‘Hyrule Warriors‘ was a lot of things: chaotic, messy, fun, funny, packed with content and finally, well deserving of a wider audience. I’m glad that Nintendo have given this game yet another chance to become the big hit it deserves to be.
Even playing through it for the third time, I can’t help but fall for its earnest charm – a charm that proves the developers at Team Ninja are as big a fans of the Legend of Zelda as I am.
Right from the outset there’s no doubt everyone who worked on Hyrule Warriors has the utmost respect for the source material. It’s clear the legacy of the Legend of Zelda is in the hands of those who truly love the work Nintendo have produced in the series’ twenty-five-plus year run. In keeping with tradition the team have opted for a subtle storytelling style, with minimal voice acting and plenty of written text.
Nintendo has been treating its leading ladies well since 1998 whilst also conforming to industry norms, so it’s with little surprise that Zelda disappears ambiguously in the opening moments of Hyrule Warriors. Lost in an early battle against the forces of Cia – a sorceress looking to revive Ganondorf – Zelda leaves centre stage so that Link and series newcomer Lana can search for her. Along the way, Link rounds up a sizeable army of familiar faces from countless Zelda titles – a cast refreshingly made up of females from the series’ storied history – and looks to thwart Cia’s plans and – of course – stop the Triforce from being used to destroy the world.
It’s a slightly tired premise that is reinvigorated massively by the sheer amount of fanservice on display at all times. Traversing the worlds of Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword sends players on a whirlwind tour of the series’ most recent – and thus most memorable – locations and their various inhabitants. Whilst I would have loved to see some of the series’ more ‘out-there’ titles represented and their crazier scenes and mechanics explored (admit it, a trip to the Four-Swords universe and meeting the quads would have been killer) I’m pretty impressed with what’s present and accounted for. Seeing characters from different worlds interact with each other is always a blast and the return of Midna – the churlish pot-bellied shadow denizen from Twilight Princess – has to be my personal favourite.
The Musou franchise is concerned with one thing and one thing only: slashing your way through massive armies single-handedly, levelling up, and taking on even larger forces. Everything boils down to painting the mini-map your colour, rather than letting the enemies do the same. This usually involves killing stuff until you own their stronghold. Whilst the gameplay objectives are focused solely on these ‘king of the hill’ style missions and grabbing capture points to keep the action moving along, most of what makes a Warriors game is – admittedly – hammering a button repeatedly and watching countless foes topple before your blade.
Hyrule Warriors is no different, tasking Link and friends to wipe out legions of Stalfos, Moblins, Dekubabas and a whole host of familiar enemies. Moving through large areas inspired by the Legend of Zelda’s many zones and dungeons, helping out allies on the battlefield and acquiring level-ups and gear lies at the heart of Hyrule Warriors motivation, and it proved enough to get me through the ten hour campaign and then some. There’s a slew of extras to complete and characters to gear up once you’ve finished the story mode, and I soon sunk into a comfortable trance with the title.
Definitive Edition takes the addictive, hack and slash Musou gameplay of the original, polishes it to a mirror-shield sheen, and lets you run wild. Choosing from a massive roster of playable characters –that includes all of the two season pass downloadable characters from the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game – is fun in and of itself, and put a huge smile on my face for the third time in as many years. There were plenty of features unique to either the Wii U or the 3DS and this Switch port sees all that content finally complete in one package, looking and sounding better than ever. The excellent Linkle side-story is now ready to be played on the big screen, along with the awesome Wind Waker maps and characters – a personal favourite.
From a fans perspective, this roster blows pretty much any other ‘all-star’ package out of the water. Represented in the Definitive Editions boundless offerings is nearly three decades of Zelda history, right up to the recent smash hit Breath of the Wild.
For my money Hyrule Warriors is unparalleled in fanservice, and if you haven’t checked it out yet you owe it to yourself to rectify that mistake.