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The Biggest Unanswered Questions About Cadence Of Hyrule

The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo's two biggest franchises — only Mario and his crew give Link, Zelda, and Ganon a run for their money — so you can imagine how excited people were in mid-March when a Nintendo Direct broadcast ended with the reveal of a second Zelda game set for a 2019 release. Not only is The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening getting an HD remake on the Switch, but Nintendo's green-clad hero and his friends will hop and bob their way through dungeons in Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda.

That's exciting for a whole bunch of reasons, including that the original Crypt of the NecroDancer is flat-out great. Developed by Brace Yourself Games and published by Klei Entertainment in 2015, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a music-based dungeon-crawler in which everything happens on a beat. If you want to move, attack, or do, well, anything, you'll need to act in time to the soundtrack. If you have no rhythm, you're in trouble.

Given how integral music is to The Legend of Zelda franchise — its most famous installment is literally named after an instrument — this union makes a lot of sense, but other than a brief trailer, Nintendo hasn't released much information about the game. You probably have questions. We certainly do. Here are the biggest ones.

When does Cadence of Hyrule come out, and how much will it cost?

As far as hype is concerned, that minute-long trailer is enough. We want to play Cadence of Hyrule right now. Every single day until we do is going to be agony. How long will our suffering last?

The Cadence of Hyrule trailer says that the game will be coming in "spring 2019," but that's not the same as an official release date. Nintendo probably doesn't want to drop Cadence of Hyrule too close to its other big releases, of course, which might narrow things down. Yoshi's Crafted World comes out on March 29, while Super Mario Maker 2 is currently scheduled for June. By contrast, April and May are relatively bare. With that in mind, we wouldn't be surprised to see Cadence of Hyrule arrive right around the time that the April showers give way to May's flowers, but that's just conjecture.

There's also the question of exactly how many rupees we'll have to hand over in order to dance our way through Hyrule. As of this writing, Crypt of the NecroDancer goes for $15 on Steam, but it costs $20 on the Nintendo eShop, where it's only been out for about a year. Considering Zelda's popularity, we wouldn't be surprised to see Nintendo add a small franchise tax on top of that for the sequel.

How many playable characters are there?

Nintendo's official Cadence of Hyrule press release says that you'll be playing the game as either Link or Zelda, but the game's reveal trailer hints that there are more characters at play than The Legend of Zelda's two stars. At the very least, the trailer seems to imply that Cadence, Crypt of the NecroDancer's original hero, will be playable: before the big Zelda tie-in is revealed, she's the one handling all of the dungeon-diving and monster-slaying.

If Cadence of Hyrule follows in its predecessor's footsteps, that trio will only be the beginning. Crypt of the NecroDancer players start with Cadence, but they earn more characters as the adventure goes on, each of whom has their own strengths and weaknesses. Tempo, for example, can kill any enemy in one hit, but must keep an eye on a renewable timer that will kill him after 16 beats pass. Monk gets items for free, but if he touches gold, it'll kill him.

Meanwhile, Hyrule Warriors, another Zelda spinoff, has 31 characters to choose from, which range from the obvious (like Ganon, The Legend of Zelda's recurring villain) to the likely (Twilight Princess' sassy imp Midna) to the flat-out bizarre (a giant chicken-like Cucco, or a gender-swapped Link known as Linkle). If some of those folks pop up in Cadence of Hyrule as playable characters too? Let's just say we wouldn't exactly be shocked.

What's on the track list?

There are hundreds of great The Legend of Zelda tracks, and Crypt of the NecroDancer's excellent composer, Danny Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac), could probably do amazing things with any of them. However, Nintendo's press release says that there will only be 25 "remixed classic Legend of Zelda tunes" in Cadence of Hyrule, meaning that quite a few of your favorite Zelda songs aren't going to make the cut.

Don't assume that Cadence of Hyrule's final track list will be filled with the most obvious choices, either. While the classic The Legend of Zelda theme song is practically a given, the music featured in the Cadence of Hyrule's trailer is the Tal Tal Heights theme from Link's Awakening. In light of the upcoming Link's Awakening remake, that selection makes sense in a cross-marketing sort of way, but Tal Tal Heights is far from the most iconic Zelda tune out there.

As such, get ready for Cadence of Hyrule's soundtrack to contain a few surprises. Gerudo Valley, Zelda's Lullaby, and Kakariko Village are all classic Zelda songs that have appeared in multiple games, but there's no guarantee that all — or any — of them will appear in Cadence of Hyrule. If we had to guess, we'd predict that the game's final track list will be split between well-known classics and more obscure cuts. Cadence of Hyrule is already weird and unexpected. Anything seems to go these days, so let's get crazy.

What's the story?

Crypt of the NecroDancer isn't all roguelike dungeon-crawling. It has a story, too. In the game, Cadence ventures into the NecroDancer's domain while searching for her missing father, only to have her heart stolen by the big bad himself. On her journey to recover her soul and save her life, Cadence frees her father from the NecroDancer's curse and resurrects her dead mother, Melody, but that just causes more problems. Eventually, Melody is forced to enter the crypt herself, where she brings her own mom, Aria, back to life, only to lose her again when Aria sacrifices herself to save her family.

