Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

Game Title: Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail |Digital Download
Battery Life: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Download: 12.9 GB

Zelda was the first big franchise for Nintendo to bring the Switch into success. It was also the first Nintendo IP to start crossing over with Omega Force’s Musou/Warriors franchise. The Wii U held Hyrule Warriors, also known as Zelda Musou, as a pretty unique exclusive until the Nintendo 3DS got its own version, albeit with some pretty significant issues regarding performance and frame-rate.

For handheld gamers, the Nintendo Switch seemed like it would be the perfect blend of the two previous versions: More power and more stable performance, better graphics, and having the full experience on the go.

Now that it’s out, how does it stack up in terms of its coined title of being the “Definitive” edition? Let’s find out. This is my review of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

Hyrule Warriors takes place in a Hyrule that is considered to be outside of the ‘canon’ triple-timeline Zelda timeline (although it’s not impossible to find a timeline placement for it if you disregard the DLC’s story additions).

As Princess Zelda and her guard, Impa, are scouting Hylian Knights, Hyrule Castle is attacked and the Princess disappears. Impa then brings one of the Hylian Recruits with her to search for the Princess and put a stop to their kingdom’s attackers, unknowingly getting thrown into a conflict that transcends not one, but 2 of the timelines of the Zelda universe.

For a storyline, Hyrule Warriors does a pretty good job of showcasing its story. It offers lots of chapters balanced between the backgrounds of several major games of the series, the new characters involved in the Hyrule Warriors world, and the growth of many of the characters across its many threats and conflicts. It has a bit more of a JRPG feel than Zelda normally does, but it pulls it off well-enough that Campaign Mode is worth playing for more than just the gameplay.

Gameplay

Hyrule Warriors is a musou action game with RPG elements thrown into the mix. While the majority of your game will be running around large environments, hacking and slashing through hundreds of enemies in minutes, and taking over bases, the game does have a leveling system and crafting system that bring a more RPG-like feel to the overall spectrum the game offers.

As far as content goes, this is a big question for whether Nintendo fans want this game or not. This is Hyrule Warriors’ 3rd release in 4 years. So, what do you get in Definitive Edition you can’t get in previous versions of the game?

– Base Game + All Legends DLC
– Breath of the Wild Costumes for Link and Princess Zelda

As far as exclusive content goes, the only new thing that DE brings to the table are the Breath of the Wild costumes for Link and Zelda. Everything else included is available in the original release and the 3DS version, be it in the base package or via Downloadable Content from the eShops.

Now, outside of comparable content, what all is there to do in this game? Like Legends, it comes with 3 Main Game Modes: Legends Mode, Free Mode, and Adventure Mode. Legends Mode is Story Mode, where the Main Story and the Side Stories can be played out and enjoyed. Free Mode has the same stages as Legends Mode, but with the ability to play through each of them with any character, rather than who is there according to the game’s plot.

Adventure Mode, though, is a little different. In Adventure Mode, you are placed on a huge grid based on the Overworld Maps of one of the many titles of the Zelda series. Your goal is to move from grid to grid, fighting in battles and beating challenges to unlock adjacent grids to explore that map until you find all of the major “bosses” and can save Hyrule from Ganon.

Being grid-based and having maps with special rules and conditions makes this a much more in-depth mode than any of the others. Instead of the long 20+-minute Musou Conquest fights from Legends and Free Modes, you have a variety of different kinds of things you can do, mixing things up and lowering the amount of repetition involved in playing the game.

The My Fairy feature also returns from Hyrule Warriors Legends. Any Fairies you recruit in Adventure Mode can be freely customized, from their looks to abilities that will help you with Adventure Modes’ many challenges.

But remember, all of this content was available in the previous versions. There’s a lot to go through, but none of it is necessarily “new” to veterans of Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U and 3DS.

