Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:

Originally released in 2014, Hyrule Warriors received mixed praise akin to many a Dynasty Warriors spin off. Ranging from uninspired hack and slash to a fantastic take on the Warriors formula, it had fans of the Zelda franchise split. Being a fan of its original release, I wanted to take a look at its latest iteration, and see whether it can justify an additional purchase.

Welcome to Hyrule

To discuss the Definitive Edition, we must first look at its origins, and at Hyrule Warriors as a whole. Debuting on the Wii U, the game offered up Hyrule’s finest and most legendary as characters in a story that felt like three fans arguing about their favourite game. It was shallow and simple, yet oddly captivating. Through it, we witness an unlikely knight become a hero, a misshapen cast delve into other worlds, and the villain finally being vanquished. It’s fantastically standard, and exactly what I would expect from this style of game. While no literary masterpiece, it provides ample framework to accommodate the plethora of heroes and some good fun in the process. I struggle to gauge the length of the story. With 18 chapters, each with collectables and four difficulty settings, as well as the bonus content provided by the Wii U version’s DLC, as well as the 3DS version’s additional content, there’s plenty to do here. If like me you want to clear everything, you’ll have a road ahead of you; a road that despite its repetitiveness never grew old for me. I played through the game’s story differently to how I had the previous two times, taking the time to explore each chapter and appreciate each level of difficulty before moving on. Numerous play throughs with numerous characters, and yet the same content. I can say with certainty this is not for everybody; and I can say even those who enjoy the game may not find this as alluring as I did. There is however something to be seen from the variety of the cast, the fun of each unique weapon, to keep me coming back so eagerly.

The game’s story is only a single part of the complete package, and a small part at that. Even playing through it as I did, the bulk of the gameplay lies beyond, bringing us to Adventure Mode. Perhaps the most interesting thing here is to realise just how far the game has come since its original Wii U launch. Containing just the Adventure Map, its first release almost feels insignificant. With nine maps of varied difficulty, each containing unique quirks and challenges reminiscent of their associated games, the heart of the Definitive Edition lies here. Across each map, you navigate grid tiles, each containing its own challenge. For completing these, you gain access to more tiles, unlock costumes, weapons, and upgrades, and save each land from their individual woes. There is an almost intimidating amount of content to be found here. While I do find myself a little conflicted on whether it should have all been available from the start, or distributed as a means of rewarding progress, I’m sure players of other versions will be happy to dive straight into their favourite maps.

The final major mode is the game’s Challenge Mode. Notably missing from the 3DS version, it comes in three flavours: Battle Challenge, Boss Challenge, and Ganon’s Fury. Battle Challenges feel like a pleasant blend of the scripted action found in the story, and the varied objectives seen in Adventure Mode. Each of these aspects are turned up with an additional degree of difficulty, as well as a table to track your best score with each character for each challenge. Boss Challenges are similar, but put a spotlight on the game’s boss monsters, requiring a more tactical approach to what would otherwise be a straightforward challenge. I can appreciate what these modes aim to provide; ultimately an additional layer of difficulty to be enjoyed by those looking for more out of the game. I sadly cannot boast an excellent record with these, each of them ultimately feeling a little beyond my capabilities.

Where I did however find great fun is in Ganon’s Fury, the mode that appeared the most controversial in its original release. Allowing you to take the form of the game’s final boss Ganon, you tower above enemies and claw through troves in a way almost unnatural when compared to the rest of the game. There are two ways to look at this, neither particularly wrong. I find brilliant entertainment here; I have an appreciation for overpowered characters and ripping armies to shreds in single attacks offers the satisfaction I come to Warriors games for. This does however come at the cost of repetitiveness; more so than any other part of the game. While being monstrously strong, Ganon only really has two attacks—a claw, and a laser. With the laser leaving you largely vulnerable to attack, you’re ultimately using a single attack for the entirety of the mode. I personally am overjoyed to be able to play this on the go, the 3DS version leaving me wanting more, but its simplistic and watered down nature when compared to the rest of the game is hard to ignore. I would never really call Ganon’s Fury a selling point of the game; if you’re getting it, you’re probably getting it for your more standard hack and slash with a dash of Zelda. Should you find yourself with the game though, I encourage you to try it out. It may or may not be for you, but there was an undeniable joy to be found for myself here.

The Definitive Edition?

I find each of the game’s modes offer ample variation and entertainment to justify the time spent playing them, but much of it is simply content seen in previous iterations of the game. For those who already own both Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors Legends, you may be left wondering just what this game has to offer you. To be blunt, if you’re happy with playing on the Wii U and 3DS, there isn’t too much. This Definitive Edition is exactly what it markets itself as. As a compilation of each version’s additional content in a single unified package, you know exactly what you’re getting. It’s not to say there aren’t changes, but no single change stands out as reason to purchase it again unless like me you simply desire the best version of a game you already love.

