In the video game industry, some of the most successful games have established themselves as an entire franchise. And these franchises span years, sometimes even decades, through multiple platforms and different game styles. A game franchise might start as a simple platformer game, and transform to include a racing game, a fighting game, an RPG game, and so on. It is this adaptability and diversity that makes a game franchise survive many years and reach different generations of gamers in its lifespan.
One company that is known for its longtime franchises is Nintendo. This company rose from the ashes of the great video game crash of the 80s. Since then, it has spawned several top-rated video game franchises, which includes the Super Mario franchise, the Donkey Kong franchise, and the very popular Legend of Zelda franchise.
There is nearly twenty Legend of Zelda games made since the first one was released three decades ago. But these are just the “main” games. Several “minor” games take a break away from the original formula. These provide even more variety of gameplay to different kinds of fans. That’s not to say the unique recipe hasn’t changed or evolved, because it has. But the minor games are avenues that let the makers experiment with different ideas that provide hours of enjoyment to gamers of all kinds.
The latest installment in these minor Legend of Zelda games that break away from the formula is Cadence of Hyrule. This game, which is something similar to dark chocolate chicken wings (where two different flavors that are diverse blend very well), is a fun gaming experience. If you’re a fan of both action RPGs and moving to the heart-pumping beats of good songs, then this game is perfect for you.
But before we dive right into what Cadence Of Hyrule is, let’s first take a trip back memory lane to know more about the franchise that spawned this genuinely unique gaming experience.
History Of The Legend of Zelda Franchise
The Legend of Zelda games revolves around the titular Princess Zelda, one of the central characters of the game set in the fictional fantasy kingdom of Hyrule. It is a common misconception that the main playable character is named Zelda, much to the delight of fans and even the creators alike. The main playable character is, in fact, Link, the popular hero clad in green and who wields various weapons throughout the games. He fights for good and justice across the land and seeks to beat the main antagonist of the game series, Ganondorf, a vicious dark lord who wishes to conquer all. These three main characters each possess a piece of the Triforce, a powerful artifact that carries the virtues of the three goddesses who created the world. Princess Zelda wields the Triforce of Wisdom, Link uses the Triforce of Courage, and Ganondorf holds the Triforce of Power. When all the Triforce pieces combine in perfect balance, the Triforce will grant a wish to the possessor.
The backstory sounds like a simple one that is meant more like a children’s story than a video game series. And you’ll be right. It’s because the series creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, was inspired by his childhood memories of exploring the hills, forests, and caves of his native Japan. One key element of this childhood was discovering a cave in the middle of the woods. While most kids might turn back, Shigeru bravely entered with just a lantern for light. It proved to be a turning point for the video-game legend and became the springboard for the entire Zelda franchise.
Shigeru Miyamoto is said to have found the name of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, a pleasant-sounding name. It is why he named his game series and the titular character after her. Link, the main hero, was inspired by both Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, and his weapon, the Master Sword, was inspired by Excalibur.
Despite the simple nature of the main lore, numerous complex offshoots and side-stories for every main game that came after the first one. While the timeline of the creation of the games is pretty clear, the story timeline of the games themselves is pretty complicated.
Below we will tackle the timeline of the main games and not the games’ in-lore timeline.
- The Legend of Zelda (1986) – this is the game that set the franchise on the path of greatness. The main elements of the franchise that still exist today, in one form or another, were established here: the main characters, the lore, and the action. The gameplay of this granddaddy-of-a-game is that of a 2D game with an “overhead” point of view, where you can see a large chunk of the game world for every screen you enter. The mix of puzzle-solving, hack-and-slash action, and a vibrant color palette set the standard that will be copied by many other games.
- The Adventure of Link (1987) – just the second game in the franchise and already this game tried to break away from the established formula. While you still control Link and even have an action-RPG experience, it moved out of the overhead POV and used a side-scrolling one. It is now a mostly 2D, almost platform-type of a game that is less exploration and a lot more action and combat. The RPG element has also increased with the use of experience points to increase the potency of skills. And Link can now also cast spells by this game. Despite the daring break from the formula, no other Legend of Zelda game copied the side-scrolling style anymore.
