The MoeGamer Awards are a series of “alternative” awards that I’ve devised in collaboration with the community as an excuse to celebrate the games, experiences and fanbases that have left a particular impression on me in 2018. Find out more and leave a suggestion here!
If you’re a gamer on a budget or simply going through a lean month or two, it’s always a good idea to have one or two “evergreen” games on your shelf.
The concept of an “evergreen” game is simple: it’s a game that you can always return to at any time and have an enjoyable experience with. It’s a game you can set aside for weeks or months at a time before returning to when you feel like it, able to pick right back up where you left off.
Evergreen games can involve narrative, but the best ones place a strong focus on mechanics, providing them a pick-up-and play quality coupled with extensive — potentially infinite — longevity. One game that I covered in 2018 definitely fits that bill more than pretty much any other.
And the winner is…
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition
I’m a big fan of Warriors games generally, but Hyrule Warriors in particular was something truly special. Combining the well-established lore and characters of the long-running The Legend of Zelda series with the tactical action of the Warriors series and Team Ninja’s expertise in snappy, arcadey action proved to be something of a masterstroke, and resulted in one of the Wii U’s best games that only got better upon being ported to Switch.
The Zelda series chronology is already something of a chaotic mess with its multiple timelines, but Hyrule Warriors embraces this aspect of the series rather than spinning itself off in its own direction completely. Its main narrative initially unfolds in a brand new timeline roughly contemporary with Ocarina of Time, and over the course of the complete adventure it delves into the time periods depicted in Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword and The Wind Waker as well as the actual Ocarina of Time timeline. This is mostly an excuse to incorporate as many Zelda characters as possible, but it works in the context of the narrative.
Link and friends team up with original character Lana in an attempt to thwart the machinations of evil sorceress Cia as she attempts to gather the fragments of Ganon’s spirit, which have been scattered throughout the ages in an attempt to prevent him from returning again. Naturally things don’t quite go to plan and culminate in the usual climactic battle against a gigantic pig monster, but along the way we get to visit a variety of iconic Zelda locales, reacquaint ourselves with some beloved characters and kick the asses of literally thousands of foes from the entire series.
Hyrule Warriors isn’t over when you beat the story, however. Far from it, in fact; some might argue that the game is just beginning, and this is where its “evergreen” nature truly comes into play.
Hyrule Warriors features a mode called Adventure, in which you move across a delightfully NES-style representation of one of several different Zelda overworlds. In each “square” of the map is a battle, and these vary from relatively conventional uses of the game’s core mechanics to “quiz”-style confrontations in which you have to defeat the correct enemy to answer trivia questions about Hyrule Warriors and the Zelda series in general.
As you progress through the various Adventure maps, you’ll unlock even more characters who aren’t present in the main story mode, discover a variety of alternative weapons for each character, pick up fairies who can be levelled up and equipped with useful passive abilities and discover materials that can be used to unlock the full potential of all the characters on offer in the game.
The Adventure maps are huge, and there are nine of them. The first two are relatively straightforward affairs based on the original NES The Legend of Zelda, but others incorporate unique mechanics based on later games in the series. The Majora’s Mask map resets after a timer expires, representing the moon falling and the timeline resetting, for example, while the Wind Waker map forces you to content with awkward headwinds, buried treasure and perilous navigation. They do a great job of capturing the feel of their source material while making creative use of Hyrule Warriors’ core mechanics.
And it doesn’t even have to end there. Various Challenge modes provide arcade-style “high score” challenges under various circumstances. You can play most of the game with a friend in split-screen mode. And completing the main narrative unlocks a harder difficulty, providing the opportunity to collect a variety of Skulltulas by fulfilling specific objectives during a mission. Collecting these Skulltulas unlocks pieces of various illustrations, and completing an illustration unlocks further game features and ways to progress.
Hyrule Warriors’ story mode is substantial in its own right, and will take you a fair amount of time to play through first time around. Couple that with the in-depth progression system for each and every character, the upgradeable weapons, the ability crafting system, the fairy mechanics and the sheer scale of the Adventure mode and you have a game that will take you a lot of time to beat in its entirety.
It’s an absolutely essential part of any Switch library, whether you’re a Zelda fan or not. There is simply so much game here that you’ll still be playing it months after your original purchase — and its strong focus on mechanics and progression outside of the main story mode means that it’s easy to put down for a little while, then return to fresh later. Exactly the sort of game every gamer needs once in a while.
Honorable Mention: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a similar appeal factor to Hyrule Warriors thanks to its Spirits modes, but technically I haven’t covered this game in detail as yet, so watch out for some more extensive thoughts on this in the new year.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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