A Link to the Jazz
Anyone who has played a game in The Legend of Zelda series will have their own fond memories of the different musical pieces. Each game in the series (perhaps barring Breath of The Wild) has some very distinct and memorable tunes. It wasn’t until I sat down to play Cadence of Hyrule though, that it really struck me just how significant a role music plays in the Legend of Zelda games and just how strongly some of it is burned into my memory. Cadence of Hyrule plays on this by using the strong musical history of the Zelda games as its central feature.
The game is brought to you by the team behind Crypt of the NecroDancer, Brace Yourself Games. It is remarkable for being the first time Nintendo has allowed a smaller indie studio to work with one of their series. I was initially sceptical and thought the game would be a re-skin of Necrodancer, but it has turned out to be so much more than that. Nintendo’s decision to involve an external team with unique ideas has really paid off.
It’s dangerous to go alone…
Crypt of the NecroDancer was always a difficult game to explain. It played as a top-down dungeon crawler with Roguelike mechanics, the twist being that the game was played in time with the music. In NecroDancer and Cadence of Hyrule each input is made in time with the beat in order to build a combo, not unlike Guitar Hero. If you miss a beat your character will stumble and you will lose your combo, which affects the rewards you gain in combat. If you keep your combo going you earn diamonds. These can then be spent on upgrades. It sounds quite complicated but once you play it the mechanics click very quickly. The game benefits from having a visual metronome at the bottom of the screen to help you identify the beat of a track which would be helpful to those unfamiliar with the music of the Zelda series.
Cadence of Hyrule takes the original mechanics of NecroDancer and builds on them. The main character from NecroDancer, Cadence, finds herself mysteriously transported to Hyrule and from there you end up controlling various characters from the Zelda universe. The game has a beautiful overworld, traversed using the original NecroDancer mechanics. Your quest is to travel the world and collect four musical instruments from several dungeons in a quest to defeat your new nemesis, Octavo.
The game is structured more like a traditional Zelda game, with many familiar items appearing either as unlocks from dungeons or found within the game world as secrets. Combat is a little bit simpler than a regular Zelda game, with strikes being automatic when you step towards an enemy. This may sound oversimplified, to fans of the Zelda series, but it lets you focus on keeping in time with the music and works really well.
Dungeons in the game are made up of a combination of procedurally generated areas and more curated sections, ensuring they remain interesting whilst also having an air of unpredictability. Each ends with a brilliant musical twist on some familiar Zelda bosses.
Sheikah your rump-ah
The gameplay all takes place alongside some amazing versions of classic Zelda tunes. Part of the pleasure is in hearing the different tracks and initially recognising a small part before it clicks, and you realise it’s a Metal version of one of your favourite tunes. I don’t want to mention any specific songs (well, maybe one), as part of the joy for me was hearing what was coming up next. The musical highlight for me was the title screen, which uses the Ocarina of Time title screen music and remixes it in a kind of Jazzy/Hip-Hop style. In some ways, it reminds me of the cover BADBADNOTGOOD did of the same track. If you haven’t heard that, check it out on YouTube!
Crypt of the NecroDancer took some criticism for its punishing difficulty. Cadence of Hyrule gets around this by making most of your upgrades persistent even after death. Heart containers can be found hidden in the corners of this gorgeous version of Hyrule and make the game much easier once you get through the early stages. The currency in the game also persists between deaths, making it much easier to earn upgrades. The only items you lose upon dying are less important consumable items and some armour upgrades.
Graphically the game is gorgeous, with a simple pixel art style not unlike Link to the Past or Minish Cap. The visuals really pop in handheld mode and everything can be easily identified then the screen fills with enemies and projectiles during some of the more hectic combat sequences.
I am Error
The one sticking point for many people seems to be the pricing. The game is priced at £22.49. I have seen some people complaining that this is too expensive, especially when NecroDancer can be picked up for less than a fiver. I have had an absolutely brilliant time with the game and without wanting to sound like I am defending the dreaded “Nintendo Tax”, I feel it has been worth every penny. The game plays much more like a full top-down Zelda game rather than a Roguelike, which can sometimes feel a bit bland in terms of the procedural level design. The game also includes a
daily challenge mode and hardcore style mode where one death sees the whole game reset. Each playthrough in any of the modes randomises the layout of the world, making the game much more replayable. The game does have areas designed by the team, which means it avoids the blandness that can plague similar games.
Cadence contains leaderboards, which will appeal to the more competitive types. These allow you to see how you stack up in terms of the time taken on a playthrough or the number of steps taken. Unfortunately, my run at them on my first playthrough was a write-off, as the game seems to have clocked me as taking 27 hours to play through. I can only assume the game has counted my time spent with the Switch in standby mode. My playthrough seemed like it was more in the region of 6 or 7 hours, and I will be going back for more!
I loved Cadence of Hyrule and found it a very pleasant surprise, having been quite sceptical about it initially. I could see there being future games in the series developed using different Nintendo franchises, especially given one very subtle story point which I feel hints at the possibility. I would
urge anyone who is a Zelda fan to pick it up, but the game has more than enough about it that anyone who is only a casual Zelda fan or unfamiliar with the series would have a brilliant time!
- The singing shopkeeper from NecroDancer is back!
- Amazing remixes of your favourite Zelda tracks
- Beautiful 16-bit style graphics
- Randomised layouts allow for repeat playthroughs
- No sound test – I want to hear those tunes again!
- Those chasing leaderboards may fall foul of the play time glitch
- The map can be very hard to read
Cadence of Hyrule is a shining example of the unique twist an indie developer can give to a big
Nintendo series. Traditional Zelda elements and rhythm-based Roguelike gameplay gel to provide a
must play gem!