Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is technically defined as a “hack and slash action game,” but that’s not the reason I’ve now logged more than a hundred hours playing it. For me, this game is a primary example of another genre that I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to — the “podcast game.” What I’m saying is, Hyrule Warriors is now permanently linked in my mind with a 180-part podcast series titled The History of Rome that I have been working my way through as I play.
Nintendo has graciously provided us with a review copy of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition.
A “podcast game,” broadly defined, is a game in which the level of focus required to play is high enough to hold your attention but not so high that you would need to concentrate on it exclusively. Dialogue-heavy games tend to not make the cut for this; there might be a few people on Earth who can both keep track of game dialogue while also paying attention to a separate conversation, but I’m not one of them. I didn’t have much luck with, for example, the Mario Tennis Aces demo either. Even the music was too distracting for the mindset I needed to get into to play a winning game. The vast Adventure Mode of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, on the other hand, hits the perfect balance for me as a game to relax with.
Fundamentally, Hyrule Warriors is a game about its combat and what it challenges you to do with those combat skills. There is what I would describe as a functional story, for those interested in the fanfiction-like appeal of a variety of characters from the history of the Zelda series gathering together to fight crime (or, sometimes, to be crime), but the story is mostly useful for giving some excuse as to why Ruto and Darunia are hanging out with Zant now as opposed to being a script that’s worthy of an Oscar award-winning drama in its own right.
The story is mostly just useful for giving some excuse as to why Ruto and Darunia are hanging out with Zant now.
So, what makes the combat interesting enough to put 100 hours of play into it? The first thing I would probably point to is the variety. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition has 30 playable characters (if we don’t count some of the quirkier bonus game modes like playing as a giant Cucco or Beast Ganon). Since the weapon options for some characters are essentially the same deal as new characters, the real number is closer to 45. Not every weapon or character is a hit, but a surprising number of them are. Even some that I initially didn’t get into very much I came to appreciate as I was obligated to put a bit more time into them.
That brings me to my next point – the challenges. When I played the original Hyrule Warriors, I did put in enough time to finish the story mode, but most of my time was spent on the game’s expansive Adventure Map. So when I booted up Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition to find not just one Adventure Map but nine different adventure maps with a variety of difficulty levels and quirks available from the beginning, I was overjoyed. These map squares offer interesting challenges, making me master the nuances of characters I had little prior experience with, while often throwing in some tricky or beneficial quirk to a level, like everyone (including you) dying in one hit, or the introduction of a rival third faction who competes with you to collect the most rupees. These character and style restrictions are important to the game’s replayability because, without them being added in, the default state of a player tends to be to just play as Link, who is probably going to be your highest level character with your highest-grade weapons if you played the story mode first.
I mentioned the new maps as one of the changes from the original game, so what are the others? If the last Hyrule Warriors game you played was Legends for the 3DS, not much. This is mostly a port of all the changes introduced in the 3DS version, but that’s not to say it’s without new value. If nothing else, I wasn’t as interested in Legends because, when it comes down to it, I think the game experience (especially on the subject of the mini-map) is a fundamentally better experience on a TV-sized screen; as a result, I do believe this to indeed be the “definitive” version of the game. If you’ve come here from the original Wii U release (which Zelda Universe has also reviewed), you’ll notice new characters and story maps, new Adventure Mode maps, and new gameplay features like swapping between characters during a level. For the full list of changes introduced to the series in Legends you can take a look here.
I did run into a few bugs and minor quibbles with the game. The feature (added in Legends) to command other characters to specific points on the map seems to lack the ability to send them back to free-roaming once you’ve started giving them direct orders for that level. There are parts of the “Search” system in Adventure Mode that I think are unnecessary. I even had a couple of game crashes while in Fairy Mode, though an early patch specifically addressed an issue with crashes in that mode, so it seems like my early review copy may have been the culprit.
Overall, I would recommend this game to a variety of people. Well, maybe not everyone as it doesn’t exactly have much crossover with the puzzle-solving and overworld-exploring experiences that people love so much about the mainline Legend of Zelda series. However, I certainly think that, on its own merits, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition has a lot of strengths to celebrate. I would recommend it to the type of player who enjoys hack-and-slash games as well as to players who love the concept of all those classic characters being playable and interacting together. Most of all, I would recommend it to anyone else as invested in “podcast games” as I am. Sit down, relax, kill monsters by the thousands, and, while you’re at it, maybe learn a bit about the history of the Roman Empire.