Review | Cadence of Hyrule
Chill Hyrule Beats to Explore and Fight Monsters To
Starting Cadence of Hyrule leads to a title screen that plays a lo-fi remix of the Ocarina of Time title theme. It’s a great introduction to the world of Cadence, which is full of fantastic remixes of classic Zelda tunes. It’s paramount that the music be good, because Cadence is a Zelda rhythm game whose gameplay revolves around moving around to the beat of the music. Crypt of the Necrodancer, the previous game by Brace Yourself Games, is what the gameplay of Cadence is based on, but some changes to the formula make it more of a Zelda game with a Necrodancer twist than the other way around.
The game begins with Cadence, the main character of Necrodancer, falling through a portal and waking up in Hyrule. A wizard has used musical magic to put everyone in Hyrule to sleep so he could capture the king. The setup for the story is told in an adorably animated scene, and the animation’s style carries over into the game as well. The sprites are great, and are reminiscent of Minish Cap, the sound effects are classic Link to the Past sounds, and overall the game just has such a great sense of style right off the bat. The overworld theme in the tutorial, where you play as Cadence, is a mix between the 1-1 music of Necrodancer, and the classic Zelda overworld theme. It’s a great way to call back to Necrodancer while also setting the stage for a Zelda adventure.
Cadence then gets the choice to visit either Zelda or Link. This choice decides who the player will play as for the first bit of the game, though the character they don’t pick can be unlocked a little later on. Zelda and Link both have the same basic moves, moving one space at a time, and attacking within one square of themselves. However, their skills differ in the Link is able to use shields and his signature spin attack, while Zelda is able to use magic abilities like Nayru’s Love to reflect projectiles. Cadence is also a playable character once she is unlocked.
I found the gameplay very satisfying once I got into a rhythm. Bouncing along to the beat, learning enemies’ movement and attack patterns, and solving puzzles all added up to a gameplay loop that kept me engaged, and that I can’t wait to get back to. However, I did get off to a rocky start, and I suspect many others will too. Because the rhythm/exploration/combat gameplay is fairly unique, the game has a rather sharp learning curve to it. I found myself dying repeatedly while learning the game’s basic rules, but once I learned to take my time and learn, I found myself hopping around without a problem. One of the things that helped me the most was realizing that when I first entered an area, enemies didn’t start moving until I did, which gave me the opportunity to look around the area and plan what I was going to do.
Unlike Necrodancer, Cadence of Hyrule has a large overworld, much like previous 2D Zelda titles. This overworld is generated at the start of a new game, but it persists through deaths. This is in contrast to Necrodancer’s rogue-like nature where the game was randomly generated after every death. Having this static overworld contributes to the game feeling more like Zelda, and I think it is a great change. Because the overworld doesn’t change, I was able to learn which tiles contained which enemies and what I should do to deal with them.
Where the game really embraces its Necrodancer roots is in the dungeons. Each of the four dungeons has a consistent main area without enemies, but lower floors are randomly generated every time the player enters them. Despite this, the dungeons weren’t frustrating at all, as there were checkpoints along the way that led back up to the main floor. Additionally, the bosses in these dungeons are very charming, mostly being classic Zelda enemies with a musical instrument pun in their name, like Wizzroboe here.
If you don’t feel super confident about your sense of rhythm, Cadence of Hyrule has you covered. There’s a fixed-beat mode where you don’t have to worry about moving to the beat. There are a couple other gameplay-altering options such as permadeath mode, where your save is erased after dying; double-time mode, which doubles the speed of the game; single-character mode, where you play as one character and cannot switch, among others.
Cadence of Hyrule is a delightful game, and I was very surprised by how much of a Zelda game it is. I was expecting Necrodancer with Zelda characters and sprites, but what I got was a Zelda game with a Necrodancer twist instead. Having a consistent overworld in each save is very helpful, and the fact that each new save file generates a new overworld means that I will keep coming back to play more for a long time to come. Nintendo took a risk in allowing one of their largest franchises to be worked on by an outside studio, but that risk paid off very well. I can only hope that Nintendo continues with these kinds of partnerships, because they have led to some great innovative games.
-Art is adorable
-Music is fantastic - Gerudo Valley is a particular standout
-Rhythm gameplay is very satisfying
-More of a focus on exploration and puzzle solving
-Smart gameplay changes, such as being able to move freely when there are no monsters around
-Plays more like a Zelda game with a set overworld to explore instead of a rogue-like like the original Necrodancer
-Dungeons play more like the original Necrodancer in that they have a set hub, and then randomly generated lower levels
-Boss fights are great
-Sharp learning curve