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Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch) artwork

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch) review

"Can there be such a thing as too much content?"

Link, the legendary hero of Hyrule. Savior a dozen times over. But honestly, given the incompetency of Ganon's security detail, how impressive is that, really? Locking your entrance behind collecting glowing rocks or jewels instead of well-guarded gates? Refusing to change your plan once you hear reports of those colorful rocks being collected? Not amassing a giant army to overwhelm Link? See, not impressive. We never see Ganon's army at full strength. Do you really think one man, even Link, could stand up against that?

Well, now he can.

For those who, like me, have not played the previous versions of this game or any of the other Dynasty Warriors spinoffs, this might be confusing at first. And then when you hear that the army simply stands there and does nothing while you literally slaughter dozens with one swing, it may sound kinda dumb and pointless. But think of it like a modern beat-em-up; most of those enemies were pointless too, right? You have a decent combo system, which you can use to bulldoze through the horde or take out the enemy captains. And you realize the dumb horde isn’t your primary target, these captains are, and things start making sense once again. While annihilating the enemy you also fill up a special gauge which can be used to freeze time and do a devastating special attack. Or use magic to enter a heightened state of power. Or dodge and counter the enemy attack, thereby depleting its own gauge and allowing you to do yet another special attack. Oh, and by the way, there are lots of different characters besides Link to choose from (like Toon Link! Or Young Link! Or... nah, just kidding, there actually is a lot more besides Links...), and each plays in a very different way. So, combat-wise, the mindless action is pretty good.

But these games aren't ONLY mindless action. As I alluded to, you're in the middle of giant military battles, so strategy comes into play. You have to accomplish your mission objectives while also watching the entire map to ensure the bad guys aren't advancing in other areas. Scattered throughout the map are 10 or so "keeps", and controlling these keeps is key to controlling the battlefield. More keeps means that more of your allies get pumped out to distract the enemy captains, while more enemy keeps means you are constantly worrying about raids. Keeping an eye on the overall situation thus becomes critical; don't be like me and go along happily slaughtering your way through a map when suddenly you lose because your base fell while you were ignoring it. To help you out, though, many maps give you the option of controlling multiple characters. So you can order Zelda to defend the home base and switch to her when necessary while ordering Impa to go to Objective B while you control Link and finish Objective A.

This creates a satisfying level design. You start out, perhaps thinning a few herds nearby, while you scout out the landscape and figure out if you should go for the primary objective first or take over a nearby keep instead. You keep this up, alternating between going on offense and taking down any squads that threaten your keeps or allies, as you slowly make your way through the map. If the enemy forces look contained, you may feel free to get a bit sidetracked and search for hidden items or treasures or skulltulas. But eventually, you'll have to face off against the boss of the level, either a giant monster or likely a different named character, for a final duel to claim the battlefield. If you've been securing the battlefield, maybe you'll have some allies helping to distract the baddie, but if you've rushed in recklessly, you’ll be the one ganged up on.

Meanwhile, the Zelda element has been seamlessly integrated into this Warriors style of gameplay. From the very beginning you'll notice a ton of fanservice (or perhaps fan-trolling when you first hear the familiar "Hey, Listen!"). This includes completely irrelevant stuff (you can play the ocarina during loading screens) as well as integrated material. For example, you can use secondary items like boomerangs and bombs to stun or attack enemies, and will find enemies vulnerable to specific items much like in normal Zelda games. Link has many of his signature moves, and the rest of the characters are converted to this game in a perfectly natural style. Zelda's more mature, regal appearance makes sense here as the actual ruler of Hyrule, and her elegant rapier attacks matches her style. Others like Impa or Darunia are brought to new life in a natural way, and even many of the new characters are modeled after traditional Zelda lore. Practically every game is well represented (oddly, Link to the Past seems to be the exception). And there's a certain element to fun playing with all of these diverse characters, whether it be listening to Skull Kid's trademark giggle as he mows down the cannon fodder, or giggling yourself as Marin elegantly curtsies before calling on the Wind Fish to flatten her foes.

