Most all of us know and love the 1998 Nintendo 64 game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The game is fabled for its (for the time) relatively open world sandbox-style of game play, for its (again, at the time) vast and intricate story line, and its (once again, at the time) state-of-the-art graphics. However, something that most of us give no credit to is the ornate and beautiful orchestral music that goes along with every location, action, and event. Let’s take a moment and reflect back at the amazing music that made this game one of the best.
From the very beginning the opening title screen serenades the player with a background of soft, subtle music. It is something of a lullaby (perhaps foreshadowing?) that draws the player in; it develops a sense of wonderment and of excitement. Okay, let’s play.
After an introductory sequence, the player is then opened to the world of the Kokiri Forest. The opening melody is friendly, a series of soft percussion instruments paired with woodwinds and strings that gives the player a feeling of safety. This is a safe place, in fact, it’s your home. The music conveys a sense of childhood adventure, as if the musician himself is saying “Hey, go tear up those bushes!” The player has the option of entering the forbidden Lost Woods; here the music is enticing, fast paced, and somewhat tribal. The music pulls at you, beckoning the player to run through one of the darkened tunnels to see where it leads or what kind of wild things reside in there. The music almost seems to say, “Come, get lost.” The later portion of this part of the story leads the player to the Great Deku Tree. Here, the player catches his first glimpse of the old-school orchestral remake of the original 1986 dungeon-themed music. Low toned brass paired with drawn out violin and the ever ominous low pitched cello notes creates the first feel of danger in the game.
Exiting the Kokiri Forest, the player is opened to the rest of the world of Hyrule. The music at first is soft, with a trickle of chimes. Perhaps a musical personification of the rising sun? The music then quickly changes over to trumpets paired with brass and mellow woodwinds. The music is uplifting and once again conveys a sense of excitement and adventure. Again, it’s almost as if the music is saying, “Hey, let’s go explore!”
As the game develops the player can notice how every location, every adventure, and every dungeon is paired with its own unique musical melody. From the royal notes of the Hyrule Castle, to the western theme of the Lon Lon Ranch, to the exotic middle-eastern tones of the Gerudo Valley, the player is enveloped in a musical plethora of adventure and belonging.
Also noted are the player’s learned melodies for the ocarina and the feelings they create. The Minuet of Forest: A safer and simpler time. The Bolero of Fire: Purpose. The Serenade of Water: Somewhat aquatic, huh? The Nocturne of Shadow: Fear, loathing, dread. The Requiem of Spirit: Honor. The Prelude of Light: Control. The Song of Storms: An Invoking of the weather itself. The Sun’s Song: Revival. Epona’s Song: Compassion. Saria’s Song: Friendship. The Song of Time: Epic. Zelda’s Lullaby: Love. These songs build a musical bridge between the player and the action, they are among the most memorable parts of the game, snippets of music that occur to us years later and transport us back into the world of Hyrule.
The next time you play, I implore you….Listen, Feel, Live the Game.
Happy Questing Friends