That title’s a real mouthful, right? The official name of the Switch’s latest indie darling is Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer featuring The Legend of Zelda. Yeah, like I said – it doesn’t really roll off the tongue. But don’t let it stop you – Cadence of Hyrule is every bit a classic Zelda adventure with the added wrinkle of a rhythm puzzle game. It’s not overly long, but Cadence of Hyrule is the kind of game that will kill you over and over again, and you’ll still keep begging for more. It’s a classic top-down Hyrule adventure, with a playable Link, Zelda, and guest-appearing Cadence from Crypt of the Necrodancer. It’s a cross-over you never would have expected, and one that quickly becomes an absolute treasure.
Cadence of Hyrule is, at its heart, an homage to all things Zelda. I can’t think of an enemy, or beloved character, who doesn’t make at least one appearance. Maybe the Owl from Link’s Awakening? And Epona… poor, always forgotten Epona. But yep, Tingle’s here. And he has one of the coolest gadgets you could wish for ready to help you on your quest. You see, the Cadence (the heroine from NecroDancer) falls through a portal into Hyrule, and the villain of her world (Octavo) puts the world to sleep, monsters unleashed in every corner of the world.
You start as Cadence in what serves as the tutorial to how things work when Hyrule and NecroDancer collide. Cadence of Hyrule is a rhythm game at heart, but you can play it without the rhythm aspects in what amounts to the game’s “Easy Mode” which is honestly how I played almost all of it. CoH is a hard game, but not unforgiving. You will make progress, and you’ll learn how to take out each enemy, as you learn their patterns of movement. They move to a beat, and so do you, and anticipating their actions becomes something of an artform.
When you die, you lose the rupees and lesser items you were holding, but you keep almost all other progress. You’ll get more heart containers, better weapons, and minibosses and dungeons will unlock new items to use which help you unlock more secrets and get to hard to reach places. It’s clear that the devs worked hand in hand with Nintendo to make sure this felt very much like a Zelda game. The reverence for the world of Hyrule is plain as day in the simply amazing music, art, and level design.
If there’s one thing I wish wasn’t a part of Cadence of Hyrule, it would be the randomized dungeons. On one hand, this keeps them fresh and means new playthroughs would be more fun, but on the other, it alsmost works against the player when they’re trying to beat them and help save the world. In fact, though there are plenty of dungeons (around five main ones, plus plenty of smaller ones), they’re not very much like Zelda dungeons at all. They’re sort of just places you rove through, get keys, and then face the bosses. The bosses, on the other hand, are amazing Zelda-quality fights.
I lost count of how many times I died on Octavo before finally beating him, only to find out that there’s even more darkness to be beaten afterwards. But that’s something I won’t spoil much more of. Just know that for $25, the best Zelda game to play between BotW and Link’s Awakening is here waiting for you. It’s something you don’t want to miss.