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.

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