Is Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition the truly definitive experience?
Fresh on the Nintendo Switch is the Wii U cross-over between the Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. Better described as a mix of Dynasty Warriors with Zelda aesthetics, items and a few mechanics, it is undeniably a Warriors game through and through. So how does Hyrule Warriors fare?
That will be the first hurdle for any player. Do you like Warriors titles? If not, and cleaving through thousands of enemies per battle isn’t your thing, then this game will immediately turn you off.
This is of course the bulk of the gameplay. Moving from keep to keep, reacting to real-time objectives and changing win or loss conditions. There is plenty of strategy and running around. It’s worth remembering that your own actions matter more than any others. Your army doesn’t help much.
This makes the game fairly chaotic. Indeed it can be quite a hurdle and losses can sneak up alarmingly fast. Compounding this is the mini-map, which highlights changing objectives but actually catching where they are amongst all the information on-screen can be difficult. Pausing may be necessary, but this slows the pace of what should be a hectic battlefield.
How does Hyrule Warriors play?
This is one of the premier questions surrounding Hyrule Warriors. The game was 720p with a sub-30 frame rate on Wii U. On 3DS it was naturally hampered. The volume of enemies, performance and look of the game just didn’t justify the purchase, despite the expanded content.
On Nintendo Switch, the game runs at a native 1080p, granted with no real improvements otherwise. It certainly runs better, well above 30 frames per second, but a constant 60 isn’t around. However, the instability is preferable to sub-30. The drops were only noticeable in intense situations, though they are ever-present to some degree.
In handheld mode then, the game maintains a clear and crisp image. What doesn’t carry over is performance as it is inferior to the docked experience. At a glance it looks about as unstable as the Wii U release. Of course in handheld mode, the system feels fine when playing. There were no gripes with controls here, though a Pro Controller did prove best when docked due to the fast button presses required.
This is the best performing version of the game, but it does feel lacking in some respects.
So what about content?
This is the single most alluring point in favour of this game. If you consider the performance a minor annoyance rather than a deal breaker, and don’t find Warriors titles monotonous, you will get value for money.
Combining all the Wii U content with the extra story and modes from the 3DS release with all the DLC and some new quality of life features makes a very robust package. All the story content is intact and the My Fairy mode transitions as well. All the DLC Adventure maps, where you cross 8-bit maps from various games clearing challenges, return as well.
There are countless hours to be had here, and helping this is the small improvements made to the game. Most notably, some stages and missions will feature Owl Statues which once activated, act as warp points for fast travel. In this release, that allows you to mitigate running across maps in time sensitive moments. A much-needed feature in my opinion.
Another nice addition (From the 3DS release) is character swapping. Some missions will let you take in up to 4 warriors at once, and you can swap between them. This allows you to be at multiple places at once. Again, a much-needed feature that makes some challenges manageable compared to the Wii U iteration. Of course, you can also have them be controlled via AI using a Command prompt in the menu if you need them moving remotely.
Added to the Adventure Modes is the ability to buy Item Cards you have already owned for a hefty fee. This simply cuts down on having to replay missions, though any with two Gold Skulltulas still requires a second run.
Lots To Unlock!
There is a swath of things to unlock. Gold Skulltulas for meeting certain requirements. Heart pieces and containers for each character. Weapons, skill trees to upgrade, materials from enemies. Costumes, more characters, more things to buy and upgrade. Hyrule Warriors is a very rewarding game. Every action gives you something usable.
However, those actions will be very repetitive across the many maps and modes. Sure the objectives can change, missions can be very dynamic and change at a whim, but the process remains the same. In the moments the game presents quiz battles or special giant boss challenges, it’s a breath of fresh air.
How does Hyrule fit into this?
The Legend of Zelda is more than a skin for this game. Items to be used in battle to expose weak points or counter attack are ripped from the franchise. Several musical tracks and locations are as well. The items in question are used almost exclusively for giant bosses or smaller enemies, but rarely you can see situations to use them in movement. This is hardly necessary however.
Naturally, the giant bosses are a highlight. They do come across as more time wasters than challenges though, often being a distraction on a battlefield than a real challenge.
Perhaps this is a good time to mention the game can in fact be quite challenging. You can level up characters with Rupees should you not have time to grind. Skill trees however, require items. Items you can only get from enemies. There is a constant feedback loop but it does get tiring.
One big problem is in Adventure modes, when a certain character is needed that you haven’t touched. Better get the Rupees and items out to prepare them. It doesn’t take too long, but it can bog the pace of a good play session down.
That’s the other big hurdle with Hyrule Warriors. There will be a lot of grinding and most of it comes naturally but mixed with progressing simply being a process of repetition, it takes someone who loves Warriors to fully experience this game.
So, the Verdict?
This game ultimately has two main hurdles. The first is whether you like Dynasty Warriors. The repetitive gameplay is fine in short bursts, but if it doesn’t engage you, there is no point.
Secondly, be prepared to grind. There will be many times your progress feels stunted but keep at it. If performance drops don’t hamper your experience in any way and this game seems like it may be for you, then you will be in for a full experience.
Just don’t play it as much as I did in the first week. It’s fun but exhausting.
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition gets our recommendation, if you’re willing to overlook repetition.