Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch) review

Nintendo / Omega Force, Team Ninja
Nintendo Switch (older versions also on Wii U, 3DS)

At times the Switch feels like a recently retired sailor, in that it’s currently going from port to port reliving old adventures.

Not only does this let me use terrible analogies like that one, it also gives those who shimmied the Wii U a chance to catch up on all the games they so cruelly shunned.

The latest example is Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, which promises the ultimate version of a game that launched on the Wii U in 2014 (and the 3DS in 2016).

For those not familiar with it, Hyrule Warriors is a spin-off of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series, in which players explore large maps while hacking their way through literally thousands of sword-fodder enemies.

Naturally, whereas the Dynasty Warriors games feature a selection of notable names from Chinese history, Hyrule Warriors replaces those historical characters and locations with ones from the Zelda universe. So long Guan Ping, hello Ganondorf.

The main meat of the game – for those just starting off, at least – is the Legend mode, which is essentially the story mode. It consists of a bunch of different scenarios (levels) where your squad of heroes and non-playable soldier chaps squares off against enemy armies.

As is the way in Warriors games, there’s usually a lot going on: not only are you trying to capture the various bases on each map by defeating enough enemies and killing their leaders, you’re also given a variety of main and sub-quests that appear throughout the battle, some of which have a time limit.

The game therefore becomes not just a case of running from army to army, battering the Y and X buttons to perform ridiculous screen-filling attacks – which, granted, is still part of it – but also juggling and prioritising the various tasks that appear as the scenario progresses.

GAMEPLAY MONTAGE: CAPTURED USING A 1080p / 60fps GRABBER FOR ACCURATE RESULTS

It’s an acquired taste, but for many (including me) it can take something familiar like Zelda to help you acquire it. I’ve always struggled with the Dynasty Warriors games because the sheer number of characters and unfamiliar names overwhelms me every time: it’s a hell of a lot to take in.

A familiar setting like Zelda, however, makes it far more approachable since you’ve already spent years getting to know these characters: choosing between, say, Link, Zelda, Sheik or Impa is a much easier decision because you have a rough idea of what to expect from each one of them.

The Legend mode is the main beast, then, but there’s plenty more to do here, especially if you didn’t buy any of the DLC for the previous versions on Wii U or 3DS (all of which is included here as part of the asking price).

Adventure Mode, for example, consists of a large grid – laid out like the world map in the original The Legend Of Zelda for the NES – with each square representing a new challenge stage.

You may have to kill a certain number of enemies within a time limit, or defeat a stage using a certain character, or take part in Zelda ‘battle quizzes’ where you’re presented with two enemies and asked to kill, for example, the one who was the main enemy in Skyward Sword.

Clearing Adventure Mode 100% with A-ranks on every mission will take you an extremely long time, and that’s only the beginning. There are three more maps – Master Quest, Twilight and Termina – which were later added to the Wii U version as paid DLC, and they’re in here too.

So too are the five extra maps – Great Sea, Master Wind Waker, Koholint Island, Grand Travels and Lorule – that were released as DLC for the 3DS version only, meaning this is the first time you’ll be able to play through these ones in HD.

Completing all of these maps 100% will probably take hundreds of hours, so good luck with that.

This addition of 3DS-only content doesn’t extend solely to Adventure Mode, mind you. If it passed you by when it was released a couple of years ago, Hyrule Warriors Legends was an updated version of the game for 3DS which not only added a bunch of new characters and DLC, but also tweaked the main gameplay to make it more enjoyable to play.

All of these tweaks have made it into the Switch edition too, meaning if you only owned the Wii U one you’re going to find it slightly less frustrating to play this time.

For example, rather than picking a single character for each scenario and sticking with them while everything else happens around you, you can now switch between up to four characters by pressing up and down on the D-pad.

This makes it much easier to deal with a sub-mission over on one corner of the map with, say, Link, then quickly switch to Lana to deal with a separate task elsewhere. No more thinking “argh, fuck it” and abandoning a battle because you have to run across the entire map to reach a different, more urgent one.

(It also allows you to cheat a bit and get A-ranks with rubbish characters a lot easier, because if you pick them first and choose a strong character – like Link with his Master Sword – to support them, you can switch to the strong character right away: when you beat the stage it counts as doing it with the weak one instead.)

Speaking of running across the map, the Ocarina item (previously exclusive to the 3DS version) lets you teleport to any of the owl statues you’ve activated on a stage, saving you a lot of time and frustration.

When controlling one character, you may still want to have a say on what the others are doing without having to keep switching between them. Another feature carried over from the 3DS game lets you do this: you can now access the pause menu, choose a character and command them to move to certain areas on the maps and fight (though if they die while out of your control it’s still game over, so be careful).

This makes boss fights easier too, because you can now direct all your partners to head towards the boss while you’re fighting it. Gathering multiple heroes around the boss gives you special bonuses, like refilling your magic and boosting your attack power.

This doesn’t mean Definitive Edition is just an HD port of the 3DS game, though. Elements that were removed from the 3DS version, like the Challenge mode and split-screen co-op, are back in here too.

I realise while writing this that there’s a lot to take in here, so let me break it down. Here’s exactly what you’re getting (bearing in mind some of it’s unlockable, so it’s not all just there waiting for you at the start):

• 29 playable characters (including all previous Wii U and 3DS DLC)
• Every scenario in the Legend story mode (including the Cia’s Tale DLC, and the 3DS-exclusive Linkle’s Tale and Wind Waker scenarios)
• All 10 Adventure Mode maps (including the three DLC ones and the five 3DS-exclusive DLC ones)
• Challenge Mode, the difficult mode which was in the Wii U version but not the 3DS one
• My Fairy, the 3DS-only mode where you can befriend a companion fairy, customise them and use their magic for powerful attacks in other modes
• Two-player split-screen co-op, which was in the Wii U version but not the 3DS one

That’s what’s there in terms of content, but what’s it packing under the hood? Impressively, the Definitive Edition seems to run a lot better than its Wii U predecessor, at least in docked mode.

There’s a clear difference between the Switch version and the Wii U one: not just in terms of resolution – it seems to render at 1080p vs 720p – but things like lighting (it’s a much brighter game), draw distance and frame rate.

While you’re likely to get many claiming that it’s a straight upgrade from 30fps to 60fps here, the reality is that the Switch game doesn’t hit 60 at all times (as you can see in my gameplay montage video near the top of this review). It’s 60 for the most part, but during extremely crowded sections and some cutscenes it’s not uncommon for the game to drop a fair few frames.

That said, it’s still a massive improvement over the Wii U version when docked, and hits 60 regularly enough that it clearly feels like a much smoother game.

When playing in handheld mode the resolution and frame rate take a hit to what appears to be 720p and 30fps, but then at that point you’re basically at Wii U levels of performance which on a handheld continues to be impressive. Put this side by side with the 3DS version and the difference is ridiculous.

Long story short, the Definitive Edition name is an accurate one. Although it doesn’t offer a lot of exclusive content (a couple of Breath Of The Wild costumes for Link and Zelda are about as good as it gets) no other version of Hyrule Warriors contains absolutely everything released for it to date.

There’s no question that this is by far the most comprehensive and best-looking version of the game, and while those who owned either version and all the DLC may have fewer reasons to buy it, if you haven’t played it before – or just owned the base game and didn’t fork out for any downloadable content – there’s hundreds of hours of gameplay here for you.


Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is out on Switch on 18 May for £49.99 / $59.99. You can also buy it for £40 (at the time of writing) from Amazon UK.

In order that I could write this review, I received a free copy of the game from Nintendo. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.

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