes victory all the more satisfying.

2,000 Baddie KO's
Now, since bashing away at crowds of monsters is the main grind here, a reasonable question would be, "How messy and mushy do things get?" Well, things are a bit more rough-edged than your average Zelda game, let's put it that way. Bombs are tossed in bolder-blasting bunches. Gigantic monster bosses demolish and pummel until you discern their weak spots. And hordes of attacking foes are constantly smashed and flung about by powerful sweeping blows from swords, hammers, arrows and fiery magic zaps. But at least each boundless battle is ultimately bloodless, with KO'd enemies disappearing in a blink after their health meters run out.

A couple of the female characters display more-than-ample amounts of cleavage while wearing some curve-hugging attire. In a cutscene, the camera ogles a female boss's backside.

And some of the characters in this magical world are identified as fairies, sorcerers and the like. You can take on the role of a "Sorceress of Light" named Lana, for instance. The game doesn't explore the details of her conjurings, but she carries a book of sorcery into battle, and she creates magical walls and blocks to push and smash her foes.

So is all that truly a service to fans? Or just a mash-up of mayhem?

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Episode Reviews

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