Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda sounds like a crazy experiment. It’s one-part Zelda and one-part rhythm game. At first glance, these sound like two great tastes that don’t necessarily taste great together.
So, is this Nintendo Switch game greater than the sum of its parts? Does it succeed in creating a new genre? Or does it just make you want to give up and play Breath of the Wild again?
We’ve got the answers to all of this and more down below.
Obviously, we’ve had rhythm games for a long time now. This includes crowd favorites like Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution as well as cult classics such as PaRappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy.
What makes this game unique is that it is a blend of action and rhythm. And you don’t have to look very far to see where the inspiration for this came from.
In 2015, Brace Yourself Games released Crypt of the Necrodancer. It mixed the kinds of generated worlds you’d find in roguelike games with a rhythmic twist.
This Link and Zelda game isn’t just inspired by that original adventure. It even features some of the same characters!
Choice of Characters
The main character of Crypt of the Necrodancer is named Cadence. And he is central to the plot in Cadence of Hyrule.
Our adventure begins when all of Hyrule (including Link and Zelda) fall under the sleepy sway of a wizard named Octavo. Cadence visits Hyrule afterwards and wakes Link and Zelda from the spell.
Initially, you can choose only between Link and Zelda for your character. Eventually, you get a chance to play as Cadence. And once you’ve unlocked multiple characters, you’ve unlocked the game’s awesome co-op mode!
Getting Random With It
If you’ve never played a roguelike video game, the idea is simple. The levels are procedurally-generated, meaning that you never have the exact experience. Crypt of the Necrodancer relied on this form of level generation, and Cadence of Hyrule features a modified form.
There are certain map elements of Hyrule that are consistent. For example, you’ll always know where Death Mountain is. But the various parts of the game’s overworld and its spooky dungeons (six in total) are randomized.
If you love memorizing every trail in a Zelda game, this feature can be annoying. On the other hand, procedural generation means that this game has potentially infinite replay value.
Beat Along With the Beat
So, you know this is a Link/Zelda game, and you know it’s a procedurally-generated rhythm game. But what does the actual gameplay look like?
While there are some different gameplay modes, the core gameplay is about matching your attacks with the beat. That means it’s not enough to simply strike the enemy: instead, you must time your attack along with the music in order to get better items that will help you survive.
All of this is assuming you are in combat, of course. When no enemies are onscreen, you actually move around with the same leisurely pace of any other Zelda game.
While the gameplay sounds simple, the difficulty can ratchet up quite quickly. This is especially true when you are facing down a roomful of foes or an epic boss battle (complete with fast-paced music).
Play It Again
We keep emphasizing the musical component of this game. But what kind of music are you going to hear?
The soundtrack is primarily familiar Zelda tunes that have been remixed into different styles. In some cases, this makes the songs very chill (and offers correspondingly easy battles). In other cases, you get music that is much faster-paced and intense than the original tune (offering a correspondingly higher challenge).
You may or may not like the core gameplay of this title. But it’s impossible to deny the sheer, toe-tapping charm of the soundtrack.
Live, Die, Rupee
To understand this game, you must understand how roguelike games function. Basically, these games were the original “live, die, repeat” style of gaming.
In the original Rogue and games like it, you had a single character. He/she would explore a procedurally-generated world and when they died, that was it. If you played again, you got a completely new character and had to start all over.
As the name implies, roguelike games resemble the original Rogue but with some modifications. For example, Link doesn’t permanently die when your hearts are reduced in Cadence of Hyrule. But he does lose some of his items and progress.
In a pretty literal way, this turns failure into a learning opportunity for players. By learning more about the game and about various enemies, you get better with each attempt. At the same time, the randomized levels and items mean you must always stay on your toes.
All of this brings us back to the original question: does Cadence of Hyrule truly create something new?
In a word, yes. It is not exactly like Crypt of the Necrodancer, and it’s certainly not like a typical Legend of Zelda game. The game we got is actually a wonderful hybrid of the two.
It’s also proof that Hyrule is a world that is ripe for almost any kind of game. Once, it seemed that Legend of Zelda games were destined to keep doing new versions of the same thing (kind of like how Ocarina of Time was like a 3D version of Link to the Past.)
Between Breath of the Wild redefining the Legend of Zelda formula and Cadence of Hyrule turning the game’s universe on its head, there is no telling what the future of the franchise will be. And that’s just the way we like it.
So, what’s our verdict: does this game know how to dance or is it sporting two left feet?
Overall, Cadence of Hyrule is a great game. It’s not for everyone: if you don’t like rhythm games, this probably won’t be the one that wins you over. And if you hate roguelikes, this doesn’t change the formula up in a dramatic way.
But if you have an open mind, and especially if you love Link and Zelda, then this is about as much fun as you can have with a video game.