The latest DLC pack brings in some familiar faces from Cadence's crypt dancing days
Over the years Nintendo has thrown a lot of unexpected bombshell announcements at us, but for my money the most exciting and unexpected of them all was the 2019 announcement of Cadence of Hyrule. As somebody who was already a big fan of Brace Yourself Games’ rhythm based rogue-like Crypt of the Necrodancer, the idea that Nintendo was handing them the keys to one of their most high profile IPs was absolutely mind blowing, and the fact that the game was one of the best releases on the platform in 2019 was simply a cherry on top. Two of the three DLC packs for Cadence are now out, with the second being a music pack full of remixes from other artists. With that in mind, I felt it would be appropriate to take a look at the artists behind the music that you can hear as you rhythmically bounce your way through Hyrule.
Danny Baranowsky’s original plan going into music was to compose for film, but in 2001 he found himself in the game music community through his contributions to the website OverClocked Remix. One of his first major claims to fame was writing the backing track for Canabalt, a game by Adam Saltsman that is generally credited with starting the endless runner craze back in the early 2000s. He would work with Saltsman again soon after when he was shown a preview of his next game, Gravity Hook. While Gravity Hook was originally planned not to involve music, Baranowsky responded to this preview by saying, and I quote: “F- you, I’m writing music anyway.”
It was through Gravity Hook that Baranowsky became acquainted with Edmund McMillen, who would eventually come looking for music to put in his game called Meat Boy. Eventually that project evolved into Super Meat Boy, one of the most influential indie platformers around, and this became one of Baranowsky’s first major mainstream hits for a soundtrack. From there, he would work with McMillen once again, this time to provide the music for his Zelda-inspired roguelike The Binding of Isaac. He would go on to work on a huge collection of other titles including stuff like Desktop Dungeons and Cave Story 3D, but in my opinion some of his best work can be found in the original Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Baranowsky working with Zelda music honestly still doesn’t feel real, but it is! He serves as the lead composer for Cadence of Hyrule, adding his signature rocking style to some classic tunes like the Main Theme and Gerudo Valley, and if I’m being completely honest, Cadence is almost worth the price of entry for his work on it alone. Luckily the rest of the game around it is also fantastic and seriously, if you’re reading this and still haven’t played it, come on! What are you waiting for?
With the lead composer out of the way, let’s look into the three artists who are serving as arrangers in Cadence of Hyrule’s Melody Pack DLC. Starting with...
Niamh Houston (aka Chipzel) discovered the chiptune community in 2006, being especially drawn to the work of artists like Sabrepulse. Through this discovery, she began to tinker with making music using a Game Boy and the software Little Sound DJ, publishing her first EP Judgement Day in 2009 and only a year later releasing her first album Disconnected in 2010. She would go on to perform at chiptune events, and eventually would gain the attention of VVVVVV developer Terry Cavanagh who was at the time working on a project called Hexagon for a game jam. He really liked her music and was hoping to get permission to use one of her tracks, which she agreed to.
Months later, after he had decided to extend it into a full title called Super Hexagon, Cavanagh once again approached Chipzel. This time not only was he asking for permission to use her music again but also for her to write a new track. Super Hexagon was so successful that Chipzel released another EP that year for free as thanks for all the support the games’ fans had provided. From here, she would begin to work on a variety of games such as Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom and Interstellaria.
She recently worked with Cavanagh once again, writing the soundtrack for his 2019 title Dicey Dungeons. 2019 also saw her contributing to the soundtrack of WayForward’s River City Girls, where she provided a majority of the boss music. She was brought in to cover the original Necrodancer soundtrack, with her version being included in the XBox One release of the game. Chipzel is a uber-talented chiptune artist, and she is probably the one I’m most excited to see what she does with the Zelda music in this DLC pack. Bringing Zelda back into the 8-bit style but with a modern twist sounds awesome, and in my opinion she is definitely the one most qualified to do it.
Jules Conroy (aka FamilyJules) is a YouTuber best known for his remixes of various gaming songs. He describes himself as being able to play multiple instruments, including the cello, keyboard, and even the ocarina. Above all else though, FamilyJules is a guitarist famous for his metal covers of music from games like Pokemon, Castlevania, and obviously the Legend of Zelda. In 2010, he challenged himself to put out one cover every week for a year, successfully ending in 2011 with a cover of the Super Mario 64 credits theme. This project netted him over 10,000 followers according to the bio on his website, and he has only grown from there.
He has since made it his goal to create music for video games, mainly indie titles, and has been given the opportunity to do so a few times. FamilyJules provided a guitar performance for the final boss theme of Baranowsky’s soundtrack for The Binding of Isaac, and would later be called back in 2015 to cover the entirety of Crypt of the Necrodancer’s music to be offered as an alternative soundtrack. He continues to perform covers on YouTube and even performs at conventions such as PAX and MAGfest with hopes to continue working on music for video games more in the future.
If you’ve never checked out any of FamilyJules’ work on YouTube, you are absolutely missing out; I myself first stumbled upon him due to his amazing cover of Wicked Child from Castlevania. His website mentions that he is a very big fan of The Legend of Zelda, and so the idea of him getting to jump in and do music for an officially licensed title in the series is nothing short of heartwarming and amazing. I seriously look forward to hearing what he brings to the table.
Alex Esquivel (aka A_Rival) is an electronic dance artist based out of Seattle. He’s a member of the EDM trio Super Square alongside DJ Jimmy Hits and vocalist Helen Eugene, with him serving as the group’s producer. In terms of game music, A_Rival is mainly known for his “chip-hop” style music, having previously done work in Nokia’s gaming division before it went the way of Nokia games. In 2012, he was responsible for the soundtrack of the fan project made official Street Fighter X Mega Man, remixing various famous songs from the fighting game franchise.
He currently headlines with Super Square at various clubs around Los Angeles and posts remixes of game music on YouTube, usually of music from Street Fighter as far as I can tell. Much like FamilyJules he also regularly performs at events like PAX and MAGfest, while also making a name for himself performing at various after parties at events like E3. He was yet another artist brought in to provide an alternative soundtrack for the original Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Of all these people, A_Rival is the one I knew the least about going in, but listening to some of his work in preparation for this feature has made me a fan. His chiptune work is fantastic and his EDM work is equally impressive, and I look forward to seeing what he does with the classic themes of The Legend of Zelda.
Are there any artists out there you think would be a good fit if they decided to do another music pack in this same fashion? Let us know in the comments! I know I can think of a few I’d love to see take a crack at Gerudo Valley. DLC #2, The Melody Pack, is now available for Cadence of Hyrule with pack #3, Symphony of the Mask, set to arrive some time in the coming months.