Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer feat. The Legend of Zelda (Switch) Review

Zelda Rhythm Adventure REMIX!

Music has always been an integral part of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series. Sometimes it ties directly into the plot, like in Ocarina of Time or The Wind Waker. Often, catchy songs like Koji Kondo’s iconic original theme and Breath of the Wild’s majestic melody become instilled into gamers’ hearts. Cadence of Hyrule presents an experience that not only celebrates generations of the franchise’s music, but also offers an adventure comparable to classic 2D Zelda games.

Here’s my Video Review so you can see and hear the game in action!

Cadence of Hyrule is a Zelda-themed spin-off of the rhythm roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer, and it strikes up a well-rounded blend of the two gameplay styles. Core movement and combat are based on NecroDancer’s clever concept of hopping to the beat. Your steps must line up with the tempo or you are temporarily stunned. The interface assists players with a meter that visualizes the pulse and glowing disco tiles that signify character spacing. Enemies also have their own patterns that coincide with the music. You attack them by ramming into them, automatically brandishing your weapon. It’s incredibly satiating to jump, dodge, and fight along to a song. It becomes a more complex dance as you’re surrounded by enemies requiring different strategies while keeping the rhythm.

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An honest-to-goodness NEW 2D Zelda game on the Switch!

Cadence of Hyrule goes beyond its ingenious rhythmic action by fashioning an entire Zelda adventure around it. At first glance, the game looks similar to A Link to the Past. Part of the credit goes to the excellent art design, filled with gorgeously animated sprites in a familiarly retro Super Nintendo-esque world. But the premise also lines up with traditional titles in the franchise. You play as Link or Zelda exploring a vast overworld, locating helpful items, and uncovering dungeons, all presented in the old-school top-down style. Cadence from Crypt of the NecroDancer also ends up in Hyrule and must join up with our heroes to retrieve magical instruments from the villainous Octavo – not an original plot, but it suffices.

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Pro Tip: Don’t hit the Cucco…

It surprised me how authentic this indie spin-off replicated the Zelda formula. I expected a roguelike dungeon-crawler closer to NecroDancer, reskinned with Zelda characters and music. Instead, Cadence of Hyrule is very much a top-down action-adventure with secrets strewn throughout and even some puzzles. Granted, the puzzling is light and mostly involves rearranging blocks. Nonetheless, the Zelda flavor is all-in, with imported enemies such as Octoroks who shoot deflectable rocks and knights whom you must target from behind.

The collectible items and upgrades are welcome for a fan like me who is obligated to 100% complete Zelda games. There’s an inherent joy to hearing the iconic treasure chest jingle and discovering new goods. The game includes a bunch of subweapons that will be familiar to Zelda fans – now with a rhythmic component. Firing a bow and arrow on cue and hopping away in time after dropping a bomb adds new layers to these items. There’s also a varied weapon selection, featuring swords with wide ranges and spears that target two spaces in front, the latter of which feels comparatively overpowered, protecting players from point-blank attacks.

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Cadence of Hyrule features dungeons, or crypts.

Music is the backbone of Cadence of Hyrule, and it delivers. The developers didn’t settle for simply reusing the original music and instead composed their own amazing remixes of Zelda tunes. The overworld theme alone mashes up Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, and The Wind Waker. I found it difficult to stop nodding my head to the catchy songs, fused with various instrumental stylings, which in turn helped me with the rhythmic gameplay. The soundtrack makes me so euphoric that I turn on the game just to hop to my favorite tunes.

I could just as well start a new game, since every playthrough features a randomized overworld, one way that Crypt of the NecroDancer’s mechanics enhance this Zelda adventure. During my first playthrough, I didn’t even realize the world layout was specifically seeded for me as the map sported a natural design flow. However, I wasn’t as fond of the dungeons. Cadence of Hyrule’s dungeons are procedurally generated, so every floor changes upon death. These are more similar to NecroDancer’s dungeon-crawler maps, but they don’t fit as well in Zelda where I expect deep, puzzling mazes. Instead, they’re generic, enemy rooms, and small ones at that. Most of the few dungeons comprise of a couple of “crypts,” a hub, and a boss. Admittedly, the bosses, a combo of a Zelda monster and an instrument, are the best parts of the dungeons, even though they all require the same dodge and hit tactics.

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Cadence of Hyrule is easier than Crypt of the NecroDancer, but still very difficult.

Cadence of Hyrule is much more forgiving than NecroDancer’s roguelike nature. Upon death, you lose your rupees, keys, and generic items like shovels; but you keep your major equipment upgrades, health, and overall progress. Generous warps ensure you can easily get across the map, and a death shop lets you purchase items to help you following revival. This afterworld store only accepts diamonds, which are permanent rewards for taking out every enemy in a screen, smartly encouraging combat.

It’s also a game that gets easier as you play. I died often early on, but as I garnered better weapons and more health, I coasted through to the end. Those who want a more difficult playthrough can turn on permadeath. At the other end, players struggling to play to the music may consider fixed beat mode, which removes the rhythm-based elements. You can hop at your own pace, and enemies only move when you do, transforming the game into a more standard Mystery Dungeon roguelike. That said, this mode isn’t as enthralling and ends up as a Zelda game with odd controls. The fixed beat setting also places your score on a separate leaderboard.

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You bet there’s Bombchu Bowling!

