From the very first moment when you boot up Cadence of Hyrule and hear that familiar Zelda music, you know this is going to be a great experience. Cadence of Hyrule is unlike most games you would play, it mixes rhythm elements with a rogue-like action RPG. They may not sound like they would mix together well, however, the end result is a delightful yet different experience.
Cadence of Hyrule is from Brace Yourself Games who previously released the first Crypt of the NecroDancer game back in 2015. This latest instalment was announced earlier in the year and came as somewhat of a surprise in that Nintendo doesn’t often lend out their main characters for indie companies to play with. Here though the world of Crypt of the NercroDancer and The Legend of Zelda have been blended very well indeed taking the best elements from the rhythm game and mixing them into Hyrule.
Starting up the game and we’re introduced to Cadence. She’s been dropped into Hyrule and players are introduced to the basics. As you explore areas of the map where enemies are you have to move in time to the music to attack. Rather than pressing buttons to use items like in other Legend of Zelda games, moving towards enemies and objects automatically triggers the item. For example, move into an enemy and you’ll attack with a sword. Move into a mound of earth and you’ll use your spade to dig the ground. Moving in time with the beat is crucial to attacking and avoiding enemies.
In terms of the story in the game, the evil Octavo has imprisoned the Princess’ father in the castle and you have to explore Hyrule and defeat four champions to break the seal and save the kingdom. In some sense it’s a traditional top-down Zelda game where you explore zones, collect items to feel more powerful and level up Link & Zelda through items you collect from defeating bosses in dungeons. There’s just enough in here to mix it up to feel fresh.
Once the tutorial is over with Cadence you’ll get the choice to play with either Link or Zelda by choosing between two portals. Don’t worry too much about your choice here though because later in the game you’ll be able to unlock all characters. Each of the characters has different abilities where Zelda can cast spells and Link starts out with a shield. Much like other Zelda games, you explore the world, pick up familiar items (ice rod, bombs and hook shot) to add these to your armoury.
Each screen acts as a mini-puzzle as different types of enemies have different movement and attack patterns. At first, the movement feels a little strange and the game feels challenging but getting used to moving to the beat and timing your attacks comes fairly quickly. After a couple of hours of play, you’ll be hopping, dodging and swinging your sword to the beat of the fantastic remixed music in the game. Chaining together attacks and avoiding being hit by enemies means you’ll pick up buff and defeating enemies will start to become easier. The beat is indicated on the main screen with rhythm bars moving into a triforce at the bottom of the screen. Hop, attack and doge in time to the beat and you’ll be just fine.
As you explore the world you’ll come across Sheika Stones, make sure you interact with these as they will act as respawn points for you. It’s likely when you first start out in the game you’ll die on a regular basis, so picking up these checkpoints is really useful to make sure you don’t lose too much progress. Cadence of Hyrule does make sure it’s not too punishing by giving you hints on where to go and later in the game you’ll unlock the ability to fast travel from place to place.
Throughout the world, you’ll find diamonds and you’ll want to pick these up as when you die you can trade these for the equipment you lost upon death. Much like Breath of the Wild weapons and items have durability so these will break if you hold onto them too long. You can find items all throughout the world by killing enemies, opening chests and cutting down bushes. When you die you do lose a rupees and lower tier items however some more significant items stay with you, for example, items yo have collected in dungeons.
When you first start Cadence of Hyrule the game seems tough. You’ll die, lose items and the rhythm part of the game may throw you off. However, stick with it because as you progress all these mechanics become second nature and the game has a satisfying loop to it as well as some of the best music in a video game in recent years. The music is one of the game’s strengths as you explore you’ll be reminded of the classic Legend of Zelda tracks from years gone by.
The graphics in the game are great. The view is similar to that of Link to the past and Link’s Awakening. The graphics are a huge improvement over the previous instalment of Crypt of the NecroDancer (which at the time of writing is 80% off in the Nintendo eShop). The graphics are bright, colourful and really pop out of the screen in handheld mode. The game looks great docked too on a big screen. There’s a variety to the game’s environments from grassy, wooded, desert and snow-filled areas.
There’s a huge amount of replayability to the game too as you can tweak and change modes. You can turn off moving to the beat and the fixed-beat opens up new challenges as the enemies only move when you do. The game also tracks your stats and time which will allow advanced players and speedrunners to have a lot of fun with this one. There’s also a neat co-op mode which is a lot of fun. If you really want to take on a challenge there’s a permadeath mode where you’ll you back to the very start of the game if you die. Certainly not a mode for the faint of heart.
Cadence of Hyrule is a delightful Zelda game that mixes unique gameplay, excellent graphics and a top tier soundtrack. The game was a surprise announcement during a Nintendo Direct this year and the game has lived up to all expectations. In the past, Nintendo has been very careful of what third-party developers do with their main IP however the risk they took with Brace Yourself Games has been a successful one. If you like Zelda games, but you’re not quite sure what Crypt of the NecroDancer is then I recommend picking this one up and giving it a try. It’s a worthy addition to any Nintendo fan’s collection on the Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release date: June 13th 2019