Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition Review

By Blair Nokes on May 22, 2018

When the original version of Hyrule Warriors released, people were perplexed by the unlikely marriage of Musou games (Dynasty Warriors) and The Legend of Zelda. Thankfully, it proved to be a wonderful and complimentary combination of both franchise. In fact, we ended up giving the game a 9 when it came out in 2014. Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja, Omega Force and Nintendo were determined to continue supporting the game post-launch, and had released a plethora of additional and supplementary content, including new modes, characters and costumes for fans of the series. Hyrule Warriors Legends was a 3DS port of the game that surprisingly held up quite well in the performance department. Legends sported new characters like Linkle, Skull Kid and Toon Link - which could all be unlocked in the Wii U version. It seems as though the demand for this game was high enough to warrant a triple dip of Hyrule Warriors, only this time it's on the Nintendo Switch. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition seeks to be the all-encompassing version of 2014's surprisingly addictive hack-n-slash game.

The game's story is set in Hyrule, though has nothing to do with the canonical Zelda timeline. Long ago, Ganondorf was defeated and his spirit was split into four fragments and scattered across different moments in time, with the final fragment sealed away by the Master Sword. Ganondorf had a plot to resurrect himself by using the sorceress Cia, who once protected the balance of the Triforce. Having become obsessed with Link, "the spirit of the Hero of Legend", Ganondorf found an opportune moment to purge her soul and twist her state of mind, forcing the Gate of Souls to open. This serves as a portal to different realities of Hyrule, and you are tasked to right the wrongs, seal the portal and hopefully prevent Ganondorf's reawakening. The actual story is light but charming in the same way most Dynasty Warriors games are, but the winner here is using The Gate of Souls to explain the use of levels taken from Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword, and Twilight Princess. It's great to play the reimagining of some of these classic settings. Hyrule Warriors Legends introduced "Linkle's Tale" - which serves as the spin-off adventure where Linkle is trying to reach Hyrule Castle. This is hilariously light-hearted as we see Linkle fitted with a compass she believes to be magical, and yet she has no orientation skills, as we continually see her point in what she thinks is the right direction, only to be going the completely opposite way of Hyrule Castle.

Hyrule Warriors lets you play as some of the most memorable characters from the 30 year-old franchise, and Omega Force/Team Ninja have worked hard to cater to the fans. With the Definitive Edition, you now have access to all 29 playable characters from the previous installments are playable. Their sources span from a variety of classic Zelda titles, like Majora's Mask, Link's Awakening, A Link Between Worlds, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. It's worth noting that Switch owners will receive Breath of the Wild costumes right out of the box. Each character is completely unique and plays entirely different from one another. To top it all off, each character also has an additional weapon they can use instead of their primary weapon for alternative combos. Character swapping between levels was a wonderful addition to the game, as you can switch between your party members on the fly, encouraging you to attack a problem from different angles.

The combat system is traditionally, a Musou game. Light and heavy attacks are stringed together with Y and X, respectively. Dashing and rolling is used with B as opposed to a jump button, and your Musou attack is mapped to the A button. It's worth noting that they do offer a 'Zelda' styled control scheme for those who are more accustomed to The Legend of Zelda; the face buttons are the biggest changes to accommodate Zelda puritans with B acting as your primary attack, and so on. Players can lock onto target enemies with the L button, and guard with ZL. Items are also obtainable as you progress through the campaign, and are classic items used in the series, such as the Boomerang, Bombs, Hookshot, and the Bow. Finally, the R button is something called your focus spirit, and allows you to move faster hit harder, and unleash a more powerful Special Attack when combined with it.

Levels are very much like any Musou game; maps are quite large, and full of thousands of enemies waiting to be hack and slashed in a variety of ways. There are certain objectives that need to be satisfied, and in some cases, there are large bosses taken straight from the lore, like King Dodongo, Gohma, Manhandla or the Imprisoned. They all have specific patterns of attack, and are typically when you get a certain item --- such as Manhandla needing to be stunned with the boomerang, and appears in the level where you get the boomerang) Gold Skulltulas will also appear briefly on the map, hidden within a giant web that flashes on the in game map. You have a short time limit to get to it and will be rewarded with a bonus collectible. You'll know when you're close once the audio disappears and you're left with the famous shuffling sound of the Skulltula. The Owl Statues and Ocarina item return from Hyrule Warriors Legends. These were mainly used to cater to those who may not like the idea of traversing back and forth across the map, so players can find and activate the Owl Statues and travel to any of the activated ones with the Ocarina.

One of the smaller complaints I had seen regarding the original Wii U version of Hyrule Warriors was that Split-screen was handled via the Gamepad and TV. This made for some unfairer advantages of having a much larger screen for one player. With the significant hardware boost with the Switch, players can thankfully not only play Hyrule Warriors: Definitively on the same screen, but you can also have two players cooperate on the Gamepad as it is undocked. he game can play with up to two people via splitscreen, and is done through the use of the gamepad. Player 2 will have use of the entire television, while Player 1 will use the screen on the gamepad. Some may consider this a disadvantage and may prefer a splitscreen on the television; however this method allows a number of things. For starters, the native aspect ratio remains intact, and more importantly, it preserves the framerate of the gameplay. Most will know that framerates will undoubtedly stutter in these types of games and it makes sense. You're playing quite literally against hundreds of enemies on screen. Dividing the game on the same screen will increase the chances of frame drops as you're seeing the same amount of enemies, only twice. This way, the gamepad allows for a seamless display on a second screen. Unfortunately, there is no online mode whatsoever, and it really does feel like a missed opportunity for cooperative play.

The visuals for this game are a notch above its predecessor. Thankfully the Switch has allowed for a native resolution of 1080p, with a performance of 60 frames per second. This is pretty crucial in a warriors game, as it tries to handle clusters of enemies on-screen at any given time, past Warriors games have suffered from frame-rate dips as a result. The main characters have some wonderful detail to them, and the stylized choreography for their unique attacks are great to watch in motion. The grunts are essentially copy/pasted and have generic patterns of attack, and essentially needed to give off a grandiose army you're battling against. Despite the increase in resolution and framerate, the pop-in was an unfortunate sacrifice to maintain the game's performance. To be honest, I'd rather NPC-pop in than performance issues that cripple the game, and it's an understandable issue that is present in any Warriors type game. Hordes of enemies take up a lot of information in any one frame, so to compensate this, the game only loads the information you're immediately seeing vs what's all around you.

Final Thoughts

This is the third time I've dipped into Hyrule Warriors, and it's not only as impressive as the first time I played it, it definitely goes above and beyond in delivering the pinnacle experience. With the boatload of changes and improvements to the gameplay, new characters and modes, and new supplementary features, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is highly recommended for all players.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition was reviewed using a Switch Digital Copy provided by Nintendo. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
The changes to split-screen were very appreciated.
The character roster is fantastic, with some great inclusions like Twili Midna and Skull Kid.
The inclusion of two control schemes is a great way to cater to fans of the Musou or Zelda Games.
The enemy pop-in is noticeable, but understandable given the nature of the game.
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