On that note, between online leaderboards, daily score challenges, randomization, and options like sped up double-time mode, there is a wealth of replay value. Even though you could complete the game in about five hours, it’s enticing to go back in and do it all over again. An additional local two-player mode lets you play with a friend. There are no special multiplayer challenges like Four Swords, though. It’s purely co-op play, which is enjoyable, albeit occasionally frustrating when you and your partner miss the beat and bump into each other.

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Now we just need Cadence of Hyrule: Four Swords for 4-player necrodancing!

Conclusion

Cadence of Hyrule is a miracle project, birthed from an indie developer given the keys to Hyrule Castle and surpassing everyone’s expectations. Brace Yourself Games has managed to compose its own worthy Zelda adventure, incorporating its own rhythmic roguelike gameplay with fantastic remixes. The end result is a unique musical experience that’s hard to put down. Needless to say, the game may not be as inviting to those unversed with The Legend of Zelda. But for big fans seeking a new tempo, Cadence of Hyrule hits all the right beats, and I look forward to an encore.

Score: 9/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review is posted on DarkStation.

What do you think of Cadence of Hyrule? Have you played the original Crypt of the NecroDancer, and if so, what do you think of that game? What are your favorite rhythm games? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

19 thoughts on “Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer feat. The Legend of Zelda (Switch) Review

  1. Fantastic review! I love the concept of Cadence of Hyrule! I’ve never played Crypt of the Necrodancer, so the rhythm-based adventure gameplay was novel for me. I’m not very good at rhythm games, so I found this challenging to say the least. I do like that there’s co-op mode, but yeah, bumping into each other happens when I can’t keep the beat hehe. It’s still really awesome that it’s actually a Legend of Zelda adventure instead of a dungeon-crawler. There’s a lot to keep track of on the screen while you’re moving around, and I think Necrodancer’s gameplay would have been too much for me.. But the Zelda music is amazing! Definitely some of the best game remixes I’ve ever heard. Almost as good as all the Super Smash Bros. remixes. Overworld theme and Gerudo Valley are definitely the best.. And I love how each classic boss is based on an instrument. Very impressive for an indie spinoff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I truly appreciate your awesome support as always! 😀 I’m glad that there was a co-op option because Cadence of Hyrule is the kind of experience that is way more fun with a second player, even if we’re not getting the beat. That’s what fixed beat mode is good for anyway haha. 😛 And yeah, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a different beast, but I was so impressed that Cadence of Hyrule wasn’t just a dungeon crawler, but an actual Zelda adventure. And a 2D top-down one in 2019 for Switch! I love it! The Zelda music is also amazing, and I’m glad that the overworld theme starts with a Link’s Awakening remix! Gets me even more pumped for the Switch remake. The rest of the overworld mashup is just as good, as is Gerudo Valley, which is why I just had to put both of those songs in the video. I loved guessing the boss instruments’ names too. Oh Wizzroboe. XD

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Likewise man! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Cadence of Hyrule as much as I did! I also hope for collaborations like these and honestly wasn’t expecting an indie developer to get ahold of one of Nintendo’s core series and make something that blows me away as much as Nintendo’s own creations. I had also only heard of Crypt of the NecroDancer before the game was announced, and I didn’t realize how acclaimed it was.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I didn’t play Crypt of the NecroDancer before Cadence of Hyrule, as roguelike games are certainly not my thing, but I knew it was critically acclaimed. I am glad the mixture worked, and I am looking forward to Nintendo collaborating with more of those little studios.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Cadence of Hyrule is so much fun, even if you’re not a rhythm person. The fixed beat mode changes the gameplay to be less rhythm dependent and more of an easier Mystery Dungeon type game. But the actual adventure gameplay is legit 2D top-down Zelda, which both surprised me and blew me away!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Heck yeah! I’m all for 2-D overworld Zelda, and those remixes are great! Also, really cool that you can play as Zelda herself! I’ve been meaning to try one of the many Zelda spin-offs and this could be a solid contender! Or maybe I’ll just do Zelda 2… Nah, this looks better! (But seriously, one day I do want to play Zelda 2, for controversy.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yessss! Cadence of Hyrule is in the top tier of spinoffs with its amazing Zelda music and classic 2D gameplay! It surpassed my expectations. Oh man, you have to play Zelda 2 for controversy’s sake. But can we really consider that a spinoff? I mean, it’s technically the canonical second game in the series. Then we have to call Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask spinoffs, though they play like the main games. I’d say Hyrule Warriors, Link’s Crossbow Training, and Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland (great game btw Kooloo-Limpah!) spinoffs but the other games? Hmm, sidestories? Side quests? And where do the CD-I games, Soul Calibur II, and Super Smash Bros. fit in? And the cartoon!! Excuuuuuse me, Princess!

      Like

    1. YESSS!! Cadence of Hyrule is the crossover I never knew I needed. The fact that it’s a rhythm game but plays like a Zelda game is amazing. I love games that do that, especially ones with great music like Theatrythm Final Fantasy, which I was super addicted to for 3DS.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I need to get back to it too. I ended up getting all the DLC for Theatrhythm Curtain Call (spent way too much money on it), and so I haven’t completely 100% everything. I liked that songs from other Square Enix series like Chrono Trigger and Mana were also included in the DLC.

        Liked by 1 person

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