Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition: Switch’s Best Musou Game
Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a Musou kick, not for any particular reason, mind you.
The drive to play that particular genre of game just sort of floated in through the window, and here I am buying, emulating, and playing whatever crosses my path. For those of you who aren’t aware of the terminology, Musou means Unrivaled or Unmatched when translated and has become a catch-all term for describing games wherein the player takes on seemingly endless hordes of enemy combatants. Musou became generalized as the accepted catch-all thanks to Koei Tecmo’s series of Dynasty Warriors games and their Musou Gauge which is used as a super attack mechanic.
Mostly, I’ve been delving into my personal favorites on PC where I can and digging out my old Xbox 360. But above all other Musou games, I’ve been pouring a lot of time into Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition.
Do you remember that scene in Breath of the Wild, where Link is surrounded by Dead Lionels and Bokoblins while Zelda talks about how he came out of the battle with only a cut? I sure do, and the first thought to cross my mind was, “No, I don’t buy it. There’s no way he did that while protecting Zelda.” I still think it’s nonsense, but in Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition you can make your dreams of taking to the battlefield with Link and other characters from the franchise a reality. Because Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition literally is the definitive way of playing this Musou game. And I’m going to tell you precisely why.
Thousands, literally thousands of enemies take to the battlefields to do battle with you in Hyrule Warriors, as is the Musou tradition, but there’s a huge amount of fun to be had by merely replacing generic enemy combatants with Bokoblins, Darknuts, Summoners, Gibdos, Poes, Stalmasters and more. And in turn, there’s even more fun to be had when you take to the battlefield as your preferred character and tear through them with swords, bows, hammers, magical staffs, tridents, and more with one of over 30 characters.
Each Character is a force to be reckoned with, bringing their own unique method of combat to the battle with their skill treat mutating further, depending on their level and the weapon that they have equipped. Characters like Link use broad hacking slashes that cover a lot of ground and injure a lot of enemies; this can be upgraded in ways like ending combos with a sprinting charged spin attack. Then there are characters like Lana (an original character for the game) who make use of powerful magical spells and spears that can be used to generate a number of elemental attacks and crowd control magics. Characters like the massive Ganondorf who lay waste to all on screen with a potent mix of magic and swordplay.
The main benefits of expanding your roster isn’t simply adding more faces to your retinue that you can take control of, oh no. Each character comes with various weapon options that are unlocked as you play them, which is one of the game’s main character progression incentives. Each weapon you get contributes to the battle in its own unique way. If we take Link as an example, he has his default loadout set to the Master Sword, but you don’t need to settle for that once you’ve made even the smallest amount of progression into the game’s main campaign. Link can eventually outfit himself with six different default loadouts including the Master Sword, The Magic Rod, The Gauntlets, The Horse and The Spinner. We’ll touch on the sixth in just a moment and focus one The Magic Rod for the sake of example.
The Magic Rod is perhaps the best weapon to use as an example for how the various weapons differentiate themselves from each other. It comes into your possession in the second mission of the main campaign, roughly halfway through, and from then on it features as one of your most reliable weapons in Link’s armory. The Magic Rod is predominantly a ranged weapon, and it brings a ton of explosive and flaming power to the battlefield. It’s sort of a hybrid between the Magic Rod from The Legend of Zelda on NES and the Fire Rod which can be found in a handful of other TLoZ games.
The Magic Rod is classed as a fire weapon in Hyrule Warriors, and that brings with it a status effect. Fire weapons have the advantage of setting fire to your opponents when they’re hit, pretty obvious, right? But the main reason you want to set them on fire isn’t to do extra damage; it’s to bring the element effect into play. When an enemy on fire is sent flying, they will cause small explosions to erupt from where they hit the ground, and these explosions can damage other enemies who are nearby. This means that you can not only deal direct damage by attacking your opponents, but work in a measure of long range crowd control too, with the elemental effect causing damage to enemies who are beyond your reach or perhaps out of your line of fire. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, because despite being a predominantly ranged weapon, the Magic Rod is no slouch in close combat either, thanks to it’s bevy of combo options.