Actual gameplay, though, is what musou fans want to hear about. Every Musou Cross-Over handles its gameplay differently. Hyrule Warriors takes the typical “Conquest” gameplay system of Dynasty Warriors and adds Zelda quirks to it. Each battle has objectives that are typical of Musou game, like taking over bases, but there are a million other things going on that remove you from the constant-conquest-mindset of your typical musou fare.

One aspect of gameplay is very much like Musou, and that’s how you fight. While each character uses their own weapon type that can be customized and upgraded, combos are stringed together like any Musou game, with a Light Attack and Heavy Attack. That’s something that’s the same across pretty much all Musou games, despite the flashy difference between Link’s acrobatic slashing and Fi’s dancing sword transformations.

You also have uniqueness with Zelda elements being thrown in. You collect Artifact Items, much like Dungeon Items from older Zelda titles, that are used for getting past hazards, opening hidden paths, and weakening bosses. You also have convenience features, like using statues to teleport around the battlefield to handle objectives in a pretty easy manner when compared to games like Dynasty Warriors.

But, does it get repetitive? Musou is known for repetition and whether or not it gets repetitive, I view as a matter of time and what you do. The Story Mode is set up so that you’re rarely using the same character for more than a couple missions in a row, so you’re constantly changing battle styles and mission styles. Unless you are replaying the Story Levels to find collectibles, the game never starts to really feel repetitive until you’re grinding it out in Adventure Mode with your favoriute character for dozens of missions.

But that’s also due to the time involved. As far as content goes, Hyrule Warriors’ Main Story Branch covers 18 missions and that goes up to 32 if you add the Side Stories and DLC Story Campaigns. That brings all Story Content to an average completion time of about 11-12 hours total.

While Adventure Mode does rack in time quickly, if you’re looking for story, you’ve only got about 12 hours of it for a fully-priced $60 game. Whether that price is worth it depends on how much you like the game and get into replaying Story Mode and diving into Adventure Mode.

Controls

Controls are pretty easy to get past. The game does offer 2 schemes. One caters to proper Musou/Warriors games and the other for previous Zelda titles, though that scheme is based on Pre-BOTW Zelda, so it doesn’t really control like the newest Open-World Zelda Adventure.

You move around with the Left Analog Stick and the camera is controlled with the Right Analog Stick. The four triggers are used for Guarding, Locking-Onto Bosses, and using Artifacts. The D-Pad/Arrow Buttons are used for changing playable characters, and pretty much everything else is the face buttons.

With the Zelda Scheme in mind, A is used for dodging and the rest for attacks. B is used for light attacks, Y for heavy attacks, and X for Special/Ultimate Attacks.

Presentation

Presentation is where things have definitely gotten better from the 3DS version. Graphically, the game looks quite beautiful. Although the reused cinematic story scenes from the original version do look kinda grainy, the in-game graphics engine looks flawless in docked mode, and near-flawless in handheld mode.

Stability and Performance have also improved, but still struggle to a certain degree. In Docked Mode, you get 60 fps with occasional drops down to 30, which isn’t problematic. In handheld mode, the default fps is 30 with occasional dips into the mid to high-20s.

For those familiar with both previous versions, Handheld Mode plays like the Wii U version does. There are occasional drops under 30, but they are very small and nowhere near as low as the 3DS version got. A definite improvement, but not perfect.

Battery Life

Here’s another thing to talk about. How long will this game last in Handheld Mode? The fan screams during gameplay, so it definitely takes a toll on the Switch’s CPU. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 21 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-FI – 2 hours, 26 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 30 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 37 minutes

Not a whole lot. This is actually a little less time than Breath of the Wild gets. Not all that surprising, considering the upgrade since the Wii U version, but still. You won’t get that much Battery Life out of it.

Summary

In conclusion, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition definitely lives up to its name, offering all previous content with a couple Breath of the Wild Easter Eggs and offering console and handheld play. It's not perfect, with price vs length and some small fps drops in handheld mode, but if you're looking for Zelda Musou on the go, there's no better way to get it.

8/10

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