Cadence of Hyrule, the new Zelda-spinoff rhythm game, is basically 1000 smiles distilled into their purest form and injected directly into your brain. It is the most charming, utterly pleasant, and breathtakingly unique game I have played in quite some time. Without further adieu, let’s count down the Top 10 things that make this gem basically a puppy party in game form.
10) The Puzzle Aspect
Each enemy has their own unique movement pattern to memorize. Combining that with having to move to the beat leads to every room turning into an intricate dance puzzle. You can’t just hack and slash your way through baddies. Rather, you really have to map out your route quickly in your head and execute it perfectly. Landing the final blow and clearing an area feels so incredibly rewarding that after a few hours with the game, you’ll wish you could complete your everyday tasks to the beat.
9) The Roguelike Lite
I’m not the biggest fan of roguelike games, but Cadence strikes the perfect balance between the procedurally generated variety of the ephemeral roguelikes and the standard hand designed adventures of the 16-bit era. The map itself is randomly generated at the start of each playthrough, and dungeons are created each time you enter them meaning you get the chance to adapt and learn, while also facing unique challenges and creating high replay value. The ability to carry most weapons and items over between lives is a great help, while the loss of things like keys and coins makes every death feel meaningful and keeps you on your toes.
8) Discovering Crypt of the Necrodancer
Somehow, I hadn’t played the original game, Crypt of the Necrodancer, prior to picking up Cadence of Hyrule, but I’m unbelievably thankful I grabbed it on sale following the latest’s release. After completing the 8 hour or so main campaign in Cadence, it was incredible traveling back to the original and seeing the much rougher building blocks that eventually morphed into the best Zelda spinoff ever. All the charm and wonder is there in an even more difficult and addicting pure roguelike form. I can’t wait to see what the next iteration brings.
7) All the Gadgets
Aside from the fantastic art direction, the incorporation of all the classic Zelda gadgets from the boomerang and hookshot to the power glove and bottles for trapping fairies ensure you feel like the greatest elven warriors Nintendo has ever seen.
6) The Music
It’s surprisingly simple to match the beat in these inspired new takes on classic Zelda songs. The only real downside is you might find yourself so caught up in the catchy tune that you forget all about the enemies bearing down on you.
5) Playing as Zelda
Aside from the Smash series, there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to play as the Princess of Hyrule in games, which is a shame because she kicks so much butt. In Cadence, you can either start the game as Zelda or unlock her about 1/3 of the way through, and several areas require switching between characters or utilizing teamwork. The results are phenomenal, as this princess packs an even greater punch than Link thanks to her magical abilities. While my first playthrough started as Link, I can’t wait to begin another with Zelda as my main.
4) More Old School Zelda!
This game instantly transported me back into the 16-bit SNES days of my childhood better than any of the thousands of games that copy that aesthetic. Each pan between areas or visit to familiar friends might as well have been coming out of a CRT TV with oddly intricate wooden paneling for some reason.
The first hour or so of the game is a little rough, not because of anything to do with the game itself but because of the learning curve required to survive Octavo’s minions. When you start, you’re likely to die in every new room you enter, but after 90 minutes or so once you’ve acquired several additional hearts, some better weapons, and a whole lot more rhythm in your soul you’ll suddenly be wiping out entire dungeons with ease and feeling like a true Hero of Legend.
2) The Ending
I won’t get too deep into spoiler territory, but the ending of this game was everything I could have hoped for. Whereas there are plenty of elements throughout that make this feel like a canonical adventure, the ending brilliantly plays off of one of the most memorable pieces of one of the best games in the series to truly bring the experience to even greater heights.
1) The Sense That You’re Witnessing the Developer’s Dream Game
The main reason that everything works so incredibly well and is so memorable, is because every last downbeat, animation, and water monster was clearly the result of someone doing what they absolutely love the most. The development team got to turn their beloved Crypt of the Necrodancer into a full-fledged Zelda game, and the pride and joy they got in making the game of their dreams is evident in each frame. Sharing in that triumph with them truly transforms this game into something special.