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Hyrule Warriors is the Zelda beat-'em-up you never knew you wanted


The next Zelda game coming to the Wii U is anything but traditional fare for the series. Instead, it follows a different set of traditions, basing its core mechanics on Tecmo-Koei's Dynasty Warriors franchise. Rather than putting players in the midst of history-inspired battles in ancient China, the upcoming Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U takes its cast and settings from Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda series.

Choosing one of nine characters (including series mainstays Link, Zelda, and Impa), players embark on a quest to save Hyrule from vast enemy armies. In the context of the Dynasty Warriors series, this amounts to mashing the attack button and slaughtering thousands of weaklings who dare to get in your way.

Gallery: Hyrule Warriors (E3 2014) | 10 Photos

Gameplay in Hyrule Warriors will be instantly familiar for Dynasty Warriors series veterans. Players have a number of powerful melee attacks at their disposal, which can be chained together for combo strikes that can often kill several enemies in one blow. Playing as either Link or Zelda in the game's E3 demo level, players trek toward waypoints and kill enemy commanders, freeing the territory for allied forces.

At the demo stage's midpoint, you're directed to an underground tunnel that contains a treasure chest. Opening the chest reveals a new equippable sub-weapon: bombs. Players can carry multiple sub-weapons and switch between them at will; this particular piece of equipment is required to progress. In the demo, players must throw bombs at boulders that block area exits in order to proceed. These items also come in handy during battle -- bombs can take out broad swaths of enemies and clear paths to adjoining areas.

At the end of Nintendo's demo, players encounter a King Dodongo who towers over surrounding armies. The quick-dodge mechanic comes in handy here, allowing players to avoid the Dodongo's wide-range ground attacks and fiery breath.

While you can eventually beat King Dodongo by chipping away at its health with regular attacks, you'll have a much quicker fight if you remember a bit of wisdom from the original The Legend of Zelda: "DODONGO DISLIKES SMOKE." Toss a bomb into its mouth while it's charging up for a fire blast and the Dodongo will be stunned, allowing you to hack away for vastly increased damage.

While its item-based stage progression captures the essence of the Zelda series, Hyrule Warriors otherwise feels very much like a Dynasty Warriors game. You'll spend much of your time hacking through enemy armies, capturing bases, and defending outposts from attacking armies -- all things I'd normally associate with Lu Bu and his pals.

Compared to the drawn-out pacing of many Dynasty Warriors levels, though, Hyrule Warriors' demo felt brisk and eventful. The tradeoff is that the game's tactical component suffers -- I was able to complete the demo just by following objective markers and killing enemies until I was told to progress to the next point of interest. Zelda fans new to Dynasty Warriors' beat-'em-up gameplay will likely appreciate its casual-friendly approach, however, and later levels will hopefully rely more on the strategic elements that define Tecmo-Koei's series.

Hyrule Warriors will hit the Wii U in North America on September 26.

[Image: Nintendo]

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