Cadence of Hyrule on Switch
I’m no longtime Zelda fan, but even as a layman, I’m well aware of the dearth of actual good Legend of Zelda spin-offs available in the market right now. Aside from Koei Tecmo’s Hyrule Warriors, which honestly is just okay, Zelda spin-off games don’t exactly have a great track record.
Thank the Triforce, then, that Brace Yourself Games decided to do something about that and release Cadence of Hyrule, a rhythm-based rogue-lite that brings together the worlds of Legend of Zelda and the critical indie darling, Crypt of the Necrodancer.
If you’ve played Crypt of the Necrodancer, you know how steep the learning curve can be. Moving your character and attacking to the beat of the music sounds like a pretty simple concept, but it quickly becomes overwhelming when you throw in enemies with different movement patterns, tricky tiles, and new items that you’re constantly picking up.
Add to that the rogue-like elements where you lose almost everything upon death, and Necrodancer becomes a pretty stressful experience.
After playing Necrodancer during the weeks leading up to this new release, I’m happy to report that Cadence of Hyrule is indeed a much more forgiving, and less punishing game. With Cadence, the game you’re getting is less of a rogue-like, and more of a rogue-lite meets traditional 2D Zelda.
A brief tutorial in the game has you playing as Cadence, the hero of Necrodancer, and you’ll get to pick between Link and Zelda as your main playable character. There’s a lot here that will feel instantly familiar to Zelda fans, from Link’s spin attack and hookshot, to the gorgeous overworld filled with item pots and dungeons to explore.
The main goal in Cadence of Hyrule is pretty much what you’d expect from your typical Zelda game: defeat the bosses in the four dungeons, then storm Hyrule Castle to face the final bad guy.
Similar to Crypt of the Necrodancer, you have to move your character along to the beat to maintain a multiplier. The better you are at keeping a beat, the more damage you’ll deal. The trick, as always, comes with recognizing enemy patterns while moving to the music, as missing a beat or reading an enemy’s pattern incorrectly can quickly spell death.
The nice thing about Cadence of Hyrule, though, is that you can easily exit the screen if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and come back in with a fresh set of eyes when you’re ready.
You can also tweak the options anytime you want and enable Fixed Beat mode, which completely removes the rhythm part of the gameplay. In Fixed Beat mode, enemies only move when you do, and this turns the game into a slower-paced tactical RPG.
As you clear out enemies on each screen, you earn Diamonds, which are the permanent currency you can use to purchase better upgrades to make your subsequent runs smoother. And here’s the kicker: while you do lose Rupees, torches, and armor upon death, you keep everything else. This includes Diamonds, purchased Heart Containers, and items.
When you die, you get to visit a Game Over shop and spend Diamonds on cool stuff like even more permanent Heart Containers, and powerful weapons that you get to keep. So even if you’re awful at keeping a beat, if you keep grinding and pushing, you’ll eventually have enough Diamonds to buy stuff that makes the game much easier.
It gets to a point where the game barely even feels like a rogue-lite anymore, as the overworld is fixed. The map itself is randomized when you start a new file, but remains the same between deaths, and once you unlock fast travel between Sheikah Stones, Cadence of Hyrule just becomes a traditional 2D Zelda game with cool music mechanics.
This means that Cadence of Hyrule’s story campaign is probably going to be laughably easy for Necrodancer veterans, but on the flip side, it’s a great introduction to the rhythm-based gameplay for Zelda fans who might not be that interested in rogue-likes in the first place.
In addition to that, the settings allow you to increase the challenge and difficulty of the game whenever you want. There’s a permadeath mode, along with options to properly randomize the map if you want to recapture that rogue-like feeling of RNG and unpredictability.
That’s pretty much the only real negative with this game —that Necrodancer fans will likely be disappointed with how easy the overall game is. However, Zelda fans will be pleased with its focus on mini puzzles scattered all throughout the overworld. There are fairy fountains to discover, and little environmental puzzles to solve with the skills you’ve picked up along the way.
Bringing all of these wonderful gameplay elements together is the soundtrack, which is a stunning remix of classic Zelda themes like Gerudo Valley and Fairy Fountain. The music truly is the highlight of Cadence of Hyrule, and is the main reason why you should disable Fixed Beat mode. Moving along to the fast-paced beats of these re-imagined Zelda tracks just adds to that satisfying feeling of crushing that last Chuchu onscreen.
The story campaign is pretty short, with my first playthrough lasting around four hours or so, though I did spend a couple more trying to 100% the map and collecting every item and treasure chest. The game does have great replay value, especially with multiple playable characters and the randomizer elements that you can mess around with.
Cadence of Hyrule might not be the challenging follow-up that Necrodancer fans were looking forward to, but it serves as a charming homage to the music of The Legend of Zelda series, and as a celebration of its classic 2D formula.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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