Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is a Zelda spinoff with gameplay taken from the Dynasty Warriors series. It originally released on the Wii U in 2014 with a later port to the 3DS in 2016. The Definitive Edition with all the content and DLC from the previous two versions was released on the Nintendo Switch in 2018. It was co-developed by Omega Force and Team Ninja studios at Koei Tecmo and published by Nintendo. MSRB is $60.
Can you tell I like Warriors games now?
Back in 2017 my wife surprised me with tickets to see The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess. It was a traveling orchestra that played musical pieces from all of the various past Zelda games. As they performed, a screen behind them showed the specific game they were evoking. There were all sorts of little details I adored, like the conductor using the Windwaker baton. As a fan, it felt special to see this production put together with all sorts of nods and easter eggs.
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is like the video game version of that symphony; only instead of an orchestra concert, it’s more like a rock concert.
That analogy goes beyond the game’s heart-pumping remixed soundtrack. Everything about the game — from the bosses, to the maps, to the playable characters, make you say “Ooooh yeah that thing! Wow, they included that, too?” It shares a lot of the crossover appeal that Super Smash Bros. has with that same attention to detail. It’s VIP fan service, and that’s what endears me to Hyrule Warriors.
Which is to say, if you don’t have much attachment to the Zelda series or its characters, then this probably isn’t the game for you.
Like in the other two Warriors games I’ve played, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition uses the gameplay template of the Dynasty Warriors series. It is a mixture of “hack-n’-slash” combat with action RPG elements, where you sweep through grand scale battles on your way to take down your objectives, whether that be to escape a map, or defeat a boss, or rendezvous with another character. The gameplay is fast and hectic. Several side objectives and urgent warnings will pop up at once, leaving you to manage what is the most important at the moment. I lost some encounters not because the enemy defeated me, but because I didn’t defeat the enemies fast enough. It truly is the video game equivalent of a rock concert – it’s exciting, but after a while your brain can feel overstimulated.
To make it feel more Zelda-like, you gradually unlock items like the hammer and the hookshot to stun specific enemies / bosses and to activate switches in the environment. Navigating these maps never gets as complicated as a Zelda dungeon, but when coupled with your urgent objectives, you have to plan carefully and adapt quickly.
Each character has their own unique moveset, and in a game full of treats for fans, these are arguably the sweetest of them all. The main characters like Link and Zelda aren’t anything special, but other characters have funny quirks and references, such as Tetra and the King of Red Lions, both from The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker. My jaw dropped when I unlocked Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask as a playable character, and it dropped again when I unlocked Marin from Link’s Awakening. I grinned from ear to ear as I saw Marin swing a bell around, knocking enemies to and fro, and I audibly laughed when she summoned the Wind Fish during her devastating special moves. I think this is the true fun of the game: fighting dudes as your favorite characters.
Therefore, because the Story Mode locked you to specific characters, Story Mode itself was very hit-or-miss. The main campaign refers to Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword, and Twilight Princess, all of which have (in my opinion) the least interesting Zelda characters. It only gets truly interesting during the “bad guy” portion of the campaign, where you play a few missions as Ganondorf, Ghirahim, and Zant. The Windwaker-focused campaign at the end, however, was delightful way to finish it all off.
The game also introduces some of its own original characters, but I wasn’t a fan of most of them. However, I make an exception for Linkle. Linkle is an alternative female version of Link, like a fanfic character come to life, who somersaults around her enemies and shreds into them with her dual-wielding crossbows, like she came straight out of The Matrix. She has her own lighthearted campaign in which her “army” consists entirely of Cuccos.
The main story is also rather silly, full of contrived reasons for the characters to go here and there all over Hyrule to fight dudes. Some of the cutscenes have some pretty illustrations, but outside of that, it’s all rather standard crossover stuff. The most complex it ever gets is the villainess of the game, who is essentially the hypothetical result of a rabid fan gaining control of an actual piece of the Triforce.
Outside of story mode, you’ll find yourself in Adventure Mode, which is full of smaller challenges that take place on a map that pays homage to a game in the series. The firsts one is a recreation of the first Zelda game; the Great Sea map recreates the Windwaker’s map; and so on. On some tiles you will find items that you can use to uncover secrets, and they even make sure to keep the secrets in the same locations as the original games. Adventure Mode, to me, is the true meat and potatoes of Hyrule Warriors. This is where you’ll unlock the more “fun” characters in the game, as well as powerful weapons and abilities. I’d say that each map is similar in length to the Story Mode, and there are nine Adventure Mode maps in total. In addition, there are Golden Skulltulas to collect, character skill trees to expand, and even a “My Fairy Mode” where you can level up and take care of various fairies that can assist you in battle. Jirard Khalil, aka The Completionist, recently 100% completed this game, and it took him over 1,000 hours to do it. There’s so much content in this game, it’s actually scary.
So if you 1) love Zelda games, 2) like the idea of crossing them all over, and 3) can stop yourself from diving down the completionist rabbithole, then I can tell you, you’re in for a great time.