- A Link to the Past (1991) – The third game in the series debuted on the console that would succeed the Nintendo Entertainment System: The Super Nintendo Entertainment System or the SNES. A Link to the Past went back to the style of the first game, now updated with 16-bit graphics, sounds, and music. But it did more than re-do or remade the game. In true innovative fashion, the game added a new feature that would become a staple for other games in the series: parallel dimensions. In A Link to the Past, the protagonist has to shift between a dark world and a light world. It is to beat the antagonist, Ganon.
- Link’s Awakening (1993) – This game is significant for a couple of reasons and again shows the risks the game makers are willing to take to innovate. First, Link’s Awakening is the first game on a handheld system, the Nintendo Gameboy. Second, the game isn’t set in Hyrule, where the past three games took place. And lastly, it marks the first time that the titular Zelda didn’t appear. Nevertheless, Link’s Awakening secured its place in history as one of the most beloved early handheld games to have been created.
- The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon (1993) – While the series was gaining steam at this point and establishing itself as a real franchise, it wasn’t without its flaws and shortcomings. This pair of games were the first to come out on a non-Nintendo system and the first not on cartridges. The budding CD-ROM technology of the time, specifically the Philips CD-i, is where this pair of games were put. In theory, it should have resulted in a cutting-edge game, with the system capable of playing animated videos, voices, and more. But it failed on all fronts, and many fans consider this the lowest point of the series.
- Ocarina of Time (1998) – Considered by many to be perhaps the best game in the entire franchise even after two decades, Ocarina of Time set a new gold standard for The Legend of Zelda. And while the latest game, Breath of the Wild (we’ll get to this later) is a real contender or perhaps successor for the title of “The Best,” Ocarina of Time’s will stay at the top of many an older fan’s lists. The game is the first to enter the world of 3D, and it did so in the very best of ways. It is considered one of the first 3D open-world games ever made and immersed the player in the vast world of Hyrule. But the Ocarina of Time isn’t just thought the best Legend of Zelda game; it is also one of the best games ever made, period. And it influenced 3D adventure games for years to come.
- Majora’s Mask (2000) – Reaching such a peak as Ocarina of Time, a dip is bound to happen. And so it did with the direct sequel, Majora’s Mask. While it is not a failure or total disappointment to fans, many felt short-changed with the game’s smaller scope and arguably repetitive gameplay. It is yet another game that wasn’t set in Hyrule, opting instead for a parallel-world called Termina. But despite the downturn from Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask continued the tradition of innovation. In this game, Link is forced to relive the same three days again and again. Over the years, it did gain traction and even a strong following for a specific set of fans.
- Oracle of Seasons/Ages (2001) – No, those aren’t two alternate titles for the same game. Those are two games, released in tandem for Nintendo’s handheld at the time, Game Boy Color. Again, continuing its tradition of innovation, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages have one connected story spanning both games that you can understand fully only if you play both games. Remember the concept of parallel worlds introduced back in A Link to the Past and continued in subsequent games? Well, this pair of games was supposed to simulate that idea. Some found it a bit off that two games only tell one connected story, going as far as thinking it was a cash grab. But it was merely Nintendo going the extra mile for its concept.
- A Link To The Past/Four Swords (2004) – The SNES classic was ported to the next-gen handheld of the time, Game Boy Advance, but with a twist: a bonus mode called Four Swords. In it, up to four people could control a different “Link” each and can play cooperatively in the game. It was such a successful hit that they expanded the game to the main console of the time, the Gamecube, as Four Swords Adventures later in the year.
- The Wind Waker (2002) – I guess by now, it wouldn’t be a surprise to realize that the next game would again try to push the envelope in a different direction instead of build on top of the previous. The Wind Waker, the first Gamecube Legend of Zelda title, is known primarily for its use of cel-shaded graphics. It made the game look very much like a 2D cartoon, even if, at its core, it is a 3D game. It was a divisive game at the time, especially since not everyone was pleased with the new art style. And while the game did technically take place in Hyrule, it wasn’t on any massive landmass. Instead, Link had to travel across the vast seas on a boat. It was a pretty wild idea for the time, but if you are both a fan of Legend of Zelda and pirates, then this game is perfect.
