Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Greatest Legend of Zelda Song of All Time

ScrewAttack has been a well known affiliate of GameTrailers for quite some time. For those who don't know, ScrewAttack features numerous videos from GameTrailers including Top Ten lists, the Video Game Vault, and the infamous Angry Video Game Nerd. A few weeks ago Stuttering Craig, the owner and prominent voice of ScrewAttack, asked for help from his audience to voice their opinion on the upcoming video "Top 10 Video Game Themes." On the ScrewAttack forums, he asked the community to suggest their favorites for the video. In his exact words:

We've been waiting to do this Top 10 for a long time but we haven't because it's so damn hard and so damn important! We are looking to name the Top 10 Video Game Themes in history. This can be any song from any game... EVER. Here's the catch: We're only taking one song per franchise. Yep, only one song from Final Fantasy, one song from Mario, one song from any franchise ever!

With such a difficult list to manufacture we want your input and suggestions! In this thread you put the game, track, level, and tell exactly WHY it's one of the best themes in video game history. If you have an interesting personal story about a track then tell it! BE SPECIFIC in your reasoning and persuade us to include it on the list. This is a list we plan on having a lot of fun with but is also very important to us because video game music has played such a big role in ScrewAttack's history.

ScrewAttack's Top 10 Video Game Themes will air in early October so start stating your claim now and who knows... maybe you'll see your name in the Top 10.

Feeling very eager to respond, I thought very carefully about what to suggest. There was no doubt that the Legend of Zelda series would make the list, however which song was the big question. The original theme is wonderful, but there is so much better music delivered from the series, so suggesting something a bit more unique was my objective.

The Legend of Zelda franchise has had some of the greatest music ever heard on a video game. To say any less would be a huge understatement. However, just choosing one song from the franchise can be quite a task. So let's go through the best known options to figure out which song stands out from the rest.

In the Top 10 Video Game Theme Song list, it might seem pretty obvious to pick the original Legend of Zelda theme. You know-, that melody from the original Legend of Zelda title screen. While the song is quite rememberable, it doesn't quite fully represent the vast music selection from the series since the initial title. Later games, with the exception of Ocarina of Time, all reused the original medley, but each game retools the song to fit the purpose of that title. We always recognize the melody in each game, but each song is actually different because each Zelda title tries to be unique in its own way. So if we don't use the original Legend of Zelda theme what should we use instead?

Since older Zelda titles remained similar to the original, let's look at some of the more fresh titles. An obvious option would be Ocarina of Time. This game probably has the greatest soundtrack as a whole, turning short rememberable songs into intricate parts of the gameplay, making them even more addictive. However, since we are talking about themes here, let's focus on the title theme. Just a simple lonely sounding flute/ocarina playing a smooth melody. Some may remember this melody from such classic games as the original Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3, which gives a nice tip of the hat to the classics before taking a massive step forward into the 3D world. This gentle melody was so relaxing just moments before beginning one of the most rememberable adventures of our life time.


Next on the list is the Wind Waker. Rather than a soft and sweet theme from Ocarina of Time, the Wind Waker had a very lively upbeat tempo. Clearly receiving a large influence from various types of folk music, the Wind Waker had one of the most unique soundtracks of the series.

Finally, Twilight Princess went with the standard epic choir which works out very well. There was a certain level of softness that built up over time into a very epic feel just before the player jumps into another legendary adventure.

Of these three title themes, I would have to go with the Wind Waker. The other two titles were excellent, but the Wind Waker theme stood out the most. It may be one of the more controversial titles, but that doesn't take away from the quality of the game or the music.

