Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition Review

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition Review

The dynasty continues with another port of the Zelda musou.

I may have fallen too far into the world of musou. The genre has been the primary production of Koei Tecmo's Omega Force for many years now, but I didn't jump in until relatively recently with 2016's Arslan: The Warriors of Legend. Since then, I've dived in the genre whole hog; the series fits into my life in the space that old beat-em-up arcade games used to occupy. Now I'm a full-on musou convert.

That said, the genre can vary wildly in quality. Not every shot that Omega Force takes is good, as seen by the studio's attempt at something new with Dynasty Warriors 9. That game tried to drag the franchise towards evolution with an open-world take; unfortunately, it completely missed what makes musou great. This weird mix of mindless destruction of enemy hordes and strategy is amazingly addictive, and Dynasty Warriors 9 cut the strategy completely. So I'm glad Nintendo and Omega Force have stepped in to fill the musou-shaped hole in my life.

It'll all be okay. [All screenshots taken via Nintendo Switch native capture in portable mode.]

Hyrule Warriors was originally released on the Wii U back in 2014, and was later ported to the 3DS two years later with Hyrule Warriors Legends. For some, this is the second or third shot at the game. For me though, it's the first time around and I must say I'm in love with it.

If you're fresh to the idea of Hyrule Warriors or musou games in general, let me break it down for you. As one of various characters from The Legend of Zelda canon, you have to hack and slash your way through entire armies of enemies. Sometimes you're on your own, sometimes you have the option to jump between multiple characters. You have a clear objective for each mission—reach point A, defeat target B, make sure character C doesn't die—but in-between that you have to take over enemy outposts and keeps while retaining your own. The basic gameplay is mindless, but handling the overall flow of the battlefield is not.

Hyrule Warriors adds upon the basic musou formula by heaping on a ton of Zelda fanservice. The story contrives a way for characters across the franchise's history to interact, bringing together Impa, Sheik, Midna, Princess Ruto, Darunia, Ganondorf, Zant, Ghirahim, and more alongside a few original characters. Every character has a completely different playstyle—the quick and graceful Zelda is different from the sweeping strikes of Fi or the powerful combos of Ganondorf—and multiple weapons to add a bit of variety.

There's a full progression system of basic levels obtained by killing enemies, backed up by weapons you'll find during campaign battles and an equipment system using materials gained by defeating enemies. You fight to get better at fighting. This is true of a number of different types of games, but Hyrule Warriors and the musou genre in general distills this idea down to its purest essence.

The material system acts as a progression gate for characters early in the game.

Hyrule Warriors is more musou than it is Zelda; if you're looking for the latter, you're in for a rude awakening. How you respond to this game is based largely on your answer to two questions. How much of a Legend of Zelda fan are you? Do you enjoy the idea of musou games? The answer to the former question can push the game higher for you, but ultimately if you don't like the basic musou style of play, Hyrule Warriors doesn't break far from that core.

Those who are double-dipping mostly want to ask how it runs on the Nintendo Switch. Like many of the Wii U ports, it runs damned well. Is the frame rate locked? No. Will it dip occasionally? Yes, especially during boss-related cutscenes. But for the most part, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition performs like its Wii U counterpart. You get the game running at its best on the portable platform, which is why many tend to buy Switch versions of an existing game.

It's a beefy roster.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition includes everything that was in the original release, Hyrule Warriors Legends on 3DS, and the downloadable content, like the additional characters of Linkle, Ravio, and Marin. Linkle is the most fleshed out, acting as more of a side-story to the game's overall plot, with the alternate Hero of Light finding herself missing most of the big fights due to a bad sense of direction.

You also gain the ability to play Hyrule Warriors with two players in split-screen. The Wii U original forced one player to use the TV screen and the other to use the Wii U Game Pad, while the Switch version lets you play split-screen in Docked or Tabletop mode with two Joy-Cons. It's a nice addition if you have a local friend.

If you're willing to hack it out in a musou game and you're a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule Warriors is a fantastic game. It's pitch-perfect musou and it wears the Zelda fanservice on its sleeve in bright colors. Once you're done unlocking all of the characters and their various weapons, you'll have an entire smorgasboard of Zelda action at your fingertips. Hyrule Warriors might only play a single note, but Omega Force has honed that note to perfection.

It's an older release and the price tag is a little steep, but Hyrule Warriors is pitch-perfect musou gameplay with a heaping handful of Zelda fanservice. The former is still the most important part though, so you need to be a fan of musou titles to really get the most out of this game. If you are a fan though, Hyrule Warriors is one of the better entries and it runs well on Switch.


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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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