- The Minish Cap (2004) – Yet again, the creative minds behind the Legend of Zelda games have taken a different direction in this Game Boy Advance title. Many of the games prior, and since, have showcased Hyrule’s vast world of mountains, forests, rivers, and fields. The Minish Cap goes the exact opposite. With the titular Minish Cap, Link is shrunk down to ant-size and goes on to explore Hyrule’s miniature hidden world.
- Twilight Princess (2006) – In another change in art style and general direction, Twilight Princess got the dark and serious treatment in terms of visuals and gameplay. Even lore-wise, it took a literal dark turn, with yet another new parallel-world: the dark Twilight Realm. But the game’s innovation didn’t stop there. Perhaps its most significant contribution to the series is the use of the newly launched Nintendo Wii’s motion controllers. Although it didn’t utilize it in the way, you thought it would (that would happen in coming Skyward Sword) Twilight Princess marked the first step in the series’ next period of evolution.
- Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks (2007, 2009) – While these are two separate games, and once again in the new handheld at the time, the Nintendo DS, we are putting both as one entry in this list simply because the mechanics are very similar. Innovation-wise, the games utilized the DS’s second screen, and a key feature in both games is using the stylus to draw paths. For Phantom Hourglass, drawing paths for a boat. For Spirit Tracks, it is a train. While it did offer a few new features, it won’t be until the next game that yet another big leap in gaming would happen.
- Skyward Sword (2011) – Always looking to push the boundaries and the concept of gaming, Nintendo finally achieved a huge step forward in motion controls with Skyward Sword. Taking what Twilight Princess started to a whole new level, this game features a huge fantasy for any Link fan (or any fan of any hero wielding a sword): the ability to “swing a sword” in combat by using the Wii MotionPlus. Although this being a Legend of Zelda game, it’s not done the way you’d think: the combat is kind of like a puzzle, and you have to make the motion of the sword at critical times to take down opponents. And of course, the sword motions are also used to solve puzzles.
- A Link Between Worlds (2013) – Believe it or not, this is the successor to A Link to the Past. A game made 20 years prior! (Yes, we know, the game timeline is confusing.) Made for the 3DS, its innovation was minor at best, merely allowing Link to become a two-dimensional painting to sneak around walls and corners, and of course, solve puzzles.
- Breath of the Wild (2017) – The latest installment in this fantastic game franchise, Breath of the Wild, was launched alongside the cutting-edge Nintendo Switch. The game’s major innovation? Everything. From the vast open-world setting, intense and engaging combat system, and persistent physics system that allows you to be very creative in solving puzzles and tackling problems. Realism is also cranked up to 11. The game has weapons breaking; the materials your gear is made of can affect how the environment reacts to you (like metal objects attracting lightning in a heavy rainstorm and wearing the wrong type of clothing depending on the environment causing damage) and more. But perhaps its most distinct feature is the non-linear open-world exploration. The moment you spawn in the world, you can go anywhere and do nearly anything. It is the successor for the crown of “The Best Legend of Zelda Game” held by Ocarina of Time and has set the bar much higher for future installments.
These are the major Legend of Zelda games. As you can see, there’s quite a lot of amazing titles in this massive franchise. So, where does Cadence of Hyrule fit?
What is Cadence of Hyrule?
As mentioned earlier, amidst the many significant games in the Legend of Zelda franchise is a large number of offshoot games bearing the name of the series. Legend of Zelda: Cadence of Hyrule is one such game. And while you’d rarely expect an offshoot game to rank amongst the best Legend of Zelda games, this one is. And it’s not even made by Nintendo!
Many fans love its quirky new gameplay style, which relies heavily on music and beats, giving a new Legend of Zelda playing experience, unlike many of the games in the series.
