The Hype Train: Age of Calamity
Gaming has changed so much over the years. Watching the evolution from 8 bit pixel adventures to full scale hyper realistic dreamscapes has been a lovely process to witness. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is out now and it's my childhood's living dream for the Zelda franchise. Developers have taken tried and true dungeon scouring formula and infused it with new and genre-blending mechanics. What's even more interesting is the series crossover culture that's exploded over the past decade or so. My biggest formative adventure came in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64, a lovely adventure spanning the Kingdom of Hyrule to save the princess and defeat the ageless evil. Tried and true formula, right? But have you ever wondered what it'd be like to have a Zelda themed, monster-mashing beat 'em up? Let's take a trip through some other cool crossovers before we get back to the hype.
First let's dive into some Zelda oldies that added some new variables to the process. My guy, the Hero Clad in Green, Zeld-- I mean, Link, has been snipping grass and kicking ass since '87 in the first Legend of Zelda title. It was also the first in gaming history to feature a save file feature to pick up where you left off. Before that, you either kept the console on until you finished or had a password generated in game that puts you back at the beginning of a stage. The former was particularly rough if you had siblings to share a system with.
The world is so used to seeing Link adventuring around, conquering dungeons to find whatever tools he needs to save Hyrule. It’s almost a pigeonhole compared to his red-capped spiritual sibling who’s done everything in the book. Mario has a whole pantheon of sports spin offs from tennis to basketball, with cameos in the boxing ring and at alpine heights.
Where does that leave the Legendary Hero? Forever doomed to do the reincarnation dance with Ganon and Zelda for all eternity? Does he ever get a break? Does Hyrule even last a day without the power of the Triforce of Courage to maintain some kind of order? Spoiler alert, it doesn’t. But, Link still has his fair share of adventures breaking the mold. One of the most identifiable is in the Super Smash Bros. series where he can duke it out with all sorts of classic icons from Nintendo history. Starting with Smash, how far has Link gone in breaking out of his tried and true formula?
Let's duke it out with Link as a playable character in Soulcalubur 2. The Gamecube version brought the Hylian hero into 16th century Eurasia looking to seal demonic swords and break pots. There wasn’t a pot to be found in the game, so we know how the rest of this story goes. It was my first dive into fighting games, and without Link being a character, I don’t think I’d have such an interest in the games as I do now. Tekken 7 is one of the most rewarding fighting games to play right now and I’m into it all because my guy, Link, decided to take on Soul Edge on a Sunday after sealing Ganon. What a time to be alive.
But they didn’t stop at fighting games! Earlier that year Nintendo released a Link to the Past & Four Swords which broke Link out of that 1 player adventure into the multiplayer world. With at least 2 Gameboy Advances, you and a friend or three can navigate randomly generated dungeons and come out on top with the largest purse of Rupees. The sequel released on the Gamecube a few years later took the multiplayer vibe to the next level with the ability to use Gameboy Advances to dive into dungeons in their hands while other adventurers explored the overworld on the big screen. There was another multiplayer adventure for Link in Tri Force Heroes released in 2015 for 3DS, but we don’t talk about that one.
And that brings us to the multiplayer, beat ‘em up, timeline spanning epic that is Hyrule Warriors. It’s creative crossover between Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors franchise and the Legend of Zelda series brings a level of hype to the series that I only dreamed of. It’s Link and some of the iconic crew like Zelda, Darunia, Midna, and Tingle hacking and slashing their way through legions of enemies to conquer the field. It comes complete with some item finding, Zelda-style puzzles, decent renditions of the classic score, and a non-canon story that ties together generations of Zelda lore.
What the developers at Koei Tecmo have given us is a wider range of what the Zelda universe is capable of. The introduction of not only special moves to a series that typically shines in its subtle nuances makes the world glow with new light. Literally, some stuff from my deepest dreams comes to life on the screen when I’m playing that game. It fills in lots of gaps that the original games left up to the players' imaginations. Ocarina of Time never shows what happens when key players venture into dungeons before him, but Link always has to dive in and finish the job himself. The developers of Hyrule Warriors have chosen characters and moments to weave their story into the greater Hyrule Historia as seamlessly as possible.
I enjoy the Hyrule Warriors gameplay, but what makes me even more excited is seeing its new sequel:
In Breath of the Wild, Nintendo took a chance to bust open the books and put the Zelda skin on an open-world adventure with more quests than you can shake a Deku Stick at. Age of Calamity drops you right into the action 100 years prior, meeting, greeting, and beating your way through Hyrule with the Champions at your side. Just like with the first Hyrule Warriors, it fills in the gaps where your imagination did most of the work. But this time, it's a Nintendo official installment to the head canon. Nintendo is said to leave much of the development to the Koei Tecmo team, but now they have a heavier influence on development. The dreaminess and hype Koei Tecmo brought to the expression of the series now gets the good ol’ Nintendo polish with the care and attention they drenched the open-world epic in. I’ve yet to play it, but from scenes and screens I’m just as excited as I was waiting for the first installment to drop.
What the first Hyrule Warriors did well, Age of Calamity seems to build on with the amazing foundation they laid through Breath of the Wild. Voice acting for not only the champions fighting alongside Link, but the big baddies too! Voice acting in the Zelda series has been long overdue but oh so welcome moving into this generation of gaming. Revali’s condescending demeanor as the only flight capable member of the team just wouldn’t come across as hurtful reading text like in classic Zelda form. Some things just translate better when you have a skilled voice behind them, no matter how profoundly the text is written. This game just looks like a gem waiting to adorn the collection, shining for years to come.
The Warriors series has done what little me only dreamed of. Giving a vision to some of the speculated moments in Zelda history AND pairing that with sick ass moves. Age of Calamity is poised to be one of my favorite games of the year and a great way to blow off some steam. My collection of 17 Zelda themed t-shirts is gonna be proud.
Do you dig crossover videogames? Have a favorite Zelda title? Tell us in the comments and make sure you check out Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity on Nintendo Switch!