There’s been no other series more important to me than Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda” that’s entertained me, sparked my imagination and taunted me with mystery and challenges on everything from the Gameboy in the backseat of long family road trips to the N64 with my little brothers looking over my shoulder and into adulthood on the Nintendo Switch.
So that’s all to say that I was intrigued — and a little skeptical — about Nintendo’s announcement that it would be lending one of its most important worlds and characters to independent developer Brace Yourself Games for a mashup between with its rhythm-based dungeon-crawler “Crypt of the Necrodancer.”
But just moments into “Cadence of Hyrule” I knew I’d be hooked.
“Cadence of Hyrule” brings over the core mechanics of “Crypt of the Necrodancer” where you and your enemies all move to the beat of a song. You’ll tap the arrow keys on the beat to move around and automatically attack, building a bonus multiplier for the longer you can stay on beat without being hit by bad guys. Move. Move. Move. Slash. Move. Move. Move. Slash.
The enemies all move in patterns, too, so figuring those out is essential to clear the screen without taking a hit.
It’s a satisfying and kind of mesmerizing experience to fall into the flow of the beat and quickly clear a bunch of bad guys. Even sitting here, writing this column, I can already hear some of the excellent remixes of classic Zelda chiptunes in my head.
I played “Crypt of the Necrodancer” and really enjoyed the system, but ultimately fell off the game because of its sky-high difficulty and less-than-clear path.
That’s where the trappings of “The Legend of Zelda” come into play so well. The world is a mix of what you’d find in either “A Link to the Past,” “Link’s Awakening” or “A Link Between Worlds” with Hyrule Castle in the center of the world surrounded by fields, dungeons and caves to explore in whatever order you want.
Your main goal will be to defeat four main dungeons and their bosses before going after the final boss in the castle. It’s a pretty standard “The Legend of Zelda” formula, but it’s executed so fantastically well that it feels like any of the other Nintendo-made games.
It also gives you clearer direction on what to do next and what to explore, which I appreciated. If an area was too hard, I could turn my attention elsewhere to find heart containers to boost my maximum health or find new items and weapons.
What’s a new turn on the “The Legend of Zelda” that may not be quite as welcome is the introduction of the rougelike systems from “Crypt of the Necrodancer.” Every time you die in “Cadence of Hyrule,” you’ll lose most of your non-permanent powerups and items. It’s usually not that much of a pain, but there were times where I’d be without an essential tool like a shovel for a while.
And for people who have trouble with mastering the rhythm elements, the game can be switched into a fixed beat mode that turns the game into more of a strategic chess-like game. Enemies will only move when you move in a turn-based sort of game.
Even if you like the rhythm but are having trouble figuring out the enemies, it’s a useful way of getting a hang on the game. You’ll be able to see the enemies’ patterns of movement, wind-ups and attacks far better this way.
I haven’t had a chance to try out the two-player option, but it looks interesting. In addition to playing as Link, you can also play as Zelda and Cadence from “Crypt of the Necrodancer” in both single and multiplayer modes.
“Cadence of Hyrule” is a surprising and welcome twist on a time-tested franchise like “The Legend of Zelda.” It paid off for Nintendo to trust one of its major games to the hands and fresh ideas of a smaller developer. I hope the trend continues.
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
If You Play
Game: Cadence of Hyrule
Rating: Four stars
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Internet usage: 677 MB
Release Date: June 2019
ESRB Rating: Everyone