[Review] Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda – Season Pass – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Brace Yourself Games
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Price: £13.49/ $14.99
  • Review code provided by Nintendo

Introducing Cadence of Hyrule Season Pass Review

Way back in June 2019 (remember the old world?) we took a look at Cadence of Hyrule, in what was my first ever review for Nintendad! I gave the game full marks, having really enjoyed the unique spin on the traditional 2D Zelda template. What I was most blown away by, was that the game actually felt close to a fully fledged top-down Zelda game rather than a traditional rogue-lite such as Crypt of the NecroDancer, on which the game is based.

Over a year later we now have the full run of season pass DLC and the now customary physical release featuring all of said DLC.

We previously looked at DLC pack one, which offered a fun spin on the core game. Pack two snuck up on us, going under the radar so much so that it wasn’t until the announcement of the release of pack three, Symphony of the Mask that we questioned what the hell had happened to pack two?

Now that all three packs are released, we wanted to give you all the rundown on what’s on offer. We won’t touch too much on the base game in this article, but you can find our original review here.

DLC Pack 1: Character Pack


This pack includes 5 new characters and 2 new modes. First up is Impa, who we’ve seen in various guises throughout the Zelda series. Here the game really plays up on her Sheikah abilities, by arming you with a spear for longer range attacks and an auto-dodge ability which can sometimes save you from being hit. When enemies attack, the dodge triggers, leaving a small Impa doll where you were and teleporting you behind said baddy, ripe for a stab up the jacksie. Impa is a fun to play as and in some ways acts a bit like an easy mode. Given the length of time between the release of the game and the DLC I’m a bit rusty, so I found Impa a nice gentle way to ease me back into the game.

Next up is Frederick, who some of you might recognise as the hilarious singing shopkeeper from Crypt of the Necrodancer. Naturally, as a shopkeeper, Cash rules everything around him, so rather than a traditional health meter Frederick starts with a stash of 100 rupees which gradually tick away. Should these reduce to zero you become the Phantom of the Shopera, a ghost with half a heart piece. Collecting a heart piece or some more rupees allow you to return to human form and continue your run. 

Playing as Frederick really changes up the gameplay as you rush to collect rupees and cheat death. It can be quite challenging, but also very fun as you try to scan areas for collectibles without hesitating too long, lest you meet the big bank manager in the sky.

The third character is Aria, the main character from the original Crypt of the NecroDancer. Aria is a bit of a nightmare to be honest. She’s got half a heart piece, can’t extend or refill her health, and can’t miss a beat without dying. I’ve literally had runs with her where I died before making it out of the first screen. There will be some masochists out there who enjoy this kind of thing and can master it, but I’ve got too many other games to be playing to lose days of my life to this torture-fest!

The next two characters are Shadow Link and Shadow Zelda, which act more as skins than new characters in their own right. They don’t add a lot to the game, but thankfully the other three are worth the price of admission alone.

New modes

The pack also adds two modes. The first, Mystery Mode, replaces enemies and items with giant question marks. Mystery mode can be pretty confusing, as it can sometimes be hard to tell whether an object is an enemy or a collectible, and even once you realise the object is a threat it can be hard to understand how to approach it. Much of the combat is based around pattern recognition, which goes out the window completely when you remove the ability to recognise what type of enemy you are facing.

The final mode, Dungeon Mode, removes the overworld and provides a more streamlined and combat heavy experience akin to the original NecroDancer. It’s a fun way to experience the music and sights of Cadence of Hyrule, but loses the charm of the full game and the fun exploration based elements. This mode is great for those who haven’t played the original, as it gives the same experience without the need to purchase another game (and the music is much better!).

The character pack adds some fun modes and characters that help flesh out the experience, but don’t quite reach the heady heights of the Symphony of the Mask content, which I’ll come to later! You can find our previous video impressions of pack one here.

DLC Pack 2: Melody Pack

Pack 2 is a strange proposition. It snuck out with very little fanfare, and adds nothing to the actual gameplay, but instead adds 39 new tracks from A_Rival, Chipzel and FamilyJules, who I must confess I had never heard of prior to playing the game.

