- Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Platform: Switch
- Release Date: 18 May 2018 (WW)
- MSRP: $59.99
Hyrule Warriors was one of those things that came completely out of left field. Something Nintendo has a habit of doing. It was a rare occasion in which Nintendo was willing to license out one of their crown jewel franchises to another publisher. Nintendo and Koei Tecmo struck a deal to allow Team Ninja to use the Zelda franchise for its next Warriors cross-over game. Dynasty Warriors is Koei Tecmo’s signature hack and slash series of games. The basic gameplay is fighting hordes and hordes of enemies. Combat is simple on the surface but has more depth than it appears on the, with flashy combos and finishing moves. The series has its share of critics and fans. Koei Tecmo hasn’t helped the reputation of the franchise with the absurd number of games released under the Warriors banner. Milking doesn’t even begin to describe it. My only experience with Warriors was Fire Emblem Warriors, which I gave a positive review. While I had Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U, I hardly touched it. Later, it was announced that Hyrule Warriors would be coming to the Switch. I bought the game for a second time and gave it a fair shake. Since this is the Definitive Edition, it will have all DLC included.
The story of Hyrule Warriors begins with Zelda waking up from a terrible dream in which Hyrule is in danger. She and Impa decide to watch the trainee soldiers to look for the potential Hero of Legend. This is where we are introduced to Link. His fighting prowess is evident and captures the attention of the Princess. Suddenly, evil happens. Forces led by the sorceress Cia attack Hyrule Castle. Link and Impa join forces to fend off the threat. While Link and co. manage to win the battle, Cia’s forces take Hyrule Castle and Zelda is nowhere to be seen. It turns out Cia is the one charged with maintaining the balance of the Triforce. She is strongly interested the legendary Hero. Ganondorf has corrupted her to gain his physical form again and wrestle away control of the Triforce. Ganon uses her obsession with Link against her, turning her admiration into a psychotic fixation. Cia has now splintered into two people, one evil and the other, Lana, good. The Gate of Souls has been opened, causing different timelines in the Zelda franchise to converge, bringing forth the likes of Ruto, Midna, Ghirahim, and Zant into the same reality.
Heroes and villains clash in numerous battles over the Triforce. Link and friends must put a stop to Cia’s corruption before its too late. All of these events have been orchestrated by Ganondorf. Everything seems to be going as planned for the Gerudo thief, except Cia’s own will. She manages to push aside Ganon in spite of his corrupting influence. That doesn’t mean our heroes have it made just yet. Cia continues her attempt to bring Link into her grasp. Her fixation has not subsided. She continued down the rabbit hole and seems beyond redemption. Link and friends eventually defeat Cia and she fades away (for the time being anyway), transferring the Triforce of Power to Lana. Unfortunately for our heroes, the battle has yet to end. Guess who? Its Ganon. Once again Ganon has hijacked the plot. Sure didn’t see that coming. While things didn’t go exactly as planned, Ganon manages to gather the pieces of the Triforce and regain his boar form. Everyone’s power combines to defeat the King of Evil. Peace has returned to the land of Hyrule once more. All characters return to their original dimensions after an emotional goodbye. Link and Zelda go off and have sexy time with each other (according to my fanfiction).
Alongside the main story are several side stories. You get to play from the perspective of the villains. Cia’s Tale follows her as she gathers villains from the Zelda franchise, to help quench her thirst for Link. There’s also Ganon’s Tale which gives us a glimpse into the evil king’s rising. Another Tale is Linkle’s, the story of a girl who believes herself to be the Hero of Time and who has an awful sense of direction. Once the main and side stories conclude, the Wind Waker story is unlocked.
I’ll be honest here, the story is easily the weakest aspect of Hyrule Warriors. Its just an excuse to justify having all these characters in the same place. Okay, we get it, Cia is obsessed with Link. Can we get back to ogling her giant breasts? This might be the most convoluted example of the hijacked by Ganon trope seen in the Zelda franchise. They really zig-zag around with Ganon. Many story elements are told to us through narration and pictures. We don’t get to see many of these events unfold. Team Ninja seems to forget about “show don’t tell.” Sure its fun seeing all of these beloved characters interacting with each other, but that still doesn’t save the lackluster story. Fortunately for Hyrule Warriors, the rather meh story doesn’t hinder the enjoyment of the game. The story is only a vessel for the battles to unfold.
