Friday, November 6, 2020

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (NSW) Review

We just can't escape Zelda-like games this month, can we? Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda launched originally on the Nintendo Switch eShop last summer, but now it's available with all DLC included on one game card. Here's the SPC review.

And the beat goes on... and enjoyably on.

What a delight to see Nintendo branching out with one of its most prized and celebrated franchises and seeing it given to an indie developer to create one of the most interesting and enjoyable spinoffs in The Legend of Zelda franchise! That's exactly what happened last year when Nintendo and developer of Crypt of the NecroDancer, Brace Yourself Games, teamed up and announced Cadence of Hyrule, a rhythm-based action game set in the world of The Legend of Zelda. Now, a complete edition of the game with all of its DLC packs is available in one nice and neat retail package, and for someone like me who waited and hoped for such a physical release, I can happily say that this wait was most definitely worth it.

A mysterious musician named Octavo uses a Golden Lute to put several prominent denizens of the kingdom of Hyrule into a permanent slumber, including Hyrule's king, as well as Link and Zelda. Called forth into Hyrule by the power of the Triforce, Cadence--heroine from the Crypt of the NecroDancer--wakes up both of our heroes and enlists their help to not only thwart Octavo's grand plan by defeating his Four Champions, but also to find a way back home for Cadence. This, at least, is the plot of the main story of Cadence of Hyrule, but there are also side stories that were added as part of the three packs that were paid DLC that are included in this physical edition of the game.

One of these sees players taking on the role of Octavo, needing to enter into four dungeons across Hyrule to summon and defeat his Four Champions for them to join his cause for a much larger plan. Then, there's a story that takes place in Hyrule's future, which players as Cadence, Link, Zelda, or Octavo don't even see until late in their stories. This future-centric story showcases Skull Kid, and it's a much, much tougher adventure, but all-so-rewarding to see to the end.

Cadence of Hyrule's action takes place square-by-square. Every beat that syncs with the music is an opportunity for you to move, attack, defend, use items, and so forth. Beware, however, as enemies can perform their own actions on each and every beat as well. Different enemy types have different patterns to them. Every other beat, a Black Tektite leaps to a diagonal square, for instance, so you have to keep these patterns in mind to avoid taking damage while simultaneously setting yourself up to defeat foes. 

I think I make this joke more often than not in a caption like this, but here goes anyway...
This doesn't seem like it's going to be a day at the beach here for Link.

Additionally, if you find yourself off-beat for whatever reason (there's alternately also a visual indicator to help match up with the beat), that's essentially the same as missing your turn, thus putting you a disadvantage in battle. It definitely takes some getting used to in order to consistently move to the beat--at least it did for me--but eventually I got into a groove and started to move in sync with the music, stepping and battling in rhythm to the beat, while simultaneously beating down baddies with ease.

Still, if sticking to the beat is too taxing for you, or you simply want a change of pace, you can opt to play the "fixed beat" mode, which removes the rhythm-based gameplay of Cadence of Hyrule entirely. It moves more towards a Mystery Dungeon-style game, though one where when you perform an action, every enemy does as well. It's just done without having to play without any timing or precision of any sort. My preferred way of playing Cadence of Hyrule ended up being this fixed beat mode, as it allowed me to enjoy a more mellow adventure that I could take my time during without having to make otherwise stressful split-second decisions.

Along each character's journey, they'll stumble across weapons of all varieties of different attack ranges and usefulness.

When all enemies have been defeated on a screen, the need to move with the beat is removed, allowing for free exploration in order to solve simple puzzles. Unlike the Zelda series proper, puzzles in Cadence of Hyrule are by no means complex or convoluted whatsoever. They generally devolve into pushing blocks to serve as platforms to reach higher spaces on the screen.