The Wind Waker has some of the most rememberable music. Ocarina of Time has lots of rememberable music as well, but most of it consisted of flutes/ocarinas and occasionally a harp which have both been reused throughout the series. The Wind Waker kept the flutes, but for the first time in the series, added a symphony of string instruments like the violin. The folk themed music was very new to the series but the traditional flutes from Ocarina of Time are still present showing the utmost respect for the previous title, despite The Wind Wakers drastic changes in art style. It also had a technological advantage over Ocarina of Time. With Ocarina of Time, most of the time it was pretty easy to tell that the music was all synthesized. The Wind Waker was also fully synthesized, but the violin work was so well done that it could be hard to tell occasionally. Both games have beautiful music, but The Wind Waker was arguably the more unique addition to the overall series.

Twilight Princess, despite its valiant efforts, didn't stand out very well against the rest of the series. It tried so hard to be Ocarina of Time that it forgot to deliver anything unique and the same can be said for the music. While epic choirs do make great music, the song heard in the intro just ended up sounding like everything else. Ever since the Lord of the Rings movies, every other movie or video game tries to mimic their music and so Twilight Princess just sort of blends in with masses of similar music.

But is the them of The Wind Waker really the best choice to represent the entire franchise? Sure it makes sense for the best theme, but there are so many great songs from the franchise. It would be a shame to reject a song just because it didn't play at the title screen. After all Stuttering Craig did have this to say:

So we should be allowed to pick any song that has ever played in the Legend of Zelda franchise. So now that the window of opportunity is fully open, the Wind Waker theme may no longer be the best choice. In fact, the song I have in mind isn't even in the Wind Waker, or Ocarina of Time, or even Twilight Princess, at least not originally. Any guesses?

The most influential song ever to come out of the Legend of Zelda franchise is none other than the Song of Healing from Majora's Mask. We had experienced some unforgettable music from Ocarina of Time, but none of these compare to the delicate care that went behind the Song of Healing.


The Song of Healing, Majora's Mask (Koji Kondo)

Click here to download the song!
(right-click and save)
Majora's Mask took the franchise in a very dark emotional direction. This was the first Zelda game that was actually involved with death. Characters that had died or were about to die were filled with regret and would do anything for a second chance, so they plead to Link for help. There really wasn't much Link could do for them, so he did the only thing he could. He comforted them in their final moments by playing the Song of Healing. This song is softly played by a piano with just a few simple notes and chords but creates a very emotional song that comforts these fallen people that Link is trying to reach out to. While the song may seem very sad, it really does have a redeeming quality to it. We are not intended to mourn these people, but to comfort them and remind them of how great their lives were and what they accomplished, which the game reflects very well. The dying characters see images of their friends and families to realize that they were loved, and just knowing that brought peace to their souls, and suddenly it was okay for them to let go.

This song represented all of this and more. It taught us something about death that some people don't realize enough. Death is a part of life, and as long as we cherish those that love us and the moments we've had with them, it is okay to let go knowing you've left an unforgettable mark on their lives as well. Games before Majora's Mask have displayed death before, but rather than mourning a character's death, the Song of Healing celebrates the life that they had which leaves a far greater impression. The Song of Healing is the most unforgettable song and it deserves the upmost respect from anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one first hand.


Now that the video is available for viewing, it's pretty obvious that they dismissed my claim, and went with a more obvious choice, which is fine. Their decision was a bit predictable, but we should be proud that ScrewAttack gave the franchise the praise it deserves. Despite their decision, there are so many different songs from the franchise, in which opinions will always vary. Fans will always have different favorite songs or melodies just like we all have different favorite games, dungeons or bosses.

With a franchise so well indulged in music, it will be interesting to see what future installments will have in store for us with music. So far, all of the music from the franchise have been heavily synthesized. This hasn't hindered the music score any in the past, but after Twilight Princess, the quality has begun to feel a bit dated. After hearing a remarkable fully orchestrated soundtrack from Mario Galaxy, it is about time the Legend of Zelda franchise receives the same treatment from Nintendo. We should expect great things from the next installment of the franchise, and music is one of the more likely improvements. Who knows, by the time the next game comes around, we could all have a new favorite Legend of Zelda song of all time.

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