Cadence of Hyrule Review
Save the legendary land of Hyrule in a game from the makers of Crypt of the NecroDancer, set to the world and music of the Legend of Zelda™ series in the Cadence of Hyrule
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft, Nintendo
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch (played in both docked and handheld mode)
Elspeth Eastman, Caitlyn Bairstow, Stephanie Martone, Ian Hanlin, Asia Mattu
Developer: Brave Yourself Games
Writing: Ryan Clark, Oliver Trujillo, Kramer Solinsky
Game Design: Oliver Trujillo, Ryan Clark
Programming: Stephen Kiazyk, Alain Carter, Oliver Trujillo
Art Director: Paul Veer
Music by: Danny Baranowsky
In recent years Nintendo has been getting a lot better about trusting others with their IPs. From big-budget studios for a Pokemon movie to a smaller indie team for Cadence of Hyrule in Vancouver based Brace Yourself Games. Their faith is well reward though as Cadence of Hyrule is not only a great spin-off Zelda game, it's easily the best one.
Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer Feat. The Legend of Zelda is as much a spin-off for the Zelda franchise as it is Crypt of the Necromancer though, for which is the basis for the game's mechanics and story. I think the ‘“Feat. The Legend of Zelda” part is an important part of the title, because as much as this is a Zelda game, it is a Crypt of the Necrodancer game first and foremost, and that’s important to know going in.
The game kicks off with Cadence, the main character from Crypt of the Necrodancer arriving in Hyrule somehow. I haven't played that game, but the story and its cross-over lore are light, so don't worry too much. After a quick tutorial you're able to pick between either playing as Link or Zelda (I did Link, but you can unlock both any way) and you head off on a somewhat a-typical Zelda adventure, except with a big twist in the gameplay department.
Although the game looks beautiful and very much like a 2D Zelda game, it's got a few new tricks. Your main goal though is very recognisable: find your way to four dungeons to get items that'll allow you to get into Hyrule Castle and put a stop to whatever foul nonsense is going on.
Along with Cadence arriving in Hyrule though, so does her world’s fighting style — which is to the beat. When you enter a screen with enemies a song will begin and so does a beats-per-second counter at the bottom of the screen. You must make your moves and attacks in time with these beats or take a movement defect that'll cause you to slow down for a moment, which often leads to you getting hit by an enemy. From what I understand, the combat is pretty much the same as Crypt of the Necrodancer, but for those like myself that haven't played that, it'll probably take you several annoying deaths before you get the hang of it.
Playing with headphones will make keeping to the beat easier, and you can also get rumble feedback to your controller to help keep in time. The game also does offer a mode that turns off the music-rhythm aspect and has the enemies move when you do instead. I turned it on quickly to test it out and it's not how I'd want to play the game, but it's great to see it included and make the game more accessible for those with hearing disabilities, or people who simply don't like rhythm games.
There is a rogue-like element to Cadence of Hyrule, but it's so minimal that I wouldn't get worried if you don't like that sort of stuff. Although you lose stuff like Rupees and buffing items after you die, you don't lose any main-line Zelda staple items that you find. These can include things like your boomerang, bow, feather and more that Zelda fans will all recognise. Once you find them in either mini-dungeons or main dungeons throughout Hyrule, or buy them from a merchant, they're yours to keep. Same goes for weapons you find. This makes Cadence of Hyrule’s first couple hours its hardest as you look for any extra gear, but as time goes on and you get a shield, a bow and a better weapon like a spear that can hit enemies from an extra square away, things become a lot easier.
I had fun exploring Cadence of Hyrule for my first hour. I pretty much just went around opening up the whole map as much as I could before tackling any of the story based dungeons I found. When I did finally make my way back around the dungeons though, I was better equipped with what I'd picked up on my travels which made them presumably easier.
Cadence of Hyrule’s dungeons won't give you the full Zelda experience of puzzles that you may desire, but they still include the core elements like keys, finding a map and a compass. The more rogue-like element here is that dungeons are randomly generated when you enter them, meaning after you die you will have a fresh room to work your way through. They're relatively short though. Two I cleared with ease in just a couple minutes, while the others I died several times over and took me a half-hour or more.
The best parts of Cadence of Hyrule all come together when you enter the boss room inside a dungeon. The music by Danny Baranowsky is fantastic all game, but it's during these boss fights where it is at peak enjoyment and in tandem with the gameplay. My favourite song is called 'Gleeokenspiel Battle', a 'Song of Storms' inspired piece from the first boss fight in the game. It's during the boss fights that the gameplay was most enjoyable and challenging as well. Learning an enemies movement pattern has always been a part of Zelda and in Cadence of Hyrule it's no different, if not more important.
I beat Cadence of Hyrule in eight-hours. Definitely no speed runner, but the game could be very easily be done within four-to-six hours without rushing and speed running this will have people all in under the sixty-minute slot. If you're experienced with Crypt of the Necrodancer you'll probably fly through this a lot faster than I did, but my run felt challenging and just long enough. There is lots of replay value too with the RNG elements and several characters to pick from (I won't spoil others than Zelda.) You can play in two-player co-op as well, but I haven't had a chance to check that out.
Cadence of Hyrule is the best Zelda spin-off we've had. It may not play exactly like a Zelda game, but that's because it's not, it's a Cadence game. But it looks and sounds exactly like a Zelda game and perhaps that's the biggest achievement of Brace Yourself Games — they created something you could easily say Nintendo themselves could have developed.