I’m fairly convinced Adam Carolla is some kind of genius. Just stay with me on this. For those unaware, Adam is, among other things, a TV, radio, and now podcast personality that is exceptional at telling it like it is. Sometime in 2009, a discussion came up on the podcast between Adam and his co-hosts about yams. No, really, this is important to this review. Trust me. But yes, yams. The question was basically, “what is a yam?” with each person asking if it was simply another name for a sweet potato, a commonly confused vegetable, or something else entirely. Adam’s answer — and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this — is that a yam is “more of a sweet potato.” That’s it. Imagine a sweet potato, and add more of that flavor, that texture. In MMORPG terms, a yam is a Sweet Potato +1, a tuber that’s based on the one before it, but with improved stats.
I tell you all of this because I have had an exceedingly difficult time reviewing Twilight Symphony, and the yam definition is the best way I can describe this album. Twilight Symphony is similar in spirit to Blake Robinson’s Chrono Trigger Symphony. When I reviewed that album, I tried my hardest to not simply say “these are the same melodies as the original soundtrack but with better instrumentation,” even though that perfectly describes 90% of the album. I’ll again spare you that generalization here, so read on for the long form version of this statement.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess had the grandest soundtrack in the series, until Skyward Sword’s more orchestral score came along. Neither game saw an official soundtrack release, though, which saddens me to this day.
Luckily, the talented folks of the sadly-defunct Zelda Reorchestrated movement created something very special in Twilight Symphony. Right off the bat, we have the Overture, a glorious six and a half minute, vocal-backed dramatic take on not only Twilight Princess’ original Overture, but a medley of other themes as well. It’s easily one of my favorite tracks in this collection, and makes the Zelda fan in me as joyous as any of the songs from the official Symphony of the Goddess concert tour. It’s the kind of song that seems to have the production values of a full, commercial soundtrack, and is an impressive start to this collection.
As you can see from the tracklist, this isn’t a “best of” album, either; the silly “Odd Jobs” town theme is here, every boss battle, and even Princess Agitha’s “Waltz of the Bugs,” which I admit I’ve always liked. It’s an impressive undertaking, and it doesn’t feel like any tracks were of lesser importance to the musicians. These aren’t snippets of music either — several tracks surpass the 4- and even 5-minute mark.
Of course, there are still standouts: like the Overture, Hyrule Field by its nature is big and dramatic, perfect for riding across the fields on your not-so-little pony. The final battle songs are as grandiose as the battles themselves, particularly Dark Lord Ganondorf, which includes some of the best uses of vocals on the album. As one of my personal favorite boss battles in any game, I’m glad to see this track get such a well-done treatment.
That’s not to say that everything is about giant, booming trumpets, as the more mellow themes receive plenty of attention. Midna’s Lament is an inherently melancholy song, and the decision to play this song mostly on piano fits the theme well. The Fishing Hole track is something I could listen to in the background for hours. The multitude of layered instruments — plucking strings, wind chimes, and more — create a mood that’s a special blend of beauty and relaxation.
Twilight Princess was clearly Nintendo’s answer to gamers wanting another Ocarina of Time-style Zelda. If there was ever any doubt about this, one needs only to listen to Sacred Grove and A Door to the Past. The former is a hauntingly melodic accompaniment to the forest of the same name. Midway through, Stallkid’s strange trumpet-like horns make an appearance and remind you of the juxtaposition of chasing the little snot through such a serene place. A Door to the Past brings us back to Ocarina’s Temple of Time, and, like when I entered that area in the game for the first time, this song gives me all the best kind of chills. This was easily my favorite theme from the N64 title, and hearing an even more dramatic, almost ethereal rendition joined with great instrumentation brings me back to 2006 and 1998 as well as somewhere new all at once, and cements this album as some of the best Zelda music out there.
I have listened to most of the work released by the Zelda Reorchestrated team, and there was hardly any fault to find in their creations. Born completely out of a love for Zelda, the group’s passion comes through in all of their work, but Twilight Symphony is head and shoulders above all that came before, and it saddens me to no end that there may never again be releases by ZREO. But if this had to be the end, then they created such an end, as to be worthy of remembrance.
(I freely admit to lifting that line from Theoden’s mini-speech in The Two Towers, and feel no guilt over it.)