For my first Zeldablog post, I was going to strap on the rubber gloves and dive deep into the philosophical chasm that is Majora’s Mask, but I thought of something somewhat more appropriate. My activities in the community for the past 12 years (jeez I’m old) have primarily been music-oriented until recently (unless ZeldaRadio counts), so it would be more fitting if I were to do a piece on a recent “controversy” about the nature of the Twilight Princess soundtrack.
First, a brief introduction, for those of you who don’t know me. My name is Ice, and in addition to being the webmaster of several Zelda sites, I’ve been a tenacious video game remixer (primarily Zelda) since 1994-ish, just a few years after I got that neat little Casio keyboard. I’ve been making MIDIs since that time, and added live music and MP3s to my activities just a couple years after that. I’ve gone through countless pseudonyms throughout my Zelda remixing career, the most recent one being SecondChance. So needless to say, I’ve been fairly familiar with Zelda soundtrack areas for quite awhile.
There has been buzz (as far as I’m concerned, nothing is official until I’m holding the game in my hands) that the soundtrack to Twilight Princess will feature actual audio recorded from an actual symphony. This would mark the first time in a full Zelda game that this was done. This bit of info has met with a mixed bag of responses; people who are overjoyed and people who are worried.
What surprised me was the intense negative reaction that this information has brought about from some corners. There are a significant number of MIDI-purists, apparently … and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that! The music for the series up to this point has been in MIDI format, due primarily to the limitations of the hardware. Even though the N64 could feature digital music, it was the small cart size that kept the N64 Zelda games from featuring it (the producing team had a hard enough time keeping the artists under control, much less the music team!) The GameCube (and soon the Revolution) is where we’ll be able to see a full-fledged symphonic soundtrack, and in keeping with the “realistic” nature of the new Zelda, the soundtrack is likely to be played by “real instruments”.
On the other side of the fence, many people feel that nothing compares to the sound of the actual instruments being played, and they could very well be right. It could certainly add a touch of realism to the game, and realism appears to be one of Nintendo’s goals for the title.
Throughout Zelda’s history, there have definitely been pieces of music in the games that sound as if they were definitely intended for an orchestra. After all, Koji Kondo, who has written about half of Zelda’s music, was classically trained (as are most composers). Due to the series’ tendency to repeat classic themes, it will certainly be a blessing to many when the orchestra kicks with songs we’ve been dying to hear in symphonic format.
One thing that I would like to point out, though, is the fact that when using digital music (as opposed to MIDI), it is much harder to get that neat effect where the music changes depending on what’s happening in the game. Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker had some very neat musical cues when certain events happened in battle and whatnot. Getting that same dynamic quality is possible, but certainly more “resource hungry” if it is done in ways that it has traditionally been done. But we’ll see what they have up their sleeves.
A soundtrack played primarily by an orchestra could certainly give a more cinematic feel to a game that seems to rely heavily on visuals. Perhaps this game will top what Ocarina of Time set out to accomplish with its ambitious cut-scene and story-telling format? The music is a very important part of the cinematic equation … try watching a horror movie without the music!
For people who say that a departure from MIDI, which Zelda has used for 20 years, is certain doom, you may be right. Consider however, that Nintendo-based titles have already used some symphonic tracks, and have done so successfully. Many would agree that Super Smash Bros. Melee had a great soundtrack, and some of that was played by an orchestra.
A few of the comments I’ve read have the right attitude, in my opinion. “I don’t care about the technical aspects, as long as it fits the game.” Bravo!
We’ll see what the creators have up their sleeves. They’re obviously quite competent. The true test will come when we hear the actual game in its entirety for ourselves.
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