Games Review: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch, 2018) – Hack-and-Slash, and Slash, and Slash

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is, surprisingly, the third release of the game, having first appeared on the Wii U in 2014, and later on the Nintendo 3DS in 2016. This time, Hyrule Warriors comes in a complete, shiny package, featuring all DLC from the original game as well as brand new Breath of the Wild costumes. Despite being a port of a four year old title, the game looks and plays great on Switch, and is a welcome addition to the Switch’s game line-up.

Inspired by the hack-and-slash gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series, Hyrule Warriors is a strange, hybrid game, and one that shouldn’t work as well as it does. The classic action-adventure of the Zelda series is replaced by fast-paced, frantic battles against hoards of unwitting enemies that fall easily before your blade. Enemies in Hyrule Warriors subscribe to the ‘quantity over quality’ theory, making most battles a quick and unfriendly breeze. Still, there’s something supremely satisfying about taking a swing with your magic rod and obliterating dozens of enemies in a single blow.

When I first began my journey, I thought Hyrule Warriors was a shallow game, but the more I played, the more its world opened up. Gameplay isn’t nearly as simple as it first appears, and there’s far more strategy to the game than ‘hit this, swing at that’. In fact, concentrating on destroying enemy hoards is a fast way to tank an important mission.

Generally, story battles take place over a set period of time, and feature several phases and multiple side missions where players can earn hearts and new weapons. As each situation arises – approaching enemy hoards, the appearance of a hoard boss or fort sieges – players must adapt their strategy and go where they’re most needed. While you’re often accompanied by friends, they tend to be fairly useless, particularly when they’re needed most. Most battles will rely on your input and commands to inspire troops and turn the tide of battle.

Hyrule Warriors is a robust game, and features a variety of modes that each put a twist on its central gameplay. Legend mode is where the majority of the story takes place, and is accompanied by Challenge and Adventure modes. While Legend mode is the meatiest part of the sandwich, I found myself enjoying the freedom of Adventure mode far more.

Adventure mode takes place on a classic Zelda-style map, and features a variety of challenges to overcome as you chart your way across the map areas. In this mode, you can unlock a variety of weapons and other hidden secrets, spicing up each battle with new rewards and materials.

These materials become particularly important in Legend mode, as they can be used to craft new attack, defence and assist badges that power up each character. Unfortunately, each character you play as has unique characteristics, and if you’re planning on utilising the skills of multiple different characters (which you’ll need in Legend mode), badges must be crafted for each character. That means more material, and much, much more killing. But who doesn’t love huge swathes of bloody murder?

Story doesn’t play a huge role in Hyrule Warriors, and while it weaves a vaguely interesting tale of light, darkness and Ganondorf, it pales in comparison to the gameplay itself. Interactions between the many heroes, which include Link, Sheik and Impa among others are fun and sometimes even funny, leading to some great comical moments. Still, it was hard to concentrate on the story when the gameplay was so bombastic and over the top.

While the content available in Hyrule Warriors is robust, bolstered by the additional DLC chapters and a great cast of characters, it does suffer from near-endless repetition in the later chapters. While gameplay is ridiculous, over the top and great fun, it soon gets old, and missions don’t vary much between stages. Each level follows a similar formula – fight some enemies here, defend your forts, and then fight your way through to the next boss. Rinse and repeat. Adventure mode does enough to change up the formula through simple reward-based gameplay, but Legend mode often suffers for its lack of variety. A balance between the two is recommended, as frequent breaks from Legends mode will break up the gameplay enough to keep it fresh and enjoyable.

Overall, Hyrule Warriors is an impressive beast of a game, simply because it’s a game that shouldn’t work, and yet somehow, does. It blends the styles of Dynasty Warriors and The Legend of Zelda near seamlessly to create an enjoyable and overtly ridiculous adventure through Hyrule alongside all your favourite characters. Now, I impart one piece of wisdom before this review ends – whatever you do in Hyrule Warriors, don’t mess with the chickens. Believe me, do not mess with the chickens.

Score: 7.5 out of 10
Highlights: Hectic gameplay, adventure mode, loaded with fan service
Lowlights:  Highly repetitive, lack of variety, loaded with fan service
Developer: Omega Force & Team Ninja
Publisher: Nintendo & Koei Tecmo
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a review code provided by the publisher.


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