The voiceover accompanying Cadence of Hyrule's trailer implies that the new game is a sequel to that story —  at the very least, it's a spinoff — but it's not clear what exactly is going on. We know that Cadence climbs out of a crypt and finds herself in Hyrule, but we don't know why. Cadence says that she was "called here for a purpose," but doesn't say what that is.

What's Cadence's mission, exactly? How do Link and Zelda get involved? Is the NecroDancer himself causing trouble, is Ganon somehow pulling the strings, or are our heroes facing some new threat? Will the Triforce play a role? Get ready for a couple of months of speculation — and just in case, don't forget to watch out for spoilers.

What's the balance between NecroDancer and Zelda stuff?

Right now, it's not clear how much Cadence of Hyrule is a Legend of Zelda game, and how much it's just more Crypt of the NecroDancer with a Zelda soundtrack. Technically, the game's subtitle reads, "Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda." That seems to make it a NecroDancer game first and foremost, but the trailer makes a big, big fuss about the Zelda content. That's the game's big marketing hook, after all.

Nintendo's press materials don't clear things up, either. Cadence of Hyrule takes place "in the world of the Legend of Zelda series," not NecroDancer's, but it will feature "spells and weapons from the Crypt of the NecroDancer game" in addition to "items from the Legend of Zelda." The Cadence of Hyrule trailer features a bunch of enemies from both series. Crypt of the Necrodancer's shopkeeper makes an appearance in the video, too.

That's a little different from the last Zelda crossover game, Hyrule Warriors, which took Dynasty Warriors' basic mechanics and transfused them into a purely Zelda setting. The Legend of Zelda is a lot better known than Crypt of the NecroDancer, of course, so it would make sense for that franchise to take center stage. On the other hand, Nintendo and Brace Yourself could use this opportunity to introduce more people to NecroDancer's charming, musical world. After all, from a sales perspective, indie games and the Switch mix pretty well.

Which Zelda games will have Easter eggs?

The Legend of Zelda is over 30 years old. In that time, there have been all kinds of sequels, spinoffs, and remakes. That gives Cadence of Hyrule's developers plenty of options when designing their own take on Hyrule, but chances are that some of the Zelda games are going to get a little bit more love than others.

As previously noted, the Cadence of Hyrule trailer features a fairly obscure song from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Visually, Cadence of Hyrule takes a number of cues from the 16-bit The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Link's outfit is based on the one he wears in that game and its sequel, A Link Between Worlds, and the trailer features glimpses of A Link to the Past's take on Ganon's Castle and Link's House. There are also a few references to The Minish Cap hidden in there, too.

Given its musical nature, it'd be shocking if Ocarina of Time — or, at the very least, its titular instrument — didn't show up. Nintendo's press release also calls out Cadence of Hyrule's "modern-looking Lynels," so Breath of the Wild probably holds some influence over the game, too. But what about lesser-known titles, like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, Skyward Sword, or the Game Boy's Oracle titles? For now, we're just going to have to wait and see.

What will Princess Zelda's powers be?

Zelda's name might be in the title, but Link is The Legend of Zelda's real star. In fact, outside of Super Smash Bros. titles — which aren't really Zelda games — the princess has only been a playable character a handful of times. She's the hero in two of the infamously terrible Phillips CD-i Zelda spinoffs, and she's one of many fighters that you can control in Hyrule Warriors. That's it.

In Cadence of Hyrule, Zelda is one of the lead characters, and the trailer makes it look like she'll play very differently from Link. But what can she do, exactly? It's not clear. Zelda's abilities seem to be magical in nature, and some fans have observed that many of her Super Smash Bros. abilities seem to have made the transition to Brace Yourself's rhythm game — we're pretty sure she's using Nayru's Love to protect herself in one shot, and Din's Fire to decimate foes in another.

But there's some new stuff in the trailer, too. Zelda can be seen whacking foes with both a sword and a spear, meaning that she has some kind of weapons training. With the focus on music, it wouldn't be a total surprise if Sheik's lyre, which Zelda plays when dressed as her Ocarina of Time alter-ego, pops up. Zelda doesn't get a spotlight often, so it's exciting to see her on equal footing with Link in Cadence of Hyrule, and we can't wait to see what trouble she'll get up to.

How much will traditional Zelda-style gameplay be involved?

Both The Legend of Zelda and Crypt of the NecroDancer involve dungeon-crawling, but that's largely where the similarities between the two games start and end. In The Legend of Zelda, you spend most of your time exploring hand-crafted dungeons that ooze personality and that are filled with equipment that will help you crack intricately crafted puzzles. Crypt of the NecroDancer, on the other hand, is a roguelike. Its dungeons are procedurally generated (i.e., designed mostly by the computer), which means that they're always new and unpredictable, but they're also rather generic.

