Sometimes, combining two genres together in a crossover or mashup is a work of genius. Two completely separate genres can just come together so well, even if you can’t see it working out that way. Let’s take an obvious example first: Mario Kart. First released in the 90s, it is still one of the most popular games today, with Mario Kart 8 being a huge success on the Wii U (with regards to the console’s poor sales, of course), and the re-released Deluxe Edition still remaining as popular on the Nintendo Switch. Sometimes, crossovers that you expect to work well just end up failing, big time. As much as it pains me to say this, as it is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, video game franchises of all time, the Resident Evil rail shooters suck, and the less said about Resident Evil’s attempt at an online shooter, the better! It can be a huge risk, but the rewards are fantastic if done correctly, and the crossover feels natural. This is, thankfully, the case for a mashup that involves my other favourite franchise of all time, The Legend of Zelda. In 2014, Hyrule Warriors was released on the ill-fated Nintendo Wii U, and it is a game that really never got the attention it deserved. Sure, it wasn’t perfect (we’ll get to that later), but it is a crossover that just worked, and it worked well. Thankfully, the Definitive Edition has been re-released on the overwhelmingly popular Switch, and it is finally getting the attention it deserves.
If you are not familiar with Hyrule Warriors, it is simply characters from The Legend of Zelda in a Dynasty Warriors game. Just let that sink in for a second. It might seem a bit odd at first, but what’s that? A little thought in the back of your mind, yes, that’s right, that is actually quite a good idea! Where the combat has been tremendous in numerous titles across the Zelda franchise, it really has never been the main focus of any of the instalments (just a quick reminder, Hyrule Warriors was released three years before Breath of the Wild, which arguably features the best combat in the franchise). That all changed with Hyrule Warriors: The furiously fast, button mashing combat of the Dynasty Warriors franchise was the main focus here, but do not fret. This isn’t just a Dynasty Warriors game with Zelda skins. The level of care and attention to the Zelda franchise shown here is incredible.
The story of Hyrule Warriors is actually quite elaborate. You would think that it would be quite simple like it usually is in the Zelda games: Ganon kidnaps Zelda and Link has to save the day, but you would be wrong. Hyrule Warriors doesn’t fall into any of the ‘official’ Zelda timeless and is its own stand-alone story. It, of course, uses familiar themes and characters but isn’t as simple as just save Zelda. Poor old Ganondorf (which is Ganon’s human form) was once again defeated long, long ago, and his soul was split into four fragments. Three were lost in time and the fourth was merged with the Master Sword. Ganondorf, like always, wasn’t just going to give up. For his many faults, you cannot deny Ganon’s can-do attitude! Anyway, Ganon targets a sorceress known as Cia (a brand new character to the franchise) and uses her affection for the Hero of Time to manipulate her into helping him return to full power. With the help of familiar and beloved characters from across the franchise, Link and co. must defeat Cia and Ganondorf once and for all and save Hyrule from total annihilation, again. For a Dynasty Warriors-inspired game, the story is actually really well told and helped, of course, by the source material, and provides a great motivational tool while you hack through thousands of battlefield fodder.
Gameplay-wise, it is as you would expect. When the cutscenes finish, you’ll find yourself on a small, open battlefield with thousands of feeble enemies ready and waiting for you to hack your way through them. Hacking works just as it does in every Dynasty Warriors game. Landing light and strong attacks build up a special meter for you to unleash an uber powerful attack which has the potential to kill hundreds of enemies in one fell swoop. Nearly all the enemies you’ll encounter are the low-level ‘foot soldiers’ you would have found throughout the Zelda franchise, such as the Bokoblins. Each low-level enemy will have a ‘captain’ version of themselves, which are the ones guarding the various keeps around the battlefield map. These aforementioned keeps are the main objective of the battles, but there also other objectives that will also be thrown your way. These range from safely guiding a character to a specific part of the map to saving an area from an attack.
Defeating a keep captain to turn a keep crystal from red to blue prevents enemies from respawning in a certain area, and Hyrule soldiers will then appear instead. It is a good thing that the character you are controlling is as powerful as Superman because the Hyrule soldiers and other allies on the field are about as useful as an umbrella in a lightning storm. The teammate AI is absolutely dreadful. Whilst you are running all over the battlefield, hacking your way through the forces of evil, your teammates just stand there. They might occasionally swing a sword but with about as much force as an earthworm could! To be honest, never was there a time I actually needed any help from them, but come on guys, at least try and put some effort in while attempting to save Hyrule! This isn’t the only problem with the gameplay. Thankfully, I am not talking about any bugs or anything like that, but Hyrule Warriors suffers from the exact same issue as the rest of the Dynasty Warrrios series does: repetition and general ease of the battles. Some enemies will give you a bit of a challenge, the end of level bosses, for example, but there is no escaping the repetition. It is just something fans of the Dynasty Warriors have accepted for years, and it is something fans of this game will have to accept as well. There is the option for two players to play together, and while this can be great on handheld mode, it is really best saved for playing on a bigger screen.
The great thing about re-releases of older games is that they will usually come with all the DLC, and that is the case with this edition of Hyrule Warriors. All of the characters from the previous version’s DLC are available from the start. In Legends Mode, which is the main story mode here, you can only play as specific characters in specific levels. Challenge Mode is exactly what it sounds like. There are various challenges to try and beat all while aiming for a high score. The higher the score, the harder the next challenge will be. All extremely simple, but with Hyrule Warriors’ easy to learn combat, it is a great way to just kill some time if you’re waiting for something or using it in handheld mode to make your daily commute just that more bearable. Outside of Challenge Mode, there is Adventure Mode. Loading this will immediately fill any old school Zelda fan with a warm, happy, nostalgic feeling inside them. The grid map is modelled after the original Legend of Zelda map. Each grid will take you to a battle scenario where there are specific rules to win the battle. You are graded between A and C. Some grids will also reward you star cards, which are items all Zelda fans will be familiar with, such as bombs, hookshot, compass, etc. Each grid will have something specific to the franchise, be that using one of the star card items or the map itself being based on a game from the series, such as the Wind Waker map. Adventure Mode is a great show of respect to the franchise, and fans old and new will get a kick out of playing it.
Hyrule Warriors looks great on the Switch. It is a game that looked great on the Wii U but looks even better on Nintendo’s latest gem. While docked, Hyrule Warriors runs at around 60fps, and while in handheld you’ll be looking at around 30fps. The main characters (not the battlefield fodder) all look great, Link especially looks incredible. What makes Hyrule Warriors such a great fit for the Switch is the portability. True, the game was also released on the 3DS, but that really was a horribly handled port. It is a game that caters to everyone, really. Want a long play session? Have at it. Out and about and fancy a quick 20 minute battle? Go right ahead.
Developer: Omega Force
Platforms: Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 18th May 2018