Cadence of Hyrule is the first truly amazing Zelda spinoff

cadence of hyrule review impressions 7

Cadence of Hyrule is truly a remarkable accomplishment. Third-party developers, namely Capcom, have made wondrous mainline Zelda games — but Cadence of Hyrule isn’t that. Brace Yourself Games, an indie studio best known for Crypt of the NecroDancer, has created a top-down Zelda game that plays markedly different than the mainline games while retaining the almost otherworldly magic of the franchise. Cadence of Hyrule combines the brilliant rhythm gameplay from Crypt of NecroDancer, complete with remixed Zelda tunes and a rogue-lite infused spin on classic The Legend of Zelda adventuring. A fresh, outstanding take on one of the most iconic video game franchises around, Cadence of Hyrule is one of the best games of 2019.

Officially titled Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer featuring The Legend of Zelda, it’s no surprise Brace Yourself Games’ latest game borrows plenty from its breakout hit. Crypt of the NecroDancer‘s protagonist, Cadence, is at the center of the story. Over in Hyrule, the villainous Octavo uses the Golden Lute to put the king, Zelda, and Link in a deep sleep. The Triforce then lures Cadence to Hyrule. From there, you get to choose whether to awaken Link or Zelda as a playable character (both are eventually playable). Your chosen hero has to slay four champions located in dungeons scattered across Hyrule to gain entrance into Hyrule Castle for a battle against Octavo.

A Hyrule musical

The moment-to-moment journey across Hyrule is what makes Cadence of Hyrule so satisfying to play. Borrowing from NecroDancer, Link’s (or Zelda’s) movements are linked to the rhythm of the soundtrack, represented by a Triforce in the bottom-center of the screen. If your timing is off, Link will remain in place rather than hop forward. The same goes for certain items such as bombs and arrows, which require you to keep in time with the song. If you played Crypt of the NecroDancer, you’ll feel right at home. If not, it’ll probably take a little while to get used to.

What makes this movement/combat system so rewarding is that the enemies — Moblins, Bokoblins, Lizalfos, Keese, and many more — also adhere to the soundtrack. Additionally, each class of enemy has a set pattern of movements and behaviors. Understanding enemy movements are a huge part of the learning curve. But the moment it all comes together is quite gratifying. The back and forth between your movements and those of the many enemies creates a kind of real-time strategy game.

cadence of hyrule review impressions 3

The gameplay is at its best inside dungeons, which have a typical Zelda progression: Find keys to unlock doors. Dungeons are crawling with enemies, especially as you near boss fights, making each movement even more critical than in the overworld. The epic bosses themselves really test your pattern recognition and rhythm-fighting skills.

If the rhythm gameplay doesn’t come together for you, “Fixed-Beat Mode” is available. This makes it so that enemies only move when you do. Cadence of Hyrule plays a good deal differently without the rhythm mechanic, but it’s an option.

The clever gameplay owes a lot to the absurdly great soundtrack. Composed by Danny Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, Crypt of the NecroDancer), Cadence of Hyrule features electronic versions of classic Zelda tunes. All of the songs are still undeniably The Legend of Zelda, from the Overworld theme to the catchy Lost Woods riff, but they are dressed up with mesmerizing flourishes that fit incredibly well within Cadence of Hyrule‘s rhythm mechanics.

When enemies aren’t present, the intense beat dissipates and you no longer have to keep in step. Sometimes it’s much easier to reach a treasure chest or fully explore the A Link to the Paststyle screens if all of the enemies are vanquished first. I often found myself returning to previously completed screens to rework my strategy. Considering some chests only open by clearing the area flawlessly or within a time limit, I often had a tangible goal to work towards.

The best of both worlds

Going into Cadence of Hyrule, I was concerned about the exploration. The Legend of Zelda revolves around the joy of discovery, from stumbling upon secret areas to accumulating new weapons and items that gradually alter gameplay. Crypt of the NecroDancer is a roguelike that resets your progress with each death. These two styles almost couldn’t be any more different. Brace Yourself Games found a happy medium between the two divergent styles.

cadence of hyrule review impressions 4

Cadence of Hyrule‘s map layout is randomized with each run, but only to a certain extent. The five major dungeons — Death Mountain, Lake Hylia, Gerudo Ruins, Lost Woods, and Hyrule Castle — stay in relatively the same spot. When you die, you lose all of your rupees and temporary items such as rings and boots with stat modifiers. But you do keep heart pieces, bottles, and all of Link’s key items such as the Bow, Hookshot, and Boomerang. You also retain diamonds, a precious currency that can be used at the vendor directly after death and at some shops throughout Hyrule. After death, you can choose any activated Sheikah Stone on the map as your starting point.

