Cadence of Hyrule II?: What I'd Want To See In A Sequel

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.

I may or may not have listened to this song on repeat while writing this blog post…

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:

The Items

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.

You really only need Bombs, Bow, Hookshot, and Power Glove. Oh, and stabbing. Lots and lots of stabbing.

You really only need Bombs, Bow, Hookshot, and Power Glove. Oh, and stabbing. Lots and lots of stabbing.

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.

The Dungeons

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.

Link is looking pretty calm considering he’s in a volcano surrounded by monsters.

Link is looking pretty calm considering he’s in a volcano surrounded by monsters.

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.

I had to kill myself just to get this screenshot. I hope you appreciate it.

I had to kill myself just to get this screenshot. I hope you appreciate it.

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!


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Doomed to be Doom Clones? How Genres Are Created

Recently for my Games and Society course I wrote a paper about how to define Roguelikes as a genre. Turns out that topic is a bit complicated, and once I’ve figured out how to break that paper down into a manageable blog post I’ll share my thoughts on it. But today I wanted to share something broader I learned while researching that paper about how video game genres come to be.

The Four Step Process

Genre creation is a fairly simple process made up of four steps. The first step is someone makes an innovative and successful game (I said it was simple I never said it was easy). The next step is that that game gets copied. A lot. People try to emulate and capitalize on the success of the original game by cloning it over and over again. The third step is that the clones start to get…weird. They start challenging fundamental aspects of the original game or mixing it with elements from other genres. Sometimes these new games change so much that they look almost nothing like their original inspiration. Finally, after enough time, we move to the final step where a few core traits emerge consistenly across all the games. Those traits then form the basis for the genre.

I love that this guy’s name is literally “Doomguy.” [   image source   ]

I love that this guy’s name is literally “Doomguy.” [image source]

Take the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre as an example. When Doom was originally released back in 1993 it was a critical and commercial success. Trying to capitalize on that success, the market became flooded with Doom Clones, games which shameless copied Doom’s gameplay as much as possible. But eventually, developers started to branch out and experiment. Borderlands mixed Doom with the loot system from Diablo, Portal transformed your gun into a puzzle solving device, and Fallout added RPG elements and an open world. Now FPS games don’t all have to be about using guns to shoot demons from Mars, but instead are really just any game with a first-person perspective where you primarily use some sort of projectile-based “weapon.”

Why does this matter?

This matters because a lot of people get caught up in whether or not a game should be part of a genre, but I think this misses the point. These arguments tend to pop up a lot when genres start moving from step 2 to step 3 and the “clones” start diverging a lot from the original. At this point, fans start getting protective and feel like the genre is getting corrupted or expanded and losing what made it special. But this isn’t the case! We want the clones to get as far away from the original as possible so we can know everything the genre has to offer. Imagine if every FPS game today was just like Doom. Then we wouldn’t have games like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, Antichamber, Far Cry, Half-Life, Splatoon, etc. It’s only by letting the genre evolve that we can keep making fun and innovative games. So don’t worry if a genre is faithful to where it came from. Instead, get excited about where it’s gonna go next.

TL;DR: If you want to make a genre, here’s what you gotta do: make something cool, get it copied, and then let the copies get weird. Eventually, you’ll have a genre…in like 10-30 years.

Want to learn more about this? Check out Mark Brown’s fantastic video on the Soulslike Genre, Amr Al-Aaser’s excellent essay about mythologizing games, and Greg Costikyan’s interesting article which takes a more historical perspective on genre.