Cadence of Hyrule is a Legend of Zelda game that uses the game style and mechanics of another game called Crypt of the Necrodancer. Crypt of the Necrodancer is an indie game made by Brace Yourself Games and is a roguelike/dungeon crawler game. Roguelike games are games that have procedurally generated, randomized areas. It makes a roguelike game have almost unlimited replayability. It’s because each area is unique and will always offer a new experience. Roguelike games have been in existence since the 1980s, made famous by the game Rogue (hence the name.) But this is not what made Crypt of the Necrodancer famous, and is most certainly not what makes Cadence of Hyrule unique and fun to play.
See, Cadence of Hyrule, like Crypt of the Necrodancer, is a rhythm-based adventure game. What does this mean? The game’s controls depend on the beat of the music! Your ability to move, your ability to fight, all rely on the beat of the song currently playing. If it’s still hard and confusing to understand, don’t worry. It’s easy to understand.
In most Legend of Zelda games, the controls are free. Meaning, if at a specific moment, you wish to move down, up, swing a sword, or whatever, you can do so with no restrictions. However, in rhythm-based games, you can’t do this. One beat is one action, and you have to time your actions to the beats to create a sequence that will give you the desired result.
For example, if you wish to go down five steps, you need to take one action every beat of the music. You can’t just press down on the gamepad and expect Cadence to walk five steps like in a regular game. That sounds easy enough. But then, imagine entering a dungeon and immediately finding yourself being chased by a skeleton five tiles to your right and a ghost nine tiles above. But the exit is four tiles down, and six tiles to the left. How will you run away? Or can you time the beat just right to fight off your enemies one by one?
Sounds intriguing? That’s because it is, and it is a unique Legend of Zelda game that continues the tradition of innovating game systems!
But wait, you might be asking, “Did you say Cadence?” Yes. In this game, you don’t control Link initially. You start with Cadence, the hero of Crypt of the Necrodancer. Don’t worry, though; you’ll get the chance to control Link -and- Zelda, in a version of Hyrule beset by the villain Octavo. This villain, who has a “flavorless musical mind,” has taken over Hyrule, and it is up to our heroes to save the day.
This game, scale-wise, is so much smaller than any other Legend of Zelda game. So if you’re after an epic journey that will take you to strange new lands to uncover some grandiose storyline, you’re better off playing a different Legend of Zelda game.
But if you’re looking for a unique take on the classic franchise that will have you tapping your feet and bobbing your head as you play, this is the game!
Key Features Of Cadence of Hyrule:
- Rhythm-based gameplay – The central concept of Cadence of Hyrule is the rhythm-based gameplay. As mentioned earlier, every action you will take in the game will depend on the beat of the music. It can be quite unforgiving at first, especially if you are coming from a game where rhythms and beats don’t matter when it comes to controlling your character. However, it is this crucial difficult feature that makes the game a unique experience to enjoy. And once you get used to it, you’ll get to “flow” with the game, its world, and even its enemies, who out there trying to stop you. Combat is fun but is not as simple as just expecting the enemies to move to the same beat as you do. Some enemies will move every two beats; some enemies will skip a beat in their pattern, the list goes on and on. Figuring out an enemy type’s rhythm and the pattern is part of the fun and requires a lot of strategizing before you engage them. Keeping to the beat will give you bonuses, increasing your attack multiplier if you hit a streak and not make a mistake. Missing a beat will reset your multiplier, and can sometimes be costly in terms of combat. It is because if you miss a beat, you may end up not moving, but your enemies can still do so. With one enemy, it’s quite simple. Now imagine four different enemies on-screen, each one with a different pattern, and you have to synchronize your movements to the beat properly to move and fight properly. That’s quite challenging already for someone who has a good sense of rhythm. But what about people who don’t? Fortunately, Cadence of Hyrule has what’s known as a “Fixed-Beat Mode.” What this does is remove the requirement to stick to following a beat. However, this doesn’t mean it turns the game into a regular Legend of Zelda game. What Fixed-Beat does is make enemies only move when you do. It, in turn, transforms the Cadence of Hyrule into another type of game: a tactics-type of game. Yet another feature of the game is that, should you play it in the regular mode, you only need to follow a beat when enemies are on the screen. So if you’re in a safe area, you can move as fast as you want. The rhythm-based gameplay is challenging, but we highly recommend you try this mode at least once despite the difficulty. There’s no other Legend of Zelda game like it!
