Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 30.06.2019

Review for Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo Switch

2015's Crypt of the Necrodancer introduced a fresh new concept to the oversaturated world of dungeon crawlers: rhythm game mechanics. As the addictive beats pulsed, the denizens of the world moved with them, and the shovel-wielding daughter of the adventure - the titular Cadence - had to also move to the beat to take on the armies of an undead monster who has quite literally stolen her heart. Now, Cadence has been whisked away to Hyrule, and finds a mysterious man named Octavo has taken the magical Lute of the Necrodancer, and has turned the land into a melodic monstrosity. Now Cadence has to team up with Link and Zelda to overcome Octavo's four champions, and break into Hyrule castle to save the day

The core gameplay couldn't be simpler. Remixed versions of iconic Zelda themes pulse, and as the beat hits each time, the enemies on the screen all move with on it - each enemy coming with its own patterns and abilities. The only way to overcome them is to move to that same beat. Hitting a direction key in the appropriate direction to the tune. Missing the beat causes the character to stand there aimlessly, slows the tempo and leaves them vulnerable to enemy attacks. So far, so familiar. It's all very Crypt of the Necrodancer, and for anyone who's played that, more of the same would certainly be welcome. Though there's going to be a large part of the audience picking this up just for its Zelda connection, and luckily, that connection is significant, and makes this even more special.

While the game opens with Cadence, a choice is made right at the beginning for either Link or Zelda to play as, yet as the game progresses all three characters are unlocked to switch between. Whether Link or Zelda, the whole map is free to explore and made up from some familiar Hyrule locales; locales like the Lost Woods, and the Gerudo Desert, all recreated in the classic 2D top-down style, and each filled with fan-favourite enemies from throughout the series history. Slimes and Moblins, Armos and Beamos, Deku and Wizzrobe. Not to mention the recurring NPCs too.

Screenshot for Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo Switch

Across this world, there are four dungeons to track down, within which four bosses to defeat, each brought to life from a magical musical instrument, and only by defeating the bosses, and collecting the instruments can gate to Hyrule Castle be opened once again and the final showdown really begin. Surprisingly, it's actually possible to explore almost the entire thing before heading in to take on any of the four dungeons, though there are few gated off areas that require some quintessential pieces of equipment.

…But, it's a rarity, and usually, getting hold of items like the Hookshot, Flippers, or the block-summoning Cane of Somaria, just helps to get to secrets, or create shortcuts around puzzles. There are also some special items to help take on the dangers of the world. There are torches to light up the dungeons, shovels to break through soft walls, then boots and rings for passive bonuses like extra damage or defence. These items each have something that made legions of fans rage against this latest iteration of the Zelda franchise. Durability. Yup, these are finite resources and often run out just when they're needed most, especially the rarer versions of each, which come with extra bonuses like torches that can see inside chests and pots, or boots that can hover across gaps.

Screenshot for Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo Switch

There are a tons of equipment items to track down and unlock, with all the old favourites on hand including the boomerang, bottles to fill, a bow and arrow, bombs and Bombchus; not to mention the wealth of weapons that are available. There are different types of weapons which each attack differently, then numerous versions of these. All shortswords attack one square directly forward, while broadswords cut in a wide swath, hitting cells ahead and diagonal. Flails behave the same as broadswords but also move the character forward with the attack. Then there are the piercing spears and long swords which damage two squares straight forward. There are pros and cons to using each depending on the playstyle. There are special versions of each weapon which can deal more damage, or add special effects like poison. There are even fairy fountains scattered across the land which can be used to enchant weapons with special effects.

Cadence of Hyrule isn't the easiest game, getting into the groove and nailing the timing is something that Dance Dance Revolution and SEGA's Mai Mai players will master far before the seasoned Zelda veterans. At points, it can be very frustrating, but when it comes together and you fall into "the zone" it all feels so wonderfully rewarding. Even the deaths aren't too punishing. Deaths in here mean losing all items like shovels, bombs, torches and the like, but not the equipment. But it does also mean losing all the rupees collected, but there's an extra currency here: Diamonds. Diamonds are collected once all the enemies on a screen have been defeated. Clearing screens without taking damage or taking few steps can give bonus Diamonds. These Diamonds are retained even after death and can be used before respawning to purchase items to make things easier, like pieces of heart, or powerful equipment items.

Screenshot for Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo Switch

For those who simply cannot get in tune with the beat, there's still another option. It's called "Fixed-Beat Mode". This is nestled away in the options menu, and may never even appear to some players - it also pops up as an offering after numerous deaths. This option removes the beat that moves each enemy and instead links the movements of enemies to the movements of the player. It becomes a turn-based tactics game; a much easier turn-based game. One significantly less fun, but for those who want to experience this and can't hit the harmony, this offers an alternative.

Looking at screenshots, it's easy to mistake Cadence of Hyrule as a regular, classic Zelda game. It has perfectly captured the look and the feel of the iconic series - but there are some elements that identify its lineage, key aspects lifted straight from its predecessor. The overall GUI, for example, or the same beating pulse that is at the bottom of the screen, with the Cadence heart replaced with the Triforce. The presentation is great, but without a doubt, the star of the show is the soundtrack. Composer Danny Baranowsky has already put out quality original pieces for games like Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, and, of course, Crypt of the Necrodancer, but here he breathes new life into myriad Zelda classics. This is one of the best game soundtracks of recent memory and hopefully, it's going to get a shiny, expansive, physical release for collectors - because it truly deserves one.

Screenshot for Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Developer Brace Yourself Games has knocked this one out of the park, making something that feels like a perfect follow up to their wonderful Crypt of the Necromancer, but also manages to perfectly capture the magic innate to a full, first-party The Legend of Zelda title.
The pulse-pounding, toe-tapping remixes of fan-favourite themes from across the franchise's history, combined with a host of Easter Eggs, make this a joy for long time Zelda fans. This coupled with the solid, innovative mechanics, create an absolute must-buy for anyone with a Switch. Even though there is just four-five hours of playtime to 100% clear the game, there are leaderboards for steps and time to aim towards, multiplayer, and replays with the other characters.

Developer

Brace Yourself Games

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Adventure

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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