Because of how the gameplay in a Musou game works, your combo attacks can be simple in execution, but complex in their use. Sticking with our Magic Rod example, there are a grand total of five combination attacks that you can do based on Links normal consecutive light attacks. After you perform a light attack, you have the option of performing a combo attack. That looks something like this.
1st Light > Heavy.
2nd Light > Light > Heavy. (+Optional Heavy > Heavy attacks to juggle)
3rd Light > Light > Light > Heavy. (+Optional Heavy > Heavy AoE attack)
4th Light > Light > Light > Light > Heavy. (+Optional Heavy > Heavy short range AoE)
5th Light > Light > Light > Light > Light > Heavy.
Each of those combinations culminates in a different action for the weapon you are using, and this is true for every weapon in the game. The first attack is magical flaming pillars; the second is a juggling blast; the third turns The Magic Rod into a huge cleaving axe; the fourth turns The Magic Rod into a flamethrower, and the fifth summons a powerful flaming dragon.
When you combine that with the elemental fire effect, the miniature explosions it causes, and the versatility of The Magic Rod in general, you can easily see how you have a lot of options to choose from as you set out to unlock the massive amounts of other weapons in the game.
With each of those weapon types, there often comes an advantage. But what about that 6th weapon that we mentioned above? Well, that one in particular is a great easter egg that lets you play as the Fairy of the Great Fountain
So I’ve explained how the combat works, and you can probably see why I enjoy it so much, and if you’re a Musou veteran it won’t be anything particularly new to you, given that the general method of combat input hasn’t changed in quite a long time, but with the Great Fairy appearing as an Easter Egg character that you can play instead of Link, you’re probably wondering, just how big is the actual roster? Well, it’s certainly not small, that’s for sure, and it might not be packing all the characters you would expect it to. The Definitive Edition certainly includes some odd choices, but I love them all, to be perfectly honest. Okay, sure, maybe I do think that Agitha is a wasted spot, but she’s not bad per se, just not someone I would have chosen. Your full roster is:
- Twili Midna
- Young Link
- Skull Kid
- Toon Link
- King Daphnes
- Toon Zelda
It goes without saying that the roster is pretty damn packed with characters, each of which bring their own special flavor to the game, be it through their main method of combat, the variety of weapons they can use, their background dialogue, or just how they look on the field. Speaking of looks, there are a ton of additional outfits for your characters to be unlocked, and some of them are just the best. Let’s take good old Darunia for example. On top of his standard appearance, he also gets access to two alternate outfits (once you unlock them, that is) that change his appearance considerably. One of them literally changes him into Darmani III from Majora’s Mask! Unfortunately, not all costumes are created equally, with some being little more than palette swaps, rather than anything like a reference or original design. Fi, a character that I seem to like more than most people, is particularly poorer than most when it comes to costume variance. Her two additional outfits simply change her color. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
Let’s get back to talking about gameply-related stuff, shall we?
Each character gets their own level-up tree that you work your way through by fighting multiple battles and grinding out the required components to make new gear that deals out new passives abilities. The Badges, for example, can increase your character’s abilities in a number of ways. From boosting your attack power against enemies who are defending to increasing the speed at which you can capture enemy bases, the grind for item drops is never without purpose.
The Apothecary lets you craft a number of potions for your various battles that are derived from mixing ingredients until you reach a required base number. These potions increase the power of weapons dropped that you can collect to use later and can provide other boosts as well, like increasing material drops. The Apothecary levels up as you collect Gold Skulltulas on the battlefield, and this increases your ability to craft powerful potions, while also giving you an incentive to collect things that might otherwise be considered trivial. And with your Potion badge, the Apothecary will provide you with a free healing potion at the start of the mission that only gets stronger as the Apothecary grows.
The Dojo has uses early in the game and late into the game, all depending on how financially stable you are. As you kill your way across the battlefield, you collect rupees. But if you’re wise, you’ll smash every jar and bomb every rock you come across to collect more, because the Dogo gives you the option of raising your characters level in exchange for cold hard cash. The trick, however, is that you can’t raise your level any higher than your highest level character. This gives you the option of playing with your preferred character as much as possible while still keeping your allies adequately powerful.
