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Hyrule Warriors

‘HYRULE WARRIORS’ AND THE SURPRISING FLEXIBILITY OF THE “MUSOU” GENRE

It can be jarring when established franchises dabble in different genres. For example, it’s likely no one was expecting the rail shooter Dead Space: Extraction when it made its Nintendo Wii debut in 2009, taking the third-person horror adventure and turning it into a first-person arcade spectacle. Similarly, Mario fans likely weren’t expecting the educational Mario Teaches Typing in 1992. Zelda fans, meanwhile, have experienced this set of events several times over, most recently with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity on the Switch.

Hyrule Warriors is considered a prequel to 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it is in no way like prior titles in the Zelda series. Eschewing the classic action adventure formula, Hyrule Warriors is a challenging hack-and-slash game that belongs to the “musou” genre, i.e. games, most commonly from Japanese developers, in which a squad of heroic protagonists slice their way through dozens of enemies at a time as players earn experience and level up.

Because of this major change, some Zelda fans have been hesitant to jump into Age of Calamity, despite the fact that it delivers some important story elements that are considered canon for the Breath of the Wild narrative. This is the second game to adopt the musou sensibility in the Zelda franchise, but the long-running Nintendo stalwart is hardly the first series to do such a thing.

Here’s a look at other popular franchises that adopted musou entries over the years.

Persona 5: Strikers

The Persona series is a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei games, with 2016’s Persona 5 being the fifth core entry. Persona 5 follows Joker and his ragtag Phantom Thieves of Hearts as they look into a series of encounters across Tokyo, investigating individual “Jails,” caused by people affected by nefarious beings known as Shadows. While Persona 5 is a lengthy RPG with dating sim elements and turn-based combat, Persona 5 Strikers, launched in February, combines elements from its parent Persona series with musou mechanics to make a skillful mix of RPG and combat.

Players can create parties out of familiar Persona characters and complete dungeons by cleaving through enemies and solving puzzles, both of which are much different approaches to the game series than veterans will be familiar with. It may be night and day to the kind of complexities that Persona 5 or any of the games before it offer, but it’s a fun alternative that dives deeply into the musou genre.

Hyrule Warriors

The original Hyrule Warriors (ahead of Age of Calamity) debuted on the Wii U in 2014, and combined the collective talents of Omega Force and Team Ninja, both responsible for hack-and-slash games of the past. However, while the sequel is considered canon and an official part of the Zelda narrative, this musou game was set in an alternative world outside of the Zelda timeline. It combines the settings and characters from Zelda games with the same hack-and-slash gameplay from other musou titles.

While this game technically has no real ties to Zelda as a franchise, players did get to explore a map based on the original 1987 The Legend of Zelda for the NES. You could also use various amiibo figures to unlock additional items.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk

Omega Force, the same developer responsible for the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series, had a hand in several of the musou games spun off from unrelated franchises. It also brought the popular anime series Berserk back to the video game universe after years remaining dormant with 2016’s Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. The game takes place over 50-plus missions with a pretty faithful retelling of the anime and manga series as we know it. It combines footage from the anime’s movies spliced between all-out hack-and-slash battles.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam

For Gundam fans, the musou genre is probably one that they least expected to see their favorite mechs headlining. While there are plenty of multi-mech battles throughout the Gundam anime universe, it’s usually the one-on-one epic encounters that make the most sense. Somehow, however, it’s still fun to cleave through several other mechs at once, and that’s part of what makes Dynasty Warriors: Gundam such an exciting prospect. While it seems like a strange match to be made in the gaming world, these two tastes go together like peanut butter and jelly and once you try one, you’ll realize it isn’t so strange that the musou genre has crossed over with the most popular mech anime series in the world.

Dragon Quest Heroes II

The long-running RPG series Dragon Quest is known for its story-based adventures and deep, character-centric tales coupled with turn-based combat. 2016’s Dragon Quest Heroes II was the second release that took the familiar hack-and-slash mechanics from Dynasty Warriors and applied them to a game that featured world explanation that was similar to typical Dragon Quest games.

Players could move from town to town, move around a world map, and fight off monsters during random encounters, though the combat presented during this spinoff is much different than the slow, methodical Final Fantasy-esque battles of the core series. Still, it feels just as exciting and sincere as the other entries, and if you’ve never played one, you’ll soon discover Dragon Quest is an excellent analogue to the world of JRPGs.

Photo courtesy of Nintendo

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