The fall game rush is upon us, and with it DAGERS is going to be ramping up the number of reviews we do to cover as many as we can over the holidays. Our first game of the fall is none other than the Frankenstein mash-up of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U. While it may have some die-hard fans of both franchises decrying it as a monstrous mutant of a game, from the stand point of accessibility, Hyrule Warrior’s gives every Zelda fans a game that shows love for the Zelda franchise in every pixel, without many of the barriers common to the franchise.
From the standpoint of fine-motor accessibility, Hyrule Warriors is probably one of the most accessible games ever released on the Wii U, this is because it uses the trademark repetitive button mashing combat that the Dynasty Warriors franchise is both loved and hated for. Let’s be clear, Hyrule Warriors is not a Zelda game. There are no puzzles, no dungeons, and lots and lots of very squishy enemies. The story pits the legendary hero and his friends against enemies from all of Hyrule’s past, and does so in such a way that oozes fan service. Because of the Dynasty Warriors influence, the gameplay for this title is very forgiving. Upon dying, players have the option to restart the level, or restart at the nearest checkpoint, which is often less than 5 minutes of gameplay back.
The fact that players can use two preset profiles on any one of three different controllers means that even though the controls may not be as accessible as they could be, it will probably still be possible for gamers with most fine-motor disabilities to find some configuration that allows them to play, especially given the fact that this game does not need to be played with more than one finger on each hand simultaneously. Beyond this, the game features multiple modes, some of which have very open ended time constraints, and some of which have no time constraints at all. In my personal experience, I don’t play this game to try and advance through the story, I play it to have a good time smashing up hundreds or thousands of enemies in a single session. When trying to advance the storyline, players may find some time constraints, however the difficulty is easily adjustable when needed and even on normal, the time windows are very long but if they get stuck, there is always adventure mode or free mode which do not have as many of these situations. This means that this game should be barrier free for most gamers with fine-motor disabilities. Combine that with a crafting system that allows players to customize their fighters to compensate for weaknesses and a roster that includes playable characters with varying play styles, and the game becomes even more accessible.
The one possible misstep that Hyrule Warrior’s has is in its accessibility for the visually impaired. While the game features bold beautiful graphics that should be easy to see for even those with low-vision, the mini-map will cause more problems than it solves. For example, on several levels the players are required to fight their way into the Great Fairy Fountain, and summon the great fairy as a deus ex machina to change the tide of battle. To do this, players will have to maneuver their way to a flashing X on the map, which is fairly visible. The element that is not visible is the green arrow that indicates the position and direction of the player controlled hero. As a result, players with visual disabilities may still be able to enjoy this game, but they may find themselves frustrated by an inability to find themselves in relation to needed objectives. The situation becomes worse when you consider those with color blindness. The game uses reds and blues of roughly the same intensity to indicate which portions of each battlefield are controlled by enemies and allies. As a result when looking at the mini map, players can see a fruit-rollup like pattern of reds and blues, that shows them where they are most needed. Unfortunately without the ability to see color, it’s unclear which of the light and dark shades are friends, and which are foes. This game can still be played and enjoyed by those with visual disabilities, but they should be advised that they will probably be inhibited in enjoying everything this title has to offer.
From the standpoint of auditory accessibility, Hyrule Warriors is completely barrier free. There are voiced bits of story exposition, but this and the characters dialogue is fully subtitled from the very beginning of the game, without having to change anything in the settings. Beyond this, nothing in Hyrule Warriors relies on sound or the ability to hear. Players with hearing disabilities should have no apprehensions when purchasing this game.
On the whole, unless you have a visual disability, Hyrule Warriors is probably for you. With no reliance on sound and extremely forgiving gameplay, most hard core disabled Zelda fans will be able to enjoy this game while they wait for a full-fledged next gen Zelda release.
– Large visible art style makes enemies and action highly visible on screen.
– Must be able to see color to advance through the mini map.
– Must be able to see fine detail to advance through the mini map.
– Extremely forgiving.
– On the fly adjustable difficulty.
– Compatible with three different controllers.
– Character customization allows players some choice in determining their play style.
– Multiple controller profiles.
– Somewhat limited controller customization.
– Game is fully subtitled without having to turn subtitles on.
– Nothing relies on sound or the ability to hear within this game.