Jahanzeb Khan
29 Jul, 2009

Sound Test #2

PALGN Feature | Rocking out with the ocarina.
Today we welcome you to another edition of the Sound Test. The grand debut of this feature went much better than we had expected all thanks to your rather positive reception. We are now pleased to inform you that the Sound Test is here to stay and will hopefully stick around for a while. This week we shall travel to the magical kingdom of Hyrule and meet the maestro of the ocarina.

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda series is praised for many reasons and even to this day it has successfully maintained its reputation as one of the finest adventure videogame series of all time. It has some great art direction, an immersive in-game world, clever puzzles, epic boss battles, interesting stories and some truly captivating adventuring.

While we would love to ramble on and on about why we all love the series, our focus today will be on the great and truly epic music that can be heard in these brilliant games. What makes the soundtracks in these games so special is they are very simple and yet so beautiful. The wonderful melodies you will listen to in this feature are quite simple and consistent but they end up being truly unforgettable and timeless.

Notable composers
  • Koji Kondo
  • Toru Minegishi

Reoccurring themes

We admit that Nintendo loves to recycle many things and they somehow always seem to get away with it. This over world theme here is a tune Nintendo has included in most The Legend of Zelda games and long-time gamers will instantly recognise it, as it has become the signature and trademark of the series. Let’s take a look at how this theme has evolved over the years.

The music in this game was ahead of it’s time. As primitive as it sounds, this track here is the heart and soul of the music in this series.

It gets much better in the SNES era, proper instruments can be heard here and again this music was ahead of its time. The quality of the music matched that of early CD ROM games.

A few versions of the theme can be found in other games but this here is a good example of Nintendo trying something a little different while retaining the spirit of the original.

Strong cultural influences

One thing worth noting is that the The Legend of Zelda has a very strong western/European vibe to it and this is somewhat reflected in the music. The music however has several other cultural influences and it ends up sounding very rich, diverse and varied. At the end of the day the music in these games showcase the best of what video games have to offer.

A very cheery and happy tune, it captures the feel of being in a busy and friendly market place.

This one here is an amusing one, sounds like something you would hear in theatrical music performance.

This one has a bit of a dance centric feel to it - it's quite Spanish. An example of the many cultural traces you can find in Zelda music.

Light and cheerful tone

The Wind Waker was a major turning point for the The Legend of Zelda series as it introduced a whole new look and style. The game had a colourful platformer style ambience which was unlike what we saw in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Phantom Hourglass and the upcoming Spirit Tracks follow up on that style and even Minish Cap had a similar uplifting charm. The music in these games reflected in a colourful and cheery tone.

A game that was released late in the GBA’s life, we strongly urge to play this if you missed out the first time.

Chibi Link is cool and this is some nice music.

Dark and serious tone

Wind Waker, Minish Cap and Phantom Hourglass are all very bright and colourful games but we have seen the darker side of the series in Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time. The dark themes in those games have to do with being haunting, mysterious and even sorrowful. Some of the music was indeed very hauntingly beautiful and mysterious, some were even quite scary. Some gamers will probably find these tracks in similar vein to what can be heard in Shadow of the Colossus.

This spooky tune here is a favourite among fans. Makes you feel all empty and meaningless inside right?

A beautiful track filled with sorrow and despair, music like this really helps to tell a better story.

Boss themes

As mentioned earlier, we love the The Legend of Zelda series for many reasons and the clever and epic boss battles was one of them. If the challenge and puzzle solving element wasn’t already good enough, these battles were accompanied by some pulsating background music.

A nice fast paced boss theme that captures the feel of an ancient tribal battle.

A boss theme that truly feels epic and dramatic.

Link’s music career

Um Jammer Lammy has her guitar (what a short career that was), Parappa the Rapper has his rhymes and a whole lot of video game characters love their guitars and singing but no one plays the ocarina quite like The Legend of Zelda protagonist ‘Link’. We now observe Link learning and playing some of his greatest hits.

Song of Storms

Saria’s Song

Wrapping it up

That concludes the second edition of the Sound Test and we hope you enjoyed the track selection. While some avid Zelda fans will surely point out some gems that were criminally overlooked, at the end of the day we can only cover so much. We now leave you with the theme of Princess Zelda herself.

Ah Princess Zelda, how we wish you had your own game… No wait, bad idea.

Once again, send us your feedback, comments and suggestions. It will only help us to make the feature better!

