[Replayability Review] Cadence of Hyrule – An Appetizer of a Game
Hello and welcome back to Galaxy of Geek for another Replayability Review from Cade’s Arcade. I’m Cade!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a fantastic launch title for the Switch. It featured numerous improvements with the gameplay that propelled Zelda into the next generation. But one criticism that plagued the game was the lack of a soundtrack.
I’ve even noticed this the first time I played it. Yes, Breath of the Wild does have music, I don’t mean to insinuate that it doesn’t. But for the majority of the adventure, you’ll mostly hear various ambient noise such as birds chirping or the swaying of tree branches off in the distance. While the omission of background music didn’t bother me, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss listening to an overworld theme as I trek across the expansive fields of Hyrule.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify something, this is not a review of Breath of the Wild. I only bring it up because today I’m going to be talking about two titles. One is an indie success and the other is an original Zelda experience. Depending on who you are, they may have gone under your radar. I am of course talking about Cadence of Hyrule and Crypt of the Necrodancer for the Nintendo Switch. Where Breath of the Wild seems to be lacking in the music department, these two games compensate for this by making it the focal point.
Cadence of Hyrule released on June 13th, 2019 exclusively on the Nintendo Switch by Brace Yourself Games. It was a follow up to the developer’s previous and only title, Crypt of the Necrodancer, released on April 23rd, 2015. Brace Yourself Games founder Ryan Clark approached Nintendo with the intention of including Zelda characters as DLC for the Switch port of their original indie hit. Not only was Nintendo on board with the collaboration, the idea quickly evolved into its own game in the form of Cadence of Hyrule.
When I first saw Cadence of Hyrule revealed back in March of 2019 during a Nintendo Direct Indie showcase, I fell in love with the concept immediately. It’s a rhythm-based Zelda game, it combines two of my favorite things about this medium. So naturally, I just had to get my hands on it ASAP! Now that I finally found some time to play it, now is the time to see if my hype was warranted.
There are many things that can make a game great, but there’s only one thing that truly matters to me. Let’s take a look at the replayability of Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer featuring The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Switch… That is a real mouthful.
Our story begins right where Crypt of the Necrodancer left off. While out and about, Cadence (yes that’s her real name) stumbles onto a mysterious portal that transports her to an unknown world.
Cadence quickly realizes she’s in the land of Hyrule and discovers that an individual named Octavo is wreaking havoc. Octavo had managed to find the Tri-force and used it to endow his golden lute with the ability to make all of Hyrule go to sleep (except for Ganon’s forces for some reason).
Cadence was summoned to Hyrule by the Tri-force in order to help restore peace to the land. Once she learns of what she must do, Cadence embarks on a quest to find, wake up, and reunite Link and Zelda. After she manages to find our heroes, she goes off in search of a way home while Link and Zelda take care of Octavo’s 4 champions.
Each champion holds a special instrument which is needed to break through the force field Octavo surrounded the castle with.
Link and Zelda take down the champions and meet back up with Cadence to take on Octavo. It’s at this point Octavo reveals his true mission was to gather his champions to do battle against Ganon to prevent him from taking over Hyrule in the future. (whoops)
Once Octavo is defeated, he opens a portal to the future where Link, Zelda, and Cadence confront Ganon in person. The trio manages to take down Ganon. With the help of Octavo’s Golden Lute, Link and Zelda use the Tri-force to send Cadence back to her homeworld.
As far as story is concerned, it’s a rudimentary Zelda plot. The land of Hyrule is in chaos, Link (and Zelda) collect the game’s MacGuffin, beat the villain, and save the land with the Tri-force. Honestly, the story isn’t anything worth raving about.
One thing I will say, I think it’s interesting, even if it’s not canon, that the story could easily be added to the Zelda timeline since the game clearly takes place during the events of A Link to the Past towards the end. Ganon even looks nearly identical to how he does in the classic SNES sequel.
Alright, you knew this was coming. I can’t talk about Cadence of Hyrule and not mention the music. Regardless of what I may like or dislike about this title, it’s safe to say the music is on point and is the best part about it. I mentioned in my Alwa’s Awakening review how I’m a sucker for remixes and I wasn’t lying. I loved the musical composition so much that I’m listening to it as I’m writing this review.
There aren’t any new tracks in the game aside from Octavo’s theme, and I’m glad that there aren’t. Cadence of Hyrule, to me, comes off as a game made by fans of the Zelda series celebrating its rich history. If there’s anything Brace Yourself Games is known for, it’s music. And they demonstrate their passion for the series through the game’s music.
In order to prepare myself for Cadence of Hyrule, I decided to delve into their original title. Just like Cadence of Hyrule, Crypt of the Necrodancer’s music is just as solid. While I knew they were known for their excellent soundtracks, I was not prepared for how catchy Crypt of the Necrodancer’s music would be. I dare you to have a listen and not bob your head to the beat.