The process for earning some of Link’s most iconic weapons and tools is more in line with roguelike games. You won’t necessarily get a key item in each of the five dungeons. For instance, while I grabbed the Bow from a dungeon chest, I found my Hookshot in a small cave after killing a regular enemy. Nevertheless, I still found myself obsessing overfilling my blank inventory slots and maxing out my heart containers.

For those who want an experience closer to NecroDancer, you can turn permadeath on.

Cadence of Hyrule has no shortage of secrets, from hidden caves and shops to hard-to-reach heart pieces to chests hidden by walls (a shovel lets you dig through some walls). A torch glow restricts your vision to a small, upgradeable circle in both dungeons and caves, which makes discovering some of these secrets feel all the more rewarding. Cadence of Hyrule, like all great Zelda games before it, rewards those who really spend time exploring the map.

It’s not as lengthy as a traditional Zelda game — you can 100 percent it in under ten hours — but it sets up well for multiple runs thanks to the randomization. Link and Zelda also have slightly different play styles. Link can do a spin attack and block enemy projectiles with his shield; Zelda uses her crystal ability to reflect moves and can shoot a fireball.

It probably goes without saying, but Cadence of Hyrule is the first truly amazing Zelda game outside of the mainline series. Cadence of Hyrule is available now on Nintendo Switch.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Gaming

Here are the gaming deals you don't want to miss on Prime Day

Amazon's annual Prime Day sale is almost here, and there will be plenty of gaming deals. Whether you want games, hardware, or accessories, these are the Prime Day gaming deals to expect.
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for July 2019

Looking to score Nintendo's latest console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals, including discounts on bundles that feature must-have games like Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Gaming

The Switch Lite is handheld only, which will make some games hard to play

The Nintendo Switch Lite drops docked mode for a handheld only gaming experience. It will play practically every game in the console's library, but several games will either be inaccessible or impractical to play on Switch Lite.
Gaming

We picked 10 video games and franchises that would make for great television

Netflix is adapting StudioMDHR's Cuphead into an animated TV show. The recent run of video game TV shows got us thinking about which video games we'd like to see developed for television.
Computing

Upgrade your gaming rig with our favorite graphics cards for every budget

If you're serious about games, a good graphics card is essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all option for graphics cards, but our recommendations can help you pick from the best graphics cards for your needs.
Deals

We have all the biggest gaming deals you can find on Amazon Prime Day

Prime Day is here! If you aren't sure which Prime Day gaming deals are available for PS4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch, we have you covered. Now you can get to playing those games at big discounts.
Deals

Walmart Prime Day sale: 4K TV, Apple Watch, and Nintendo Switch Deals

The Walmart Prime Day sale continues to go strong as the first day of Amazon's 48-hour deals event comes to a close. There are loads of great Apple Watch, Nintendo Switch, and 4K TV deals going on right now.
Computing

AMD or Intel? We take a look at the pros and cons of both processors

When it comes to selecting a CPU for your PC, there's no shortage of chips for you to choose from. With Ryzen, Threadripper, and Core i9 CPUs though, the AMD vs. Intel argument is muddier than ever.
Gaming

This Prime Day Sony PS4 bundle deal comes with God of War and Days Gone

Amazon is currently offering a PS4 Pro bundle with the games God of War and Days Gone at a substantial discount. God of War was one of our favorite games of 2018, and it can be played in 4K on PS4 Pro.
Deals

Looking for a gaming headset? Amazon cuts prices of Corsair and HyperX for Prime

Whether you’re building a gaming setup or looking to upgrade, now’s your chance to score amazing deals on gaming headphones. The HyperX Cloud II and the Corsair HS60 are both available at hefty discounts for Amazon Prime Day.
Gaming

Get ready for the Nintendo Switch Lite with cool new accessories

The Nintendo Switch Lite drops the dock for ultimate portability, but that doesn't mean you won't need a few accessories. From extra controllers to chargers to memory cards, you'll have plenty to choose from come September 20.
Gaming

Grab these hot video game deals before Amazon Prime Day is over

Amazon's Prime Day is almost over, but you still have a chance to grab some hot deals on some of the best video games and accessories. From PS4 to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, these are the deals you can still get.
Computing

The Logitech G502 Lightspeed is the wireless gaming mouse of your dreams

Logitech's G502 Lightspeed represents the pinnacle of wireless gaming rodents. It's fast, accurate, and wireless charging means that you never even need to think about plugging a cable in. But is the price worth paying?
News

Tetris Effect, no longer a PS4 exclusive, hits Epic Games Store with VR support

Originally a PS4 exclusive, Tetris Effect is coming to PC gamers and can be purchased on the Epic Games Store. It will feature support for VR, ultrawide monitors, and 4K or above resolution.