This review is written by Laurent Backman for Big Shiny Robot. You can reach her at laurentbackman@gmail.com

Hyrule Warriors Legends – Nintendo – 3DS – 03.25.16 – $39.99

When Nintendo first announced Legends, I was cautiously optimistic. After the release of "Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3" on the 3DS last summer, it was clear that Musou games were possible on the handheld, but took several hits in terms of visuals and technical ability. The same holds true for "Hyrule Warriors Legends," but in the time between the two games, it’s clear that refinements were made. There’s still a downgrade in textures from the Wii U version and units pop in and out of view with alarming frequency, but the gameplay is smooth and I can count the instances of framerate slowdown while playing on my New 3DS on one hand.

The core gameplay of “Hyrule Warriors Legends” will be instantly familiar for anyone who’s played a previous Warriors game. You control a commanding officer of an army for each battle. You sprint from location to location, capturing keeps, mounting defenses, and taking down enemy officers as you try to shift the flow of each battle to your favor. Combat is combo-based, and you’ll spend a lot of time in menus outside of battle unlocking different moves for each character’s weapons.

Since Legends includes all of the DLC packs from the original release, content is restructured so that all DLC weapons, characters, and maps are unlocked as part of regular gameplay. Unfortunately, this does lead to some odd progress gating for the Adventure Mode maps. You’ll have to beat the maps in sequence, rather than having access to the Master Quest, Twilight, and Termina maps straight from the start. While this won’t be much of an issue for newcomers, it’s jarring if you played the initial release.

New content comes in the form of five new playable characters, some additional weapons and maps, a new Great Sea map for adventure mode, and a new skill system in the form of a fairy companion that adds some much-needed variety to battles. There are also a few additional story missions, but all of the missions involving "Wind Waker" characters aren’t unlocked until you complete all prior story missions, including Cia’s Tale and the new Linkle side missions.

Apart from the odd content gating though, the core gameplay of "Hyrule Warriors Legends" is phenomenal. The new characters handle well and add a nice mix of speed and power to the existing roster, and the new music tracks for the "Wind Waker" maps are great (special mention for the remix of "Molgera’s Theme" that plays on the Earth/Wind Temple map).

If you own a copy of "Hyrule Warriors" for the Wii U already, and you’ve shelled out for the existing DLC packs, it might be worth your while just to download the Legends DLC as it comes out. For those of you who don’t have a Wii U and are looking to scratch the action combat itch with a little bit of Zelda flair, definitely pick up "Hyrule Warriors Legends." More DLC packs down the line promise additional characters and maps (as of this writing, Medli from "Wind Waker" and Marin from "Link’s Awakening" have both been confirmed as DLC characters), so the game should keep you busy for quite a while.

 

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