Cadence of Hyrule takes the rhythmic rougelike action of Crypt of the NecroDancer and transplants into the realm of Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda.
Cadence of Hyrule — Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Switch was one of the most surprising game announcements made by Nintendo in 2019. The game represents a rare instance in which Nintendo allowed another developer to handle one of its beloved first-party franchises, as Brace Yourself Games was allowed to make a spinoff title that combined the gameplay of Crypt of the NecroDancer with the characters and setting of The Legend of Zelda series.
Crypt of the NecroDancer combined rhythm-based timing with roguelike dungeon crawling, as the player was intended to move their character along to the beat of the music. The enemies had their own movement patterns based around dancing and it was up to the player to choose the best course of action while following along with the music. Cadence of Hyrule uses the same style of gameplay, with the player exploring Hyrule to the tune of remixed tracks from The Legend of Zelda series and slaying the minions of Ganon to the beat of the music.
The story of Cadence of Hyrule opens with Cadence (the protagonist of Crypt of the NecroDancer) arriving in Hyrule and encountering Link and Princess Zelda, who have been put into a magical sleep that Cadence needs to free them from. An evil mage/musician named Octavo has taken over Hyrule Castle and has sealed it with a magical barrier. The only thing that can break the barrier is four musical instruments which are being guarded by Octavo's four champions, who reside at the bottom of perilous dungeons.
Like in Crypt of the NecroDancer, each movement the player makes in Cadence of Hyrule is to the beat of the music, which includes attacks. It might seem daunting to have to plan actions around musical beats, but there is an option to disable the rhythm aspects of the game entirely, which essentially turns Cadence of Hyrule into a turn-based Legend of Zelda game. It might seem as if this option is defeating the purpose of the game, but there is still a lot of fun to be had with Cadence of Hyrule without the musical aspects of its gameplay. The roguelike aspects of Cadence of Hyrule are out in full force and a large portion of the game is randomly generated. The overworld is generated once at the start of each playthrough, while each dungeon is newly generated each time it's visited, with the exception of boss rooms.
There are three playable characters in Cadence of Hyrule - Cadence, Link, and Princess Zelda. Cadence can use shovels as part of her special attack, Link possesses a spin attack that can hit every enemy around him, and Princess Zelda has access to a long-range fireball spell and can reflect enemy projectiles with a magical protection spell. The game has a local co-op mode for multiplayer that allows two players to grab a Joy-Con each and attempt to complete the game, but there are no online multiplayer options present. The player can collect a mixture of currencies and items in Cadence of Hyrule, with rupees and temporary items (like bombs and magical scrolls) disappearing when the character dies, but diamonds and important items (like the bow and Power Glove) will remain with the player after their demise. The diamonds can be used to purchase new items at the start of each run, which makes things easier if the player's current objective is deep in enemy territory. The majority of the items that the player finds also have a limited amount of durability, which means that the player has an incentive to try out new gear that they find in dungeons, rather than relying on any single type of armor or weapon.
Combat is the main focus of Cadence of Hyrule, as the player needs to balance their movements, the movements of the enemy, and their own limited supply of items in order to succeed in battle. The dungeons can get pretty hectic, as it's easy for the player to be surrounded by enemies if they are not careful. Cadence of Hyrule never feels unfair with its difficulty and the abundance of items on offer can give the player numerous solutions to different challenges. The puzzles of The Legend of Zelda series also make an appearance and there are some challenges that cannot be completed until the player finds a specific item (such as the Power Glove that can be used to move large stones), which means that certain challenges can only be faced in a specific order, regardless of the random nature of the game.
The graphics and sound in Cadence of Hyrule are top notch. The aesthetic of the game closely matches that of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and it's clear that a lot of work has gone into making Cadence of Hyrule feel like an authentic Legend of Zelda title. The character and world design perfectly mesh the dancing theme of Crypt of the NecroDancer with the Hyrule that fans love. The enemies look great and the boss battles are one of the most memorable aspects of the game, even if some of them are a little too easy. The music in the game is also incredible, with a soundtrack composed of twenty-five remixed tunes from The Legend of Zelda series that the player will learn to appreciate as they try and match the beat of each song while they explore the land of Hyrule.
The biggest issue with Cadence of Hyrule is one that stops it from being a must-have game and that is its length. The average player can expect to finish Cadence of Hyrule in around four to six hours, which might seem short for the players who were expecting a game on the same scale as the other titles in The Legend of Zelda series.
Cadence of Hyrule might be short, but every second of the game is jam-packed with exciting gameplay and there is never a dull moment to be had in the musical episode of Hyrule. Cadence of Hyrule is worthy of being considered a true entry in The Legend of Zelda series and longtime fans of the series will love every moment of this new incarnation of Hyrule, for as long as the journey lasts.
Cadence of Hyrule is available now for the Nintendo Switch. A digital copy was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.