The Legend of Zelda -Ocarina of Time 3D- Original Soundtrack
The Legend of Zelda -Ocarina of Time 3D- Original Soundtrack
June 19, 2011
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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the most commercially and critically successful video games ever made. Taking Zelda to the third dimension, it delighted with its entertaining free roaming gameplay, intricate presentation of Hyrule, epic storyline, and a score successful on a number of levels. Koji Kondo’s soundtrack was particularly impressive because of how it interpreted Hyrule’s geography, races, legends, and threatened existence through diverse means, without the loss of the wider individuality and unity required to reflect the alien fantasy world of Hyrule as a whole. In 2011, the game was remade for the struggling 3DS system to further success. While the soundtrack wasn’t significantly altered, it showcased the 3DS’ superior specifications with its surround sound mixing and bonus orchestration. Club Nintendo members were eligible to receive a soundtrack for the game, featuring 50 tracks from the original game and one bonus orchestration.
The world of young Link is usually characterised by an outwardly positive vibe. “Kokiri Forest” delightfully portrays the childish nature of the fairy folk inhabiting Link’s homeland; the theme’s crisply phrased melodies are whimsically passed from one instrument to the next in almost dance like fashion above thin but buoyant accompaniment. The initial section of “Lost Woods” — simplistic, sparse, and repetitive — is so inherently happy and hummable that it strongly indicates it was created by Saria, one of the Kokiris; in fact, it was more likely conceived by Kondo in the bath, who also offers a gorgeously elaborate development section. Youthfulness is still evident outside the forest. For example, the bright melodies of the Celtic “Market” suitably represent a shoppers gathering in the country, while the jazzy nature of Kondo’s personal favourite “Hyrule Castle Courtyard” reflects the fun of somewhat carelessly sneaking around. “Kakariko Village” is calm, laidback, and reassuring, beautifully arranged from A Link to the Past in both of its incarnations here. “Lon Lon Ranch” offers a similar feel while referencing the country music of vocalists like Emmylou Harris; it features synth vocals intended to represent the songstress Malon that are incredibly soothing despite their still-primitive sound quality.
The racial diversity of Hyrule is evident throughout the soundtrack. The watery home, grace, pride, and reverence of the Zoras is reflected in “Zora’s Domain”, one of the finest examples of a variety of styles of music blended into one piece; Kondo combines Caribbean percussion, ethereal synth pads, and the distinctive tones of an acoustic guitar effortlessly to give a unique sound. Also wonderful is the faithfully preserved tune of the friendly rock-eating giants, the Goron; the theme is almost entirely percussion based, but surprisingly catchy and groovy, made particularly original by the imitated sound of a DJ scratching on a turntable. The most popular theme on the soundtrack is “Gerudo Valley”, used to represent the desert home of the Gerudo, a tribe of women thieves. With its flamenco beat, unforgettable melody, and Spanish flair, it’s simply irresistible. There’s also an array of more trivial but still charming themes used in various buildings, for instance “House”, “Shop”, and “Windmill Hut”. And who could forget the theme of Kepora Gebora, Link’s winged teacher? Here, Kondo’s lyricism really shines, as he represents the owl’s wise, inquisitive, and caring nature.
The centrepiece of the score, the “Hyrule Field Main Theme”, provides an overall representation of Link’s adventure despite the vastness of Hyrule. This wondrous synth orchestral composition subtly samples a variety of themes from previous Zelda games, including the traditional Zelda overworld music, creating a soaring and adventurous composition. The melodic references were too subtle for some, who complained about the loss of tradition, but the theme excellently complements the setting of Hyrule nonetheless. It also wonderfully adapts to it: the approach of an enemy leads to an increase in dynamic and a transition into an aggressive and percussive section, coming to a standstill results in the music becoming more slowly phrased, and the approach to dusk results in the theme becoming progressively calmer and quieter before fading into nothingness. While most tracks on the soundtrack are unchanged from the originals, the 3DS version of the main theme is reinvigorated with some new samples, most notably the strings and brass. Yet in one of the worst production decisions of this set, the serene morning theme is omitted from the soundtrack release, resulting in an abrupt start after the boss theme.
Creation of the ocarina themes was a massive challenge to Koji Kondo, given he was limited to using just five notes, but the result of his efforts is nothing of outstanding. The melodies themselves are memorable and inspired. They form the basis of six sophisticated and individually characterised orchestrations in the case of the elemental dungeon themes, representing life, fire, water, darkness, spirit, and light. Those that are not dungeon-specific are presented as solo ocarina melodies that each provide the background for a more substantial setting theme, for example “Saria’s Song” with “Lost Woods”. Given the game’s title and the extent of the ocarina’s integration into the game’s score, mythology, storyline, and gameplay, it was essential that Kondo got it right, and indeed he did; the ocarina themes and their arrangements sound excellent from a musical, technological, and layman’s perspective and the ocarina is wonderfully integrated into the story and gameplay. The ocarina samples also sound much more realistic in the 3DS version and have a more convincing echoing sound here. Also note that the solo ocarina tunes are presented as a continuous medley at the end of the soundtrack here, rather than as individual tunes; this move is bound to split consumers, given it increases the coherency of the listening experience, but reduces the in-game continuity.
