Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition Review

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition follows the trend of Wii U games resurfacing on the Nintendo Switch. The new version combines nearly every element of the original Zelda-themed hack-and-slash game Hyrule Warriors and its updated 3DS port Hyrule Warriors Legends, creating a complete package and a massive time sink of content.

There are some differences between the Definitive Edition and both previous versions, which I will get to, but the core gameplay is unchanged. Hyrule Warriors plays like the developer Koei Tecmo’s own Dynasty Warriors, in which you fight hundreds of enemies, except here with characters and stages inspired by The Legend of Zelda series. The 29 playable heroes (and villains) have distinct playstyles, weapons, and special attacks. It’s empowering to find a moveset you like and take down hordes of foes with flashy combos. You also face off against larger bosses that require using specific items to target their weak spot in a classic Zelda fashion. Those coming from Fire Emblem Warriors, which had strategic features like a weapon triangle, may be disappointed in Hyrule Warriors’ comparably lower depth. The lovingly hand-picked characters and references, however, may be enough to win Zelda fans over.

The game has two main modes. Legend Mode represents the main campaign, which follows Link the Hero of Time, Princess Zelda, and allies both new and old on a journey to stop a sorceress’ scheme to merge the various time-space realities of the series’ universe. The story is ridiculous, but it’s a creative way to integrate the complex Zelda timeline. The Definitive Edition features every stage from the 3DS version, which includes the more recent Wind Waker chapters and the Linkle sidestories. Linkle, by the way, is the female version of Link, just to illustrate how crazy this game gets.

Legend Mode’s 30+ stages are a reasonable length, but Adventure Mode’s 800+ missions are the bulk of the game, and by far, the best reason to pick it up. Every stylized 8-bit adventure map is broken up into a grid, with each square representing an objective, like defeating a number of enemies or capturing more keeps than a rival. Later adventure maps raise both the difficulty and mission structure, but truth be told, the gameplay gets repetitive. It takes several hundred hours to play through nine large grids, each containing up to 128 missions, and a good portion of that time includes grinding for materials to upgrade your weapons and stats.

From another perspective, that’s a lot of content, and the Definitive Edition offers them all from the start. Completing a mission not only grants you access to neighboring stages, but also a treasure trove of items, weapons, costumes, health upgrades, and more. Most require you to achieve “A” ranks by netting lots of KOs with minimal health loss under specific time limits. Performing well to earn a consistent stream of rewards presented a great challenge that kept me determined to play through each map.

So, what’s so special about the Definitive Edition? The Switch port includes all modes, mechanics, and unlockables from both the Wii U and 3DS games. That being said, those who have already played the more recent 3DS version and its DLC will have less to look forward to, as most content was already in that iteration. The biggest upgrades for 3DS players are the gorgeous HD visuals from the Wii U version. In fact, the Switch game looks even better with its higher frame rate and improved draw distance. In portable mode, the game takes a resolution dip, but it still runs better than it ever did on the 3DS. Combined with the returning rock remixes of classic Zelda tunes, this is the most aesthetically pleasing Hyrule Warriors. The two-player mode from Wii U is also back, though it’s still limited to local play, and the horizontal split-screen makes it difficult to navigate at times. Nevertheless, it’s a treat to re-experience everything with a friend.

Those who have only played the Wii U version have a lot more novelties to dive into. The nine Legend Mode chapters and five adventure maps from the 3DS version more than double the original game’s content. It also features the 3DS version’s convenient mechanics of freely switching characters and warping around the battlefield using an ocarina, which when combined with the two-player mode, provide the most robust gameplay of all three iterations. You can also command computer-controlled characters to go where you wish, although they are just as undependable as they ever were.

Both versions’ exclusive modes return as well, including the Wii U's Challenge Mode, which is only notable for letting you play as the gigantic Ganon for a Godzilla-like playstyle, and the previously 3DS-only My Fairy mode, a more substantial offering in which you raise a fairy with collectible food and clothing. You can unleash the fairies mid-battle to nuke the field and activate special gamebreaking abilities – a welcome addition for min/maxers. The fact that you have four permanent ability slots on fairies here is a fantastic prospect. And as a bonus, the fairies now have nice 3D models.

The downside is that there isn’t much actually new in the Switch version. There are two exclusive costumes for Link and Zelda based on Breath of the Wild, but there are no novel characters or stages. It’s a wasted opportunity to capitalize on Nintendo’s hit game, and it would have been a breath of fresh air for Hyrule Warriors veterans. The remaining new features consist of a few additional high-level weapons and a host of quality of life improvements. To be fair, the minor changes offer fantastic conveniences, such as the ability to store 20 weapons at once instead of 10, and the new shop where you can purchase item cards with in-game Rupee currency to unlock Adventure Mode rewards – a great alternative to replaying maps to farm those same items. Another improvement involves how damage is calculated for “A” ranks. Your rank is now based on the percentage of hearts you lose as opposed to the number of hearts lost, so unlike before, having more health upgrades actually matters.

Your mileage with Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition may vary depending on which games you’ve already played. Of course, if you haven’t experienced Hyrule Warriors and love the Zelda series, the Definitive Edition is a fantastic choice. If you’ve only played the Wii U version, the Switch edition is at least nine times larger and a hundred of hours longer. Those who have played the game on 3DS won’t find as much new content, but they may appreciate the much improved graphics and two-player mode. There aren’t many exclusive features for those looking to triple-dip, but having everything in one substantial and gorgeous package is enough to warrant considering playing the best version of this hack-and-slash game.

I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!