With each save data you create in Cadence of Hyrule, the map and geography of Hyrule changes. Not only are locations of destinations like Kakariko Village, Gerudo Town, Death Mountain, the Lost Woods, among other notable Zelda areas randomized, but so, too, are the locations of dungeons and key items like the Boomerang, Bow and Arrows, Power Glove, Deku Leaf, and more. It makes for an entirely different Hyrule to explore with each and every play-through. Certain screens remain similar in geography, but they become swapped around the map with new play-throughs or exchanged entirely between save files. Places like dungeons are randomized with each visit, as opposed to each save file, so that adds even more chaos and freshness to each play-through.

Dungeons are understandably the most dangerous locations within Hyrule, so trek carefully!

Getting around Hyrule itself is quite dangerous, but there are things to ease the burden of your adventure. Sheikah Stones are readily available around the kingdom, allowing for quick and painless fast travel options. There is honestly a plethora of locations, making it so you'll seldom have to do too much backtracking through repeated rooms or areas. There also Zelda series mainstays like Pieces of Heart to collect to boost your health supply, in addition to bottles that can be filled with Faeries or better yet, potions to heal you upon knocking on death's door.

Speaking of knocking on death's door (and in this case, having that door be opened), it's seldom a good idea to play recklessly in the land of Hyrule. Death results in the loss of your hard-earned Rupees, used to purchase various helpful items and bonuses in Hyrule's myriad shops or to participate in some enjoyable mini-games. Various items like certain collected weapons and items that break after several hits, also disappear from your inventory upon death as well. Fortunately, Diamonds, another currency in Cadence of Hyrule--as well as all key items--stay with you no matter if you face the game over screen or not. 

Cadence of Hyrule offers a multitude of modes and features inside its complete edition. Such a feature is the ability to play the entire campaign with a second player in true co-op fashion. Meanwhile, there is also permadeath mode, which has you needing to boldly venture through the randomness of Hyrule on one life. Once you fall in battle, that's it. It's all over, and your save file is promptly deleted--so no takesy-backsies! Permadeath mode can be played with any character and with any story. In addition to that, there is also a more traditional dungeon-crawler mode a la Crypt of the NecroDancer that places a character of your choosing in a massive dungeon to explore, as well as an all-puzzle dungeon in the game as well to try out if your prefer to showcase your brain over your brawn. Furthermore, you can mix and match musical arrangements by individual song and arranger in the options menu, and lastly, there are numerous achievements to unlock for doing things like daily challenges, clearing permadeath mode, or beating bosses with only a specific item. 

No need to go it alone in Cadence of Hyrule; local co-op is available.

As for the music, an obviously important piece of this rhythm-based action game, the composers and arrangers of the music for Cadence of Hyrule have absolutely slayed it like Link's Master Sword to a Moblin. The arrangements are top-tier efforts that feature multiple versions depending on the situation. For example, when no enemies are nearby, the tune of Gerudo Desert is mellow with a hint of "The Good, Bad, and the Ugly", while the full combat version features awesome rock guitar and brass. It really gets you in the mood to battle Octavo's forces, and as a fan of the Zelda series and its music, it's positively delightful.

Familiar Zelda bosses get a musical makeover, each with a pun-tastic name like Gohmaracas here.

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda's retail release offers a lot of bang for one's Rupees. The procedurally generated overworld and dungeons mean you'll get a lot of replayability from the game, and the many modes mean you'll not be short in content to enjoy. As with games of the rogue-lite design, it can be rather deflating to have a good run go bad due to one or two wrong moves--especially in permadeath mode--but other than that small-ish issue, I can't see too much wrong with Nintendo and Brace Yourself Games' effort. 

After all, this is a game that you don't just play through once, you play through it multiple times. Not out of any sense of duty or anything like that, but out of motivation--to beat the game as different characters and experience their stories, to earn new achievements, to beat the game faster, to do it in the least amount of steps as you can. Cadence of Hyrule successfully brings two wonderful things together--The Legend of Zelda and Crypt of the NecroDancer--and creates a package that fans of one or the other (or both!) will truly love. This Zelda fan certainly did.

[SPC Says: A-]

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