Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild Sound Selection CDJune 5, 2020
The Legend of Zelda video game series features possibly the most iconic soundtracks in gaming history. Not only are the soundtracks an excellent accompaniment to the games, music plays an important role in many of the games themselves.
In a previous post featuring our favourite indie game soundtracks, we had a look at some lesser known games, but first let’s quickly summarize the relationship between music and the game in earlier LoZ titles;
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, featured a musical instrument, an ocarina, as a central plot point and as an important in game item. The ocarina could be used to play melodies to warp to different locations, summon your horse, or even change the weather!
In fact, it’s no real surprise that the popularity of the game grabbed the attention of instument makers – just look at this excellent replica Ocarina of Time by Songbird Ocarinas with the same design as the in game item containing the Triforce symbol. This isn’t a cheap kids toy either, it’s a proper instrument and sounds great!
Majora’s Mask also featured the Ocarina again, in addition to a horn, drums and guitar. In Wind Waker, Link doesn’t have an instrument however uses a magical conductor’s baton called the ‘Wind Waker‘ to control the wind and conduct songs in different time signatures. The instrument of choice in Skyward Sword was the harp. The list goes on… both music and musical instruments are core elements of many of the Legend of Zelda games.
Breath of the Wild
Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild Sound Selection was included with the Limited Edition version of Breath of the Wild, released in 2017. This featured 24 tracks which made up the game’s soundtrack.
Breath of the Wild was the first open world game in the Legend of Zelda series, and it also took a slightly different approach to the musical content in the game. A YouTube video of the soundtrack has been included below, and I’ve added the relevant times of the sections I’m speaking about:
Much of the game is spent in the vast open area of Hyrule Field. Although the area is very large, it can often be sparse and empty, with the hills and grassland broken up by small forests and abandoned ruins. The musical theme that plays whilst exploring is Fields (Day) (2 mins 1 secs), which itself is a piece filled with moments of silence and minimal piano parts. Players of Zelda games would usually expect the classic Overworld theme to accompany their traversal across this land, and this was a criticism of many at the time of Breath of the Wild’s release, however I think this stripped back theme fits the game perfectly.
Obviously, being a video game with a soundtrack that reacts to the player’s actions and surroundings, the music changes often depending on what is taking place. Even within the field, enemies appear for battles – this triggers a new piece of music. Just breaking down one segment of this Battle theme – starting at 5 mins 55 secs – the strings form a repetitive pattern in 7/4 time playing a major 2nd interval, with syncopated piano and brass parts playing against the strings. In many respects this reminds me of Steve Reich’s piece Eight Lines (Octet), which is also in an odd time signature – 5/4, and features heavily syncopated parts.
Although much of the music is new in Breath of the Wild, some old favourites make a reappearance – Zora’s Domain at (53 mins 18 secs) features the return of Zora’s Domain theme from Ocarina of Time, with some variations added.
Interestingly, many of the tracks have separate versions depending on the time of day in game. This was an approach that Nintendo hadn’t taken before – this added a welcome bit of variation for certain areas and certainly changes the atmosphere of towns like Kakariko Village and Gerudo Town.
Riding (Night) (14 mins 25 secs) – features a brief return of the main Legend of Zelda theme on violin, albeit with a slowed down chord progression and abstract fast moving piano part in the upper register which makes the introduction of the classic theme catch you by surprise.
For players of the game, a motif which instantly inspires fear is Guardian Battle theme (18 mins 22 secs). This piece of music plays when a ‘Guardian’, a large eight legged machine capable of firing a powerful laser, spots Link and begins attacking.
A Song of Time?
In Breath of the Wild, the land of Hyrule consisted of a variety of areas, a large portion of this featured sparce open spaces as mentioned previously. Returning players might have felt disappointed that some of the classic musical themes didn’t feature, and that the music was a more subtle part of the game. I think that this was the correct approach to take, and that the music was a great fit with the game. A sequel is currently being developed by Nintendo, and we’re interested to hear what new and returning music will feature in the game.
What did you think of music included in the Breath of the Wild soundtrack? Did it fit the style of the game or was it lacking compared to previous titles? Comment below and let us know!
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