Hey, for Nayru’s sake, listen!
[Narrated by Dan Vincent]
THE Legend of Zelda wouldn’t be what she is without her music. In 1986, composer Koji Kondo won gold in THE Legend of Zelda released in Japan on the Famicom. As players loaded into the game, the unforgettable melody of “Overworld Theme“started playing on the main menu screen, and it never really stopped.
The success of the series would snowball in its first 3D release on Nintendo 64, Ocarina of time, but just as the visuals gained an extra dimension, so did the in-game music. It has become interactive.
Ocarina of timeThe soundtrack helped establish what it feels like to exist in the world of Hyrule. Dark and airy tones playing on the top OOTIts main menu sparked an array of more mature moods than its predecessors. Heroic and triumphant 8-bit horns are nowhere to be found here. The series’ dive into 3D painted the world with character by pairing colorful melodies with memorable moments, merging the music into the gameplay itself.
By giving players an in-game ocarina to perform songs from the OST, players have effectively received The Great Hyrulian Songbook, with songs that allow Link to summon couriers, move rocks, change levels. water, or even teleport from one place to another. Link’s new three-dimensional excursion through Hyrule introduced a mechanism interwoven with music so well composed that it not only paid homage to previous games, but also laid the groundwork for what was to follow.
I was nine when I played OOT in 1998, and I was a dumb kid at the time. I convinced my mom to rent it for me from the local off-brand Blockbuster, which gave me three days to play it before it needed to be returned. During these three days, I did not leave the forest of Kokiri because I could not find the hole in the wall which leads to a chest containing the sword of Kokiri (essential to progress). I didn’t even know there was a hole to be found.
For three days I had the theme of the Kokiri forest in the background as I wandered aimlessly through the village, accompanied only by the sound of a tumultuous river nearby. While I was tired of feeling lost and confused, I never got tired of the song. In fact, spending three days with this theme on loop allowed my mind to be actively aware of the rest of the music in the game.
Tom Waits said it better when he said NPR in 2011, âI guess for a songwriter you don’t really go to composition school. You learn by listening to tunes, and you try to figure them out, take them apart and see what they’re made of, and you wonder if you can make one too. You know, and you do it just by picking up the needle and putting it down, and finding out how these people did this magical thing.
Inadvertently that’s exactly what my stupid kid brain did with OOTthe Kokiri Forest theme, and thereafter the rest of the game. With my focus on music more than usual at this age, combined with his own predilection for melody enhanced by the mechanics of the ocarina, it was the soundtrack of the game that helped me understand the nature of Hyrule more than anything on the screen.
Listening to those old songs, I now feel like Adult Link is becoming Young Link again. The most recent entry in the series, Breath of the wild, could have easily flattered the fan service of more than three decades of history, but its composers chose another direction, much more interesting. Hajime Wakai, Yasuaki Iwata, and Manaka Kataoka combined their creativity to deliver an esoteric experience instead of tugging at a player’s nostalgic heart. Rather than capturing the weight of the world in a song, they hollowed out their compositions to give the gameplay enough room to breathe. In a 2019 interview with Nintendo All, their intentions behind the composition BotWthe soundtrack of was illuminated:
âThere was a logic behind the lack of music in the open world,â Wakai said. âBut because this game is open on a much larger scale than previous games, I figured that even if we had a piece of music in there, it might not match that feeling of inspiration that the player has. already found in this world. “
Kataoka agreed with Wakai, adding, âThe music could have pushed a certain way of feeling players, and I think sticking to a BGM [background music] which allows them to hear the noise of the surroundings and footsteps can really have a beneficial influence on their awareness of the world around them.
It is these three who are responsible for the “Breath” in Breath of the wild. In that same interview, Iwata said, âThe exact amount of BGM we really wanted to use was a major theme for us early on in development,â and it couldn’t be more obvious. BotW houses a spacious and exclusive storytelling experience that makes every player feel like their game is theirs and theirs alone. Everything from the physics and mechanics of the game to Link’s new abilities via Sheikah Slate, everything focuses not on Hyrule himself but on the player’s individual experience in Hyrule.
The whole game is painted with buttery melodies and chord progressions that last a few seconds before disappearing into the airy nothingness of Link’s footsteps. So many BotWThe structure gives players the freedom to do whatever they want in any order they choose. In doing so, the players form a personalized arrangement of BotWThe soundtrack is associated with every action in the game. Every entry is part of the OST, and the way the music is written adds a unique emotional undertone to a player’s time spent in Hyrule.
The sparse piano notes give just enough form to establish character and ambiance while letting the player fill the space with the sounds of broken arms flowery of staccato, fields of roaring flame, of being struck by lightning. – whatever happens in the game, it’s part of the gig.
Or OOT created a fascinating world with its soundtrack, BotWThe music depicts the story of a player traveling through said world. OOT may be a love shared among millions of people around the world, but there comes a point where the music stops, the story is told and the game is over. This is never quite the case with BotW. The music will never stop as long as people keep playing it, and there will always be something to say.