Cadence of Hyrule Review – Nostalgic Musical Chess

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer is a crossover of the indie rhythm game Crypt of the NecroDancer and the world and characters of The Legend of Zelda. This surprisingly addictive mash-up is one of the best indie Switch games, and due to more than just its nostalgic 16-bit style visuals. By smartly combining the rhythm-based gameplay of Crypt of the NecroDancer with a beloved Nintendo franchise, developer Brace Yourself Games has crafted one of the best Zelda games ever made.

Cadence of Hyrule Title Screen

The Hero of Keeping in Time

For those unfamiliar with the concept of Crypt of the NecroDancer, it’s a rogue-like rhythm game where you must move and attack to the beat of the background music. Enemies also move in time with the tunes, executing preset moves and attack patterns. The game is played from a top-down perspective, and your character hops from space to space on a grid, only attacking when an enemy occupies the space in front of them. It’s an experience that is hard to explain, but one that feels like a mixture of a chess game and musical chairs. Unlike chess, you never want to slow down or stop, as maintaining movement and keeping the beat results in higher attack power and other benefits.

Cadence of Hyrule Start

That said, nearly everything about Cadence of Hyrule is Zelda-themed, from the story and progression to the enemies and items. You’ll embark on a quest to save Hyrule as either Link or Zelda, hopping around the map in search of valuable new gear and dungeons to explore. Certain areas require puzzle solving, and as you amass new items and abilities, your options start to open up.

Cadence of Hyrule Map

Generally speaking, the Legend of Zelda franchise is a perfect world for a game like this, as the top-down perspective and classic map layout feels completely natural. As in the more retro Zelda games and other handheld Zelda titles, you explore the world one tile at a time, revealing the map as you go. Each map tile is a puzzle in its own right, as you must navigate around enemies and hazards constantly. At first, the game can be difficult and overwhelming, but after an hour of practice you’ll find yourself in an undeniably joyous groove.

The Four Champions

Like other Zelda games, the story in Cadence of Hyrule is pretty simple. After being asleep for an unknown period of time, Link (or Zelda) awaken to find Hyrule in trouble. An evil wizard named Octavo has blocked off Hyrule castle, and you must hunt down his four champions to gain access. These four intimidating bosses are found scattered throughout the land, often waiting at the end of lengthy dungeons.

Ocavto Crypt of the NecroDancer

Each section of the map is themed in the expected Zelda fashion, containing desert, grassland, and mountainous terrain. Each new setting brings its own set of new challenges, such as navigating treacherous sand dunes or wading through water. Since Cadence of Hyrule is a very open-ended game, you’re often free to explore at your own pace. You can prioritize the areas of the map that seem interesting to you first without worrying that you’ll miss out on an important piece of gear. If you get lost at any time, a simple visit to the fortune teller will point you to the next dungeon.

The Fates Await

As in games like The Binding of Isaac or Dead Cells, the main path to victory in Cadence of Hyrule rests in the items you collect and properly assessing the situation before diving in head first. Enemy movements are always the same, so while learning their patterns are essential, you’d be surprised how much of a difference a new weapon can make. Some areas are best left untouched until you have a decent set of gear, although almost everything can be defeated with the basic starting items. Staying alive is an exceptionally important aspect of success, as one death will immediately cause you to lose your power-ups and money. Some specific items carry over between new playthroughs (often referred to as “runs”), but most of your valuables are lost upon death.

Cadence of Hyrule Inventory

Therein lies the main gameplay loop of Cadence of Hyrule. You’ll take your time exploring the map, memorizing enemy patterns and figuring out where new items can be gained. The layout of each individual tile is randomized with every new run, but some locations such as caves and shops remain static. You’ll slowly develop a pattern and game plan, seeking out specific items and tackling individual challenges as you come across them. It never gets too repetitive or arduous thanks to the randomized nature of the map, but the static item locations ensure you won’t get too frustrated.

The Best Zelda Remixes

I’ve been a fan of The Legend of Zelda‘s music since the original NES title, and few Zelda song remixes are as catchy and enjoyable as the ones in Cadence of Hyrule. From classic tunes like Zelda’s Lullaby to the overworld themes, Cadence of Hyrule takes the best Zelda songs and adds some spice.

Crypt of the NecroDancer Trill

The percussion is often more pronounced, making the best easier to follow. There are flourishes of chaos when enemies approach, but the music relaxes into a lull when an area is safe. The entire game is a very musical affair, from the boss design to the mini-games. It’s fitting then, that the score is so catchy and melodic, and packed with excellent music that is nostalgic and fresh at the same time.

The Bottom Line on Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer is more than just a good Zelda spin-off; it’s one of the most unique and invigorating Nintendo Switch games available. Although it can be overwhelming at first, you’ll quickly find a rhythm and fall into the wonderful puzzle that is Cadence of Hyrule combat. The Zelda window-dressings make everything that much more enjoyable, from the wonderful music to the nostalgic visuals. If you’re a fan of The Legend of Zelda, you’ll probably enjoy this game more than enough to warrant the purchase. If you’re a fan of the original Crypt of the NecroDancer game, the same will be true. I can see some newcomers having early trouble and writing the game off entirely, but I urge players to stick it out and keep trying. It might not be a flawless game, but it never overstays its welcome, and the frustrations can easily be avoided by altering your play style a bit. We highly recommend that you pick up this Zelda spin-off; you’ll be glad that you did.

Rating: 9/10

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