Related Content

E3 2004: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap revealed
12 May, 2004 Capcom’s secret Zelda production is revealed. With first footage and screenshots.
4 years ago
Another great feature! Song of Storms was always my favourite Zelda tune. Try playing it when it's raining outside.
4 years ago
Great Article!

Another song from the series I really like is the Koholint Theme, from Link's Awakening.

EDIT: Also, is it just me, or does Princess Zelda's theme sound a lot like the Hymn of the Fayth from FFX?
4 years ago
Having never properly played through a Zelda game (and yes, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself as a gamer and as a human), this article was an interesting and enlightening experience.

Just out of curiosity, what's everyone's thoughts on The Ocarina of Rhyme, the project where rap artists sampled tracks from Zelda games?
An abomination on everything that's good and holy, a fresh new take on classic game music or somewhere in between?
4 years ago
Yuppieville wrote
Just out of curiosity, what's everyone's thoughts on The Ocarina of Rhyme, the project where rap artists sampled tracks from Zelda games?
An abomination on everything that's good and holy, a fresh new take on classic game music or somewhere in between?
Awful. I listened to about a second and had to turn it off. Truly awful.
4 years ago
I dig the Aesop Rock track, but the Doom one gave me the shits - it really comes down to the samples used I think.
4 years ago
No way man Mf Doom one is awesome. Lon Lon hip hop ftmfw.

I love just about every song in Ocarina of Time. Best memories ever. I love the Hyrule Field Main Theme- The way it springs into action and you start exploring the field for the first time. Mmmmm.
4 years ago
Awesome feature - Ocarina of time is such a timeless classic for me, all of the songs and such just scream adventure and i love all of the softer ones as well (Zelda's Lullaby)

truly one of my favorite games ever - what i wait for is a title that can match and surpass it on the wii - good luck to them but twilight princess really just did'nt leave me with the same feeling, of coarse i was much younger so there is the magic of all those memories.

once again great feature for a truly great series.
4 years ago
I'm sorry it was all well and good up to the 64 era days, where the scores created and played in the Zelda were truly a feature worth mentioning. But when it came to Twilight Princess... and this is my only criticism of that game... is that synthesized tracks were well and truly a thing of the past. Give a Zelda game what it deserves, a full orchestral score, recorded by a full orchestra and some voice narrative with the npc's. That is the only thing that holds Zelda back from entering the current generation of gaming.
4 years ago
^What about between 64 and Twilight? Wind Waker has probably my favorite Zelda songs. icon_smile.gif

The title screen music, Departure theme, Hero of the World and possibly my favorite, Great Ocean song.

Personally I think that there is a lot more than music and voice acting that is holding the evolution of Zelda games back, but it's best not to go of track here.

Nice article again btw Jahanzeb.
4 years ago
Aw, no love for Dragon Roost Island?
4 years ago
Great article. The Zelda songs are definitely some of the greatest around.

Quinsisdos wrote
Aw, no love for Dragon Roost Island?
Dragon Roost was my favourite in Wind Waker.

I used to go there just so I could listen to it.
4 years ago
One thing I found about Twilight Princess' soundtrack was that very few tracks are good to just listen to out of the game. While the soundtrack works fine ingame, being all atmospheric and such, take it outside and you'll realise that the dark music is hard to listen to. There are some good and, no doubt, hummable tracks, but, as a whole, they're outweighed.

Nintendo has proved that they can do orchestrals. There's not a single track I don't like from Super Mario Galaxy's soundtrack. Nemesis King Koopa, or the music for the battles against Bowser, does a very good job at trumping even Zelda's most epic tracks! It gets even more epic at 1:40.

I'd be interested to see what Nintendo comes up with for the next TLoZ, and I'm not even a fan of the series.
4 years ago
Truly another stand out PALGN feature, nicely done Jah! My favourite track must be the title track for 'A Link to the Past', which holds the fondest memories for me. That was still during the days I was a mad Nintendo fan (it all changed after the SNES, and I only played the N64 titles many years later). Regardless what I think of Nintendo now, their priority titles (Mario, Zelda) always had some epic tunes.

I can't wait to see what gets featured next icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
Thank you all, its always nice to read positive feedback icon_smile.gif

And yes in the next Sound Test we will be looking at a composer, and no its not Nobuo Uematsu icon_lol.gif
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