Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 15.09.2018

Review for Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition on Nintendo Switch

Most indie developers today love to co-opt elements from Super Metroid, while always citing how The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is always a favourite game from childhood. With everyone trying so hard to copy the side-scrolling metroidvania format, Heart Machine is one of the few developers to make a worthy attempt at a modern take on the old top-down view action-adventure sub-genre with Hyper Light Drifter. When it originally came out, it was lauded for its stylish action and surreal-neon visuals and now Switch owners are about to get a taste the action with a Special Edition port.

Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition is the complete package of an already impressive indie game. Heart Machine wastes little time as the game begins and quickly thrusts users into an open-ended action adventure that veterans of the NES era will be accustomed to. The mysterious and very classy opening animated intro sets a weird and alien mood that evokes memories of Another World's stark day-glow landscape. Then the action begins and the unnamed protagonist is endowed with deft manoeuvrability, able to dash-teleport all around the field to dispatch threats. The drifter himself is a cool "man with no name" warrior, a quiet lone wolf in a world where all dialogue is expressed with vignette pixel art imagery. Interestingly enough, the drifter is also enduring some kind of terminal ailment and will be frequently be hunched over as he coughs blood. This kind of vulnerability is expressed throughout the gameplay as foes become more numerous and dangerous.

Screenshot for Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition on Nintendo Switch

After a striking and stylish intro and the core game is underway, Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition shows its hand and sets players loose. Without too much guidance, the drifter must seek out keys and switches to open doors. The interconnected underground ruins and tunnels that have passages that lead in and out of forests to mountains give the world a profound sense of place. The way the over-world is laid out is reminiscent of Termina from Majora's Mask, with a distinctive four-way North, East, South, and West directional composition. This makes for easy to remember navigation without having to constantly consult a map every minute. Being able to always be aware of where you are in the world is going to be very useful since Hyper Light Drifter is going to have some backtracking to previously locked doors while getting into scraps with large samurai or trolls. The one area that feels lacking is the one town area that is detailed and beautifully realised, but has almost no real points of interest outside of the upgrade shops.

Screenshot for Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition on Nintendo Switch

The combat in Hyper Light Drifter is easily the best aspect other than its visuals. There is a tight rhythm to master when using the dodging. Basically, the chaining of dodges starts off slow and it gets faster with every sequential dash and maintains a pace after the sixth or eighth input. It is possible to indefinitely maintain a nigh endless combo of dodges should the user become a master of it... the game even rewards those who can. Teleporting and slashing like a ninja is as satisfying as it should be and, thanks to the drifter's side arm, even scrubs might be able to stand a chance against some of the battles that lie within. The gun can't be relied on exclusively since melee attacks are ultimately necessary since using the energy sword is the only way to charge the range attacks.

This equaliser not only balances things, but makes for stylish and varied action. If there is any real flaw to this combat, it is that the game locks out the more advanced mechanics behind an upgrade system. Some of these abilities make some sense to lock behind a barrier, but something like the sequential dodging feels like it should have been a default action from the start. Locking this kind of move behind three upgrade chips feels utterly arbitrary and is obviously padding. Hyper Light Drifter already has a wealth of interesting tools and weapons to use, and the Special Edition adds a few more. The last thing this lean artistic action-adventure needed is tedious fluff.

Screenshot for Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition on Nintendo Switch

The biggest addition to Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition is the option for two-player local co-op and a "Bloody Palace" style arena location that will put players' skills to the test. These extras sweeten an already worthy package. The Switch advantage of also being portable pretty much makes this version the best way to enjoy Hyper Light Drifter. There are some instances of some nasty frame drops when up against a huge mob in the Tower Climb Arena but, for the most part, this conversion is very stable when stacked up against the other console versions.

Screenshot for Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition is a must-own for anyone who enjoys a quality action title. Fans of 2D Zelda games will adore this for how it pays lip-service without being derivative. Heart Machine has triumphed by focusing on what people loved about action-adventures, while refining combat and challenge. In the beginning, some might be overwhelmed by the lack of direction; but those who dare to actually play will be greatly rewarded. The Switch Special Edition extras are neat, but the meat and potatoes that make up the sum of Hyper Light Drifter is still what makes it so great in the first place.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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