Sunday, January 8, 2012

Top 5 Legend of Zelda Soundtracks

Since I'm still on something of a Legend of Zelda high right now, I figured 'why not go ahead and post a top five list'? Below is a listing of my five favorite Legend of Zelda soundtracks, in order. Their placements on this list are determined primarily by the way the soundtrack influenced the game as a whole, and which soundtracks rank higher or lower on this list do not necessarily reflect the order I rank the games themselves.

#5 - A Link to the Past: It might not have the impressive sound quality of the more recent titles, but A Link to the Past boasts what is easily the most impressive soundtrack of the four old-school Zelda games. With tunes like the Dark World theme and the Hyrule Castle theme, it's easy to find yourself immersed in this classic medieval-themed world. The sense of adventure is heightened and the battles seem all the more impressive. A Link to the Past is also host to one of the earliest 'quirky' tunes in the series - as a sort of precursor to the Song of Storms in Ocarina of Time or Kamaro's Dance in Majora's Mask, the Fortune Teller's theme is oddly catchy. The dungeon themes are a little more simplistic and show less variation than in later games, but they certainly carry an eerie, intimidating feel.

#4 - Ocarina of Time: While Ocarina of Time is certainly my favorite Zelda game, the soundtrack isn't at the top of the list, though it is still host to a number of great tunes. Though many of the tracks in Ocarina of Time are incredibly catchy, they aren't as complex as the tunes found in many of the other games. Still, there's no denying how atmospheric each of the temple themes are. Hyrule Field and Gerudo Valley's themes get me pumped for exploration and adventure every time I hear them, while the Song of Time's echoing chants serve as strong reminders of the mystical nature of this definitive title. The themes for the final boss fights against Ganondorf and Ganon serve as fitting conclusions to all the action, while the melodies that accompany the end credits provide a bittersweet finale.

#3 - The Wind Waker: The first time I heard the prologue music to Wind Waker, I fell in love with it. It was a great way to tie in the past Zelda games with this bold new take on the series. But everything that followed steered away from the familiar, and I found the majority of the soundtrack a perfect marriage to both the art style and the open expanses of the Great Sea. Sure, Dragon Roost Island has a catchy theme. But my personal favorites come from the dungeons and boss fights. On the temple side of things, the Wind Temple and Earth Temple have tracks that utilize instruments unique to the temples' motifs, while blending these with environmental sounds to further engage you in the dungeon-crawling experience. The mini-boss theme is pretty darn cool - almost as cool as the themes for Molgera and Phantom Ganon. Topping it off with the track that plays during Link's final showdown with Ganondorf while the seas crashing in around them is just plain brilliant.

#2 - Skyward Sword: This game's opening reminded me of both Wind Waker and A Link to the Past with the way it approached the origins of Skyloft. Where it stood out, though, was the epic nature of the introductory theme. It acted as both a throwback to the familiar and a fresh take on the Zelda formula (story and gameplay mechanics aside). The overworld themes take a somewhat minimalist approach. In Faron Woods, things sound quite upbeat, but they aren't overbearing. In the Lanayru Desert, the songs are comprised largely of rhythmic ambience that is in keeping with the technological motif of the region. Inside the dungeons, songs display themselves more prominently, providing the Earth Temple, Pirate Ship, and Lanayru Mining Facility with their own distinct and individual identities. The song that plays when Link travels through the Gate of Time to reunite with Zelda fuels the emotional drive of the narrative, while Groose's theme and Tubert's theme are perfect examples of the game's more light-hearted moments. The one thing I was not expecting during my playthrough of Skyward Sword was just how grandiose both Ghirahim and Demise's final boss themes would be - spine-tingling in the best way possible.

#1 - Majora's Mask: As I've mentioned before, I find Majora's Mask to be a very strange, very disturbing video game. A lot of this due to the direction the story takes, but the art style and soundtrack also play an important role in this. As the days pass, the song that plays in clock town becomes increasingly desperate and ominous, ending with an ethereal tune that embodies failure and the inevitable destruction of Termina . Each of the temples utilizes a dark theme of some sort - in the Great Bay Temple it's the industrial cling-clang, while the Stone Tower Temple combines tribal beats with more refined flute sounds. Ikana Valley bellows out noises that are downright freaky scary. The multiple themes associated with Majora convey a strange balance of evil and chaos, while the fanfare of the Deku Palace maintains somewhat closer ties to the traditional Zelda. Few video games manage to remain so artistically-driven, while at the same time maintaining such a strong narrative. And let's be honest; without the soundtrack, Majora's Mask wouldn't have such a distinct identity.

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