Indie adventure meets a legendary story in Cadence of Hyrule, a brilliant mashup of 2015’s Crypt of the NecroDancer and The Legend of Zelda. Building off the sprawling world of previous Zelda titles, Cadence of Hyrule marries the gameplay of Brace Yourself Games’ indie adventure with the enemies, world, and characters of The Legend of Zelda. It’s a match made in heaven, as you hop around to the beat of the music, slaying enemies and exploring dungeons. The gameplay in Cadence of Hyrule grabs you right from the start, thrusting you directly into a nonstop adventure that’s different for everyone who plays through it.
A mysterious musician has placed the entire kingdom under a spell. Link, Zelda, and Crypt of the NecroDancer’s Cadence must team up to bring balance back to Hyrule. Players can dive into the adventure as the two main characters from the series, and even Cadence after she’s been unlocked later down the road. It’s a classic Legend of Zelda adventure with new twists and turns, and the entire experience feels fresh and unique.
Dance to your own music
As an adventure, Cadence of Hyrule is spectacular. Where the game really shines is the blend of rhythm-based roguelike gameplay with the worldbuilding and lore of the Legend of Zelda series. As a fan of the Zelda series, being able to explore the various parts of the world in a new adventure is always a lot of fun. However, the way that Brace Yourself Games has blended the two styles together is outstanding and really adds a uniqueness to the game.
Not only do we get to experience a roguelike Zelda experience (it’s interesting that it has taken this long for one to pop up), but we also get to experience it from a completely new perspective. The puzzles and dungeons in the game become more challenging as you learn new enemy patterns and attempt to avoid the pitfalls of the dungeon at the same time.
The game is broken down into two phases: when enemies are around, players will need to move around to the tune of the music, attacking with the beat. When the area is clear, though, you can explore to your own pace, without following the beat of the music. This makes for a nice change-up after intense situations, as keeping up with the beat can often be stressful the longer it goes on.
Controlling Link or Zelda is snappy and extremely responsive. I never noticed any issues moving around, and the game's overall performance runs perfectly on the Switch. The game looks absolutely beautiful in both handheld and docked mode, and the blend of 2D and 3D environments works well throughout. The visual design of the enemies is great, the game brings each of the baddies to life with sharp colors and animations. There's nothing to complain about in the visuals department as Cadence of Hyrule is a fantastic mix of Crypt of the NecroDancer's design and the Legend of Zelda's bright world.
Tale as old as time
Like most Zelda games, Cadence of Hyrule focuses around the kingdom once more being in trouble. This time an evil sorcerer, Octavo has used a powerful instrument to take control of the kingdom and Link, Zelda, and Cadence must save the kingdom by defeating four temples and re-awakening the Guardians of the kingdom. It’s a pretty predictable story, but that doesn’t change that it’s made enticing thanks to the semi-randomly generated world, which changes up the dungeon and cave layouts, making the game feel fresh and unique each time you play through it. The kingdom itself feels familiar thanks to iconic locations like Death Mountain and Lake Hylia, but it also feels new, as they shift with each playthrough.
It’s these roguelike mechanics that make the game so good. Each time you enter dungeons or caves, you can find new paths that you need to pave your way through, making every attempt at saving the kingdom a new experience for players. Since the game only takes roughly five to six hours to complete, this level of replayability is fantastic and really helps to justify picking up the title even if you aren’t a huge fan of the Zelda series.
Something old made new
Cadence of Hyrule builds off of the basic mechanics of Brace Yourself Games’ hit indie, Crypt of the NecroDancer. Players can find various power-ups and upgrades—like shovels, torches, and even attack upgrades—all of which will completely change how you can approach situations. It’s very much a roguelike through and through, though you’ll also find the iconic Legend of Zelda items available to you. Heart Containers litter the world, begging players to upgrade their health, while iconic items like the Hookshot can also be obtained and equipped, giving access to new areas.
It’s a perfect blend of the two games into one, something that is really worth praising as it couldn’t have been easy to take on such a huge task. While it might seem like combat in a rhythm-based environment would be less enjoyable than free combat, it is Cadence of Hyrule’s unique enemy design that really helps it stand out. Each enemy has a specific pattern that they follow, and as you move through the world, you’re forced to constantly make tactical decisions on the spot, which leads to some frustrating but also very rewarding moments throughout.
Each map screen of Cadence of Hyrule is a brand-new puzzle for players to solve as they try to open chests, unlock rewards, and progress through the four temples. The boss fights are another huge point of praise, as each one is a tense, moment-to-moment experience that really forces players to remain on their toes. While the main Zelda games focus on using key items to defeat each boss, Cadence of Hyrule resolves itself solely on the beat of the song that’s playing, and the music it delivers during each section is outstanding. Cadence of Hyrule never reaches the same level of challenge as that in Crypt of the NecroDancer, though, which might be a bit disappointing to some fans of the original game.
Rhythm-based games aren’t for everyone, though, and Brace Yourself Games has seen to this. Whereas the original game from the studio forced players to play along to the music, you can actually turn off the beat system via the options. This allows you to explore the world and the story without having to be confined to the songs playing in the background. It’s still a nice experience overall, but a lot of the challenge and uniqueness is lost when Fixed Beat mode is enabled. It is nice to have the option there, though.
Overall, Cadence of Hyrule is a brilliant but short adventure that expertly blends the Legend of Zelda series with the intensity of a rhythm-based game. The characters are great, drawing off iconic people from the Zelda series, while also feeling refreshing in the minds of the players. Sure, it’s a story that we’ve played through a thousand times at this point, but the need to stick with the beat, and work your way through the world to the various remixed tunes is a fresh take on the formula. A take that’s more than worth exploring, even if you aren’t a fan of these types of games.
This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by the publisher. Cadence of Hyrule is available on the Nintendo Switch right now.
Cadence of Hyrule
- Rhythm-based gameplay provides a fresh take on the classic Zelda formula.
- Iconic locations from the Zelda series feel familiar but unique
- Controls are snappy and responsive.
- 2D and 3D visuals blend brilliantly together.
- Ultimate replayability with semi-random generated map
- 2-player cooperative play
- Challenges don't live up to the difficulty of Crypt of the NecroDancer.
- Random generation sometimes makes dungeons feel too easy