Let’s get this out of the way: Cadence of Hyrule is awesome! On the whole it does an excellent job combining the rhythm-based movement and combat of Crypt of the Necrodancer with the items, characters, and art style of The Legend of Zelda. On top of that, the soundtrack (consisting of Necrodancer-style remixes of classic Zelda songs) is straight up amazing. If you haven’t played the game yet I highly recommend you try it out.
All that being said, if I’m being completely honest there are a few things about Cadence of Hyrule that I found a bit disappointing. Not with what was included in the game, but rather by what was left out of it. See, whenever you combine two games some of the original design elements aren’t going to work well together. As a result, some of these elements end up cut or scaled back. Cadence of Hyrule’s movement system is a pretty clear example of this. In classic Zelda games you can move fairly freely around the world, but in Crypt of the Necrodancer movement is locked to a grid and must be done in time with the music. Since these two movement systems are incompatible with each other, Cadence of Hyrule chose to ditch Zelda’s movement system in favour of Necrodancer’s (a decision that was obviously the right call).
But now that the core gameplay of Cadence of Hyrule has been created and tested (and we know that it’s excellent), I think that Brace Yourself Games should consider revisiting some of these design decisions. Specifically, I think there are three main areas that Cadence of Hyrule’s sequel could (hopefully) one day improve on:
One of the key elements of Zelda games is their toolbox approach towards item design. In most Zelda games, as you travel through the world and complete dungeons you collect various items to aid you on your quest. Each of these items can be thought of as a new tool for your toolbox, something you will inevitably (and often repeatedly) call upon to overcome any obstacle that comes your way. One of the biggest strengths to this approach to item design is that all your items feel valuable, and you always have this feeling that everything will eventually come in handy.
Cadence of Hyrule does feature this to some extent, since you do have access to a plethora of classic Zelda items. However, the problem is that the most items are entirely unnecessary for completing the game. In my playthrough I literally never used the vast majority of the items available (specifically the Bombchus, Boomerang, Deku Leaf, Din’s Fire, Fire Arrows, Fire Rod, Ice Arrows, Ice Rod, Lightning Arrows, Pegasus Anklet, Poison Arrows, War Drum, and any of the Scrolls). This wasn’t a conscious choice or challenge I set for myself, I just never needed them.
Does this mean that these items should be cut from the sequel? No, absolutely not! While I never used those items I’m sure some players loved using them. But what I would like is for the sequel to add in more enemies, obstacles, and puzzles that force me to use them. How about adding in switches that you can’t hit unless you hit them with a returning Boomerang? Or maybe add some enemies that are only vulnerable to specific types of arrows? Or what if you needed to use the Ice Rod to freeze a waterfall so that you could jump up it using the Rito Feather? Cadence of Hyrule has already created a fully stocked toolbox, I just want the sequel to make me use it.
Cadence of Hyrule features four main dungeons where you fight your way through several floors of enemies, culminating in an epic boss battle. These levels feel like they were ripped straight out of Necrodancer, save for one key difference: the level timer. In Necrodancer, each floor had to be completed before the song ended. If you didn’t find the exit before the song finished, you’d be forced to start the next level anyways (with a bunch of extra monsters to fight as a penalty). This gave Necromancer’s levels a great sense of urgency where you both wanted to fully explore the level for gold/items, but also find the exit as quickly as possible.
In Cadence of Hyrule this timer was removed completely. Instead, songs loop endlessly so that you can take as much time as you want. For the overworld sections of the game this makes perfect sense since you want players to take their time exploring. But within the dungeons you don’t want your players to feel safe enough to explore every nook and cranny. Rather, you want them to feel like they are in constant danger and that they need to keep pushing onwards. But if you can spend literally an unlimited amount of time ransacking each floor it’s hard to feel that way.
So what should the sequel do? Honestly all they need to do is bring back the timer for the dungeons. Not only will this bring back a sense of urgency, it will also complement the procedural generation. Speaking of which, this brings me to my last point:
The Roguelike Elements
Like Necrodancer, Cadence of Hyrule is technically a roguelike. But unlike Necrodancer it doesn’t really feel like one. Broadly speaking, roguelikes use design elements like permadeath and procedural generation to make every play session feel completely different from one another. Every time you play a roguelike you never know what items, enemies, or environments you’ll encounter, so every playthrough feels fresh. But with Cadence of Hyrule there really isn’t much of a difference each time you play. While the overworld and dungeon levels are randomly generated each time you play, you won’t really notice this unless you die a lot (which, honestly, I only died one time on my entire playthrough so I barely noticed). The items and bosses you encounter are also the same, so it’s not like each run will offer unique tools or challenges. All of this adds up to Cadence of Hyrule not really feeling very replayable when compared to other roguelikes.
So what’s the solution? I think that Cadence of Hyrule’s sequel needs to lean a bit heavier into its roguelike roots. Maybe the game can still have four main dungeons, but they are chosen randomly from a pool of 8 possible dungeons? Maybe some items/weapons, like the Cane of Somaria or the Flail, aren’t offered every run so you have to make do with what you find. And maybe you could unlock more playable characters as you complete playthroughs so you have more incentive to play again? Any of these could help boost the game’s replayability and help keep it as fun on the 100th playthrough as it was on the first one.
So there are my thoughts on what Brace Yourself Games could do to make Cadence of Hyrule II rock! What do you think? What would you want to see in a sequel to Cadence of Hyrule? Let me know in the comments down below!