It is my honor to wish the Legend of Zelda (or Legends would be more appropriate) a happy belated birthday. 25 years of providing us some of the most action-packed, suspenseful, passionate, and timeless adventures to grace the Millennial Generation, and still going strong with a whole new adventure coming soon. That’s no easy feat I have to say. But now, I would like to take a moment to thank the man responsible for selling this story to us though our ears since its humble beginnings. Koji Kondo has been the lead composer of all of the series’ music for the span of Zelda’s existence, and since none of the characters ever truly speak in the series, the entire franchise has relied on music cues to give characters personality, give environments personally, evoke proper emotions, and so on. In essence, the music is what really told these stories through and through, and to be perfectly honest, Kondo-san could not have done a more perfect job.
As Chris has shown quite extensively in the past, the music industry had taken leaps and bounds in the realm of video games, and I am almost certain that the series responsible for this is in fact The Legend of Zelda for setting the bar so freaking high. But instead of talking about it, why not just listen in to some of this music and see just how iconic and versatile it really is. So, in order linking the past to the near present, here are ten of my favorite Zelda tunes.
1. Hyrule Temple – Adventure of Link
Of all the classic 8-bit tunes, this is easily my favorite of that era. Can’t explain why, I just really like the beat, and the mood of transgressing thorough a strange and mysterious place, and despite how spooky it may be, you have to keep going with the music. This would happen to be the song that they remastered for the popular and immensely overused Hyrule Temple stage in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Needless to say I like the original a lot better.
2. Dark World – A Link to the Past
We first hear this score when Link transgresses into the Dark World, which will be the first of many games in the series that will implement a dual/alternate universe theme in their story. I like this song, because it really does give me a sense of new beginnings, and a bold new quest to come just when you thought the end was near.
3. Lost Woods – Ocarina of Time
It is so short, and it is so simple, yet it is the catchiest tune I have ever heard. In fact, I am pretty sure I can credit my only semblance of an ability to whistle thanks to this song and this song alone. This was another song that got a revamp in the Great Bay stage of SSBM, and you know, I kind of like that version too. Then it got another version of the song in Twilight Princess and was renamed Sacred Grove. While I liked that they tried to do something new with the song and made it calmer and more majestic, I just miss the upbeat carefree mood of the original.
4. Song of Storms – Ocarina of Time
♪♪ From the sky, To the ground ♪♪
♪♪ Rain is falling all around ♪♪
♪♪ Thunder rain and wind ♪♪
♪♪ A song of storms begins ♪♪
♪♪ Play a song, A melody ♪♪
♪♪ Then everybody will see ♪♪
♪♪ The hero of time ♪♪
♪♪ Has come ♪♪
Yet another simple but ridiculously catchy tune. I could listen to this forever, but then again, I would probably hypnotize myself. By the way, I really like eurekaseven000’s choice of lyrics for the song as well. (Above) They actually fit the tune very nicely.
5. Temple of Time – Ocarina of Time
“The elders once said, ‘Time is a living breathing thing. Powerful. Beautiful. And often times cruel. It can humble the strongest army, shake mountains to its will, and turn entire oceans to dust. But time itself is not free from jeopardy. There are those who seek to control it. Manipulate it. Change it to suit their dark will. When that day comes, the universe will need a true hero to keep it safe.’ Are you ready?”
Alastor Azmuth – Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
We talk about how “timeless” the Zelda series is all too frequently. A lot of people say that Ocarina of Time is an allegory of loss of innocence and growing up before you even realize it. If there was ever a moment in your life when you questioned where your childhood went, this game can easily touch you on a personal level, and this very song is the big ominous reminder that embodies just how powerful Time really is. I’m pretty sure that it was in no way a coincidence that of all the classic Zelda tunes that got revamped for Twilight Princess, The Temple of Time was the only song that remained completely in tact from its original rendition.
6. Termina Field (Orchestrated) – Majora’s Mask
This here is probably the most iconic score of them all. This one dates all the way back to the very first game, yet it is still vastly used in one version or another in almost every Zelda title. I absolutely love this Orchestrated version from Majora’s Mask, because I feel it truly does take the song to its potential and shows just how versatile it can be. It can be strong. It can be calm, it can be frightening, reassuring. But no matter what, it will be beautiful.
7. Dragon Roost Island – The Wind Waker
Okay, now this song is sweet. In all honesty, I love The Wind Waker, flaws and all, and its music I felt was some the series’ most unique. Dragon Roost in particular is a perfect example. It’s like Native River Dance meets classic Renaissance Italy, or something. Of all the Zelda music, this is the one that makes me want to get up and start dancing. In fact, those people in bird costumes should have been dancing to this song in the festival scene of Pokemon the Movie 2000.
Okay, I’ll admit, that was kind of an obscure reference.
8. Death Mountain – Twilight Princess
This is where things get really good. This here was a song in which I actually liked the newer version more than the classical version from Ocarina of Time. It’s very surreal, because it is the exact same song with the exact same beat, yet the instruments that they use in the different versions make them feel so unique from each other. The Twilight version sounds much more robust in my opinion, with the drums and the trumpets, and when I first heard it, it was like, “Oh yeah. That’s Death Mountain.” As a huge Avatar fan myself (a show that shares Zelda’s taste for incredible music), this song also reminded me of the Earth Kingdom (my Element of choice). Of all the four Nations on the show, their music I felt wasn’t as strong as the others, and I wish some of their scores sounded more like this one.
9. Hidden Village – Twilight Princess
Yup, it’s official. The Legend of Zelda music staff can do ANYTHING! Case in point: place a completely original, strictly western style theme song in a Japanese fantasy game, and make it fit incredibly well. This is all you need to show just how expansive music of these games has transgressed. Phenomenal.
10. Orchestra 2 – Twilight Princess
To send us off with a bang, here is one that, simply put, defines all that is epic about The Legends of Zelda. This song may not have necessarily been in the game, but if it sounds familiar, it’s probably because you heard it during the trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Could not think of a better score. It pays tribute to the epic tales of the past, and promises a brighter future.
And those are my ten favorites. Apologies for any of you who have favorites I missed. It’s not that I’m trying to ignore any of the other ones out there or that I think they’re bad, there are just so many of them. Far too many to list. So, if you have a particular Zelda tune that you took a personal liking to, feel free to share.
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