GFA: Cadence of Hyrule

Nintendo handed one of their most well-known franchises to a bunch of Canadians who made a game about dancing with death in a Crypt. It’s absurd, but did it lead to an absurdly good game in the eyes of a longtime Necrodancer player?

Kinda. It’s easy.

Really easy. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but keep in mind that a single playthrough took just over five hours and only led to two deaths for me, both of which were outside of dungeons and within the first two hours of play.

The biggest contributing factor to this ease is how many mechanics are carried directly over from NecroDancer itself. From several enemies’ patterns to the way weapons and items function. This one-to-one mirroring makes things an absolute breeze as a longtime casual Necrodancer player.

In addition to this frequent mirroring, health is about as common as mosquitoes on a Florida Summer afternoon. That is to say, it’s everywhere. In bushes, dropped from enemies, provided upon finding and activating a Sheikah stone… Pieces of Heart are also found rather frequently, which not only restore your health, but will maximize your health capacity with each four collected as in any standard Zelda.

The normally serious punishment of taking a hit is negated almost completely due to how frequent health is.

One thing that shows very quickly however is how powerful any sort of attack power increase is. With enemies having on average 2 health points, things become about as easy as running a hot knife through butter as soon as you get up to 2 damage. Don’t get me started on obsidian weapons. You’re almost always able to deal out two points of damage with those due to how quickly the beat multiplier stacks up. The previously mentioned issues with health being so common also adds to this, further negating any difficulty.

Also items are completely optional. I barely found myself using them throughout my entire first playthrough due to how powerful my main weapon was. This isn’t to say they’re useless, the Bow has some surprising utility by allowing you turn while planted in place, and a few are useful for terrain-based puzzle solving, but most of the time this won’t be needed.

This title was certainly designed for the casual audience rather than the permadeath-loving rogue-like community. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but what it leads to is a title that feels strangely too easy as these mirrored mechanics are normally far more harsh.

The biggest plus of this is the soundtrack without a doubt. It carries this whole experience. I can barely think of a moment where these tracks didn’t have me at the least tapping my foot to the beat. Not only are these faithful to the original pieces, but they add new flair and depth to the already expansive repertoire of the Zelda series’ soundtrack. Heck, even Otamatones are now a part of Zelda’s instrumentation.

The soundtrack is also the biggest disappointment. As of recording there is no official way of buying or streaming the tracks. 

Visually the game is a real treat. Pixel artist Paul Veer of Sonic Mania and Nuclear Throne fame really hit it out of the park with this one. Things feel lively and in-time with the world as a whole.

Although, here’s a couple of final nitpicks. Some NPC dialogue does not swap based on actions taken within the game, which breaks immersion somewhat. There’s also this weird situation where the Kargaroks in the desert freeze up when you leave their range of movement. You can also cheese several parts of the game if you happen to have the right items on hand at the right time. This has led to some players straight-up bypassing the majority of the game via some discovered skips. Your average player’s gameplay won’t be ruined by this, but it does make the built-in leaderboards a bit silly now.

(Please note that a patch or two has been released since this review was initially penned. The bugs and sequence breaks listed above may no longer be present.)

Also the secret character and other modes of modifying the game fall into one of two categories: Too huge a jump in difficulty, or overall useless as a single “run” can take actual hours.

Finally, the price point. At $25 it’s a bit steep for something that may only net you about 5 hours of gameplay.

Cadence of Hyrule offers a simple, audiovisual pleasure, but lacks any real reasons to go back and replay it for those who have already invested time into Crypt of the Necrodancer.

Any real sense of danger can easily be negated if one is familiar with the mechanics, which overall leads to a less challenging (and arguably less satisfying) experience as a whole. For Zelda fans however, get it if you’re on the fence. It’s a ton of fun, and death is designed to be more of a temporary setback than an actual severe punishment. The difficulty level may be just right for you.

I’m giving Cadence of Hyrule 6/10 heart containers. It’s solid, but unfortunately feels too distant in challenge and depth from its mechanical source to really satisfy the itch Necrodancer does. Due to this, it is being tagged as a Fad.

If you find this title to be a touch too easy like I did, give the original NecroDancer a shot. Not only does it go on sale frequently, but overall offers a lot more replayability with tons of different modes, characters and more with a soundtrack just as amazing as the remixes heard in Cadence.

Nintendo please allow full release of the soundtrack. I would gladly pay the full retail price of this game for that.

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