Rhythm-based spinoff series? I'll nod my head along to that.
Having only dabbled in Crypt of the NecroDancer and Cadence of Hyrule, I wasn’t sure how Rift of the NecroDancer was going to land for me. As more of a pure rhythm game, as opposed to an action or adventure one, Rift does fall more squarely into my wheelhouse. With segments that remind me of Rhythm Heaven, Everhood, and classic Guitar Hero, I’m definitely high on Rift of the NecroDancer as we await its early 2024 release.
Protagonist Cadence returns in visual novel style cutscenes and an overall gorgeous presentation. The characters bop along to the music and interject during rhythm sequences, and it’s nearly impossible not to nod your head along to the infectious soundtrack. With artists like Danny Baranowksky (who worked on the previous two titles), FamilyJules, and Alex Moukala, the audio experience is sure to be a legendary one.
The demo consisted of three Guitar Hero type stages (Rhythm Rifts), a Yoga studio-set Minigame, and a Boss Battle. While the first Rhythm Rift was fairly straightforward and saw me earning an A rank, the difficulty took a sizable leap forward with the next two. You have three lanes with their requisite button to press at the bottom, and a steady stream of slimes, skeletons, and bats pouring down each lane that have to be eliminated in time with the beat. Each monster requires a different technique to defeat, though. Green slimes only take one button press to defeat, but blue slimes take two; red bats will move to a different lane after you strike them the first time; and when all three lanes are occupied on the same beat, you need to press a fourth button to take them all out.
The Minigame was short but very reminiscent of those from the Rhythm Heaven series. In the Yoga one I played, I needed to match the movements of the instructor but only after the pair of characters stretching with me moved first. It was a welcome change of pace compared to the speedy Rhythm Rifts. Finally came the Boss Battle, where Cadence picks up a guitar and has to dodge attacks (almost like Punch-Out!!) before retaliating with her own music blasts to deal damage and whittle down the boss’ health. This particular opponent fired chess pieces at me, so I had to recognize their movement pattern in addition to considering the audio cues. I loved the variety of the gameplay and left the demo eager to spend more time with Rift of the NecroDancer.
Because I played on a keyboard, it’s a bit tricky to know exactly how the experience will translate to a controller, but given the level of quality seen in Crypt of the NecroDancer and Cadence of Hyrule, I’m not overly concerned at this point. While there is an overarching NecroDancer storyline, I only saw snippets of it in the demo, so it remains to be seen how and why Cadence is getting into some of these situations. Nonetheless, Rift of the NecroDancer filled my brain with world-class tunes and satisfying rhythm-based gameplay, and I’m excited to get my hands on the full version next year.