The Legend of Zelda -A Link Between Worlds- Original Soundtrack
The Legend of Zelda -A Link Between Worlds- Original Soundtrack
November 1, 2014
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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was somewhere between a 3DS remake and a fully-fledged sequel to SNES favourite A Link to the Past. The musical score likewise blended remakes of Koji Kondo’s classic compositions with a range of brand new themes. The music was penned entirely by Ryo Nagamatsu, an in-house Nintendo EAD composer who first ascended to a lead role for the first time on the Wii U’s Nintendo Land. Throughout the soundtrack, Nagamatsu demonstrated his appreciation for the world and sound of A Link to the Past with his arrangements and compositions alike. Over a year after the game’s release, Club Nintendo gave the music the complete physical soundtrack it deserved. Let’s take a closer look.
Those who loved A Link to the Past’s score should be more than satisfied with the numerous arrangements featured here. Nagamatsu clearly understood the charm of Koji Kondo’s originals and worked hard to enhance them with current hardware. “Hyrule Main Theme” reflects this particularly well; while the arrangement stays faithful to the famous melody from the original, Nagamatsu orchestrates it in such a way to emphasise a sense of adventure and capture the diversity of the world of Hyrule. Lavish without being excessive, the orchestration captures the heroism and modest of the protagonist alike. While the samples are all synthetic, they are implemented in an impressive way and make the most out of the 3DS. Other arrangements such as the brass-heavy march “Hyrule Castle Battle”, the soothing chamber piece “Kakariko Village”, or the whimsical and hazy (albeit too brief) “Lost Woods” give listeners exactly what they dreamed of. A few favourites from later in the series, such as Ocarina of Time’s “Chamber of the Sages” and “Indoors”, also appear in straightforward but serviceable arrangements.
One of the most impressive aspects of the score is Nagamatsu’s attention to detail. His arrangement of “Sanctuary” – originally a striking but short church theme – channels Bach’s chorales to some success and even introduces a new section featuring organ and soprano counterpoint. “The 3 Dungeons of Hyrule” is much deeper than the original and Nagamatsu put much attention into ensuring the soundscaping is as tense and mystical as possible. Meanwhile the original composition of “Peaceful Hyrule Castle” is a brass quartet inspired by Dragon Quest’s castle themes. In addition to being compositionally impressive, the implementation is stunning – with dynamics, articulation, and other nuances added to emulate the feel of real brass instruments. These intricacies won’t come across on the 3DS’ speakers, hence why it’s best to enjoy the music with headphones on or, better yet, a surround sound system is you own the stand-alone soundtrack. Also delightful are the 16 ‘Bard’ arrangements of the soundtrack’s central themes featured at the end of each disc; due to masterful composition and synthesis alike, these guitar / flute arrangements have the feel of true folk music performances and bring the most out of the series’ favourites.
The original music composed for A Link Between Worlds is a little hit-and-miss. There are quite a few short themes used for various mini-games and subsidiary situations, such as “Milk Bar”, “Witch’s House”, “Lost Woods, Depths”, and “Octoball Derby”; while Nagamatsu tried to make these as catchy as possible, his lighter melodies don’t have quite the same charm as Kondo’s and can slightly grate (not that all Kondo’s originals are gold, as evidenced by the still-jarring “Cave” and “Fortune Teller’s Shop” here). Thankfully, Nagamatsu makes up for it with more inspired compositions such as impressionistic orchestration “Queen of the Zoras Restored”, the dark cinematic cue “Events in the Sanctuary”, or the utterly adorable “Theme of Mother Maiamai”. Also impressive are the brand new themes composed for the various Dark World dungeons. Whether the percussive “Ice Ruins”, tribal “Turtle Rock”, haunting “Skull Palace”, or minimalistic “Dark Palace”, each is filled with atmosphere and perfectly reflects the visuals of the dungeons. While inspired by the ambient dungeon themes of the series since Ocarina of Time, these tracks are somewhat more focused and accessible.
The second disc is mostly dedicated to the events that take place in Lorule, a twisted decaying dungeon parallel to Hyrule. Nagamatsu offers two distinct arrangements of the fan favourite “Dark World” theme – one a light guitar-laced stroll, the other a climactic orchestral march – as well as a robust interpretation of my personal favourite “Death Mountain”. However, the single greatest addition to the soundtrack is “Lorule Castle”, a seven minute epic featuring original and arranged music, light and heavy textures, and references to heroism and villainy alike. The climax of the soundtrack continues with the final boss themes – again a mixture of old and new – before wrapping up with an emotional orchestrated epilogue. Suitable for that one last tour of Hyrule, the staff roll theme is a brisk but polished medley that revisits various themes from A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds. Once again, Nagamatsu shows great attention to detail with his thematic arrangements, robust orchestration, and realistic implementation. Plenty of other highlights, both big and humble, feature throughout this sprawling soundtrack. And despite packing 105 tracks on to two discs, the music is complete and the looped tracks receive the breathing space they deserve.
A Link Between Worlds combines the unforgettable melodies of Koji Kondo’s originals with the robust arrangements and intricate implementation of Ryo Nagamatsu. The final result not only exceeds the original A Link to the Past soundtrack, but also stands out as perhaps the best of the series since Ocarina of Time. Despite the original tracks being hit-and-miss, Nagamatsu was able to skilfully combine new and old material to not only homage the original A Link to the Past, but also offer a fresh, exciting experience in its own right. Though Club Nintendo only released this soundtrack in Japan, eager buyers should be able to pick it up on auction sites. Highly recommended for old-school Zelda fans!
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Posted on January 1, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 1, 2015.