So that's what you'll be doing in the game's 1000+ missions. No, that's not a typo or a reckless exaggeration; there really are more than a thousand levels present. And while playing them, you can gain experience to bring 31 characters all the way up to level 255 as well as fill out their extensive skill trees, unlock the top levels of all 43 weapons and get a lucky 5 star drop for each of them, find and raise a handful of fairies by feeding and clothing them, find 693 heart containers, 124 pieces of heart, tons of costumes, and seek out and kill 260 gold skulltulas. Whew... Needless to say, if you want to do everything, it will take literally hundreds of hours. On a dollar per hour basis, you're certainly golden.

But it does beg the question: can there be such a thing as too much content? If you feel like you must accomplish everything in a game before you quit, you will definitely want to skip this. Yes, they put quite a bit of variety in the missions, but you just can't get 1000 different scenarios. And while there's a a wide variety of characters available, it also means that some are going to be annoying and frustrating to play as (*cough* Midna, Zant, Daphnes). If you go in with the goal of doing everything, you will undoubtedly find the task a chore rather than pleasure.

But that's the beauty of this game: there's no real incentive to turn it into a chore. The actual story mode accounts for only about 5% of the total game, perhaps 15-20 hours, and so literally 95% of the game could be considered optional. You can unlock all the characters relatively easily, so you can at least try all the different styles pretty quickly. All those optional missions (the Adventure Mode) can be tackled with a fair degree of freedom, so most of the time you don't have to play a level you hate just to get to one you like. You can spend rupees to level up characters you don't like to use much, so there's not much of a grind. So really, just play as much as you want. Personally, I got the first hint of boredom about 40 hours in when I was stressing about what to unlock, but then realized how stupid that stress was. So I went on for another 100 hours, just playing what I wanted to. Eventually tedium did overwhelm me and I left it unfinished, but because of the absurdly large amount of what I did play, I did not go away unsatisfied.

And the reason I was satisfied is because the core gameplay, as relatively simplistic as it is, is still fun and there's a lot of variety, even if not 500 hours worth of variety.

That doesn't mean the game is perfect, however. If you wanted to be critical of it, it wouldn't be hard to come up with a list of flaws. Like so:

- The game can get serious graphical glitches and eventually crash. This generally happens if you have it running for a while, even in sleep mode. So sign out and sign back in every so often. This is supposedly worse in multiplayer, so be warned.
- The camera can be annoying at times. The lock-on will not grab any normal enemy when a giant boss is around, so good luck with that. Oh, and it has a hard time with these bosses in tight spaces, especially the Imprisoned.
- Speaking of these bosses, while I appreciate the reason for the Zelda-style approach (stun with item, then attack), it doesn't fit in as well for a fast-paced action game like this, especially when you are just sitting around waiting for it to show its opening for you to use said item. The game would probably be better if these giant bosses weren't even present and you just fought the human characters.
- The adventure mode can be really unbalanced, with absurdly difficult fights surrounded by rather easy ones. This is especially true on the Master Quest maps, which have additional rules that range from irrelevant (beat in less than 30 minutes, when the par for an A rank is 20...) to nearly impossible (beat without getting hit).
- The above can also lead to highly unbalanced characters. If a good weapon is locked behind one of those nigh impossible levels, well, good luck. Likewise, the skill tree can be dependent on what kind of enemies must be defeated for each character. Thus, you may find your favorite character has no skills and no good weapons, making them lag behind everyone else.
- While the game plays very smoothly while you actually play it, for some reason the game gets choppy when panning around the level before you actually start playing it.
- And most egregious of all, there's no Malon-alternate costume for Marin!

Maybe some of those things would bother you enough to avoid the game, and I suppose in a shorter, tighter game they would bother me more too. But with how ginormously huge Hyrule Warriors is, these flaws would only rear up sparingly. Thus, I was able to ignore them and work around them, or at least accept them. Because I was having fun, and there was so much to do. And yes, perhaps the fact that there's TOO much to do can diminish the satisfaction of playing for some people, but the design of the game isn't focused around that. It's designed to have fun fighting an epic battle with Zelda characters, and that's exactly what we got. I honestly can't tell you if it's the best "Warriors" game, but it’s certainly a worthy one, a fine Zelda spinoff, and a fun addition to the Switch lineup.


mariner's avatar
Community review by mariner (September 07, 2018)

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