Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition Review

Hack, Slash, Save, Repeat
Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja Publisher: Nintendo Platforms: Switch

A fully-featured port of the Zelda and Dynasty Warriors crossover that augments repetitive hack n’ slash gameplay with a hefty dose of quality fanservice

This may be a potentially controversial opinion, but I love that the Nintendo Switch has become a bit of a vehicle for ports of Wii U games. Where some might see a lazy cash-grab or a half-hearted attempt to pad out the system’s comparatively anaemic software library, I would argue that offering the best versions of the best games from a console that did poorly in the market on a system that’s sold like hotcakes since launch is great business for both Nintendo and for gamers. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition takes this idea one step further, bringing together the Wii U and 3DS versions of the hack n’ slash Legend of Zelda spinoff as one, complete (or ‘definitive’, as the title suggests) package.

For those not in the know, allow me to shore one thing up from the jump — Hyrule Warriors is not your typical Zelda game. A combined effort from developers Omega Force and Team Ninja, it’s by-and-large an entry in the ‘Musou’ series of games comprised of the likes of Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors and all manner of licensed spinoffs. As with those games, Hyrule Warriors is a hack n’ slash action game played out on large battlefields filled with thousands of enemies where combat depth takes a backseat to flashy, crowd-clearing moves and light strategy and time management. Of course, the difference here and the game’s main draw is that it’s all wrapped up in a veritable smorgasbord of Legend of Zelda fanservice, complete with a story that mashes together a variety of timelines in the greater Zeldaverse as an excuse to bring 24-odd franchise characters together for a good old-fashioned beatdown.

The Breath of the Wild costumes are a nice addition

The primary mode of play in Hyrule Warriors is Legends Mode, which tells the aforementioned canon-defying crossover storyline over a series of self-contained battles in various Zelda-inspired locales. Each battle lasts anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour and is made up of various main and side objectives that mostly involve running between points of the open-plan maps and defeating specific enemies or taking objectives. Anyone who’s played a Warriors-style game before will feel right at home with mowing down tens of hundreds of enemies in rapid succession through simple combinations of attacks and special moves, while reacting to an onslaught of demands from all corners of the battlefield. Of course, being a tie-in with the venerable Zelda franchise means there are more than a few relevant additions to the established musou formula, such as occasional appearances from recurring series boss monsters that break up the repetitive button-mashing combat by requiring some modicum of strategy. Even so, there’s a reason that musou games have never truly entered the mainstream of video games and that’s because they’re repetitive as hell. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s part of why fans love them, but it’s a vastly different brand of gaming to what regular Zelda fans are used to and so it absolutely bears mentioning.

Girl, I hate to tell you but your aim is WAY off

Whatever Hyrule Warriors’ moment-to-moment gameplay lacks in variety, the same can’t be said of its extraneous offerings. Particularly in this, the ‘definitive edition’ of the game, there’s a robust and comprehensive suite of meta-game mechanics and extra modes to inspire long-term play. Character levelling, weapon and item collecting, and crafting are all present along with a Free Play mode in which to replay main story scenarios with any character. Adventure Mode is a particular highlight, in which players complete a series of special objectives in order to traverse NES-inspired 8-bit maps. All of the enhancements to Adventure Mode found in the 3DS version of the game, Hyrule Warriors Legends, like befriending and nurturing fairy companions return as well. Also carried over from the 3DS is the Linkle character and her substory in Legends Mode, which is an absolute highlight. The girl from a sleepy town who believes she (and not Link) is the true hero of legend and runs around with an army of chickens deserves her own game already, in this writer’s humble opinion.

If Skull Kid had a mask made of cardboard, would it be a Labo Majora?

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition marks the third release of the same game, first appearing on the Wii U in 2014 as Hyrule Warriors, before being ported to the 3DS as Hyrule Warriors Legends in 2016. While the game’s original release was mostly well-received by fans and critics, the 3DS version didn’t fare as well despite containing a bunch of new story content and characters, primarily due to a disappointing visual presentation coupled with woefully bad performance on the OG 3DS models. The Switch version of the game is a win for fans then, in that it carries with it all of the content from both prior versions while also looking and running better than ever. Hyrule Warriors is a fantastic-looking game on the Switch, with Omega Force’s penchant for over-the-top effects and animations coupled with the unmistakable visual stylings of the Legend of Zelda franchise making for an exciting display. In docked mode it all comes up a treat and delivers the smoothest version of the game yet. In handheld mode everything still looks super sharp and effective but performance does take a noticeable hit, culminating in some pretty distracting slowdown in some of the ‘boss’-style encounters. Curiously, Nintendo opted to include splitscreen co-op play while portable, which turned out exactly as you’d expect for a game like this – a nigh-unplayable mix of terrible framerates and eye straining-ly miniscule details.

This. On the console’s screen. No thanks.

Final Thoughts

Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition is the most comprehensive and well presented version of a game that’s not for everybody. Diehard Zelda fans and musou connoisseurs will delight in the sheer volume of fanservice and content on offer, but anyone else may be put off by the inherent repetition of it all. While it may not be as essential as some other ports of Wii U games to the Switch like Mario Kart 8 and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze (especially since it’s already been ported to the 3DS before), there’s still no denying the appeal of getting the full experience both at home and on the go. Also you can play as Tingle, so… there’s that.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Review code supplied by publisher

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Good

  • The most comprehensive version of Hyrule Warriors yet
  • Looks great and runs well in docked mode
  • Stuffed to the brim with fanservice
  • Linkle is great

Bad

  • Handheld performance isn’t perfect
  • Portable co-op is pointless
  • Musou-style gameplay isn’t for everyone
8

Get Around It

Kieron started gaming on the SEGA Master System, with Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy. The 20-odd years of his life since have not seen his love for platformers falter even slightly. A separate love affair, this time with JRPGs, developed soon after being introduced to Final Fantasy VIII (ie, the best in the series). Further romantic subplots soon blossomed with quirky Japanese games, the occasional flashy AAA action adventure, and an unhealthy number of indie gems. To say that Kieron lies at the center of a tangled, labyrinthine web of sexy video game love would be an understatement.
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