Ahead of the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, it’s a great time to look back on the stalwart Nintendo’s series presence on Nintendo Switch. From Breath of the Wild to a plethora of classics on Switch Online, it’s probably the best console for any fan of this series to own. That said, there’s one Switch exclusive that may have flown under your radar and is worth checking out before Tears of the Kingdom. That game is Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer featuring The Legend of Zelda.
All About Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Ft. The Legend of Zelda - Nintendo Switch
Free for Nintendo Switch Online members until May 7 and available at a 50% discount on the eShop through the launch of Tears of the Kingdom, this game is a rare case of Nintendo collaborating with an indie studio for a project tied to one of its biggest franchises. The result is a Zelda game that expands on the rhythm-based action formula established in Brace Yourself Games’ 2016 hit Crypt of the NecroDancer.
Although this roguelite doesn’t play like any other Zelda game out there, it makes some design choices that call back to the series' most iconic titles. That, as well as its rhythmic nature, will feel refreshing ahead of Tears of the Kingdom’s ambitious and systems-heavy open-world adventure. If you haven’t played it, give Cadence of Hyrule a shot while it’s free.
A unique adventure
As a crossover between Crypt of the Necrodancer and The Legend of Zelda, the game begins with NecroDancer protagonist Cadence being whisked away to Hyrule. She quickly inspires Link or Zelda to explore the world and fight back against Octavo, who put Hyrule’s king to sleep with a magical Lute. Those who prefer the more minimalist stories of earlier games in the series will enjoy how quickly the game gets players to the rhythmic action. People begging Nintendo to make Zelda playable in Tears of the Kingdom will also appreciate that they can play most of the game as her if they want.
The act of playing Cadence of Hyrule is where things get really interesting, as it combines old and new ideas to create something that feels familiar yet refreshing. Starting with the new, this is a rhythm game where players must move and attack enemies on the beat. The Zelda franchise is known for its music, and Cadence of Hyrule takes full advantage of that by including versions of some of the series’ greatest hits. Until we get a Theatrhythm-like game for Zelda music, this is game fans of the franchise's iconic soundtracks can't ignore.
Hopping tile-to-tile on the beat is pretty simple to understand, but it can get quite difficult as players must also account for the fact that every enemy also moves and attacks on the beat. Recognizing that players will probably die a lot, the game is structured as a roguelite where some dungeons are procedurally generated (as is the world each time you start a new file). Items can be found or bought with Rupees to help players during an individual run, while Diamonds are collected in dungeons or by clearing a screen of enemies can be spent on more permanent upgrades.
This may sound daunting, but gameplay options like setting the controllers to vibrate on the beat or only letting enemies move when you do can make it easier. Most Zelda fans should also feel more at home with how other parts of Cadence of Hyrule are designed.
But still familiar-feeling
Rhythm-based movement and combat aside, this is a classic top-down Zelda action-adventure game with aesthetics, presentation, and iconography that the series was once known for. The familiarity in terms of the locations visited, enemies fought, and items obtained makes those more distinct elements easier to embrace. It’s also novel to see elements from post-2D Zelda games show up in this style, like Skull Kid via DLC.
It demonstrates just how malleable and well-designed the core Zelda formula is because it still feels faithful despite its rhythmic nature. While Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom’s massive open worlds and deep gameplay systems impress, they’ve also created a yearning for a more classically structured Zelda experience from some fans.