Cadence of Hyrule Review: You can’t stop the music

But it turns out, you can pretty handily fight to it.

Why you’ll like it: Great Zelda soundtrack, very cute, easy to understand, not too long.

Why you won’t: Slightly expensive, not great if you can’t keep the beat, may scare the tilde-phobic.

Score: 4/5

So, last week, when Cadence of Hyrule’s release date was announced, I figured I’d get slightly ahead of the game by playing a little bit of the game it’s based on.

Well, that, and the fact that Crypt Of The NecroDancer was really rather cheap on the Switch last week. I’m sure that played a part. I’d never played it, and I figured that understanding its mechanics would help me play the latest Zelda game once it finally dropped.

It turns out that was a mistake, because while the core game is the same, Crypt is much, much tougher than Cadence of Hyrule is. Also, it doesn’t have a big library of excellent Zelda remixes to offer either.

They’re both essentially rogue-like exploration games with the central hook of fighting to music. As you move, and especially as you fight, a remixed version of a variety of classic Zelda themes plays. Keep to the beat, and you’ll do more damage and get better goodies once all the foes in a given screen are killed off. Certain actions can increase the tempo, and Cadence of Hyrule can quickly become very frantic.

Where Cadence of Hyrule messes with the Crypt formula is by putting a bunch of classic Zelda tropes into play.

That extends to the core foe (you can guess, I’m sure), the use of classic Zelda place names and objects, and of course a whole heaping load of Zelda enemies too. In keeping with the way Crypt plays it, enemies move to predictable patterns, which turns the whole effort into an odd mix of chess and musical chairs.

I particularly appreciated the option to play as Princess Zelda from the get-go. She’s not just a palette-swapped Link either, with her own specific play style to master.

It’s charming, and it’s very easy to understand what you have to do. Actually doing it, however, is a more challenging matter. I’ll put it politely. Unless you’re already a Crypt of the Necrodancer savant, you’re going to die a bunch of times.

Quite a lot of times, if like me, you’re not someone who easily gets into beat rhythm most of the time. Thankfully, once a given screen is cleared of enemies, the requirement to move to the beat is removed, and Sheikah stones, where you revive are plentiful.

It’s also a game that plays with classic RPG ideas, because even though you die, key upgrades stay with you for the next playthrough.

There are elements of random generation at play, but a core mission to overcome based on a fairly small quantity of dungeons to play through, and that does mean that, even with both Link and Zelda options to play as, it’s not the longest game ever made, especially for a “Zelda” game.

Does that matter? It’s a question of taste, I think. Crypt of the Necrodancer was on special when I purchased it, but Cadence of Hyrule wasn’t. At $38.97 (or at least that’s what I paid for it) I could see the argument that some gamers might put forward that it’s a bit rich for their tastes.

I like short games — as I’ve noted in my current run of 3 Credit Challenges, I’m rather time-poor for gaming right now.

A good game doesn’t have to be long to be good, but if you hack at this in a determined manner — as one of my kids has already done — you’ll quickly rip through its challenges if all you care about is completion.

Although it may take you a little longer to tackle its full title. I’ve been calling it Cadence of Hyrule, but its full title, to be specific is… (deep breath) Cadence of Hyrule ~ Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda ~.

Yeah, the full title has not one, but two tildes in there. Not too many game titles feature even a single tilde, let alone two. That’s dedication to typography, right there. I’m not sure I’m ever going to type that out ever again.

But with leaderboards for moves and time in play, a two-player option and even an option with its own leaderboard for music-beat-removed gameplay, there’s plenty of reason to return to Cadence of Hyrule. Now all I need is the soundtrack album.

Cadence of Hyrule ~ Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda ~ is available now for the Nintendo Switch. I reviewed a copy I spent my own money on.

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