Cadence of Hyrule is a product of an alternate universe that, I for one, never in my wildest dreams thought I’d see. From the Crypt of the Necrodancer series, Cadence falls into a strange world full of monsters and a rich history. However, Octavio has put every hero to sleep and Cadence must awaken either Link or Zelda to put an end to it.
Cadence of Hyrule may look like a Legend of Zelda game, but it plays just like Crypt of the Necrodancer. However that isn’t to say that Cadence of Hyrule is just another Crypt of the Necrodancer game with a Legend of Zelda skin. The game borrows many elements from the classic Nintendo series, such as iconic items, familiar enemies that move and respond like you would expect them to and a sprawling open world that features much of the series’ most iconic locations.
For fans of the Legend of Zelda series who plan on going into Cadence of Hyrule without having played Crypt of the Necrodancer, the way that you control Link or Zelda may be jarring at first. If you’re unfamiliar with the gameplay of the cult indie classic, the game takes a topdown perspective in a grid-based format. To move, you are required to move and attack to the beat, forcing you to rethink everything you knew about topdown action adventure games.
However if you are finding that keeping up with the tempo is either too difficult or just not enjoyable, there is an option in the settings to disable this function so that enemies will only move when you choose to move. You can think of this as an ‘Easy Mode’ which is arguably against the spirit of the rhythm genre aspect of the game, but the fact that it is an option for inexperience, younger or tempo-challenged players is a thoughtful inclusion.
Much like in the Legend of Zelda series, the weapons and items that you collect along the way is pivotal to the progress of your adventure. There’s an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when you finally get the Bow or the Boomerang. Other items like the Bombchus work seamlessly well with the grid-based gameplay of Crypt of the Necrodancer and feel like they were almost made for it.
Level / World Design
With a sprawling overworld, travelling one square at a time to the beat of the music may sound like a daunting task. Luckily, Brace Yourself Games were clearly aware of this and took measures to circumvent this issue by allowing you to fast travel to various Shiekah Stones that you unlock as you go.
The layout of the world is done screen-by-screen, much like classic topdown Legend of Zelda games such as the original NES title and A Link to the Past. Not only does this work well when segmenting the overworld so it doesn’t seem as daunting to traverse one square at a time, but it also does a great job at presenting the immediate challenge in every frame you enter.
As much as we all very much enjoyed Crypt of the Necrodancer, it was also quite two-dimensional, taking place on a flat plane. Ever since A Link to the Past, the Legend of Zelda series has placed a big focus on multiple layers, climbing stairs and creating an extra level of depth. This layering did not go unnoticed and it certainly adds a whole new lease on life in Cadence of Hyrule. It can certainly get a little boring moving from one square to the next, so having multiple layers adds a whole new level of variety.
As is tradition with Legend of Zelda games, Cadence of Hyrule has larger scale dungeons that are compulsory in order to finish the game. This game contains four dungeons, each in order to defeat one of Octavio’s champions and collect the four magic instruments. These dungeons are as complex as they can be without becoming too convoluted for the rhythm style gameplay. The dungeons share similar traits, having to collect keys (as well as a boss key) to progress. These dungeons are well designed, however they can become a bit tiresome after a while as the dungeons have moments where it merely throws hordes of enemies at you, losing some of the magic that is a Zelda dungeon.
Whilst the structure of Cadence of Hyrule remains very similar to most Legend of Zelda games, the Crypt of the Necrodancer influences help to provide this classic formula with a whole new outlook.
With a brand new villain known as Octavio threatening the peace of Hyrule and Crypt of the Necrodancer’s Cadence sent to save it, this mixes up the age-old approach. This doesn’t mean that the old faithfuls are absent; you will see classic characters, such as the King of Hyrule, Dampé and Tingle where you expect them to be, each adding certain qualities to the game’s adventure.
The plots of the Legend of Zelda games can often be quite lacklustre, with them simply being the good needing to overcome evil. However this is not always the case as there have been some games that have questioned this standard formula. Cadence of Hyrule takes a similar approach and forces you to questions your actions, albeit not in any way that hasn’t been done before.
Graphics / Art Direction
Cadence of Hyrule takes inspiration from arguably the most iconic 2D Legend of Zelda game: A Link to the Past. The bright green colours, familiar tree sprites and wandering through Kakariko Village brings back a sea of memories for fans of the series. Not only is it nostalgic, but it also presents the world of A Link to the Past in a whole new light, with bright colours and crisp HD graphics.
Not only does Cadence of Hyrule take a lot of inspiration from classic Legend of Zelda games, so too does it mixes it together with what’s new. It’s great to see the Bokoblin design from Breath of the Wild in crisp HD sprite form or the more intricate details grace your surroundings in a 2D setting.
We’ve talked a lot about the Legend of Zelda art and graphics, but it also cannot be understated that the Crypt of the Necrodancer series brings forth its own recognisable charm. The signature shovels for digging further through caverns and familiar art direction really helps to put the Crypt of the Necrodancer stamp on the (overworld) map.
Music / Sound Design
With the music directly connected to the gameplay, it was imperative that it was both functional and entertaining. Thankfully, with the help of the iconic tracks from the Legend of Zelda franchise, you can’t get better video game music than that. All of these classic tracks have been remixed for the quarter beats to be more prominent, whilst making the tracks heavier to take a more commanding presence. It’s incredible hearing such iconic tracks remixed in such a prominent way and is an absolute treat for any Legend of Zelda fan.
Final Score: 92%
Cadence of Hyrule is a dream collaboration that we never knew we wanted. It takes the unique gameplay of Crypt of the Necrodancer and is perfected by the rich history of the Legend of Zelda series. Whilst the rhythm-based action mechanics may not be to everyone’s taste, the experience that is given has provided Switch owners with a unique game that will surely be talked about for years to come.