Despite its title, Ocarina of Time still remains a tale of good against evil. The storyline is dominated by how Hyrule is threatened and eventually dominated by the megalomaniac warlord Ganandorf. The soundtrack reflects his threat immediately after the beautiful “Title Theme” with “Deku Tree”, a sorrowful theme reflecting Ganondorf’s curse on the doomed father of Kokiri forest, though the fateful “Ganondorf Enters” is sadly omitted here. Half way through the soundtrack, a fully-fledged arrangement of “Ganondorf’s Theme” from A Link to the Past is presented. This is the most potent musical symbol of the game’s biggest turning point, when Ganondorf usurps the throne, seizes the Triforce, and wreaks multiple disasters upon Hyrule. Who could forget emerging from the Temple of Time as Adult Link following these events only to see Hyrule Market has been taken over by zombies and, in place of Hyrule Castle, there now floated a dark tower surrounded by lava? Also integral to the storyline are the various themes associated with the legends behind the Sacred Realm, the Hero of Time, and the Triforce. Synthesized choral samples are responsible for the sacred aura inherent to “Chamber of the Sages”, while Gregorian chant colours the symbolic modal melody used in “Temple of Time”. Also unforgettable is the solo harp theme of “Sheik”, used to represent a supposed incarnation of the agile and mystical Sheikah tribe. It flows through a series of impressionistic chord progressions with incredible elegance and, despite being simple and repetitive, never grows old.
At Shigeru Miyamoto’s request, Kondo made Zelda’s dungeon themes very ambient in nature. They all boast amazing timbres, atmospheric qualities, and development. “Shadow Temple”, for instance, relies on drums, atmospheric noises, and distorted vocals to represent a spooky and dynamic environment. “Ice Cavern” and “Water Temple” interpret two different states of water through extensive use of tuned percussion. Perhaps best of all, “Spirit Temple” is centred around the unpredictable wails of an ethnic flute; this is genuinely emotional to listen to and emphasises the holy but primitive nature of the Egyptian-influenced temple. After being trimmed down in its original release, the brooding “Fire Temple” is extended from a playing time of 0:42 to 2:05 here and features plenty of experimental synth vocals. Unfortunately, the action themes are not especially remarkable, at least relative to most RPG soundtracks. They are generic, predictable, and similar, though represent activity well enough and are not without their individual quirks; for example, “Middle Boss Battle” is based on the chord progressions of “Ganondorf’s Theme”. The final battle theme is an epic and emotional affair — slow-paced, melodic, thickly textured, and driven by rapid drums. It’s a delicious piece of music that is well worth revisiting.
The soundtrack concludes with two ending medleys. One is a remastered version of Kondo’s nostalgic credits cue from the ending game, while the other is a brand new orchestration by Super Mario Galaxy favourite Mahito Yokota. Though brief, this medley is gloriously arranged and recorded, and is bound to bring back plenty of memories for series’ followers. The appearance of the series’ main theme in its most gallant orchestration to date is particularly delightful and makes up for a controversial omission in the original release. While a great ending, the soundtrack for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has always been problematic in album form and unfortunately the 3DS version does not fully remedy this. There are 50 original tracks featured on this release, as opposed to the 82 tracks featured on Pony Canyon’s release. This reduction in track number gives the opportunity for many tracks to breathe and results in fewer interruptions, though the presentation still feels squashed and a two disc set would have been more desirable. What’s more, a lot of the tracks that were omitted were extremely significant — the omissions included the angelic “Legend of Hyrule”, two early dungeon themes, and the climactic organ arrangement of the villain’s leitmotif. Unfortunately, the occasionally enhanced samples and bonus medley only partly make up for this deficiency.
Whether for Nintendo 64 or 3DS, Koji Kondo’s score to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a masterpiece. Its melodies are gold, its diversity is impressive, and a near-perfect balance is achieved between continuity and change. The overall score manages to be a fluid and captivating accompaniment and to a revolutionary game, an adequate support to action, events, and the storyline, and an excellent representation of the scenery and dungeons of Hyrule. The soundtrack will appeal most to those who have played the game, given it brings so much nostalgia with it, but this ought not significantly undermine its worth and pleasantness as a stand-alone musical creation. All that said, the album release for the 3DS soundtrack is not necessarily superior to that of the original 1998 release. Certainly, the remastered samples are pleasant if sparing and the bonus orchestration is glorious if brief, but the experience doesn’t feel complete without the crescendo of Ganondorf’s organ and even that silly song for the shooting gallery will be slightly missed by series’ hardcores.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.