Game review: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is not a real Zelda game

Game : Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is not a real Zelda game

Game review: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is not a real Zelda game
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (NS) – it seems to be like Zelda however tastes like Dynasty Warriors

The Switch’s newest Wii U port is the perfect model but of one of the controversial Zelda spin-offs ever made.

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We knew this was would happen eventually. Almost every Wii U game of note is, or shortly will be, making its way to Nintendo Switch. And while Hyrule Warriors was never a very good game it was a relatively successful one, not to mention nostalgia catnip for fans of the series. It’s not a ‘real’ Zelda game though, but the latest in a long line of Dynasty Warriors crossovers that paper familiar characters over the usual gameplay. But while it’s true this is the definitive version of the game, we still definitely wouldn’t recommend it.

Given its niche appeal in the West there’s actually a good chance you haven’t heard of Dynasty Warriors before, but the fact that it’s so easy to describe is part of the problem. The closet point of comparison is a 3D version of old school scrolling beat ‘em-ups like Final Fight, in terms of both the limited number of moves, the equally limited intelligence of your enemies, and the intense repetition of the gameplay.

The core Dynasty Warriors games are set in 3rd century China but there’s also a spin-off series called Samurai Warriors, a crossover series called Warriors Orochi, and more besides. But on top of this is a wide range of licensed spin-offs based on popular Japanese franchises such as Gundam, Fist of the North Star, One Piece, Dragon Quest, and most recently Nintendo’s own Fire Emblem. As a consequence Hyrule Warriors is just one in a long line of near identical games, that still look and play the same as their 18-year-old progenitor.

Apparently the original idea for this game was to make something more akin to a regular Zelda title, but in the end Nintendo’s classic franchise has had very little influence on Hyrule Warriors. The Chinese soldiers are now moblins and stalfos, and your player characters are a selection of (mostly female) characters from Zelda history, but that’s just changing the wallpaper; the contents within are almost exactly the same.

Although you use bombs and boomerangs as secondary weapons there are no environmental puzzles to solve with them, and rarely any special uses for them against enemies. It’s best to shoot a deku baba from a distance with a bow and arrow, but that’s as complicated as their use ever gets. That’s especially true of the boss battles, with the game using only a small number of classic enemies and grossly simplifying their nature so that all you’re doing is button-mashing away at their health bar.

We probably shouldn’t spoil exactly what characters are in the game, but there’s a wide variety, from sword-wielders to magic users. The Definitive Edition includes all the extra content from both the original DLC and the later 3DS version, as well as brand-new Breath Of The Wild costumes for Link and Zelda. But no matter who they are, or what weapons they’re wielding, all of their combat boils down to just mashing the light and heavy attack buttons. The dial-a-combos that result are incredibly simplistic and leave no room for you to impose your own play style on the game.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (NS) - at least you get to play as Zelda for once
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (NS) – at least you get to play as Zelda for once

Perhaps the most damning aspect of the combat is that it’s actually amongst the most complicated of any of the existing Dynasty Warriors games. Especially when you add in the magic system that grants you either a stat boost or a special move, or ideally a combination of the two.

But while this may be a good Dynasty Warriors game it certainly doesn’t deserve to be part of the Zelda franchise. Apart from anything the clumsy and simplistic combat is well below the standards of the 3D Zelda games. For example, Hyrule Warriors has a dodge move that makes the same noise as the dodge in Skyward Sword. But whereas in that game you had to jump over and under enemies to get at their weak point, while cleverly slicing their shields in two, here you just blandly mash the button until your character awkwardly sidles round and you get in a more powerful attack.

Combat is all Hyrule Warriors is about and yet the regular Zelda games do it much better, despite it only being one element amongst many for them. The main draw of a Dynasty Warriors game is meant to be the dozens of soldiers on screen at once, but even assuming you haven’t got tired of this spectacle in the last 18 years the artificial intelligence and graphical fidelity suffers so much as a result that the gimmick just isn’t worth it.

Allied soldiers still mill around disinterestedly as you fight for your life, while the featureless levels genuinely look like a PlayStation 2 game – or at best a first year Xbox 360 title. Battles can take a long time to resolve but although success revolves around the capturing and maintaining of soldier-generating keeps there’s no real strategy involved beyond keeping an eye on your home base.

On the default difficulty the story campaign is short and anti-climatic, and instead the game’s longevity is meant to come from the adventure mode. This offers up a large grid-based map in mimicry of the first The Legend Of Zelda on the NES. The idea is that you explore each point on the map, completing simpler battles that often revolve around more specific goals – such as wiping out a set number of enemies in a certain time or with a specific weapon.

This considerably extends the length of the game but certainly not the interest level, and if you weren’t sick of playing through the game’s bland levels from the story mode you certainly will be the nth time you have to endure them in adventure mode.

There is also a co-op option for each mode, which is much more practical on a Switch – especially as the game runs at a relatively steady 60fps when docked. But although the game’s simplicity seems to make it suitable for more casual gamers the difficultly level is actually relatively high. More importantly it’s a terrible introduction to Zelda, or indeed video games in general.

Dynasty Warriors fans will insist everything we’ve just said is completely wrong, and even by the low standards of the franchise we have to admit this is one of the best games in the series. But it absolutely is not a Zelda game and adds almost nothing of value to the usually legendary adventures of Link.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition

In Short: Zelda may have inspired one of the best Dynasty Warriors games to date but the end result is still well below average by any other standard.

Pros: Slightly more complex combat than usual for a Dynasty Warriors game. Playing as other characters is fun for a short while. Co-op options for all modes.

Cons: Instantly repetitive and horribly shallow gameplay that has very little in common with a real Zelda title. Terrible artificial intelligence and graphics. Short, poorly scripted story campaign.

Score: 4/10

Formats: Nintendo Switch
Price: £49.99
Publisher: Nintendo/Koei Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja and Omega Force
Release Date: 15th May 2018
Age Rating: 12

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