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The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Forget Genres, Cadence of Hyrule Seemlessly Mashes-Up Entire Series

I’ve been slowly working my way through some of the indie game backlog on my Switch, and wanted to do a few shorter reviews of games that especially jumped out at me, starting with something I hinted was coming in my last piece on video games: Brace Yourself Games’ Legend of Zelda spin-off, Cadence of Hyrule.

(The music is of course great, as both series are known for their soundtracks. So why not check out a sample as backing music while reading this review?

One of my earlier favorite pickups for the Switch was BYG’s original Crypt of the Necrodancer, a game I had heard a lot of good things about but never gotten around to trying. It went on sale on the Switch, so I decided to finally try it out on a whim. And I wound up getting a lot playtime out of it! I had always been sort of iffy on dungeon crawler and roguelike/roguelite games for various reasons, but Crypt took the best parts of those two genres and used them to balance each other out, all set to a banging soundtrack that made it an even more interesting rhythm game.

Giving each move in the dungeon crawler the strict time limit of a beat in a song kept you from overthinking and over-optimizing every move, and tying the dungeon sizes to the length of songs kept them from becoming too sprawling or overwhelming and made the threat of having to start over not feel completely dispiriting. Conversely, the rogue-lite elements mean you get to try different styles of play rather than just following your optimized plan, and there’s only minimal planning you even could do before tackling each level, plus the music helped to telegraph enemy attack patterns so that you learn how to navigate each world quicker. On the whole, it was a really neat little system.

Meanwhile, I’ve written before about my love for The Legend of Zelda series, especially the 2D entries. I’m always excited for more entries into whatever-that-genre-is-called (maybe I’ll tackle that issue another day), but tying it to Crypt of the Necrodancer’s systems posed some interesting clashes. Legend of Zelda isn’t really known for small procedurally-generated worlds, or for losing all your gear regularly and starting over, or for randomization, or for strict rules on movement, or any number of other things that could have tripped up the developers. When the game was first announced, all of those questions and more made it seem interesting, but like something that would be more of a novelty, something like a new Crypt of the Necrodancer but with Link plopped in as in Soul Calibur II, or a Zelda spin-off with added focus on music instead of, say, multiplayer.

Instead, though, Brace Yourself Games hit the perfect balance of the two; Cadence of Hyrule feels like both a Zelda game and a Crypt sequel, with enough new ideas brought to the table to make it not feel like it solely belongs to one series or the other. Areas were the two might have clashed have been reconciled in ways that keep them feeling true to both games. It really is a hybrid of the two series, which on the whole makes it feel like a new and exciting experience.