Nintendo's press release calls attention to Cadence of Hyrule's "randomly generated overworld and dungeons," so we're clearly not getting the meticulously designed environments that The Legend of Zelda is famous for. At the same time, it's not really a Zelda game without secrets to find, new tools to learn, and puzzles to solve.

If Cadence of Hyrule ends up being a pure roguelike that just happens to be filled with Zelda fan service, that's fine. Still, Brace Yourself has the opportunity to put some unique twists on the NecroDancer formula. A fusion of both game styles would be really cool, and we're curious to see what surprises, if any, Cadence of Hyrule has in store.

How hard will Cadence of Hyrule be?

The Legend of Zelda can be tricky, but on a mechanical level, it's not really that hard. Outside of boss fights, its challenges mostly take the form of brain-teasing environmental puzzles and maze-like dungeons. Crypt of the NecroDancer, however, is punishing. At higher levels, you need to have perfect rhythm, lightning-fast reflexes, and an innate understanding of each and every enemy that you face. It's so hard that NecroDancer's director and lead programmer called 100 percenting the game, which only 0.2% of Steam users have managed, nearly impossible.

So, we'll see whether or not Cadence of Hyrule preserves Curse of the NecroDancer's unforgiving difficulty, or if Brace Yourself Games softens things for a general audience. It's easy to come up with an argument either way. The Legend of Zelda branding is going to bring a bigger, more casual audience to the game, and Nintendo probably doesn't want to alienate newcomers by making the game too hard.

On the flip side, the brutal learning curve is part of what NecroDancer special. Like the Dark Souls games, beating Crypt of the NecroDancer's more advanced challenges is a badge of honor. Some kind of mix — say, a campaign that's casual-friendly, plus endgame challenges for hardcore players — is probably the safest option, but we won't know how Brace Yourself will handle things until Cadence of Hyrule is in our hands.

Does this make Cadence is part of the extended Nintendo family?

Once a character joins the Nintendo ecosystem, they tend to stay there. In the '90s, Sonic might've been Mario's biggest rival, but once the blue hedgehog started appearing on Nintendo consoles, it wasn't long before the two of them were teaming up at the Olympic Games every other year. Bayonetta went from dressing like Nintendo characters to a Nintendo-exclusive, and Nintendo and Square Enix's mascots meet up all the time to play basketball and board games.

Cadence and the rest of the NecroDancer crew are perfect fits for Nintendo, too. They have quirky, kid-friendly designs that are instantly recognizable and bursting with personality, and thanks to the whole rhythm-based thing, they have a strong and interesting gimmick, too. Nintendo already paid tribute to indie characters like Shovel Knight and Shantae in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and it seems likely that Cadence will find her way into a Nintendo title at some point, too.

In fact, as of this writing, we still don't know who four of the five downloadable Super Smash Bros. Ultimate characters will be — and the one that has been revealed, Persona 5's Joker, hasn't ever appeared on a Nintendo console. Could Cadence be one of the final four? We certainly wouldn't count her out.

Where does it fit on the official timeline?

Every Legend of Zelda game stands alone, but there actually is a timeline that ties everything together — in fact, there are three of them. It's a little confusing, but essentially, the Zelda franchise splits around Ocarina of Time. In one branch, Link fails in his mission and Ganon ruins everything. In another, Link succeeds, which spawns two separate realities: one that continues from Ocarina of Time's adult timeline, in which Link disappears after heading back to the past, and one that stems from Link's childhood era.

Now, there's a good chance that, like Hyrule Warriors and the CD-i games, Cadence of Hyrule won't be part of the official Zelda canon. If it is, however, where would it go? Going off of the trailer, our best guess is that Cadence of Hyrule fits best in the "failed timeline." That's where you'll find both A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, which seem to be the two biggest influences on the Cadence of Hyrule trailer, although that video is less than a minute long. Other, contradictory clues could be lurking in the full game, and we won't have a good answer — if there is one — until we've found all of them.

What does Cadence of Hyrule mean for the future?

Historically, Nintendo hasn't been too keen on letting other people play with its toys. Capcom developed the Game Boy's Legend of Zelda: Oracle games, and Ubisoft got to use Mario and Starfox in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and Starlink: Battle for Atlas respectively, but Cadence of Hyrule marks the first time that an indie developer has received permission to make a game using Nintendo's characters.

Is this the beginning of a trend? We certainly hope so, and at least one Nintendo employee does, too. Kirk Scott, Nintendo's Manager of Publisher and Developer Relations and self-proclaimed "indie guy," told VentureBeat that he's hoping that other independent developers will follow in Brace Yourself's footsteps. "I think this is validating for a lot of indies out there," Scott says.

Sonic Mania, which was designed and programmed by fans, proves that developers who grew up with classic gaming franchises are well-equipped to spin them in new and interesting ways, and the prospect of getting quirky, indie-style takes on Nintendo's most popular franchises is exciting. Let's hope that Cadence of Hyrule delivers the goods. If so, it could be the start of something very, very special.