To go the extra mile, Brace Yourself Games made multiple versions of the same tracks in both of their titles. In a single level, you’ll hear music when fighting enemies, a version when it’s peaceful, it changes again when you pause the game, even the shop keeper can be heard singing along. Again, that’s just for a single track, and Cadence of Hyrule features over 20 unique songs to listen to. I’ve provided a link to a playlist for your listening pleasure.
Now you didn’t misread what I said, there’s a shop keeper in both games that will sing along with the background music. This is one of those unnecessary but welcome details I’ve mentioned time and time again.
Gameplay & Design
I could go on and on about the music, but it’s time to transition to the actual game.
Between Crypt of the Necrodancer and Cadence of Hyrule, the gameplay is roughly the same. You have a grid-based layout and you either attack or move by pressing on the D-pad. You could use an analog stick but a D-pad will give you more accuracy. In addition, you have to move to the beat of the music, and the enemies follow the same limitation. If you can’t keep to the beat, then you may find both games to be more difficult than you’d like.
Right off the bat, I have never played any game quite like this. It’s weird having the attack button also be the one you move around with. As odd as it may seem, I found it super intuitive. Sure it took a little getting used to initially, but landing those attacks in time with the music is incredibly satisfying.
While there are many mechanics that are shared between the two games, there’s plenty of changes the developer made with Cadence of Hyrule.
For example, Cadence of Hyrule is structured like a classic Zelda game, whereas Crypt of the Necrodancer is a tried and true roguelike experience. What is a roguelike game? It’s a procedurally generated dungeon crawler where you gain progression in death. The more you die, the more gets unlocked which will make you stronger over time. I realize that’s a gross simplification of the sub-genre, but it’s all you really need to know for what I’m talking about.
These kinds of games aren’t meant to be 50 hour long epics, but rather they’re to be experienced in short bursts. In a lot of ways, they’re very reminiscent of old school arcade games. Another thing to keep in mind about roguelikes: they’ve been around for as long as video games have been a thing. Their influence can be traced back to classic tabletops like Dungeons & Dragons. It’s why I’m surprised that more gamers haven’t heard of them.
That’s enough history for today, time to get back to the game.
As I mentioned, there are some differences between the two games. For starters, the layout of Cadence of Hyrule has an actual overworld that’s ready for you to explore any way you want, which is akin to Zelda on the NES. Crypt of the Necrodancer, on the other hand, features a small hub area containing various rooms for shops or training, in addition to stairs that lead to the game’s 5 levels. I told you they’re not very long.
Despite Crypt of the Necrodancer not being a lengthy experience, the playtime gets extended with its difficulty. It can be a brutal challenge at times, and that’s where the training comes in. I suspect Brace Yourself Games knew how tough Crypt of the Necrodancer was, so they provided training rooms that let you learn how to fight each and every enemy. From the small cannon fodder to the big guns.
On the flip side, Cadence of Hyrule was significantly easier to complete. But the thing is, I didn’t mind the difficulty of either game. With Crypt of the Necrodancer, while it proved to be a bit of a feat, it never once made me want to chuck the controller at my TV. And Cadence of Hyrule did have some difficult parts, but it was a pretty casual experience throughout.
Regardless of the difficulty, the main way you’re going to get through these games is by learning the attack patterns of enemies. This is why training in Crypt of the Necrodancer is vital. I started with Cadence of Hyrule, and while I didn’t exactly have the hardest time with it, I had an interesting experience adjusting to the gameplay. Because I didn’t know what to expect, it added a layer of challenge in just learning the basic mechanics.
If you’re interested in playing Cadence of Hyrule, I strongly recommend trying out Crypt of the Necrodancer first, just purely for the gameplay. When I eventually played Crypt of the Necrodancer and understood how that game worked, it gave me a newfound appreciation for Cadence of Hyrule.
Now I’m gonna briefly list off a few changes between the two games because I don’t want to make this review longer than it needs to be.
Both games have you collect diamonds which you use to buy things like permanent upgrades. When you die, you’re taken to a shop where you spend the diamonds you’ve collected. The main difference is while Crypt of the Necrodancer offers better rewards when you die, you’re forced to either throw away all your diamonds or spend them before you continue. Cadence of Hyrule lets you keep what you’ve collected but what you have available for purchase is minimal. You can still buy permanent upgrades in Cadence of Hyrule, but those are found throughout the overworld.
