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Cadence of Hyrule Review: A Harmonious Crossover

Cadence of Hyrule is a unique and unexpected collaboration that gives players a chance to experience a top-down Legend of Zelda game in a totally new way.

It’s a mashup of Brace Yourself Game’s roguelike indie rhythm title, Crypt of the NecroDancer, and Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise, and was developed by the former. Through combining features of the original game with some Legend of Zelda-inspired characters, monsters, and music, Cadence of Hyrule makes for a cross-over which is as enjoyable as it is ingenious.

A Harmonious Crossover

When you first open Cadence of Hyrule, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d come across a Nintendo developed game. The graphical style fits perfectly alongside other top-down Zelda games, such as A Link To The Past, while still being reminiscent of the original NecroDancer. You can tell that great care has been taken to ensure that this truly is a harmonious cross over, and it's one which works remarkably well.

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Legend of Zelda staples including Bokoblins, Chuchus, and Stalfos are all present and accurate. You can also collect rupees, weapons, and potions by defeating enemies, smashing pots, and solving puzzles. There are even stores to buy supplies from and hidden caves to loot. This is all alongside a recognizable soundtrack, which puts a twist on classic tunes from the Legend of Zelda franchise.

Getting Started

You start the tutorial phase playing as Cadence, NecroDancer’s main protagonist, before being given the option to choose either Link or Zelda as your main character. If you’re playing two-player mode, then the second player will stay as Cadence.

Link can equip a shield, which he uses to deflect enemy attacks, while Zelda uses triforce magic. After playing with both characters, Zelda’s Triforce defense seemed to deflect attacks better, but it comes with a stamina cost, something which does not apply to Link’s shield ability. I would suggest clearing a few screens with both to see which you prefer.

Once past the basics, the game itself plays very much like a traditional Legend of Zelda game, but with a twist. While enemies are on the screen your character must move in time to the beat. The longer you keep to the beat, the higher the rewards are.

Enemies will also move to the beat, in a predictable pattern. The key to success is mastering the movements of the enemies and using their predictability to defeat them.

There is no health penalty for missing the beat, although your movement is hindered for a second, which will be an issue if you are surrounded. You can use the onscreen HUD to help you keep in time, although I found it more difficult to concentrate if I was watching both the HUD and the action on the map. I ended up turning it off and using the music and the flashing chequerboard pattern in order to keep time.

After the screen is cleared of enemies, you can move any way you like, allowing for some more traditional world exploration.

Playing The Game

Cadence of Hyrule sticks to its roguelike roots by featuring procedurally generated dungeons and a randomized overworld. While there are areas and locations which remain the same, their place on the map is slightly randomized for each save game file. For instance, I have a save game for each character, and while I can visit the same locations, my map looks different on both. The dungeon interiors are randomized when you die, meaning a premature death can be confusing, especially in the later larger dungeons.

In regards to difficulty, this is a tricky one. Crypt of the NecroDancer became notorious for its difficulty, and while Cadence of Hyrule has toned down the challenge somewhat, it is still more difficult than most Zelda titles.

The difficulty is eased with the addition of a few features which NecroDancer didn’t include. One of these features is the diamond system. Clearing the screens of enemies will allow you to collect diamonds. These are retained after death and can be used to buy permanent upgrades.

As it takes a while to get into the rhythm of the game, these can really help. You will also retain some basic weapons after death. For hardcore NecroDancer fans, you can remove the facility by turning off "gameover shop" in the options.

Cadence For The Rhythmically Challenged

While I enjoyed the game, I did find the beat challenging at times, so something I was grateful for was the ability to play to a fixed beat.

This mode can be accessed via the gameplay options in the main menu. Once activated, it will enable you to move to your own beat, with the enemies moving when you do. This can really help those who struggle with the rhythm mode to still be able to enjoy the game.

You’ll still get the upbeat tempo numbers when enemies are on screen, settling down to a more chilled version once they are defeated. You just won’t have to worry about your missteps so much.

The only thing to note about this mode is that if it is activated, your gameplay data, number of steps taken, deaths, and time will be uploaded to a separate scoreboard once you complete the game. This is because, while still a valid and enjoyable experience, fixed beat mode is a very different game.

Taking a Chance Pays Off

Overall, Cadence of Hyrule is a fantastic example of how great things can come from thinking outside of the box. Nintendo is usually notorious for being incredibly protective of their IPs, so this collaboration was as unexpected as it is incredible. It just goes to show that taking a chance can be truly rewarding.

A true mix of both games,Cadence of Hyrule will appeal to both NecroDancer and Zelda fans. An important thing to note, however, is that the game itself is incredibly short. This is especially noticeable when compared to other Zelda titles, but is still evident even when compared to the original Crypt of the NecroDancer.

There are 100 screens to the overworld map and four major dungeons which, once defeated, allow you into the castle. While there are extra areas to explore and puzzles to solve, an experienced rhythm game player will be able to blast through all the content in just a few short hours, which is the only downside to this inspired crossover.

4 out of 5 Stars

A copy of the game was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Feat Legend of Zelda is now available for Nintendo Switch on the Nintendo eShop.

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