A prequel's value should be weighed partly on how it supports the original. The narrative must be compelling because fans already know how it ends. It should fill in holes, introduce new revelations and act almost like a puzzle piece fitting into place. When it goes wrong, it can diminish the series altogether.
With "Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity," players uncover a story that's worth being told. It features the same visual language as its source material, the instant classic "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," but that foundation is used in a way that will be unfamiliar to longtime fans.
Players shouldn't expect exploration and clever puzzles. Instead, as the name implies, "Hyrule Warriors" plays much like the beat-'em-up "Dynasty Warriors." The developer, Koei-Tecmo's Omega Force, has been making these type of games for decades, marked by warriors defeating hundreds of enemies as they sprint across the battlefield, smashing anything along the way. It's mindless fun.
Although the idea gave me some apprehension, Omega Force worked closely with Nintendo, and "Hyrule Warriors" ends up capturing a bit of the "Breath of the Wild" flavor.
The game starts with Calamity Ganon laying waste to Hyrule. As Zelda's powers awaken, a diminutive Guardian takes a portal to the past. It ends up 100 years before the events of "Breath of the Wild," and the R2D2-like machine joins Zelda, warning her about the future. She embarks on a quest to stop Calamity Ganon by venturing into the other kingdoms and persuading their best warriors to pilot ancient machines called Divine Beasts, which have the power to stop him.
The missions take Link and Zelda across familiar terrain but the big difference is that this is Hyrule before it's ruined, and players will run across thriving villages and soaring towers. They'll also encounter fan favorite characters who are younger and more brash. It adds to the charm of the adventure.
"Hyrule Warriors" can grow a little rote, but it does one big thing right: It makes you want to jump back into "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild."
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
⋆⋆⋆ out of 4 stars
Platform: Nintendo Switch.