The dungeons in Cadence of Hyrule do procedurally generate when you either first enter them or die, just like Crypt of the Necrodancer’s levels. However, the game’s over world randomly generates once when you start up a new game, similarly to how a Minecraft map gets randomly generated every time you create a new world. That means every playthrough will have a different layout, you can’t just simply memorize item locations. I could see this being a pain for speed-running, but when has a little RNG stopped a speed-runner?
Cadence of Hyrule features objects with durability, which is a mechanic pulled right out of Breath of the Wild. Crypt of the Necrodancer does not. Besides the brittle items that shatter if you take a single hit (which are present in Cadence of Hyrule as well), when you get a shovel or torch in Crypt of the Necrodancer, it doesn’t wear out.
Crypt of the Necrodancer has a ton of characters to play with, all featuring different abilities. Cadence of Hyrule only features Link, Zelda, and Cadence. Nevertheless, many of the abilities available in Crypt of the Necrodancer are still present in Cadence of Hyrule. Later on, Brace Yourself Games did add Octavo as a playable character, but at the time of writing this review this wasn’t out so I haven’t had a chance to try out his gameplay. If it changes the game enough in a meaningful way, then I will make a mini review on it.
Moving on, there’s one ability in particular that made such a huge difference with the gameplay that I felt it was worth talking about for a minute.
I know there’s plenty of people that aren’t super into rhythm games, which is understandable. Brace Yourself Games also put that into consideration and provided an option that lets you turn on what they call “fixed beat mode”, which allows you to move freely without the worry of sticking to the rhythm. I was not the same when I turned it on…
You might be thinking “what’s the point in turning it on? I thought they’re supposed to be rhythm games.”, and you’re not wrong in that assumption. While the music and feeling the beat is certainly the focus of these games, they aren’t the point. They’re first and foremost roguelike action-adventure dungeon crawlers that just so happen to feature rhythm elements.
How you enable fixed beat mode is different for both games. In Crypt of the Necrodancer, you have to play as Bard. For Cadence of Hyrule, they made it an option in the settings. It basically changes them into a real-time tactics strategy game giving the whole experience a completely different feel. Now it does dumb down the difficulty a tad, but only by removing one element among the dozens of things you’re going to be juggling around in the gameplay.
Like I said earlier, there’s something cathartic about chaining a combo to the beat of the music. If you turn on fixed beat mode, you would miss out on this aspect of the game. But there is fun to be had with it enabled, so it’s up to you. You do you my dude.
One last thing I wanna point out. During my first run in Crypt of the Necrodancer, what I was playing really felt like a giant game of chess, which might be why I like the gameplay so much. I guess Brace Yourself Games couldn’t agree more, which is why in Crypt of the Necrodancer, you literally fight a living chess set. If you can’t acknowledge how deeply clever that is then I don’t want to be your friend.
Cadence of Hyrule was a refreshing game for me to experience. It combined my love of music with my nostalgic ties to Zelda. It was an experience I never asked for, but glad I was given the opportunity to play. If I had to give any real criticism, the game wasn’t long enough. I understand the nature of a roguelike isn’t meant to be super long, but come on. I beat it in about 5 hours without much effort on my first playthrough. I would have liked to see a new game+, just something that gave me an incentive to want to go through it twice.
As for Crypt of the Necrodancer, it was an innovative title that has a lot to offer in terms of challenge and concept but doesn’t quite feature enough depth in it’s content to have me coming back. I’m not saying I disliked Crypt of the Necrodancer, it was more the whole experience got repetitive after a while in the wrong ways. There is replay value in the form of multiple characters to play as, but it comes at the cost of having to start from the beginning with each character. And when you have over a dozen characters to choose from, it can become a bit of a drag.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with both titles. Even so, I can’t lie, I enjoyed Cadence of Hyrule more than Crypt of the Necrodancer. Call it biased, but it was the music that got to me. Real talk, reviews such as this one are nothing more than opinions based in biases colored by the reviewer’s experience. And this reviewer happened to grow up with a lot of Zelda games and had a piano teacher for a mother.
With all that said, that’s why I rate these game’s replayability as…
Crypt of the Necrodancer:
Worth a Playthrough
Cadence of Hyrule:
REALLY Worth a Playthrough
Remember, reviews are just opinions that should never be taken as your own. As always, keep it right here on Galaxy of Geek, and don’t forget to check out Cade’s Arcade for more reviews and videos on all things video game related. Take care, and I will see you next time!
Console & Version: Switch version
Time upon completion: 5 to 10 hours for both
Price: Cadence of Hyrule: $24.99 digital/Crypt of the Necrodancer: $19.99 digital, purchased it on sale for $3.99
Why you should buy it: If you love rhythm games, Zelda, or roguelikes
Why you shouldn’t buy it: If you’re not a fan of short experiences
Who is this game for: Anybody into indie titles, Zelda games, or rhythm based experiences