When it comes to Nintendo franchises, The Legend of Zelda has been one of those series that has usually stuck to tradition for the better part of three decades. While Mario has gone go-karting and partying and Pokemon has done everything from wildlife photography to private detective work, Zelda has mainly stuck to epic journeys and big adventures as we’ve seen from the series’ classics like Ocarina of Time, to as recently as last year’s masterful Breath of the Wild. However, the upcoming release of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition shows there is plenty of fun to be had from eschewing some of the Zelda series’ traditions and going in a completely different and over-the-top direction.
Following in the footsteps of numerous Wii U ports coming to the Switch in the past year, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition brings over one of the few Zelda spin-off titles in recent years to Nintendo’s newest console. In its original debut, Hyrule Warriors first released on the Wii U in 2014, and was followed afterward by its 3DS iteration, Hyrule Warriors Legends, in early 2016, making the game’s Switch release its most complete offering as far as content and presentation ever.
For those that may be uninitiated with the title, Hyrule Warriors merges the gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series (or commonly known as “Musou” titles by the series’ Japanese name) with the characters, locations, and imagery of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda franchise. As a result, Hyrule Warriors is very far removed from traditional Zelda gameplay by taking things in a more action-heavy direction, but more than makes up for it by celebrating the Zelda series with an absurd level of fan service and nods to its many characters and locations.
Gameplay-wise, Hyrule Warriors firmly follows in the tradition of other Musou titles by pitting the player against vast waves of enemies on large-scale battlefields while attempting to juggle different objectives and missions to complete. Oftentimes this will require players to defeat specific foes (such as Captains or Summoners) to prevent more enemies from spawning on the battlefield, capturing certain points on the map, or taking down enormous bosses to complete the level, all the while managing a few different characters and swooping in to save allies from defeat when necessary.
With players taking on dozens (or sometimes even hundreds) of enemies at a time, most of the opponents that players face in Hyrule Warriors can be swiped away with a flick of the Master Sword instantly. However, the real challenge in the game comes down to managing your position on the battlefield and having to respond swiftly to incoming missions, forcing the player to have to think quickly and strategize where and when to move and take on enemies on the battlefield.
As a fast-paced, hack ‘n slash experience, Hyrule Warriors treads a line between repetitive, simplistic action and wonderfully over-the-top spectacle. Given that the title is very purely a Warriors game at heart, Zelda fans that may be interested in the game will probably have to make some adjustments to the dialed up action compared to mainline Zelda games, and the complete lack of other elements that they are known for, such as puzzle-solving and exploration.
However, Hyrule Warriors really makes the most of bringing over the world of Zelda to Musou-style gameplay, and packs in a ton to offer for Zelda fans to enjoy. While nothing about the gameplay of Hyrule Warriors has changed by any means with the Switch release, the Definitive Edition is still the most satisfying way to enjoy this Zelda spin-off yet.
As its subtitle implies, the Switch version acts as the culmination of the Zelda-Musou crossover by collecting all of the previously-released content from the Wii U and 3DS iterations of the game into one package. The Definitive Edition contains all of game’s playable characters from Hyrule Warriors in one place, including the standard characters like Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf, to unlockable characters that previously were only available in the 3DS version, such as Tetra, Linkle, King Daphnes, and more. Though this release is largely relegated to collecting together the Wii U and 3DS characters, maps, and more instead of wholly new content, Switch owners do get a nice little bonus from the inclusion of costumes for Link and Zelda based on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Aside from its wealth of features, varied character roster, and different maps, missions, and modes to play through, perhaps the most notable feature of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is the fact that it offers a far more stable and improved technical and visual experience that surpasses its last two iterations entirely.
The most notable of these improvements in the Definitive Edition comes from playing the game in the Switch’s TV mode, where the resolution and framerate sees a drastic increase to 1080p/60fps, while in handheld mode it drops to a more reasonable range of about 30fps. Given that Hyrule Warriors is reliant on fast-paced action with a ton of characters on-screen at once, the improvements to the game’s visual fidelity and performance are certainly noticeable, and seeing the game in action on a big screen is a sight to behold.
Having played the game previously on Wii U — which performed fine but not astoundingly — and on a normal 3DS XL (which suffered from intense framerate drops that made it a chore at times), the fact that the Switch release provides a far more consistent level of performance across both the TV and handheld modes definitely makes this new version of Hyrule Warriors the best way to experience the title.
While the Switch version still has a few technical and visual hiccups, such as occasional pop-in of buildings or textures, and a few instances of framerate drops when the action gets particularly busy, I still found that the improved technical performance of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition made for a much more enjoyable experience compared to my last two takes with this title. Similarly, control-wise the game handles quite well across the different Switch configurations. While I had a preference for the improved sensitivity and handling of the Switch Pro Controller (which is perfect for this type of game), slashing away at enemies in handheld mode proved just as satisfying when playing Hyrule Warriors on the go.
As someone that has had very minimal interactions with the Dynasty Warriors series, the reveal of Hyrule Warriors back when it was first released was one that I wasn’t sure what to make of. My love of the Zelda series eventually drove me towards the game out of curiosity, and while I enjoyed the game to some extent on its previous platforms, the Definitive Edition on Switch truly feels like where Hyrule Warriors was meant to be all along, and is a perfectly accessible bridge between the Zelda and Warriors franchises.
Thanks to its rich suite of characters, maps, modes, and more to enjoy alongside substantial improvements to the game’s technical performance, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition earns its namesake as the best way to play one of the most unusual Zelda titles yet. While it may not stand up to the likes of last year’s Breath of the Wild (or many other Zelda titles for that matter), Hyrule Warriors is still an enjoyable, fast-paced, and frenetic way to play this remixed take on one of Nintendo’s oldest franchises, Musou-style.