- Procedurally generated dungeons/Roguelike gameplay – The main world of Cadence of Hyrule is nearly exactly what you’d expect from a classic Legend of Zelda game. A colorful overworld is full of different creatures, rivers, rocks, forests, and so on. With each new game, the world is swapped around a little bit to create a fresh overall feel. But the randomization of the overworld isn’t what increases the game’s replayability to near infinity; it’s the dungeons. Crypts and dungeons get randomly generated. So every time you enter one, you won’t know what to expect, and different playthroughs of the area will always yield different surprises. There are pros and cons to this kind of system. The main disadvantage is the fact that the dungeons lack the creative elements that an adequately designed level would have. In a regular Legend of Zelda game, each dungeon has a specific purpose and end-goal in mind. It means that it can be used in smart ways, to either tell a story, add mystery and suspense, and so on. The main pro, however, is the fact that the dungeons are very intense. Not only because you don’t get the same dungeon twice, but also the fact that their unpredictable nature can make combat quite tricky and confusing. It’s easy to take enough wrong steps to find yourself trapped in a corner with multiple enemies around you, resulting in an insta-kill. Speaking of death…
- Balanced difficulty – Cadence of Hyrule is a challenging game. Upon death, you lose a lot of items: rupees, shovels, torches, and so on, all drop, and you have to buy or find new ones again. There is a silver lining, however. Weapons and essential items stay with you through death. It means that while you have to start from a certain point again, each re-run becomes ever so slightly more manageable. It gives a sense of progression once you go beyond the point where you previously died. It is reminiscent of another famous game franchise that is also known for its difficulty: FromSoftware’s SoulsBornEkiro series (an amalgamation of the Dark Souls games, Bloodborne, and Sekiro.)
- Legend of Zelda-style puzzles and progression – Cadence of Hyrule might be a Crypt of the Necrodancer game. Still, the puzzles, progression system, and overall lore all stay true to the Legend of Zelda formula. With the addition of the rhythm-based gameplay, the puzzles get an extra layer of complexity and difficulty that isn’t in any other Legend of Zelda game.
- Fantastic music – For a rhythm-based game, I guess the music plays a critical part in the overall experience. In Cadence of Hyrule, the role of the music goes one step beyond. Because not only does the music emphasize the beat that needs to be followed for movement and combat, it also gives a very nostalgic feeling for the player. Classic hits such as A Link to the Past’s overworld music is given a heavy keyboard, drum-intense rock remix. The drums dictate the beat while the synth keyboard tunes give a nostalgic 80s/90s video game vibe.
Cadence of Hyrule has a ton of key features that give it a unique and fun gaming experience, but there are also a couple of things that you need to consider before you pick up the game and start your new Hyrule journey.
- Steep learning curve – While the difficulty is balanced and fair, the learning curve to get used to the gameplay can be quite high. Even more so, if the goal is to be quite excellent and adept at it, the auditory input can easily be overwhelmed by the visual one. What we mean by that is the eye having to track everything on-screen can easily take your brain’s attention away from the beat, to disastrous results. However, keep at it, and you should be fine! Once you get used to the game, it’ll be a blast to play. And what you’ll find out is that the difficulty becomes part of the overall experience.
- Small map and short game – The game world, compared to traditional Legend of Zelda games, is small. Especially when compared to the more recent entries. So once you overcome the learning curve, you’ll probably breeze through the entire game in an afternoon. But the procedurally generated dungeons are meant to overcome this aspect of the game. Just knowing that you’ll get a new series of areas in a new playthrough is enough to get that itch to re-play Cadence of Hyrule. And once your skills increase, a nagging feeling of wanting to see if you can clear the game faster, or more efficiently, will come.
Overall, Cadence of Hyrule, while not an official Nintendo creation, certainly lives up to the innovative ways of the Legend of Zelda franchise. It is unique in that while there are many 3D platformers, top-down perspective, fun and quirky handheld Legend of Zelda games, there is only one rhythm-based game that provides a different kind of challenge for newcomers and veterans alike. It is a highly-recommended game worthy of the title Legend of Zelda.