For those of you keeping score at home, this marks the third time I have reviewed Hyrule Warriors, that unholy union of Legend of Zelda‘s nigh-impenetrable mythology and Dynasty Warriors‘ battlefield bombast. First, I enjoyed it on the Wii U before following it to the 3DS (as Hyrule Warriors Legends), and now I revisit it yet again on the Nintendo Switch.
Yes, I still have some gripes about the title. Yes, I’m still not particularly good at it. And, yes, I still recommend you check it out anyway.
In case you overlooked my initial missives, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is a genre-busting hack-and-slash affair that recasts all your favorite LoZ characters as big-time bruisers intent on mowing down common cannon fodder and more traditional pattern-based bosses alike in over-the-top martial combat. The narrative, such as it is, centers on the sorceress Cia (not to be confused with Sia), whose powers Ganondorf leverages in his latest resurrection scheme.
The plot, though, is secondary to the action, and Hyrule Warriors certainly brings the action.
Sure, there’s a Triforce and a Master Sword and a hero in green tights, but that’s all mostly set dressing for the outlandish Dynasty Warriors-style combat and glorious butt-rock soundtrack that truly make HW tick. Not only can you control Link himself, but an expansive cast of characters (some 29 in all) presents itself as the game progresses, and you can easily use the Joy-Con d-pad to switch control between various battlefield heroes seamlessly.
The majority of the game takes place across multiple, circuitous maps positively packed with enemies. You’ll capture strategic points on said maps, attempt to maintain control of them while acquiring additional footholds, and, if you’re anything like me, generally spend your playtime running around in widening circles like a Cucco with its head cut off.
As ever, the map in Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition will likely prove your fiercest foe. The very nature of its gameplay—which consists mostly of “Go here and do this thing!” followed immediately by “Wait; no, go do this instead!” with a side order of “Don’t forget about this optional thing you could also be doing over here!”—means that this title lives and dies by your spatial acuity. And, while I definitely have some deficits in this sphere IRL, the game’s map system certainly isn’t doing me any favors.
In its natural state, the map is a small bug in the lower-right corner of your television or Switch tablet with blue and red outlines indicating areas your army controls or where the enemy’s forces still reign supreme. In amongst these outlines, you’ll see color-coded arrows representing your active heroes. But for me, at least, keeping track of who is where at any given moment proves irksome.
A full-size map is available on the pause screen, complete with a helpful legend listing your heroes with lines pointing to them on the screen. But pulling that up often meant completely removing myself from the fun, frantic combat, staring blankly at the big map, and then returning, still confused but now in a different way, to the task(s) at hand.
I’ll level with you, internet, for whatever reason, last year’s Fire Emblem Warriors seemed to fix a lot of the niggling little (map) problems I initially found in Hyrule Warriors. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the FE flavor is the superior product, but—BUT—I am, unlike most right-living Americans, a far bigger fan of Marth and Chrom than I am Skull Kid and Midna. Roast me if you must.
Still, I understand and accept that I am in the minority. And even with my less-than idyllic relationship with the Legend of Zelda franchise, I can admit that the crazy, chaotic slant of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition makes for a fun, charming, addictive gameplay experience—warts and all.
Fighting your way through waves of Poes and Bokoblins is fun. Fusing weapons and crafting helpful badges for your characters is fun. Unlocking and stringing together massive combos and executing devastating special attacks is fun. Hell, even piecing together the weird, fragmented narrative of the main “Legend Mode” (or simply wailing on baddies in one of the less linear alternate modes) is fun.
Hyrule Warriors was fun despite its flaws. Hyrule Warriors Legends was fun, and it actively sought to address those preceding map issues with the addition of Ocarina-based teleportation. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is also, y’know, fun.
The camera and character controls work flawlessly on the Switch, and, while the Ocarina didn’t completely fix the flaky map in Legends, its inclusion here does help to soften the blow. Were this just a straight-up Wii U port, I’d still play. I’d still enjoy it. I’d still urge you to do the same. But it’s more—it really is the definitive experience.
At its core, Hyrule Warriors is an enticing, enchanting, enjoyable experience. Add to this infectious initial adventure the bevy of new playable characters, costumes, and compatible amiibo figures (not to mention all the previous DLC) found in Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, and you’ve got another can’t-miss Wii U-to-Switch translation.
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America