The Legend of Zelda -Ocarina of Time- Original Soundtrack
The Legend of Zelda -Ocarina of Time- Original
December 18, 1998
Buy at CDJapan
With The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Nintendo took its legendary franchise in a new direction. For the first time, the series would take place in a 3D, fully-rendered, real-time atmosphere. While there are those who despise this game (and others of this caliber which followed, notably Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker), Ocarina of Time was nevertheless a milestone for the series and one of the most successful games of all time.
The music, incidentally, took a similarly different direction for not just the series, but for game music in general. Most Nintendo-developed video game scores have been merely pleasant songs to hum while playing, but Koji Kondo wanted to bring the “interactiveness” of the latest addition to the forefront with his score. What resulted was arguably one of the most immense soundtracks to ever be created for the struggling Nintendo 64 — 82 tracks total!
Ocarina of Time is probably the most ambitious and experimental of the Zelda scores in that it serves more as a musical accompaniment rather than music for its own sake. For example, the dungeon themes are not just eerie, brooding theme, but rather moody and ambient, with a touch of atmospheric sound effects in the background. However, some of the later dungeon songs are a little more musical and occasionally frightening. Such a particular track belongs to “Inside Ganon’s Castle”, which is three variations of “Ganondorf’s Theme” performed by an organ. This makes for one of the most chilling and amazing renditions of the somewhat repetitive theme for Hyrule’s nemesis. In addition, the “Hyrule Field Main Theme” (which will be discussed later) changes depending upon Link’s actions, bright and adventurous when he’s walking, dangerous and furious when he’s battling monsters, and quiet and mellow when he’s standing still.
This is not to say, however, that there aren’t any musical tracks. On the contrary. The soundtrack offers a large number of new unforgettable songs, such as the carefree, childish “Kokiri Forest”, the Western “Lon Lon Ranch”, the Celtic “Market”, the beautiful “Zora’s Domain” (with a high-quality sounding guitar), and the rollicking “Gerudo Valley” (one of the soundtrack’s many highlights). In addition, classic Zelda themes are recycled (rather well) for the game: “Zelda’s Theme”, “Great Fairy’s Fountain”, “Kakariko Village”, “Master Sword”, and “Ganondorf’s Theme”, all from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In addition, there is a very beautiful hint of the whistle motif from The Legend of Zelda (the first game) in the “Title Theme”.
Arguably the most impressive of these tracks are the ones that feature choral vocals. These are tracks 16, 44, 48, 67, 74, 79, 80, and 82. “Temple Of Time” sounds like a deep male’s chorus singing a Gregorian chant, while “Chamber Of The Sages” and “Legend Of Hyrule” feature a women’s chorus singing celestial-sounding hymns (this works beautifully for the cinema scenes where we see Hyrule getting created). The full chorus is put to good use on the extremely exciting “Last Battle”. Amidst the dreary, yet dangerous ode with a furious rolling snare drum in the background, the chorus sings along with it, creating a truly dazzling battle track.
Despite these ingredients, however, and even though there are many fans of the soundtrack, Ocarina of Time’s music often receives unfair critical attack from some disgruntled purists – particularly because of its two glaring faults. The most outrageous of these drawbacks is the omission of a classic Zelda theme, the Overworld theme. I honestly didn’t really believe that it would REALLY be excluded from the latest addition to the Zelda franchise, so I had to hear “Hyrule Field Main Theme” for my proof. In my opinion, is the Overworld theme missing from the soundtrack? The frustrated answer is yes and no. It is not played in the way it originally sounds in Zelda games, but it IS possible to hear at some points, a brief hint of the first couple of notes from the Overworld Theme. (Hey, a little bit of it is better than nothing!) Not that the new Overworld theme isn’t any good. I actually liked it, and thought it suited perfectly to the game.
The only other reason why Ocarina of Time (and its two follow-ups) are despised by some is because it runs on a somewhat dated sound system. Most scores from Nintendo 64 games have gotten a bad (and sometimes undeserved) rap because the MIDI-sounding synthesis which makes up the orchestration of the music is sometimes lacking in comparison to the more superior CD-based systems. Even the chorus on the choral tracks sounds synthesized, unlike those on
Flawless or not, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time‘s soundtrack deserves a special place in the history of game music and Nintendo soundtracks, and earns my highest recommendation. The sound system may be somewhat inferior to CD quality, but when reviewing soundtracks, it is important to evaluate them for what they are, not for what they aren’t. Especially when there is much to enjoy, from exciting battle themes, to beautiful lullabies, to stirring choral tracks.
There is an interesting album release situation regarding the music. Nintendo has issued several albums of the music from the game on CDs, from rather lacking “Greatest Hits” compilations to a 72-minute album consisting only of 35 tracks. All albums share the same drawbacks as most domestic-released Nintendo soundtracks: cheap packaging and NO liner notes. The Japanese album produced by Pony Canyon (the distributor for ten N64 soundtracks around this time), by contrast, squeezes all 82 songs onto one CD, playing all of them once. Unfortunately, this causes some of the tracks to finish abruptly before they even play all the way through, much to the dismay of fans. Nevertheless, it still is probably the most *complete* soundtrack of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to be around.
Its album situation aside, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Original Soundtrack is an impressive achievement for Koji Kondo. Even though some continue to deride his recent efforts, his fans applaud his experiments and await his next projects. As one such fan, I rank this soundtrack as one of my favorites of all-time, recommending it with all my heart.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Jon Turner. Last modified on August 1, 2012.