There is one change in particular I’d like to shine a light on. Through my original experiences with the game, I had a single major criticism, this lying within Adventure Mode. I had fell in love with the maps and the challenges, the content to be unlocked serving as a constant driving force. This force however was constantly halted, beaten and abused, as my progress was hindered by the requirement of items. The breakdown of this problem can be summarised to this: to progress through Adventure Mode, you need items; to acquire items, you must beat map tiles. While it seems simple, the items’ random distribution across tiles already beaten soon made each challenge feel old and stale, pulling me away from my eager march of progress. The Definitive Edition quietly fixed this, much to my surprise, with the introduction of an Item Shop. The game now only requires you find an item once, then allowing you to repurchase it from the shop as and when needed. With this small tweak, the lack of save transfer from other versions now seems less significant to me; the task of beating each map again suddenly less daunting and arduous. Aside from this, I noticed no major changes, though it should be said other minor quality of life alterations may have gone unnoticed.

Falling Short

For everything done well, the game is not without fault. Unlike its previous iterations, I was rather surprised to see much of this lie in minor glitches. While it is possible these existed in the other versions, I never witnessed so many in such a short space of time. These varied from advancing the menu selection out of accessible bounds, to cutscenes and enemies not activating, to being warped to the top of one particular level. None of these broke the game, nor ruined the gameplay experience, but each one made me stop and think; wonder exactly what had changed for so many small things to be going wrong. It certainly amused me, but with so many smaller issues, I had an underlying worry something larger and more menacing was lurking within, ready to ruin my day. In this modern age, I’d expect many of these issues to be patched out in the coming months, but it should be noted nothing of what I’ve experienced would be enough to put me off purchasing the game in the meantime.

While not necessarily a fault of this game in itself, I feel it necessary to discuss the 2017 release Fire Emblem Warriors and the impact of it for fans returning to Hyrule, or those looking for more Warriors action after being hooked. There are two areas in particular that took a good deal of adjustment when coming from one game to the other: the lack of skills, and the less intuitive command screen. The latter of these simply stems from this game staying true to its roots, keeping the same style and themes as the previous two iterations. There was never anything particularly bad about the way you can command other units, but in the face of Fire Emblem Warriors’ streamlined and easy to access system, you may be left wanting more. The larger issue comes from the significant difference in pace that comes with the lack of skill system, particularly the lack of Astra. In Fire Emblem Warriors, Astra served as an essential skill, doubling attack speed and making an already frantic and fast-paced game even more so. Once you start using it, you soon find it difficult to go back; and herein lies the problem. Hyrule Warriors has no skills, and by extension, no Astra. If you’ve been deep into Fire Emblem Warriors as of late, the period of adjustment will be difficult and off-putting, but it will pass. If you’re willing to stick with the game for an hour or two, you’ll soon feel at home once more.

Is This For You?

I can say with certainty this is a definitive experience. Compiling everything seen so far into one convenient package, introducing an item shop to limit the potential monotony of Adventure Mode, and at the cost of only a few minor glitches. For a fan of Zelda, or just a fan of some hackery and slashery, I’d definitely say give this a shot. The price tag may seem steep, but for the content associated with each version before it and their associated DLC, it’s more than reasonable, especially if this is your first time playing.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Nintendo Switch) Review

You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:

Just over six months after its original release, South Park: The Fractured But Whole makes a surprise release on Nintendo’s latest system in a turn of events far beyond my own expectations. Oddly without its predecessor, it stands as one of few mature games for the system, but should you be forking out for the portable park?

First Impressions

After getting past the splash screens and general accreditations, you are greeted to a snowy scene of South Park in darkness. With the text “Press A to Start” flashing in the centre of the screen and a score befitting an epic tale such as Skyrim, I found myself eager to start, and a little conflicted on the tone of the game. This intensified as I continued to the main menu. A logo reminiscent of Back to the Future smashed into the top-left of the screen, and a fairly clean and simplistic menu occupying the right, the game feels modern. It feels calculated, and scientific; it doesn’t match the soundtrack. This contrast stuck with me as I started the game, and I soon began to piece together its intent.

Entering into a new game sees you join the fray in an epic battle of kings and wizards, the setting of the previous game Stick of Truth. After a few tense battles as you approach the enemy’s castle, the whole thing is called off to play superheroes instead. It was here I started to give the game its due credit. The epic RPG themes of the title’s soundtrack bled into this opening section perfectly, before soon getting swept aside just as it did moving to the sleek and stylised main menu. These small attentions to detail demonstrated a level of polish and forward thinking I had honestly not expected from what I know to be a crude and straightforward brand.

