Slightly more than a month ago, Nintendo released their highly anticipated console: the Wii U.  As some of you may know, the console itself came in two different packages: the 8 Gb white Wii U, and the fan favorite black 32 Gb deluxe set.  The latter comes with its own copy of Nintendo Land, the company’s answer to Wii Sports.  The game is an amusement park of sorts with attractions that are based on Nintendo’s franchises.  One of said attractions is inspired in The Legend of Zelda, and it is called Zelda: Battle Quest.

From a distance, this might look like Nintendo’s attempt to introduce new players to The Legend of Zelda, and to some extent, it is.  However, there is more to be found here than what meets the eye.

In this game, your Mii gets dressed up as Link and is dropped in the first of 14 stages.  There’s no story here; the only hint that the game gives you is that you must retrieve the Triforce, which is being held by each end-level boss.  Eventually, it all boils down to “Get to the end of the stage. Defeat the boss and any other monsters that stand in your way.” There are many returning foes from past Zelda games; before you get to the end of the game you will have seen a couple of Wizzrobes, a few Stalfos, and a lot of Moblins.

Since the Wii U is Nintendo’s first HD console, you would expect to see some stunning visual effects and vibrant colors.  After my full playthrough, I can definitely say that the game delivers in that regard.  These are the best graphics I’ve seen in a Zelda game since The Wind Waker came out.  The image is crisp and clear, even when upscaled to 1080p.  Small details like broken seams on every character’s body and clothing will take your breath away.  The red-hot ash flying through the air in a volcano stage still lingers in my memory as one of the coolest visual effects I have ever seen in a video game, and leads me to believe that the Wii U actually packs some power under its hood.

The music in this game is mostly a compilation of classic tunes from other Zelda games.  All of the themes have been rearranged into the kind of cheerful music that fits more with the tone of the game.  Fan favorites like Gerudo Valley and Lost Woods sound great, but are arguably worse than the original tunes.  Some sound effects are new, but others seem to have been ripped straight from Skyward Sword.  This seems to have been done with the intention of introducing new players to the signature sounds from the franchise.

Battle Quest ditches most of the puzzle elements the series is known for in favor of a more action-oriented approach.  The game is also on-rails, which leaves out one the other main staples of Zelda games: exploration.  Moreover, I must warn those who are not very fond of motion controls about the controller options in this game.  The attraction uses them heavily, and won’t make believers out of most skeptics.  The combat is divided into two types: archery with the GamePad, and sword-wielding with the Wii remote (Wii Motion Plus is also required).  Personally, I recommend going with the Wiimote, as it is a way more comfortable way to play.  If you go for the archery option, you’ll be surrounded by Moblins before you know it.

To be honest, I was quite surprised with the difficulty in this game.  Everything starts at a good pace, but things spiral out of control on later levels.  In fact, I got to a point on level 8 in which I could not get past the beginning of the stage, and that is not counting the Normal stages.  There is also an expert mode, which basically is beating the first nine stages without getting hit.  Considering how unforgiving this game is, I don’t recommend trying that mode, unless you want a real challenge.

The attraction also boasts a multiplayer mode.  It is local only, which I consider a missed opportunity on Nintendo’s part.   However, if you manage to get four more people to play with you, I guarantee that you will have a blast.  Beating the game with friends is not any easier, though.  You’re given the same amount of hearts that you get when you’re playing alone, but they are shared between all players.  This means that deaths will occur more often than when playing on your own.

Battle Quest is a hard game.  Sure, it may boast incredible graphical detail and familiar tunes from earlier games, but the fact that it takes away many of the elements that have come to define Zelda games and its punishing difficulty make it a bit hard to recommend.  However, if you’re in need of a Zelda fix to ease the wait for the series’ next installment, consider giving this game a try.

Overall Score: 8 / 10