This is like the 4th time i review Hyrule Warriors overall (and the second i review the Definitive Edition), but it IS the first time in english, and it IS Hyrule Warriors, so….
Since i also wanted to review Age Of Calamity, might as well do the previous iteration of “Zelda Musou”, one that was conceived as most Dynasty Warriors crossovers with other IP are, as in this is just a spin-off where we have an original story made pretty much to have most character from said license/series/brand appear together and fight in a hack n slash manner through opposing armies, through the power of the usual convenient “dimensional portals”.
Still, even there Nintendo was involved in the project more than previous companies “crossing” their properties with Koei’s trademark style of hack n slash, even Team Ninja (which survived the Itagaki exodus better than Itagaki’s career) helped in the development alongside ol’ Omega Force.
Here i will review the Definitive Edition of the game available for Switch, i have also played a LOT both the original Wii U release and the 3DS port/Xtreme Legends expansion, but with the Switch release available today….. there’s really no point in going back to those unless you want to have all versions of the game for yourself. Not really judging, i do have them all.
There’s really no point as this one is indeed the “definitive edition” and contains all features, all modes, all the base, expansion and DLC content from both Wii U and 3DS releases, with just a couple of Breath of The Wild costumes for Link and Zelda added in for this re-release.
I point this out because i will have to remind you Dynasty Warriors 8’s PS4 and Vita port, despite bundling the base game and XL expansion in one, was far from the “Complete Edition” as the title would clearly imply, still an excess of paid DLC for it.
Ok, we clarified that enough, what’s the plot? As pointed out some paragraphs before, Hyrule Warriors has an original story that sets Link as a regular trainee in Hyrule’s army (freshly recruited to boot ) that has to discover his destiny as “hero of the legend” and help a magician girl called Lana to stop her evil sister, Cia, a mystic tasked to oversee the world’s balance, but that was ultimately corrupted by an evil soul to use the Gate Of Souls, so she could search for the four fragments of this aforementioned “evil dorf”, three sealed in different eras of Hyrule’s history.
Yeah, it’s non-canonical as hell, but it’s not like the Zelda Timeline is real, and it’s a Warriors spin-off anyway, time-space bending portals to fan favourite locations and characters are as cliched as “necessary” for this approach, but Hyrule Warriors has also some new characters, mostly villanous, which are quite cool and manage to fit quite well in the Zelda style and story… Cia and Lana designs are really quite “Koei”. But Linkle is also great, and we have “Dragonborn Lu Bu” Volga.
Despite the plot being more an excuse for the game to happen, i do feel there’s a good amount of effort to make it all feel like a proper Zelda game in this regard, to make the characters and stuff that are new to make “sense” in this context alongside the “old guard” of Zelda protagonists and fan favourites. Arguably, this crossover somehow fits way better – despite how odd it may sound – than Fire Emblem Warriors did, and the story itself has a bit more effort put to it.
From a gameplay standpoint, Hyrule Warriors is a fairly traditional musou game, using the standard Dynasty Warriors combat system (down to the Charge System style of combo strings), with a system of missions and overall pace more in line with Samurai Warriors, and a base capture system akin to one found in the Empires sub-series, and many of the Warriors crossover series like Dynasty Warriors Gundam, etc.
Especially compared to Dragon Quest Heroes (another Warriors crossover series), Hyrule Warriors plays it fairly safe, but it also brings over from the main Zelda series the standard trademark items, here secondary weapons that serve both to remove obstacoles in the stages AND as weapons, especially necessary when fighting giant enemy monster units modeled after famous Zelda bosses, each with a specific sub-weapon that can stun them (and the game trusts you know to feed the Dugongos bombs, hit the Argorok with the Hookshot, and so on), and then pummel the weakness gauge that appears, letting you inflict a powerful finisher attack.
This also applies to medium and higher level enemies, which expose their weak point crystal after certain moves or attack, so it’s often better to not always interrupt their moves and wait for the right chance to counter, which adds some more depth to the combat, also thanks for a pretty good IA for musou enemies. Apart from the peons, those are yours to slaugher en masse in the hundred and thousands as you would expect, and it always fun to do so. Also present is the usual elemental system, with character having elemental alignment (dictated by their weapons) which makes them stronger in specific stages, and some attacks having elemental effects.
The characters are some of the best in Warriors history, each feeling quite fun and distinct from each other, with really distinct playstiles and specific gimmicks, even more than usual. And unlike many of the Warriors crossovers, a good amount of characters has also alternate weapons, like completely different weapons and moveset, with Link having more than 5, and it’s basic sword moveset is already so damn fun. Aside from a pretty damn good roster (made even more beefier by all the included DLC content) of classic Zelda characters from pretty much all the main Zelda games, there are the aforementioned hero and villain characters created ex-novo for Hyrule Warriors, all playable or made playable at some point for free.
Not a given with Koei’s history on DLC characters.
Progression system is quite simple, you get exp from defeating enemies and levelling up you get more attack and hearts/health, you spend rupees and materials to unlock character upgrades (including combo strings for each weapons and musou bar extensions), you can buy level ups for money, and you can sell, fuse or evaluate weapons hidden abilities at the smithy. Keeping with the Legend Of Zelda tradition, you can get more life by collecting heart pieces or heart containers, hidden in chests and get more potions (providing extra effects) by collecting hidden golden Skulltulla, appearing after clearing some side-objective and that can tracked by their noise.
From the 3DS port-expansion we also have the ability to give other available playable characters on the map (up to 4) simple commands, a feature first seen in Samurai Warriors Chronicles and then also integrated in SW 4, quite useful for the more advanced maps and since the enemy IA is not to be understimated, especially when the game introduces advanced units like healers, summoners, raiders, thiefs and other who move or attack fast and can provide a lot of messes to untangles.
