The Zelda side of the crossover is much easier to immediately appreciate. The visual style is gorgeous, looking like an original take on early-2000s era 2D Zelda games like Minish Cap, with a lot of the overworld inspired by A Link to the Past.
Meanwhile the remixes of classic Zelda tunes are inspired, and the world is full of recognisable enemies, puzzle concepts and items that have been redesigned to better fit in the Necrodancer style. It’s not every day Nintendo hands the keys to one of its biggest franchises to indie developers, but the results here are brilliant.
Playing all the way through this game should take less than 10 hours, but the procedurally generated elements mean you can keep coming back again and again. Every time you start a new game the areas that make up the world are shuffled around into a new arrangement, and the various dungeons are completely randomised in design. This makes for a rougelike take on Zelda dungeons, replacing the traditional hand-crafted puzzle style.
As in Necrodancer you can unlock permanent new weapons and upgrades as you go (including a broadsword, spear and flail), and Zelda items like bombs and boomerangs add a lot of variety to combat, but you also find randomised rings, torches, shovels and boots with various effects that break over time or are taken from you if you die.
The setup adds a lot of tension to dungeons, as death is a lot scarier when you face losing your sweet loot, but it also maintains some of that signature Zelda focus on secrets and surprises, and I wanted to dig around in every corner of the map to uncover all the items and upgrades.
It’s not a crossover I ever would have asked for, but Cadence of Hyrule is a joy to play, and in terms of bringing the strengths of both franchises to a single game it’s a clear success. The satisfying musical gameplay has convinced me to go back and find out what I missed in Necrodancer, and even elements brought over from the original indie game, like the singing shopkeeper whose voice mingles in with the music when you get close to his hidden trading post, fit perfectly into Nintendo’s world. At the same time, Cadence holds its own as a Zelda game consistent with the exploration, lore and adventure fans expect.
Cadence of Hyrule is out now for Switch.