April 12, 2019
Rumors abound over the last few weeks leading up to the reveal of Link’s Awakening being remade for Switch, and shortly after this, even more took flight regarding a new 2D game also releasing this year. Honestly, I didn’t believe the rumors at any time, as I tend to be skeptical when it comes to these. Now, of course, I’ve been shown the light as the rumors have been true one after another, including the seemingly ludicrous ones like Cuphead coming to Switch, and a second 2D Zelda launching in 2019. However unlikely, I thought this might be possible but what I could never have anticipated is Nintendo handing the keys to one of their most beloved, long-standing franchises to an indie studio. Cadence of Hyrule will release this Spring, a game which combines elements of The Legend of Zelda with Brace Yourself Games’ first title, Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Of all the surprise announcements, I don’t think anybody could have been prepared for this. Zelda fans and Indie fans alike seem to be loving the idea of this crossover, and it got me to buy the original Necrodancer, a game which I had been eyeing since its launch on Switch last year. The two series have some core elements in common; puzzle-based combat, exploration, and heavy music focus, but at the end of the day, these are two totally different styles of game. While we have the chance to speculate before the game’s release, I would like to go over my thoughts for what elements the game could focus on that would make it feel closer to being a true Zelda game. Honestly, if the game plays the same as the original, I won’t be miffed, but I think a few key elements could make a deeper connection to Zelda fans like me, and ultimately push the game in a positive direction. Let’s jump right in!
One of Necrodancer’s slightly awkward elements, in my opinion, is that between levels you simply return to a cave which serves as a hub to each level, with some shops and training areas. This works fine for the way the gameplay flows, but I feel it misses the mark on the exploration factor. Jumping around an overworld searching for new levels would enhance exploration, which is one of the most fun elements of the game, and in my opinion the defining factor in a Zelda game.
The primary issue with this is that the game’s levels are all procedurally generated, or in other words, every time you enter a stage it uses a randomizer to determine what the map of the dungeon will look like, as well as what enemies and items will appear. In an overworld, it would generally be better to have everything in a set location, which would go against a core gameplay mechanic. I think in just an overworld this would be fine, but to keep the spirit of Necrodancer I think perhaps it could work similarly to Diablo II, which has set locations, such as towns, dungeons, and the like, with procedurally generated trails leading between each other. I think this would be the ideal combo of both gameplay styles, and having checkpoints to return to if you die between a town and a dungeon might give players a good chance to practice their skills on the way, breaking up the monotony of dying repeatedly and then returning to the same dungeon. Nothing says Zelda like exploration, so as much as possible would add a great deal to the game.
Shrines and Dungeons
With the release of Breath of the Wild two years ago, one of the hardest changes for many fans to adjust to was the substitutions of shrines for more traditional dungeons. Personally I embraced the change, and though I would like to see them take a more supplementary role to larger dungeons, in the case of Cadence of Hyrule, I think they would fit better than the standard dungeons. Not to say that dungeons should be gone entirely, but if you could upgrade yourself along the way with mini-dungeons, this would not only incentivize exploration on the overworld, but also fit the roguelike gameplay of Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Having procedurally generated shrines would mean a different challenge would wait for you every time you entered, and you couldn’t rely on trial and error in the same scenario until you won, but you would actually have to grow and learn the gameplay better to progress. These bite-sized encounters would add a lot of replay value to a game that is already nigh-infinitely replayable, and simultaneously make whatever final challenge awaits that much easier.
As for standard dungeons, I certainly don’t want them to disappear. To have larger dungeons with more floors and greater reward or present the next piece of the story would go incredibly well with some side content to do if you didn’t feel powerful enough yet. I would love if shrines returned alongside deeper dungeons to create a balance of progression and difficulty.
Items for Keeps
Items work significantly differently between Crypt of the Necrodancer and your average Zelda game. In Zelda, you get an item and it becomes a permanent go-to combat option for the rest of the game. In Necrodancer, you find randomly generated treasure chests and shops within the levels with various types of items, which are yours to keep until you complete the dungeon or die. Nothing is inherently incorrect about either of these styles, but I think if a middle ground was found between the two systems, it would make for a better combination of the two games.
Basically my idea would be to have your procedurally generated items as-is, but add on top of that some permanent items such as the Hookshot, Switch Hook, Bombchus, and other items that you unlock for the rest of the game when you find them. The randomness of Necrodancer’s current system is one of the most fun things about it. Sometimes you get great items early on, making the first level relatively easy, and sometimes you have a tough time overcoming your enemies only to find a great weapon at the end of the level, making it worth the fight. In Zelda, having puzzle-based dungeons and bosses would be dreadfully difficult to convey without a few set go-to items. If we could find both, the combo would make for an unforgettable experience.
Those are my ideas, but regardless of what happens, I am extremely excited for Cadence of Hyrule. No matter what elements they add or subtract from either series, I can tell this is a game I will enjoy thoroughly. What about you, though? Is there any specific element of Zelda you would like to see come over to the new Necrodancer sequel or vice versa? Do you like my ideas or have more of your own? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet or message our Discord server and we can keep the conversation barreling!