Even more so in the new maps from the Wind Waker expansion that introduce new items like the Hammer and The Ocarina, which introduces warp points in the maps, adding extra layers to the proceeding.
Other features from HW Legends is the ability to absorp magic (and obtain more bonuses) when 2 or more playable ally character are fighting a giant boss, and an odd “fairy raising” section, where you can feed, level up and dress-up one of the fairies obtained (also with an elemental alignment), which gives you special skills and abilities during battle the more you take care of them.
The campaign mode offers a big, unified campaign that puts you in the role of both the main heroes and even the villains, and was fairly lenghty even before the extra chapters and side missions introduced in the expansion, but it’s still a pretty good story mode, who doesn’t drags the narrative just to pad itself out, it’s worth playing to just unlock most of the characters and get a good grip with the gameplay. It’s not a throway experience, quite replayable in itself and with extra item to get later, but in a way, finishing the Story/Legend mode is far from the end.
Paraphrasing, is Adventure Mode where the “true Hyrule Warriors” begins.
Without a doubt one of the best if not the best secondary mode in a game like this, Adventure Mode goes even further in crossing the Warriors formula with The Legend Of Zelda, creating a huge challenge map styled after the original The Legend Of Zelda on NES, with every square representing a battle, with various objectives, specific rules, limiting the usage of items or characters, and so on. Also, the rating you get at the end of the battle might lets you access less or more nearby squares in the map, so it’s simply best to awlays aim for the highest rating.
This would be quite good in itself, but winning battles often nets you items that need to be used correctly to progress, in the same fashion of the original Zelda: bombs destroy cracked walls, lanterns burn up bushes and tress, revealing secret passages, which often unlock extra rewards and are necessary to even access some crucial battles. Originally the items were single-use and so you would have to repeat a battle to get more compass or bomb items, but since HW Legends you can also outright buy with rupees any item you already unlocked/got on that map. To balance things out, items cards cost a lot of rupees, so it’s quite convenient to have as an option, even more in the post-game, but it’s often better to just replay some maps, especially when you don’t have much rupees.
And this is just the main, basic Adventure Mode map, it would quite enough already, but since this edition has all the DLC contents, you also get 6 more maps, each with some specific character and weapon unlock and with some unique gimmick inspired or taken from the games, like the Master Quest rules, warp points from Twilight Princess, the 72 hour timer from Majora’s Mask, the DS Zelda titles having a dual map, and so on. The only niggles are that since all DLC content is already baked in, some character will take more time to unlock than in previous iterations of the game and the same goes for getting specific weapons drops, but again, niggles.
Yeah, this isn’t a game that i encourage to try and complete in a rush, this isn’t a quickie, AT ALL, even if you’re quite good at 100% completing games.
To round up the frankly ridiculous amount of content (and good content, to boot), we also have the usual Warriors standby, the Free Mode, and a Challenge mode, which offers the typical stuff (boss rush, timed kill challenge, etc), and the ability to play as Ganon in his kaiju/final boss form against the giant boss enemy, which is unsurprisingly pretty damn satisfying. And of course, in-game achievements and Amiboo support. No Miiverse, for obvious reasons (RIP).
The only complaint i can leverage its the lack of any online-multiplayer, not that i did expect it, since Hyrule Warriors never had it to begin with, and you can play local co-op in a dignified manner this time, i remember how the game chugged on Wii U when you had a friend join in. Not fun.
On this subject, the other obvious improvement is in the technical department, as the game sports upgraded textures, the usual extra lick of polish, and more importantly, runs a lot better, performance is quite good and smooth this time, especially in docked mode with a smooth framerate, but it does run well even in handheld mode. Keep in mind this was originally a 2014 Wii U release by Omega Force and Team Ninja, and they didn’t do a complete overhaul, but still, it runs and look quite good, they did put some effort on making the game look better for this re-release.
While it originally had many people skeptical and ready to frown upon the concept of a Dynasty Warriors X The Legend Of Zelda crossover, Hyrule Warriors ended up surprising a lot of people, showing a really good effort and quite the interest from Omega Force, who put out a lot more care into this one, be it out of respect, fear or anything else Nintendo related, and managed to make many people who never played musou games give them a chance thanks to the subject material of Zelda, and a fairly good reception from the press, at a time where any “professional” could play a Dynasty Warriors for 5 minutes, write some half-baked bullshit in which they parade this fact around like a medal, and having very little pushback from the community.
If you never played any musou or Warriors title, this is still the perfect starting point, even more since it has hundreds and hundreds of hours of good content from the DLC offerings already baked in, on top of the fairly lenghty and good offering the base game already was. It’s one of those titles i wouldn’t regret paying full price, but if you did own and bought all previous iterations of Hyrule Warriors (let alone the two season passes for it)… i’d wait for a sale if you want it on Switch as well, as there isn’t much here new that wasn’t in the base game or the 3DS port, just a couple of costumes.
If you are familiar with the Warriors games, you probably won’t need to hear this, but yes, this is still one of the better musou games, if not the better one i’ve played, since it addresses many (if not all) of the flaws usually found in titles like this, by Omega Force or other companies that try to go for this flavor of massive hack n slash action title, and plays to all the series strenghts.
And you can kill thousands of moblins as a frigging talking red boat or as Tingle, really, why aren’t you playing it already and scoring huge kill counts using trains as weapons?
Since now i’ve actually finished Breath Of The Wild (i did finish it in early dicember, if you must know), we’re gonna cover Hyrule Warriors: Age Of Calamity, i’ve been wanting to dig in since the demo for it came out!