Hyrule is in peril once again. Evil forces are spreading through the land, taking over all the villages in the once peaceful land. This army, spurred on by a sorceress named Cia, is bearing down on Hyrule Castle where we are first introduced to the hero of time, Link. After the Hyrulians manage to protect the castle, it is discovered that Princess Zelda has gone missing. It is here where our heroes begin their journey to stop Cia and her armies.
All is not as it appears though, as Cia herself is not inherently evil, though evil has corrupted her to do its bidding. This evil entity is the one and only Ganondorf, whose spirit has been fragmented into 4 parts and scattered through time. His manipulation of Cia is all a ploy to free himself once more, bringing his fragmented spirit back together, regaining his physical body, and attempt once more to take over all of Hyrule. Will our heroes be able to stop this threat?
Hyrule Warriors has some incredible sound design. The iconic grunts that each character makes as they swing swords, perform special abilities and race around the battlefield are as Zelda as they come. In fact every sound brings all the nostalgia of the Zelda series into the fold, which will have any fan smiling from ear to ear. Every sword swing, every chest opening, every enemy just oozes with that Zelda charm. The voice acting of the narrator is good, though it does make you wish there was voice acting throughout the game.
As for the music, Hyrule Warriors is more or less a collection of greatest hits from the series soundtracks through the years. That isn’t the whole story however, as there is an added flair to all of the songs here. Each track has a distinct rock tinge to them, with electric guitar adding an edge and aggression to the music that fits the style of game perfectly.
Visuals & Performance
Visually, Hyrule Warriors pops with vibrant colours and beautiful character designs. The Zelda series has always been one for style over graphical brilliance, and Koei Tecmo manages to capture that same philosophy here rather well. There is a nice balance here between realistic looking models and scenery with a somewhat child-friendly charm to the character designs. Now, child-friendly may sound like a negative, but in this instance it very much isn’t. It gives the game a more timeless look overall than a full-fledged realistic attempt at a Zelda game would otherwise (think Twilight Princess compared to Skyward Sword).
Performance-wise, Hyrule Warriors is, unfortunately, a mixed bag. When docked, the game runs at 1080p 60fps. That 60fps does dip during cutscenes, but never so much that it detracts from the experience. Handheld is another story though. In handheld, the game runs at 30fps. That frame rate dips dramatically during cutscenes, which is very unfortunate considering how well the game runs when you have control of the game. As for other issues, I never experienced any bugs or other major issues in my time with the game.
If you have ever played a Warriors game before, you know exactly what this game is. Essentially, Hyrule Warriors is a hack-and-slash style game in the same vein as the Dynasty Warriors franchise, and every other Warriors spin-off game Koei Tecmo have ever made. Check out our recent written review of One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 Deluxe Edition for example.
What makes a Warriors game stand out? Well, you control a hero character that can dispatch hundreds of enemies in a few swings of their blades. This is an odd thing to see in a Zelda game, but it is extremely satisfying seeing Link carve up 200 Bokoblin in a single combo, their carcasses dropping to the battlefield, your blade slicing through them like butter. Unleashing devastating moves that dispatch a whole battalion of forces is a sight to behold, and makes you feel like the most powerful warrior who has ever lived.
Prepare for battle
You begin each level on an open battlefield with a basic objective, generally being able to take over certain enemy strongholds until you unlock the boss battle. These battles can last upwards of 20 minutes and are epic in scope. Side quests will constantly pop up, and completing them will help unlock new weapons or other collectables. It is as frantic as a battlefield should be, and helps to make you feel a part of an epic fight for control over a piece of Hyrule.
This chaos does have some downsides. Side quests can get lost in the shuffle, with objectives being forgotten about in the heat of battle. The map can get a bit hard to read at times, as it tries to convey a lot of information to you in such a small space. Also, the battlefield never feels dangerous, as even the toughest enemies are a fairly easily defeated. Even boss battles, despite opening with an epic introduction cutscene, end up being a simple puzzle that rarely makes you feel threatened.
During battles, you can pause the game to manage your controllable characters, ordering them to different areas on the map to try and manage the threats on the battlefield without having to run all around the map. You can also switch between characters with a simple click of the d-pad, allowing you to change to a character that is over the other side of the battlefield, rather than run over there yourself. This adds a lot of tactics when deciding how to take on each level, and helps make you feel like a badass commander of war.
Controlling your heroes
How you battle enemies is rather simple. You essentially have a light and heavy attack, and combos relating to how you use those attacks. There are items you can use, such as bombs and a boomerang, that are helpful in certain situations on the battlefield. You can unleash a devastating attack that will deal massive damage that can help you out in a pinch, mowing down hordes of enemies or damaging a pesky boss. It is simple, but boy is it a load of fun!
You gain experience as you kill enemies, which helps to make your warriors stronger. Killing enemies also net you different materials which you can use to upgrade characters, adding more combo moves to their repertoire among other things. You can also craft new weapons, power other weapons up, and a slew of other things to upgrade which will make your head spin.
Besides the Legends mode, which is essentially your story mode, you also have the Adventure mode. Adventure mode is where I had the most fun in this game, as it adds a whole new level of depth to just completing battles. Essentially, Adventure mode starts you off with a classic Zelda style overworked map. From here, you choose where to go on the map, with each square on the map starting a Hyrule Warriors battle. Completing a battle allows you to move to one of the squares next to your current one, and may even give you an item which can help you unlock other things on the overworld map.
There are 9 Adventure mode maps to choose from, each with their own rule set. The first map is the easiest, essentially serving as a tutorial for the others. There are no special rules to it, and you just play as you like. Some of the other maps can get crazy though, adding time limits, blocking paths you need to work out how to get through, making you find specific items to complete certain tasks etc.
Playing locally with a friend
The game can be played with a friend and this is also a lot of fun. Split screen in handheld mode is a little hard to see everything that’s going on but it is serviceable. We preferred playing it in docked mode as there was a lot more real estate to look at. It was certainly a lot of fun playing with another friend but the game is just as fun playing alone.
There are some oddities with the multiplayer though. You can’t go in playing co-op straight up. Instead, you need to select your mission, then get to the character select screen, where the second player can then join. After you have completed the mission however, the game forgets you are playing co-op, ad forces you to do this song and dance again. This is strange considering how co-op worked on the Wii U, which in comparison seems lightyears ahead of this upgraded port. Also a curious choice was not adding multiplayer between multiple Switch consoles, even with two consoles in the same room.
Is Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition worth full price? The game has come out twice already, and if you own either of those versions then it is hard to recommend you purchase it again. That said, if you do not own a copy, then I feel the amount of game you get here is more than worth your hard earned cash. The story mode alone will take you many hours, and then you add the adventure mode and you have the recipe for a game that will keep you busy for over 100 hours. I know I will still be playing well after this review is published.
Beautiful visual style
Excellent sound design
Performance issues in handheld mode
Combat can get repetitive
Some odd multiplayer design choices