Ever since it launched, Nintendo has been bringing some genuine class A content to their new console portable darling, the Switch. When blockbusters like Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild aren’t kicking down your door demanding you play them, there has been a steady stream of titles appearing on their marketplace as well. Then, there are the remakes or remastered titles. For such a young system, the Switch has already seen a host of improved and redone games from its predecessors and now Hyrule Warriors from the Wii U and later the 3DS is getting its turn. Boasting all the DLC and content from previous versions, plus a few new additions, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is everything I always wanted it to be and more. We won’t need a paraglider here, so let’s jump right in and get to it!
“If you’d called ahead and told me you were coming, we could have put out some snacks, but come on…”
You know, I’ve only ever played one Dynasty Warriors game before. I think it was number five, and it was on one of those demo machines in a shop where you can play for around ten minutes before the thing resets itself. Even after two or three resets, I was enjoying the game style, with my flamboyantly dressed warrior laying waste to hundreds and thousands of enemies in glorious fashion. If someone had told me how many games were already in the series at the point this one was declared the fifth game, I would have been understandably confused. A few years back, after learning more about the series and knowing the scary amount of titles it has, that confusion would have shifted into an apprehension of this massively over-saturated model turning its eye to my beloved Legend of Zelda. Surprise of all surprises, however, Hyrule Warriors turned out to be an enjoyable and entertaining side-step in the franchise, and I’m glad it exists.
“Pretty sure this incarnation of Link racks up a higher body count than everyone from every timeline… combined.”
It’s not to say Hyrule Warriors hasn’t seen a smidge of the Dynasty Warriors legacy, with it initially releasing on the Wii U, then on the 3DS, and now here we are again on the Switch. Is this a bad thing, though? Nope. Is the game still a great game? Yep, sure! Taking everything that Dynasty Warriors and subsequent off-shoots have refined and merely slapping a Zelda skin over the top would have been the quick and easy solution. To their credit, though, the folks at Omega Force and Team Ninja went above and beyond in making sure this game fit so much more snugly into the more famous main series Legend of Zelda world than anyone ever expected them to do. All the little details that exist in the game, from the designs of locations to the sorts of things the characters wear or the weapons they wield, even the reimagined or entirely original music, none of it seems out of place, and all of it carries that unmistakable Zelda charm.
For this game’s third trip to store shelves, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition brings everything that its two predecessors did, plus a few new additions and it is just as worth playing now as it was twice before. The most noticeable new content in the game would have to be the outfits for heroes Link and Zelda, which grant them the garments of their Breath of the Wild counterparts, but really, there isn’t much to say there. What I do want to say is that this game finally feels like it is where it always meant to be. The Wii U version was excellent, opening the door to everyone and showing this model could work. The 3DS version, while trimming down some graphical aspects to make it fit, showed the model could work on portable systems. The Switch version, being a hybrid of both, perfectly nails the pick-up and play nature of the game and rounds out the whole affair in magnificent style. Third times the charm, I guess!
“Mmhmm… triforce… yep… ultimate power… uh huh… destroy… world… OH UM SORRY, WHAT? I got distracted there for a sec.”
On the game front, nothing has changed from previous versions, aside from the new outfits. The story remains the same, and aside from having a few characters unlocked earlier in the free-play side of the game than I recall them being available before, you progress through the story much the same way, with detours appearing for side stories thanks to the integrated DLC from previous versions. Battles can be picked from the main Legend campaign or in free-play mode, and you can choose your characters based on whichever style you’re running. Legend usually assigns you the team best suited to that encounter, with you being able to pick their weapons as you like and switch between the team during the mission, while free-play allows you to choose anyone you’ve unlocked and run with them and whatever weapons they have that you like. Next to that are the Adventure Maps, which are delightfully modelled in the old NES Zelda overworld style, complete with pixelated representations of all the things you see in the main game. With all the additional maps from previous DLCs in place here as well, there are quite a few to choose. Each adventure map offers a range of timed challenges, big boss battles or will have you racing about, racking up the most kills before the match ends. A lot of unlockable goodies are hidden away in these maps, so it’s entirely worth your while to power through a few when you’re taking a break from the story.
“They said it couldn’t be done. Giant beasts fighting giant beasts? They called me a madman! Mwahahaha! WHO’S CUCCO NOW?!”
Let’s talk about the story though, because as a lifelong Zelda fan, I appreciate the effort that went into crafting a narrative solely intended to roll all these characters from different games together, and believe me that is no small feat given the intricacies of the Zelda timelines. There can be no doubt that the higher-ups at Nintendo were probably unwilling to let the developers run wild with their canon, so, unfortunately, Hyrule Warriors is (at least at this point) denied a place in the official Zelda timeline. The real magic of that decision, though, is that it allowed the developers to go off-book and pump out some exciting new ideas and characters. The story Hyrule Warriors ended up with has all the hallmarks of a great Zelda tale and could be inserted effortlessly into the timelines (in quite a few places now that I think of it) without impacting anything from the main series games. You could even use some of the events and characters of this game to solve the conundrum that has been present ever since Nintendo released the Hyrule Historia and revealed the surprisingly complicated timeline for the first time, but hey, that’s a story for another article… which I may or may not be writing right now… ahem.
“Oh yeah, it shines up real nice when you get all that monster blood and brains off it.”
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (and to be fair, the Wii U and 3DS versions before it) are a brilliant example of borrowing some toys from the big kids and still having fun even when you know you have to give them back eventually. Hyrule Warriors comes at you hard and fast with entertaining gameplay, a hefty amount of challenge and a myriad of content that would take even the most dedicated completionist a while to knock out, or more than a cross-country train trip anyway (kooloo-limpah!). If you’re looking for something to scratch that Zelda itch or you want to smash some baddies and groove to some excellent tunes while you’re out and about, you’d be hard-pressed to find a game that delivers so much in such a tight package. Even though it’s not official Zelda, it’s official that Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is definitely the best version of this game and that alone is enough to give this legend a look.