i haven’t tried hard mode yet
OK now i have. The hard mode bumps all enemies up a rank (red -> blue -> purple etc.), which functionally means they hit harder and soak more hits like in any other hard mode. OK, boring but fair enough. The other addition is much better: enemies regenerate HP, so you can’t wear them down with attrition (as easily, i mean you can still probably cook a hundred meals and outlast them if you want to).
What this means is there are fights you flat out cannot win early on. Rather than being a drag i think this is really cool, it means you have to rely on your wits more than ever and try to avoid combat as much as you can until you have some more hearts/stamina and better gear. The open-endedness and the kind of emergent play that can happen when you’re fighting or sneaking around a lot of enemies in this game helps even if i occasionally just get one-shot by a moblin with a lightning arrow.
It also means that when you CAN engage, you have to more actively try to use your special attacks and combo them. It doesn’t exactly make the combat harder but it brings out a little more of its fun kineticism.
PROTIP for evading hard enemies: carry an ice spear and ice arrows at all times. Hit them once to freeze them and then run for it. Very helpful for exploring Hyrule Castle early on.
oh and hard mode also adds archers on balloon platforms which is mostly just weird and entertaining. They do use them cleverly by putting them by bridges as chokepoints. They also do this for uhhh every bridge in the game apparently