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Cadence of Hyrule Review

Is this musical spin-off worthy of the Zelda name?

by William Schwartz

Crypt of the Necrodancer was a unique twist on the Rougelike genre.  While Brace Yourself Games took many of the mechanics from other rougelike titles that had been popping up during that time period (circa 2015) their musical twist was something that made the game stand out.  Someone at Nintendo was clearly watching.  When it was announced that the developers were being trusted with the keys to Hyrule castle for a mash-up between Crypt of the Necrodancer and The Legend of Zelda called Cadence of Hyrule it seemed like an odd pairing.  After pouring some hours into the game it feels like a perfect match.

Cadence of Hyrule is not Crypt of the Necrodancer with a Zelda skin on it

The original game was a lot of fun to play and it had a lot of unique gameplay mechanics.  Like other roguelikes, Crypt of the Necrodancer had you trying to drive deeper and deeper into a series of dungeons by defeating enemies without dying.  The unique thing about that game is that you needed to do this while keeping your movements and attacks aligned with the soundtrack.  Not everything has been carried over here.  Cadence of Hyrule isn’t Crypt of the Necrodancer with a Legend of Zelda makeover.  It’s an entirely new game that will offer the types of gameplay experiences that Zelda fans love while utilizing some of the core gameplay mechanics of Crypt of the Necrodancer.  Cadence of Hyrule is part rhythm game where you’re tasked with hopping and fighting to the beat of classic Zelda tunes, and part adventure/puzzle game where you’re tasked with tracking down items to progress further and further into the world.  There are boss battles, hidden secrets and items, puzzles to solve and other mainstays of the classic 2D Zelda games.

cadence-of-hyrule-boss-fight

Looking at the game in a still shot, you might mistake it for a classic 2D top-down Zelda title from years past.  There’s been an incredible job done of the graphics front to achieve this and it’s all hammered home by an incredible soundtrack full of classic TLOZ songs that have be remixed and re-imagined by Danny Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Issac, Crypt of the Necrodancer).  While it might look and sound the part of a classic Zelda game, the Crypt of the Necrodancer ties are strong.  All of the combat mechanics from that game have carried over into Cadence of Hyrule.  This means that players movements are tied to the beat of the current music.  Players hop from square to square on the map while trying to get advantageous positions to strike enemies.  It’s a game that’s about pattern recognition of the various enemy types, while managing your own health and items in the process. Each room will have different treasures to encounter and some will have different challenges attached to them.  Want that shiny treasure in the middle of the room, you might have to clear out every enemy in a certain amount of time or do so without getting hit.  While Crypt of the Necrodancer was a difficult rogue-like title, Cadence of Hyrule is a bit more forgiving and structured.  There is far less of a penalty for dying in Cadence, with much of your progression being saved from life to life, plus you can fast travel to areas that you’ve uncovered and Shiekah Stones that you’ve unlocked.  This works well in Cadence, it makes for a more enjoyable game that feels more forgiving, yet still rewarding as you progress.

The incredible original soundtrack is one of the biggest selling points

Aside from the combat aspects of the game, you will be tracking down some important items which will allow you to progress further.  There are four major boss battles, each of them require that you find an item that will allow you to access these boss dungeon areas.  While the puzzles and item hunts can give you a bit of a challenge, many of them are straight forward and easy to solve, mostly requiring that you just look around the immediate area to find your solutions.  However, there are some interesting puzzles that involve some deeper thinking for more powerful items or character unlocks.  There’s a good balance between accessibility that most players want and a little bit more depth for those who are invested in seeing all there is to offer.

cadence-of-hyrule-dungeon

This means that you can bang through Cadence of Hyrule in an evening if you so choose.  Or, you can take some time with the game and see everything else there is to see, tracking down powerful items for Zelda or Link or unlocking completely new characters.  There is some replayability in Cadence of Hyrule though.  The overworld of the game is randomized at the start, so if you’re just enjoying the beautiful visuals and exquisite tunes pumping out of your Switch and you enjoy the slower paced combat of the game there’s certainly a reason to head back in.  There’s also a cooperative mode that allows you to play with a friend.  You can play as Link and your friend can co-op as Zelda (or vice versa), or you can choose to use any of the other characters that can be unlocked through the course of the game.  It’s not a bad co-op experience, but it’s far from the major selling point here.  Better yet, if the beat timing isn’t your thing, you can turn this off completely and there will be no penalty for missing a beat with your character.

Puzzles to solve, items to find, bosses to fight — it’s like a traditional 2D Zelda game

As someone who played their fair share of Crypt of the Necrodancer over the last few years, I have to say that I really enjoyed Cadence of Hyrule.  Some of the reasons were obvious.  The music is once again fantastic.  I found myself in multiple instances just listening to the remixes of these classic TLOZ tunes for extended periods of time while in the pause menu as I doing other things.  The combat is unique and it’s cut from the exact same cloth as Crypt, but I found the more structured and more forgiving nature of Cadence to be a refreshing way to enjoy this unique gameplay.  While there are some options here that you can turn on, like permadeath mode for the truly hardcore, the base experience of Cadence of Hyrule actually feels a little bit better than the original game.

The Verdict

Crypt of the Necrodancer seems like a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch.  However, Cadence of Hyrule isn’t that.  It feels more like a traditional 2D Zelda adventure than it does a roguelike and has a myriad of options to get the type of experience you want out of it.  Cadence of Hyrule is a Zelda game that any fan of the franchise will appreciate.

"loved"
loved

Cadence of Hyrule

  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Nintendo
  • Developed By: Brace Yourself Games
  • Genre: Roguelike
  • US Release Date: June 13th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "Cadence of Hyrule is a Zelda game that any fan of the franchise will appreciate."
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