Review: Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer

Posted 16 June 2019 by Chris Carter

Dun dun dun dunnnnnnnn

Music has always been a monumental part of Zelda‘s worldwide success. Nintendo even crafted an entire concert series out of its legacy.

Crypt of the NecroDancer is a game that’s literally all about music.

It’s a match made in heaven.

Cadence of Hyrule Review

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer (Switch)
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Publisher: Nintendo
MSRP: $24.99
Release Date: June 13, 2019

How this project even happened is nothing short of a miracle given how close Nintendo keeps their treasured properties to their chest, but I’m glad it did.

If you’ve never played NecroDancer before that’s okay, I’ll give you the rundown. Basically, you’re traversing dungeons with a top-down viewpoint similar to an actual roguelike. As you move to the beat you accrue a bonus, and actions get more powerful if you keep that beat. Where things get really interesting is when you add Brace Yourself Games’ enemy tactics into the mix, where each type of baddie does something different that forces you to not only think on the run, but keep your rhythm intact while you’re doing it.

It’s way harder than it sounds. You have the entire game meta to figure out (which includes items that are minor mysteries mechanically until you use them) on top of getting good at the rhythm elements. Luckily for those of you who are turned off by anything mentioned so far, Brace Yourself has gone through great lengths to not only borrow cues from the Zelda series proper, but alleviate some of the frustration typically found in the roguelike subgenre.

So this is an all-new adventure, complete with its own cutscenes and self-encased narrative. The “Cadence” from the moniker is the name of the hero from the first game, who returns and is joined by a playable Link and Zelda. Cadence finds herself magically lost in Hyrule at the very start, and there is immediate Link to the Past vibes. Complete a tutorial, choose who you want to be (Zelda or Link, but the other can be unlocked later for easy swappage), and you’re on your way.

Although it is a roguelike, that term has become sullied in recent years: Cadence (and by extension, Crypt) is a little more forgiving than most. Instead of a stilted menu-like hub, Cadence is connected by a legitimate grid-based Zelda overworld, complete with a map, in the same vein as classics like Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening (or you know, the original). It’s such a simple change but it’s 100% welcome.

Cadence of Hyrule feels like a full-on Zelda game with a different combat and movement system. Permanent upgrades (most of which are taken from past games) are my everything, and it’s immensely satisfying to find or buy another augmentation or classic item. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously as it seeks to craft its own identity beyond the nostalgia. The Ghoma is now the “Ghomaracas,” and although a lot of enemies retain the same mechanics as NecroDancer (slimes are still slimes, and jumping skeletons are now Bokoblins), the multi-faceted approach to nearly everything you do is still present.

That Zelda/Nintendo influence keeps going. Sheikah Stone checkpoints (which you can respawn at when you die, or teleport to when you get the fast travel item) make things so much more forgiving. The overworld format is more inviting, dungeons have shortcuts so you don’t need to do every single room over again if you fail, and diamond currency returns for permanent progression (and your stockpile is not lost when leaving a hub like the original). The only thing you lose are temporary equipment and your Rupee stock.

As it pertains to the main campaign, the traditional slow pace of “barely beating the first boss, then immediately dying as soon as you enter the second zone, then buying an upgrade to barely make it farther in turn” is gone. Now in some cases I love that and the thrill of beating something in one go that you thought was impossible is utter bliss. But not every game needs to use that formula, and a Zelda roguelike crossover would not have benefited from that approach.

I’m glad Cadence went this route. If I had one complaint with the campaign, it’s that bosses are a bit simplistic and they can be brute forced once you really start to become one with the game. A few later encounters impede this strategy but the core four don’t, which is disappointing. Even still they’re all memorable in their own way, as was the journey getting there.

So how’s the music? Killer. It needs to be! Danny Baranowsky has done it once again, and having the strong backbone of the last 33 years of Zelda history to work with doesn’t hurt. I mean, I’ve heard most of these melodies for my entire life and I haven’t gotten sick of them, and 25 tracks is more than enough to keep the variety going for an entire campaign.

Speaking of, my first run took me roughly five hours (100%-ing that file took another three), which is a much breezier experience than the original NecroDancer. However, I immediately started another run and I’m fiddling with the permadeath option, with no plans to stop anytime soon. Plus two player mode returns (drop-in, same-console), along with custom tweaks (one of which lets you play as a single character) and daily challenges. I also don’t need to tell you that there are no mods on Switch to further enhance longevity, but I’m telling you anyway.

Cadence of Hyrule really surprised me. It takes the best parts of Crypt of the NecroDancer and makes them more accessible, which really comes with the territory when you’re paying homage to The Legend of Zelda. Although it may still take you a while to pick it up, the familiar and welcome open world format is a much better way for new players to acclimate.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]



A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.

About The Author
Chris Carter
EIC, Reviews Director - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step in January of 2009 blogging on the site. Now, he's staff!
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