As with the Fire Emblem version, this is a Dynasty Warriors game with a Zelda skin. You know, fighting hordes upon hordes of enemies, giving a feeling of satisfaction from being overpowered. The object is to defeat as many enemies as possible, taking enemy keeps, and beating the boss. Being based on the Zelda series, it includes numerous weapons and other signatures of the franchise. You can tell a lot of love and care was put into making this game. Team Ninja was passionate about this project. Considerable knowledge of the series was imperative for crafting a game chock full of fan service. Too bad they didn’t show the same passion for Dynasty Warriors 9.
Combat is satisfyingly powerful. It may be simple but satisfying none the less. Warriors games tend be button mashers and Hyrule Warriors is no exception. The appeal of these games is that they are somewhat mindless and good for decompressing after a difficult day. Surface level combat is simple and easy for anyone to get the hang of. Combos can be unlocked that spice up the combat and prevent you from getting bored.
The games provides you with a diverse cast of fan favorite characters. There are the ones you’d expect like Link, Zelda, Ganon, along side ones that make you say “what?”, like Agitha and Marin. Each character has a moveset and weapons unique to them, with specific elemental types. Ghirahim was a blast with his camp, over the top personality. Tongue and all. Link was well balanced and excellent for teaching the mechanics of the game. And finally a Zelda game where you can play as Zelda (I don’t acknowledge the existence of Zelda’s Adventure). Impa is so dang cool in this game, turning her into a badass ninja bodyguard. Some of the fighting styles were silly, like Agitha using a parasol or King Daphnes using a boat. This isn’t a complaint. I quite like the silliness this game occasionally indulges in. Original characters were included in the game. The previously mentioned Cia and Lana, then there is Linkle. She is a girl believing herself to be the Hero of Time. Weird name aside, Linkle is a fun character to play, using dual cross-bows. Not to mention how cute she is. Volga and Wizzro were unfortunately forgettable.
There are several modes you have access to. Legend Mode is the story mode, progressing through maps and unlocking new characters along the way. Free Mode gives you the opportunity to replay previously cleared maps from Legend Mode. Adventure Mode is where you play specific scenarios and explore maps based on the Zelda Universe. This entails scenarios like boss rushes or defeating a specified number of enemies. Exploring the map will require the use of search items, which find secrets and unlockables. A neat little detail is that the map has the exact same secrets as the original Legend of Zelda map. Challenge Mode follows a similar concept. Numerous extras are included in the game. You can listen to unlocked music tracks, watch cutscenes, and many other things.
Hyrule Warriors utilizes a level system in which characters grow stronger the more you use them. Characters can be upgraded in the Bazaar where you can spend Rupees to level up (only up the highest level character), fuse/improve weapons, use materials to create badges that unlock combos and improve abilities (like additional Special meters and improved periphery items). Character customization is almost infinite. Almost every character has several weapons and costumes to unlock. Hyrule Warriors can be a bit grindy. Unlocking every character, weapon, and costume is arduous task intended to be done over a long period of time. The grindy aspect of the game makes it perfect to bring on the go. Its great for picking up jut to kill time. The button mashing gameplay means your attention doesn’t need to be fully invested.
Okay, so, the visuals aren’t very impressive. Backgrounds are not super detailed. The character models are excellent. Link has the look of the badass hero. Impa is the coolest she ever looked. Even with the excellent character models, some of the costumes are a bit weird. Cia’s outfit draws way too much attention to her breasts, seemingly out of place in a Zelda game. Lana is cute but she looks like a J-Pop idol. Is Zelda wearing an iron bra? You can tell this is a Team Ninja developed game. Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition delivers a butter smooth framerate, docked or undocked, perfect for the fast paced combat.
The sound design is pretty solid. Most of the soundtrack is made up of recognizable tracks from the Zelda series. Team Ninja did an excellent job of providing frenetic music to match the highly kinetic combat. Voice acting was minimal, in line with the Zelda franchise. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with this, but it did cause some inconveniences. With considerable focus on chaotic action, vocal cues are very helpful. It can be easy to miss when characters are saying something important because your focus is on the action. Having characters actually tell you important information makes it easier to not lose track of tasks at hand.
Hyrule Warriors was a blast to play. Team Ninja put their all in to this project. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Zelda spinoffs like this in the future. Playing as Link is great and all, but how about giving us a game where you play as Zelda. The series has her namesake after all. Anyway, the Definitive Edition provides so much content that will hold you over for a long time to come. Hyrule and Fire Emblem Warriors were on par with each other. The Fire Emblem version provided a better story and visuals. Hyrule gave us more variety of fighting styles and a better framerate in undocked mode. Team Ninja gave of endless amounts of fan service any Zelda fan will appreciate. Add this to your Switch collection.