Nintendo team up with indie favourite Crypt Of The NecroDancer to create an unexpected crossover with a fantastic soundtrack.
Cadence Of Hyrule – Crypt Of The NecroDancer Featuring The Legend Of Zelda not only has the longest name of any game this year but may well end up being 2019’s oddest release. Not just in the sense that it’s a mixture of rhythm action game and roguelike but that Nintendo gave the keys to one of its most beloved franchises to an obscure indie developer. It seems unlikely but within moments of playing the game you realise that Brace Yourself Games are an extremely safe pair of hands.
Crypt Of The NecroDancer was originally released in 2015 and although it received positive reviews was never especially high profile. If Nintendo were to create a crossover with any indie game there are probably a dozen or so more obvious choices, but Brace Yourself Games had the chutzpah to ask if they could create Zelda-themed DLC for the original game and somehow the project evolved from there into a full standalone game.
The end result looks like The Legend Of Zelda (specifically A Link To The Past) but plays like Crypt Of The NecroDancer, maintaining many of the roguelike elements from the original even as it integrates itself with a world that looks and works like a traditional 2D Zelda. It does compensate more for those with no natural rhythm though, allowing anyone to enjoy not only the game but the stellar soundtrack.
Cadence Of Hyrule is presented as a full and equal crossover, with Crypt Of The NecroDancer’s main character Cadence being transported to the world of Hyrule in order to help Link and Princess Zelda overcome new character Octavo, who is in possession of a magic lute and has four underlings with similarly powerful magical instruments. The story has a minor twist towards the end, but like any Zelda game the plot isn’t really important.
Although Cadence is technically a playable character you play most of the game as either Link or Zelda, as they tour Hyrule in the fashion of a normal 2D Legend Of Zelda game. There’s a flip screen overworld to explore and multiple dungeons, but all the maps use a grid-based movement system so that you move in discreet steps. Steps which, if there are any monsters around, have to be taken in time with the music, which isn’t so important when just moving but is vital to get right when combating enemies.
There is a simplified ‘fixed beat’ system you can turn on that allows you to play the game more like a regular Zelda but, normally, battling monsters works as a kind of impromptu rhythm action mini-game. There’s an almost chess-like amount of manoeuvring going on as you try to make sure you make contact with a monster at the same time as a beat and while avoiding their attacks, which always take place in a predictable (assuming you memorise them) pattern and direction.
As strange as all this sounds it works extremely well in practice, helped by some wonderful remixes of famous Zelda tunes that are a pleasure to battle along to. There’s also a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay, as you form battle tactics on the fly when entering each screen, prioritising enemies in terms of their dance moves and threat level.
While the core gameplay is closer to Crypt Of The NecroDancer, an enormous amount of effort has gone into ensuring this looks and feels like a proper Zelda game. The SNES era style graphics are just as good as the music and all the more impressive because the maps are procedurally-generated for each new save, while dungeons are randomised every time you return to them.
Death is punished less than in Crypt Of The NecroDancer, but you do lose all your rupees and non-key items when you die – although you get to keep the diamonds that are used as an extra currency in shops. There’s also a full suite of Zelda gadgets and equipment to use, including the trusty hookshot and boomerang, plus Cadence’s shovel and spear.
While the price might seem high for what is essentially an indie game the production values are excellent and the whole package is impressively complete, to the point where there’s even a co-operative mode where you can play through everything with a second player.
If there’s a problem with Cadence Of Hyrule it’s the way in which it compromises between the two game’s approach to dungeons. This lacks the complex puzzles of a regular Zelda but because they’re all much smaller the dungeons also downplay many of the nuances of Crypt Of The NecroDancer, especially in terms of the destructible shovels and the importance of having a torch for visibility.
And while the randomly-generated worlds do ensure plenty of replayability a single run through is surprisingly short, once you get into the rhythm of it. While the novelty lasts though Cadence Of Hyrule is a delight and if nothing else highlights just how flexible the Zelda formula is… and how amazing its soundtracks are.
Cadence Of Hyrule – Crypt Of The NecroDancer Featuring The Legend Of Zelda
In Short: A clever mash-up of two very different games that perfectly evokes the best of 2D Zelda while integrating the surprisingly tactical rhythm action combat of Crypt Of The NecroDancer.
Pros: Crypt Of The NecroDancer’s musical combat is highly original and a lot of fun. Excellent presentation and graphics, with a fantastic soundtrack. Welcome co-op and fixed beat modes.
Cons: Dungeons lack the puzzles of Zelda and the challenge of Crypt Of The NecroDancer. A single playthrough is rather short.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Release Date: 13th June 2019
Age Rating: 3
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