If you've ever played a warriors / musuo game, or indeed one of the two previously released versions of Hyrule Warriors, you won't be surprised by any aspects of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition on Switch. It's a game where you play as a wide variety of characters from the Zelda series history, smashing down weak enemies to feel badass, taking down occasional bosses and managing a battlefield. This is all dressed up with the kind of flimsy plot where all that matters is everyone's in the room and off on adventures together.
So if you like button-mashing, and you like Zelda... you can probably see where I'm going. It's obviously fun to see how Princess Ruto or the Bug Princess would fight in a war, and being bombarded with Zelda fanservice in a very different genre to the mainline games is a bit of a blast for long-term lovers of Hyrule. But we knew all this already.
Definitive Edition is a port of a game already released on Wii U and 3DS, and it certainly won't be the last, so what sets this port apart from the previous versions? Where the Wii U Hyrule Warriors features dual-screen co-op, where one person played on the Gamepad screen while the other used the TV, the Switch is obviously different hardware and so has the option for split-screen co-op. There's no online co-op at all.
This would be bad enough, but many players will have trouble even activating the co-op mode. The process here is baffling and bizarre, goes unmentioned in the game manual, and there are no menus or on-screen prompts explaining what to do. You have to start a mission, press L3 to connect controllers, then add player two. Player 2 cannot select their own character or weapon, Player 1 has to do that for them. Player 2's control scheme can't be changed. As soon as the mission is over, the game assumes you want to go back to single player and makes you press the button and reconnect the controllers all over again for the next mission.
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition had a problem here, but the solution it has come up with seems the worst possible. Adding online is obviously much simpler to say than to do, and I wouldn't be too harsh there, but it does boggle the mind that there's no option to play locally with two Switches and two copies of the game. The split-screen mode feels cramped, is badly implemented, and while it is functional it's very far from ideal. You could argue that this alone makes the Wii U version more attractive (if you want to play through it with a chum). It is far from impressive, especially from something styling itself a 'definitive experience.'
On top of this, the game is now on its third release, and you will have to once again unlock all the new characters through gameplay. Given the target audience for this game, I'm probably not alone in coming to this after playing the Wii U version. I was mainly attracted to it because of the idea of trying out the 'new' characters introduced to the 3DS version, which I skipped, but of course before doing that I had to re-do a million tasks to re-unlock a whole roster. Again I don't want to be too harsh: the game obviously has to cater to new players as well as returning players. But as these kinds of remasters become more common, developers should consider that many of the game's potential players have, y'know, played it before.
Definitive Edition pulls over all the additional content from previous versions, which means the 3DS-exclusive characters are now in high definition for the first time, and even the handheld's extra story cutscenes have been ported over and look fantastic. This is one of the things the game does get right: it's clear a lot of work went into making sure the 3DS content didn't look out of place next to the HD stuff.
Outside of these changes, Hyrule Warriors remains a blast to play if you're into this unusual genre of action. As a Zelda series fan who enjoys feeling a bit overpowered, and was always curious how Darunia or Fi would take out an army, there's joy in just letting all the silliness and references wash over you. The Zelda flavour is more than skin-deep too, there's care in how elements of Nintendo's grand series have been incorporated: levels contain items that help with progression, bosses need to be beaten the way they were in their original games, and it's all a messy and sweet-natured love letter to our boy Link. Yes it's a button-masher. Yes, the maps sometimes get confusing. And yes, the co-op stuff is a big disappointment. But if you ever want to switch off, relax, and just absolutely batter stuff with the master sword, then HEY, LISTEN — Hyrule Warriors is alright by me.