If there are two series that will spark a heated debate as to which one is best, one is Final Fantasy, which I streamed Final Fantasy IV (THE BEST ONE) for Extra Life 2020, and the other is the Legend of Zelda. Having originally started with the Legend of Zelda II, I would later fall in love with a total of three titles. A Link to the Past, Twilight Princess, and Hyrule Warriors which while not a core title, merged all of the timelines into one making everything truly canon to the timeline theories which were also published not that long back in the Hyrule Historia.
Instead of making a follow up to the 2014 Hyrule Warriors, Omega Force and Tecmo Koei have instead done something that a lot of fans have probably been wanting just as much as the sequel to Breath of the Wild, and that would be the prequel of the events one-hundred years prior. Starting off with a bang in the last moments before Calamity Ganon wins, a tiny guardian stored within Hyrule Castle wakes up and sends itself to the past in order to warn and potentially save Princess Zelda and her father’s kingdom. Falling into the hands of Link who was at the time no more than a soldier of the kingdom clearly not wearing a helmet to stand out, his and Zelda’s fates would soon become intertwined as they always do.
From a story perspective there’s a lot that we are going to be in a treat for as other than some flashbacks or mentions, a lot of what happens was up for grabs while turning it into a gameplay experience. With events starting off before everything happens, before Calamity Ganon is even a thought, a horde of monsters brings Link and Impa together as Link is helping defend the kingdom. Link and Impa’s meeting alongside the small guardian start to really set the tone for the adventure while also showing that there’s more than just gameplay in some of these rather stellar looking cutscnes.
From the get go two things were abundantly clear. The combat and the mechanics are solid and they’ve revamped the characters for their Breath of the Wild counterparts from the original Hyrule Warriors which were specifically designed for that adventure. The second is that I’m really unsure of how well the graphical representation handles itself. The original was clear, crisp and highly detailed while Age of Calamity is using the more cell shaded style of Breath of the Wild and I don’t think it’s doing the action as much justice as it should and that’s after spending time with it on a standard LED, a 4K QLED and in handheld mode.
My issues with the graphics aside, and combat felt rather smooth with the three characters that the demo currently allows you access to. Link, Impa and Zelda all handle rather differently with Link being our sword wielding beast on the field, Impa using ninjutsu like abilities and Zelda very much relying on the powers of the slate for some rather wild attacks. Following more in line with the Dynasty Warriors style of mechanics, basic attacks are all mapped to “X” and then after a certain number of presses you can use “Y” to unleash a character specific ability.
Where things start to get a bit interesting is in the use of abilities that a lot of us have used while exploring a post-war era version of Hyrule set one-hundred years later. Getting access to the slate, Link can use bombs, freeze enemies and the water they are standing in, and even without it Link can take up to the air with his glider before coming back down on his enemies. Keeping partially in line with the semi-RPG elements of leveling up to become more powerful, there are a few changes this time around which could either be really nice down the line or a complete pain depending on how they are implemented.
Set out on the world map through accessing the slate between missions, there are several points on the map that all serve as different functions. Some require handing over materials in order to unlock merchants who will in turn sell you ingredients that you can use to cook food and adjust your character’s stats in battle. Others are challenges that must be completed in order to unlock new abilities for your characters such as an extra “X” attack or adding in a new “Y” ability. These are no longer gained through leveling up so it could go either way as the demo only has two stages and a few challenges clocking in around the hour-ish mark depending on the amount of effort you wanted to put in.
Now I think it’s clear that if we are putting out a preview today, we didn’t get a copy for review, BUT, with it having come out today you can be sure as hell that this is what I’m basically going to be playing this weekend. As a Musou fan there’s honestly plenty to look forward to especially with the unlocking of abilities through trials instead of leveling up as well as what other kinds of challenges that can be set forth with the mechanics coming over from Breath of the Wild.