There are a few sure things in this world. The sky is blue. The sun is bright. RPGFan is green. Zelda soundtracks reusing familiar themes. But is that such a bad thing? Not at all.
The soundtrack to Nintendo’s latest Zelda game is an interesting combination of old and new. Fans who play The Wind Waker will notice many redone themes from past Zelda games, such as Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past. The item-acquiring fanfares are familiar, but different enough to not feel too much like a rehash.
After getting through the upbeat main title theme and the classic menu screen music, you’ll hear arguably one of the soundtrack’s best in “Legendary Hero.” A combination of original music with the original Zelda theme thrown in for good measure, it’s one of the longest and most enjoyable tracks.
Those who played Ocarina of Time will no doubt recognize the Master Sword, Cave and House themes, among others. While not original songs at this point, the new arrangements are nicely done, especially on “Zelda” and “Fairy Spring.”
Also of note are the tracks “The King of Hyrule” and “Zelda’s Awakening,” both being new arrangements of music from A Link to the Past. The first is a new take on the Hyrule Castle theme, while the latter is a very beautiful (but short) version of the title screen music from the SNES classic. Even less expected is the new arrangement of a song from the first Zelda game, heard in track 55 on disc 2. I won’t get into it here, but hearing that was a nice surprise.
So how about the actual new songs? Well, they vary from good to great, though unfortunately, also often short. Two of the best tracks are the “Prayer” songs on disc 2, which share a melody with the proceeding “Awakening” tracks. The Medli/Earth God song has a calm feel to it, helped along by a harp being the instrument of choice. Makar’s Awakening is a much more lively, violin-inspired track. Both are key songs to the game’s plot, so being as memorable as they are seems to make sense.
Each of the game’s bosses have their own tune, and while most don’t exactly feel like a traditional battle theme, each has its own merits to make for a good listen. The remixed versions of these songs for Ganon’s Castle have a more urgent and hurried pace to them. Besides those, the regular “Battle” song, along with “Phantom Ganon” are my favorite battle songs of the bunch. Phantom Ganon has an especially eerie feel to it, which really has a better effect when heard in-game, but stands well enough on its own. The regular battle theme is actually a mixed bag though. You’ll no doubt enjoy it in-game, but that can be attributed to the fact that the music during battles is – for lack of a better word – interactive. The song’s tempo and beat are modified with each attack Link makes. That’s all well and good, but hearing the song alone on the soundtrack without these effects proves that when singled out, the song itself isn’t exactly amazing. Not bad, just… lacking.
Windfall Island is the game’s main town this time around. While the tried-and-true Kakariko Village theme is a favorite of mine in the series, the Windfall theme is similar to the title track, providing an upbeat and joyous mood to the town. Apparently this is a new take on the Kakariko theme, but I just don’t hear it. Dragon Roost Island shares the same type of mood as Windfall Island, in addition to being one of the better songs on here.
There are of course, a few drawbacks to the soundtrack. As you can guess, with 133 tracks spread over 2 CDs, most of the tracks are short – very short. The majority of songs on here are under 2 minutes, and 61 of them are even under a single minute. This is of course due to the various fanfares included, such as when you get a new item, or the short songs Link plays with the Wind Waker. While it’s nice all of these were included, one can’t help but wonder if the “real” music tracks wouldn’t have been longer were these excluded.
Also, there are a handful of near-identical songs. Nothing I’d consider bad, but having so many of the tracks paired with an alternate version makes it feel like there aren’t really as many fully original tracks as one might think. Finally, while not a bad song in the least, the last battle music (track 54, disc 2) isn’t quite up to par with the aural masterpiece composed for Ocarina of Time.
So would I recommend it? Well, put aside the countless fanfares (do you really want to listen to those outside of the game?), and you’re left with many good songs, and quite a few great ones. I’m a big fan of the Ocarina of Time soundtrack(s), and in nearly all regards but one (that being the last battle song), I think Wind Waker surpasses it. It’s something that general music fans should like, but those familiar with Zelda will definitely get more out of some of the tracks in the end.