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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Emotion Analysis: Wind Waker and Live Enjambment

[This analysis concerns the first minute of the video below - this is the scene preceding the final battle.]


I have coined a word to describe a particular type of dialogue delivery that's pretty much exclusive to videogames: "live enjambment"!
Live enjambment is a literary device that is, predictably, a variation on regular literary enjambment. This specifically concerns the affordance that only 'timed' media like lyric videos and videogames can take advantage of.

If you haven't already, I request that you watch the first 60 seconds of the the above video. When you watch, is there a specific line that makes you get particularly emotional? I know it's obviously subjective, but for me, I get a wave of emotion right here:

ganonspeech.jpg

Me pasting the quote doesn't really have the same impact as when Ganondorf says it in the game, does it? There's a few answers as to why that's the case - for one, it's context. Ingame, the water and the sounds in the background and the way he blinks when speaking obviously pull you into the moment of the scene, whereas my image is nestled in an ocean of words. But I think there's a little something extra that makes it pop, and it's the fact that Nintendo puts effort into modifying how certain lines are delivered.

Wind Waker does this all the time, in fact. Notice the long pause between "I..." and "...coveted that wind". When the words have a temporally spaced delivery like that, it does a few things at once:

1) It links the dialogue to the act of speech.
2) It allows for implied sighs, forlorn pauses, grasping for words, etc.
3) It lets the player slow down and absorb the words at an appropriate pace.

To forcibly gate word delivery for the purpose of modifying the reader's pace is not a new concept. In poetry, to use enjambment is to utilize line breaks to chop up a sentence for effect. Here's an example of some poetic enjambment for you busters out there:

He, who navigated with success
the dangerous river of his own birth
once more set forth

on a voyage of discovery
into the land I floated on
but could not touch to claim.
— "Death of a Young Son by Drowning" by Margaret Atwood, 1969

"into the land I floated on // but could not touch to claim" makes me a little emotional to read even now - I think that's because out of context, this excerpt look like it could have been written by the King of Red Lions himself. But you can see here that you need to pause your reading for 0.25 seconds to ferry your eyes to the next line, and how that pause can alter direct the pacing of the poem. Neat!

The most strategic move would be for Nintendo to just hire Atwood already.

The most strategic move would be for Nintendo to just hire Atwood already.

Meanwhile, in games, you can actually physically pause the dialogue instead of simulating it with line breaks. And to be honest, while enjambment in poetry is fine, I actually think that live enjambment has a stronger effect than regular line-break-enjambment. Or at least, the former produces a more obvious pause, since you can force players to wait a minimum amount of time before continuing.

And this is why I think live enjambment is awesome!

I believe that Nintendo / the Zelda team was really onto something by playing with the delivery of dialogue - it seems like an awesome yet surprisingly under-explored territory with regards to how games can make us feel things.

By letting the player hang onto words more dearly, by having the reader feel the same pauses, sighs and emotional pace of the characters, the player may subsequently feel more attached and immersed into the moment itself.

Live enjambment has a lot more flexibility than regular enjambent with regards to how long one can pause a line of dialogue since you hard-code it on your end instead of hoping the reader will wait. Furthermore, one can tie visuals with the dialogue to further link together a pause with its implied action. For example, if somebody is heaving a boulder, one could synchronize the line delivery with each heavy lift.

A few games take it further by making the player press 'A' between words or lines (with purposeful intent) to really make it feel like the words are being drawn out or difficult to say. While I feel like there's a limit before that gets annoying, I do think it's a unique affordance of videogames that could be used to strong effect.


Throttling dialogue can be way more than just UX to keep players from being overwhelmed with words - when the writers and designers work together, they have the potential to craft some seriously memorable quotes that only work thanks to the dimension of time. I hope more games can take advantage of their unique medium to enhance the delivery of their writing and their games.

sympathy-picture-8-death.png

I know a few other RPGs do live enjambment, but my memory is murky - if there's any you'd like to mention below, feel free to do so!

[ You can read the entire poem by Margaret Atwood here. ]