Character Creation

Before starting the game, you must first create an avatar to use throughout your time in South Park. With a plethora of options and colours to choose from, you should have no issues finding a unique look to play the game with. There are two particularly interesting options here, both rather reflective of South Park in general; these being your character’s skin colour and gender. Making waves when it originally launched last year, difficulty in the game is controlled by skin tone—the darker your skin, the more difficult the game becomes. What elevates this from a normal difficulty slider is Cartman’s narration as you are deciding: “Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect combat. Just every other aspect of your whole life.” This difficulty comes in the form of altered dialogue and interactions with other characters, as well as the amount of money received throughout the game. It shines a harsh light on inequality in a way that may seem out of place in any game other than this.

The character’s gender is notable for the lack of option when first creating your character. While the avatar is fairly generic in nature, I found myself seeing then as a male character, and as it were, so does much of the world once you begin the game. Only a few hours in does it actually ask you how you identify after you approach the school councillor. Should you tell him you’re female, he expresses disbelief, calling your parents to ask about your response. This really stuck with me when realistically it was a minor plot point in filling out details about your character. Its handling of these themes and social ideas were sensitive and critical within the bounds of familiar South Park mockery and humour, allowing for it to feel perfectly in line with the rest of the world.

It’s South Park

What I found most engaging when it came to this game was its parity with the series as a whole. It feels less like a game than it does a long, interactive episode of the show. This is enforced throughout the experience through various means. The most obvious of these is the cutscenes woven throughout the game; they are South Park at its purest, something you look forward to watching as a short break from gameplay. What I perhaps find more striking are the smaller tweaks to make any fan feel at home. From the graphical style as a complete look and feel, to the low-budget and familiarly lazy-looking style of movement; they put forward the essence of the show in a way that almost feels like a natural evolution. Put this with the game’s crude and uncensored line of humour and you have a complete South Park package.

I felt comfortable in the world as I explored, able to pick out landmarks and features from the show. Everything felt crafted in such a way as to spark a brilliant nostalgia whilst pulling it out of my memory and breathing into it new life. While navigating it can at first feel cumbersome, it allows you time to learn the layout before giving you the power of fast travel. Progression through the world and games’ systems flow similarly well, pacing itself in a way to allow understanding and appreciation of each aspect without actively holding your hand nor dragging out the experience.

Strategic Strategy

From everything I played, I found greatest appreciation in the combat system. It features a grid of varying sizes for each battle, where each character uses skills unique to their class to inflict damage over set areas. The system in itself actually feels quite standard, with no particular feature standing out as revolutionary. It put across a fine example of a refined combat system, but this in itself is not where it shines. It’s in the characters where this combat system proves itself unique. In presenting a standard system, the developers were given the freedom to toy with your understanding of it and bend it to suit their needs.

A memorable instance of this was against the Alternate Human Kite, an early boss fight. As he is getting beaten, he decides the fight is unfair, and chooses instead to add rules of his own to cheat. It’s childish, with your ally Human Kite criticising him in the background for this. Through this cheating, he creates new skills, and goes as far as stealing your turn by saying you attacked him while he was taking a break. It’s stupid, and fourth wall-breaking, but brilliant in that is stays within the bounds of the game while doing this. This fourth wall-breaking also occurs randomly in fights happening on roads, the characters occasionally noticing an oncoming car. Seeing this, they react by pausing the fight, moving out of the road, and getting shouted at by the driver. These details stuck with me. They reminded me through the charade of the gameplay, that it is a group of children having fun. It’s a purity I hadn’t expected to see in a South Park game I couldn’t help but appreciate.

Closing Thoughts

A criticism of the game I held throughout playing was the feel of Ubisoft throughout. This feeling is particularly difficult to quantify, but showed itself in small areas. Things like costumes being in my inventory I couldn’t access without being a Ubisoft Club member, or having South Park adverts visible on the main menu. They don’t go far in taking away from the stellar gameplay experience, but they become noticeable. They put a slightly generic spin on the game that could have been mocked by the characters, that could have been woven into the gameplay, but simply weren’t. South Park: The Fractured But Whole remains a game I would wholeheartedly recommend to any lover of the series, or anybody looking for a good laugh, but I can’t help but be a little sad the developers couldn’t toy with their reputation a little more. While I can’t say how it compares to the other versions of the game, the Switch provides a perfect vessel to play without any real drawback; the portable experience was one worth waiting for.