My relationship with The Legend Zelda in recent years hasn’t been easy. Gone are the times of my childhood, when new games were on the horizon, and groundbreaking gaming that came with it. Now I’m getting fussy and old. And so is The Legend of Zelda.
I haven’t had the chance to play many of the handhelds, not since Spirit Tracks. And the two most recent console titles failed to capture my interest. (I know *gasp*) It’s been a long time since I sat down and played a Zelda and was reminded of everything that makes the franchise so magical.
I didn’t have the hugest of expectations picking up Cadence of Hyrule. It got good reviews and it looked like a charming game. It also had the oddball experience of being the first game to bear the monikor in a couple decades not actually made by Nintendo. And with that comes fewer expectations. In a weird way, that worked in its favor. In a weird way, I think having someone other than Nintendo take the reins worked to its advantage.
Cadence is not a complex game. This is not a criticism. The relative simplicity of it is part of the charm. The basic mechanics involve timing movements of your controlled character with the rhythm of the music. This plays a very direct factor into almost the entirety of the basic gameplay structure, up to and including combat. It’s strategic, and at times quite challenging in satisfying ways. But it’s not a game that demands a lot.
It’s also a game that understands Zelda.
In a sense, I would go so far as to describe it as: Zelda stripped down to its basic. This game doesn’t need to revolutionize the industry and franchise, as is expected of any new console entry. Instead, it can go somewhat retro. Not backwards necessarily, but dig deep into wells of nostalgia, winnow down to the core and the soul of what makes Zelda great.
Any fan will recognize the basic structure of this game, even with the procedurally generated map. There’s a nefarious villain that’s sent Hyrule into chaos. Your hero (Link or Zelda, as you prefer) is chosen to rescue the King and save the land in the process. It’s a 2D map that hearkens back to classics like Link to the Past. There are four elemental-based temples. There are Zoras. There are fairies. There are boomerangs and bottles, items and weapons collected in defeat of grander villains.
And of course, there’s music. Handpicked among the most beloved themes from past entries that cranks up the nostalgia in all the best ways.
It is also, relatively speaking, a short game. Another thing that adds to its advantage. When I say I don’t meant this observation as a criticism, I mean it. I think it’s part of what I liked about the game. By stripping away the excess, the ambition, the need to change and evolve in a growing industry, on the backs of an aged but much-beloved franchise, the core experience is very much the same.
And with all that’s left behind, I found something that reminded me something I had almost forgotten: how to love the Zelda franchise.
So while it’s no Breath of the Wild (though my own tastes veer toward Wind Waker as a high benchmark) it’s worth the time and effort for Zelda fans. It’s a great little reminder of why we all loved this series so much to begin with.