To quote one of my favorite episodes of Phineas and Ferb, “I ain’t got rhythm.” As such, I have yet to truly excel at the brand new Brace Yourself Games/Nintendo release Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda. Still, despite that, I can’t deny that this unique rhythmic action-adventure title is anything short of pure genius.
For the uninitiated, the original roguelike rhythm game was released on PC way back in 2015, and it put a brand new spin on the standard top-down dungeon crawler. Whereas music has always been a supporting component, adding ambiance to overworlds and dank caves alike, Crypt of the NecroDancer brought the soundtrack to the forefront. Players controlled protagonist Cadence, moving, dodging, and attacking in time with spectacular electronic compositions by Danny Baranowsky.
In Cadence of Hyrule, our heroine finds herself transported to this foreign land and immediately shares her deadly secrets of the dance with Link and Zelda. What follows is a beautifully realized romp through familiar Hyrule locales made brand new thanks to Crypt of the NecroDancer‘s randomly generated, faux 16-bit visuals.
The soundtrack, some 25 songs strong, similarly features familiar Legend of Zelda melodies reimagined by the supremely talented Danny B. Not only does this perfectly blend the classic Zelda aesthetic with NecroDancer‘s innovative play style, it also assures that even rhythmically challenged players like myself have a reason to return to the game again and again.
In a nod to more traditional LoZ entries, you’ll make your way through Hyrule’s fields, forests, caverns, and castles combating familiar enemies and gathering weapons and supplies (like swords and bombs). You’ll also collect hearts for health, Rupees for purchasing additional goods from shops, and rare diamonds, which can be used to acquire specialty items and buffs.
Of course, as with the original Crypt of the NecroDancer, every on-screen enemy, ally, and occasionally even obstacle takes its cue from the bumping soundtrack. From Lizalfos to Cuccos, all elements move and pulse with the beat, and it’s up to you to make sure Link acts in kind. By matching the tempo—expressed visually via a meter at the bottom of the screen—you know when to move, and by observing your enemies, you begin to understand when to strike.
Measured movements and on-beat attacks are rewarded with better damage and a higher chance of picking up rare diamonds, while failure kills your streak and opens you up to enemy assault. It’s a deceptively simple formula that makes death an undeniable inevitability—but this is a roguelike, after all!
That’s not to say the game doesn’t give green players a break. Sheikah Stones, which can give access to additional substructures, also serve as spawn points, so you can choose to revive near any you’ve unlocked. This really plays up the discovery element of Cadence of Hyrule, encouraging exploration—especially in the face of overwhelming resistance. It also encourages players to save up those hard-fought diamonds, as they can be used to unlock helpful upgrades.
On the surface, Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda might bear little resemblance to a Legend of Zelda game, but if you look just a bit deeper, all the valuable components are there. There are environmental puzzles, iconic weapons, devious dungeons, and even the occasional heart container. Admittedly, when the first thing the game gave me was a shovel—digging through earthen walls is also (weirdly) important—I was a little perplexed, but after that first few minutes, I was hooked.
Cadence of Hyrule is difficult, yes, but it’s rewarding. It even manages to achieve that same level of delightful weirdness as other you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter Nintendo titles—think Hyrule Warriors and its Fire Emblem equivalent.
Whether on the go or around the house, alone or with a friend (by simply sharing a Joy-Con), Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda has addictive rhythmic combat to spare and a soundtrack that can’t be beat. And it’s available now—only in the Nintendo eShop.
Review materials provided by Nintendo of America. Countless deaths provided by my own lack of natural rhythm.