It is a strange position the Switch finds itself in, less than a month after we got Donkey Kong ported from the Wii U, Nintendo are giving us Hyrule Warriors, also from the Wii U, but can this entry that is not from either the Zelda series or the Dynasty Warriors series, get its due under the spotlight?
The story of Hyrule Warriors takes place in a restructured version of Hyrule, where in the past the Hero clad in green defeated the evil known throughout the land and then splits that evil spirit into 4 parts, trapping 3 of them within different worlds, with the final piece under the master sword. Princess Zelda awakens from her dream, the feeling of dread leaving her worried and while her faithful companion/bodyguard Impa does her best to quell her fears, she still has concerns. When they are inspecting the nearby Castle Troops, they watch an unknown soldier, defeat another in training, but that is soon interrupted, as a guard informs them, that an army approaches. The story is more detailed here than in most Zelda games, but that is because it ends up weaving in new characters, existing characters and multiple worlds into a single narrative and while the story might be a little farfetched at times, it does a respectable job attempting to balance everything.
If you have played any musou-type of game, then the combat is going to feel familiar, the sad part is that, if you played last years Fire Emblem Warriors, the game is going to feel like a step back. Each battlefield you venture upon, will have a variety of challenges and tasks to complete, all the while, you attempt to move forward, the combinations can be challenging at times, and as such you will be tasked with capturing keeps, defeating certain enemies and rescuing allies on the battlefield and these tasks will take up the bulk of your time, allowing for you to explore the attacks at your disposal. The overall gameplay design is the same as almost every other Warriors game, but with the release of the Fire Emblem variant last year, Hyrule Warriors now lacks the depth in combat that the other provided.
Getting into combat, is still fun though, being able to take down waves and waves of enemies, with only a few swipes of your sword, or whatever weapon that your character is using. While the game does attempt to throw in some restrictions, needing a water aligned character in one level, a fire in another, you can plough throw the levels none the less. The joy of exploring multiple locations from the Zelda universe is still as fun now as it was back with the games original release, but of course, now that it is on Switch you can experience that anywhere. When you take it away from the dock, the game runs smoothly, but I got this strange feeling it was running slower, things just felt off when playing in handheld mode.
The game keeps its multiple game modes here as well, meaning you can take part in the Legends mode, which will take you a solid number of hours to complete, or should you just want to jump in, free mode is also an option. Challenge mode is exactly what the name suggests, a mode filled with specific challenges for you to attempt to beat and the final mode is called Adventure mode and has you playing across a map built from the original Zelda game. It is a fun mode, giving you small sections of the games larger maps, to complete specific objectives upon, usually within a tighter timeframe than the main mode grants. The variety of modes is good, even if the overall gameplay does not change drastically from mode to mode, we will not talk about the My Fairy mode though.
One aspect that holds true, is the visuals, the game still looks great, it has a mix of old school design and new school charm, with the new characters looking different, that they stand out, but similar enough that they still blend in with the world. The locations still suffer from the pop-in effect that has been present in countless musou games, characters or I should say enemy hordes will just spawn near you, sometimes all around you and the elements that dot the backgrounds are just as frequent in their pop-ups. The locations still look fine, but the game struggles with presenting it all on, the Switch’s screen when you undock, the map for example, can be harder to make things out, with the amount of information it has to display at all times.
Overall, while the game is a port and it does add some extra costumes and such, it is a barebones port, the full game is still worth your time, if you enjoy either the Zelda or Warriors games. Given how impressive Fire Emblem Warriors was though, Hyrule Warriors just feels like a step back and that is not a good feeling.