At the Smithy, you can start to work on your weapons upgrades. Most weapons have an ability attached to them that becomes unlocked after killing enough enemies. Rich players can spend Rupees to read the skill without meeting the kill requirement, however. When you find weapons that have slots, you can start to fuse your kit, adding more abilities to one weapon. This is how you grow your strengths from weapon to weapon while also, again, being an incentive to grind out more equipment with the aid of your Apothecary brewed potions. Everything is tied together, from badges, to Smithy, to Apothecary.
A new feature introduced in Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition is the My Fairy menu. As you play through the game, you’ll encounter Fairies who are trapped and in need of rescue. In doing so, you’ll gain assistance from them when you fill your magic gauge. Fairies can also be used in specific enemy bases to nullify dark magic and prevent you from taking constant damage. You can level up your fairy by giving them foods found in the Adventure Mode and giving them new types of clothes. It’s less useful than badges and the like, sure, but not to be underestimated as it can help swing a battle.
Speaking of Adventure Mode, this is where you’ll find some of the game’s real challenges. You’re presented with a map that is loosely based on one of the main game overworlds, and from there, you strike outwards and slowly uncover the world and its contents. Weapons, buffs, one-use items, and more litter the world map, and each will be useful to you when the situation calls, so don’t see the challenge as a turn-off, rater you should see it as a way to unlock new characters, equipment and even more food for leveling up your Fairy companions. Adventure Mode is the main beef of the game outside of the main campaign, which has already been greatly expanded upon in the Definitive Edition, given as how it includes all DLC content by default, which is bloody excellent.
So what exactly does having all the DLC packs mean? What does it include, and is it worth buying this version of the game just to get them all? Well, included in the definitive edition, you’ll find:
- The Master Quest Pack: Additional Costumes and the Horse Weapon for Link + The Master Quest Map for Adventure Mode.
- The Twilight Princess Pack: Adds Twili Midna as a playable character. Additional Costumes and the Dominion Rod Weapon for Zelda + The Twilight Map for Adventure Mode.
- The Majora’s Mask Pack: Adds Tingle and Young Link to the game as playable characters. Additional costumes and the Termina Map for Adventure Mode.
- The Boss Pack – Adds a Boss Challenge mode to the game as well as unlocking the Ganon’s Fury mode wherein players take control of the Dark Beast Ganon to battle enemies.
- The Link’s Awakening Pack: Adds Marin as a playable character and introduces the Boots as a weapon for Linkle.
- The Phantom Hourglass & Spirit Tracks Pack: Adds Toon Zelda as a playable character and introduces the Sand Wand weapon for her.
- The Link Between Worlds Pack: Introduces Ravio and Yuga as playable characters.
- The Legends Character Pack: Introduces Linkle, Toon Link, Tetra, King Daphnes and Skull Kid as playable characters and introduces the Trident as a weapon for Ganondorf.
That’s nearly $59 of bonus content! I’m not the biggest fan of DLC at the best of times, and the Musou genre has become quite inundated with individual DLC packs, most notably in the Dynasty Warriors series. Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition will cost you about £45, give or take, and set you up for hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay. Dynasty Warriors 9 will cost you about £40, and that’s before you consider the £30 Season Pass or the £557.24 sum total of DLC. So with that in mind, you can see pretty clearly that you get quite a bang for your buck when it comes to content for Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition.
