Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition review

If you missed it on the Wii U, it's back and larger than ever.

While the Wii U wasn’t able to gain a significant foothold in the market, it had a lot of stellar, underappreciated games. Hyrule Warriors, a Koei Tecmo Warriors spinoff game with The Legend of Zelda branding, was one such title. Now that Nintendo is porting some of its better-regarded Wii U games to the Nintendo Switch, Hyrule Warriors has been upgraded to Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is an enhanced port of Hyrule Warriors for Wii U and its expanded 3DS version, Hyrule Warriors Legends. It not only features all of the content from the previous games including characters, maps, and DLC, it also introduces a split-screen two player mode that can be played in both TV and tabletop mode. There are a whopping 29 classic The Legend of Zelda heroes and villains, as well as some characters that are new to Hyrule Warriors, such as Link’s adorable female counterpart Linkle.

Koei Tecmo’s Warriors games, also known as Musou games, are divisive. Characterized by large rosters of powerful characters that hack through thousands of enemy fodder per mission, it’s easy to find the games repetitive. If you already know you’re not a fan of Warriors-style games, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition will probably not change your mind. Combat consists of a button for heavy attacks and a button for light attacks that can be chained together in increasingly flashy combos as you upgrade your characters. Each character has a different play style, along with unique Special and Focus Spirit attacks that deal even more damage.

The story mode is relatively short and not particularly engrossing, but everything is more fun with a co-op partner. Just don’t bother with the tabletop mode – it’s far too tiny to be able to play enjoyably, and the one time I tried it with a friend I hurt my neck from hunching over to see the screen. It would’ve been great if the game featured a handheld mode to play with another Switch owner. It’s also worth noting that the method for adding a second player is not very obvious, but it can be done by clicking the “plus” button on a second controller in the character select screen (the tiny flashing text was so hard to see I had to google how to do this).

Fans of Zelda games may be happy to chop their way through Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition’s story mode just to see their favorite characters and classic series references, but as someone who does not have a The Legend of Zelda affinity that extends more than a few years back, having a second player made the game infinitely more enjoyable for me. While the original Hyrule Warriors game for Wii U also boasted two player co-op, the huge drop it caused in framerate and overall quality made it more frustrating than fun. Luckily, the Switch version runs much better.

The adventure mode is even more fun and is made very accessible, as every map unlocks after the first story mission is completed. Maps offer all manner of collectibles such as new characters, weapons, and upgrades, and each has a different theme inspired by a classic The Legend of Zelda game. For example, one map adds an additional challenge by requiring players to defeat a boss within three levels or it will reset, Majora’s Mask style.

The only aspect of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition that doesn’t feel like an upgrade over the previous versions is the font. This time around, the game text is much smaller, making it harder to view if you sit on a couch a few feet away from your TV. The size is not as noticeable in handheld mode, but it’s still smaller than this 30-something woman with poor eyesight would like.

As someone with experience with Warriors games outside of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, I have to mention that I lean toward the subset of people that enjoy the hours of relatively straightforward fun they offer. However, there are often instances where characters will start talking in the middle of the action and I find it difficult to juggle paying attention to what they’re saying with fighting enemies. Especially since The Legend of Zelda characters to don’t speak with English voice acting, your attention needs to be fully on the quote bubbles in the bottom left corner when they pop up, and it’s not possible to simply pause the action to read through them. There were also numerous times where I was not clear on what I had to do next, or I would fail an objective with a seemingly invisible countdown timer. Luckily, it’s generally relatively easy to brute force your way through the maps, especially when you have a friend to help you cover twice as much ground.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitively Edition is exactly what the title suggests: the ultimate version of a game not many people played because it was released on the Wii U. The Legend of Zelda fans who don’t mind a game that very much isn’t a traditional Zelda title will likely be thrilled for the opportunity to be immersed in the world of Hyrule again and play as their favorite characters. Even if you’re not a massive The Legend of Zelda fan, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is one of the better Warriors spinoff games available and makes a great form of stress relief. There are worse ways to bide your time until the next major Zelda game!