The new tunes are all remixed versions of the existing soundtrack, with the game offering a new menu where you can specify which mix you want to play in any given situation. This means you can have the overworld theme from A_Rival whilst the Gerudo Valley theme from Chipzel if you so wish.

All of the remixes are cool variations and all of them sound great, but they don’t add a whole lot and the way you need to select them is a bit cumbersome. It would have been nice to have the game offer them up randomly from time to time to have more of an impact.

DLC Pack 3: Symphony of the Mask


Symphony of the Mask is the big one here and definitely the star of the show. It offers a whole new story campaign, featuring Skull Kid and is set in a new map with different dungeons and a whole new approach to the gameplay.

Skull Kid’s story takes place in a destroyed version of Hyrule, where Ganon has lain waste to the land. Skull Kid sets out on a quest to once again save the world. The real twist on the gameplay here is the ability to unlock a number of masks, which significantly alter the gameplay.

I had visions of this being a tribute to Majora’s Mask, but other than the inclusion of Skull Kid and a focus on masks, there wasn’t a direct link (no pun intended). Skull kid can obtain a Zora mask, which allows him to swim and fire ice based attacks, or a Goron mask which allows him to roll around, as well as a few other masks which I won’t spoil.

Each of the masks gives you a new weapon, which changes the way in which you attack. The skull mask provides you with a spear and long range attacks, whilst the Zora mask offers a fencing sword which allows you to use a lunging attack to close the distance.

The game allows you to change masks on the fly, allowing you a lot of control and creativity in how you approach battles and some of the puzzles in game.

Rhythmn based puzzles


Symphony of the Mask also tips the whole Zelda and indeed Cadence formula on its head, by removing most of the items (such as the hookshot and bow). The game includes a more traditional Zelda style dungeon rather than the procedurally generated dungeons in the base game. Throughout the dungeon you gradually earn many of the traditional items to help you progress, but these are lost when you leave.

The dungeon has more of a puzzle based focus and has some real head scratchers, including a series of rooms where you are locked in a tiny room surrounded by a horde of enemies and tasked with killing them all without being hit. The placement of the enemies is cleverly done, meaning that you need to experiment with the masks to figure out which offers the best attack pattern to gradually dodge your way through the little bit of space offered and gradually wipe out the enemies one by one. These sections involve a lot of trial and error as you experiment with the long range attacks of the spear or the diagonal attacks of the flail to see what offers the best chance of success.

In addition to the dungeon, the game also includes an arena area which essentially acts as the second dungeon. This is a wave based arena with 5 stages and a fun twist on a classic Zelda boss at the end. The problem with the arena section is that it is absolutely ball-achingly difficult. Getting by one stage is a challenge in itself, but the worst part is that death means a return to the first stage. I need to be honest and admit that I discovered an exploit which let me save progress between stages, but even then completing this section was a good few hours of graft and frustration.

Symphony of the Mask is clearly aimed at veterans of the base game, but as someone who has spent a lot of time with the game I still found it a real challenge. The dungeon is great fun and the masks offer a fun spin on the gameplay. The arena section on the other hand, can piss off!

The map in this mode is a little smaller than that in the base game, but it offers a wealth of hidden secrets and challenges that makes up for its smaller size.

Final Thoughts

Overall the season pass offers a huge amount of content for your money. Symphony of the Mask is worth the price of admission alone, provided you are confident with the difficulty. The base game is quite difficult in its own right, so those jumping straight in to the DLC might get a bit of a shock. The first two packs are fun, but the real joy comes from pack three.

Pros

  • Symphony of the Mask is great
  • Loads of new modes
  • Some cool remixed music

Cons

  • Melody Pack adds very little
  • Difficulty may be a bit much for some

Verdict
The Cadence of Hyrule Season Pass offers a lot of bang for your buck. There’s a lot of new ways to play and Symphony of the Mask is worth the price of admission alone.

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