Speaking of content, one of my favorite things about Hyrule Warriors in general, is the enemy characters. Sure, I mow them down like grass, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them. And what a generous list of fodder do we have, because the game features:
- Accelerate Troops (Think Koloktos, but with less arms)
- Big Blin
- Big Poe
- Bokoblin Captains
- Bokoblin Summoners
- Bombchu Operators
- Bulblin Captains
- Bulblin Summoners
- Captain Keeta
- Dark Aeralfos
- Dark Darknuts
- Decelerate Troops (See Accelerate Troops)
- Deku Baba
- Dinolfos Chieftain
- Fiery Aeralfos
- Ghost Captain
- Ghost Soldier
- Ghost Summoner
- Gold Cuccos
- Goron Captains
- Goron Summoners
- Green Chuchus
- Hylian Captains
- Hylian Soldiers
- Hylian Summoners
- Hylian Ghosts
- Icy Big Poes
- King Bulblin
- Lizalfos Captains
- Manhandla Stalks
- Miniblin Captains
- Red Chuchus
- Redead Knights
- Sealed Troops
- Shield Moblins
- Stalchild Captains
- Stalchild Summoners
- Stone Blins
- Turncoat Leaders
- Turncoat Soldiers
- Yellow Chuchus
That list doesn’t even touch on the fourteen different enemy types who can all fill in for multiple game-specific jobs, such as Sabbaterus or Assault Troop teams, and this also doesn’t include a list of the games giant monsters which act as boss battles. Heck, it doesn’t even cover the regular sized enemies who appear as boss battles. All these enemy types change as you cycle through different stages and locations in time (a plot point), which makes battling them awesome. King Dodongo, for example, can revert between his new design (left) and his Ocarina of Time-inspired design (right) depending on which part of the game’s timeline you are battling in. It’s the little touches like that which make all the difference.
Before we tackle the plot elements, it might be interesting for you to learn of some updates and features that are in the Definitive Edition that could easily fly under the radar. This list was compiled by GameFaq user, Zeldameister, to whom I doff my metaphorical cap.
- 1080p (60 FPS) Resolution in TV Mode.
- Control Schemes can be changed in the Menu.
- Background Music can be changed in the Menu.
- A Theater-Mode has been added to the Menu.
- All 29 Characters from the previous installments are playable.
- Level 255 is the Maximum Level right from the very beginning.
- 8-Bit Weapons return and can be toggled on/off in the Menu.
- Getting an A-Rank removes the previous Character Restrictions.
- The Ocarina and the Owl Statues from Legends are returning.
- The Character Switching Feature from Legends returns too.
- Like in Legends Bosses will be weakened with more Characters.
- Challenge-Mode from the Wii U returns with Ganon’s Fury and Cucco’s Fury.
- All of the Adventure Maps are available as soon as Adventure Mode is unlocked.
- The Difficulty of each Map increases from Top to Bottom starting with Easy.
- Legend Mode contains Cia’s Tale, Linkle’s Tale and the Saga of the Great Sea.
- Saga of the Great Sea is unlocked after completing Cia’s Tale and Linkle’s Tale.
- Link’s Classic Tunic and Ganondorf’s Wind Waker Robes can be unlocked in Adventure Mode.
- Breath of the Wild Outfits for Link and Zelda are unlocked after completing The Armies of Ruin.
- All of the former Japanese-exclusive and pre-ordered My Fairy Clothes are included.
- All Fairies in My Fairy Mode are now displayed in 3D.
- Fairy Companions are now visible on the Battlefield.
- Once obtained Item Cards can be bought in the Shop.
- Total collectible Weapons got increased from 10 to 20.
- Beamos can now be targeted which wasn’t possible before.
- The Imprisoned WPG can now be depleted faster. (This one pleased me greatly)
- Twili Midna, Young Link, Skull Kid and Tingle are unlocked on the Adventure Map.
- Toon Link, Tetra, King Daphnes and Medli are unlocked on the Great Sea Map.
- Tetra and King Daphnes can alternatively be unlocked in Legend Mode.
- Marin, Toon Zelda, Ravio and Yuga are unlocked on their respective Maps.
So, what about the plot?
Well, surprisingly, it’s not actually too bad. It’s pretty damn coherent and well executed, which is definitely a bonus. Without going too in depth, because I really do want you to play this game, certain events transpire that result in a big Ganon-shaped threat looming on the horizon, and our band of characters must fight their way through time and space in order to seal him away. By way of a series of portals, you’ll visit distinct eras in the Zelda timeline and do battle in the clouds on Skyloft while defying the forces of Zant in the Twilight stricken plains of Hyrule, making unlikely enemies and alliances as you go, with many a recognizable face on the path ready to assist or resist you.
So there you have it. That’s my break down and my case for why Hyrule Warriors is the best Musou game on Switch and a game that must absolutely be in your collection. Better than Fire Emblem Warriors, and that’s saying something, because that was a damn fine Musou game in its own way.