What’s up, gamers?
In a little segment I like to call “Soundtrack of the Week” (original, I know), we will be delving into the world of video game music. I usually talk about gameplay, story and graphics so often in blogs and podcasts, I figured it would be borderline criminal to ignore the tones that accompany the video games we love so much. So let me begin this new and exciting segment with a classic!
This week, I want to highlight the music behind one of my favourite games OF ALL TIME! The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is one of the most unique Zelda titles in the series, and its music is no different. Despite displaying the iconic, yet presently dated, electronic tones that it’s Nintendo 64 counterpart produced in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the music of Majora’s Mask is constantly thematic and never disappointing. Each track perfectly captures the tone that the game developers were trying to achieve. To summarize what is a genuinely dark and gritty game within a light-hearted adventure franchise, Majora’s Mask centers around the former Hero of Time, Link, as a child attempting to locate a lost and beloved friend from one of his previous quest. The game sees Link journeying through the Lost Woods only to stumble upon a mask-possessed Skull Kid, who not just disfigures our hero, but holds a small town and the entire world hostage.
Koji Kondo, Composer and Arrangement Director for the game knew just what parameters he was working within, and delivered some of the best pieces of cinematic music to date. He knew just what the developers were envisioning and he wanted to create music that would be a perfect soundtrack to Link’s perilous adventure to save Termina.
The theme of the game was about healing, forgiveness and grief, and the soundtrack embodies those themes. Kondo incorporated various other Zelda music inclusions that would bring joy to fans of the series, while introducing songs that directly affected the plot of the game. Songs like the “Song of Healing” provided restorative relief to those suffering in the games plot. A good example is when Link finds and rescues a struggling Zora in the Great Bay waters. Mikau, the previously mentioned and injured Zora, explains that he was trying to save his band-mates future offspring from sea-faring pirates, but was mortally wounded while doing so; thus asking Link for mercy and assistance in the form of the “Song of Healing”. In turn, Mikau’s spirit is put to rest, knowing that he can trust Link with doing what he could not. It’s kind of gruesome if you think about it, but the simple notes within the “Song of Healing” detail just how painful loss and suffering can be.
I could sit here and spit-ball all day about each and every track within the game, and I wont. However, what I will do is briefly detail some of the most notable tracks and explain why they are perfect for the game. Keep in mind, these are all of my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree, like always! (Links included, and puns intended!)
- Clock Town (Day 1, 2 and 3)
I realize I kind of cheated right out of the gate by putting three songs in one, but it’s the same song, just arranged differently depending on the day in which it is being played. It helps to understand that Link is given three (3) days to save the land of Termina before Skull Kid crashes the moon into the earth. So it’s interesting to see Kondo arrange this track to accurately reflect the ever growing desperation that the characters, and the player feel while looking up in the sky at the gloom-and-doom moon. Its when Day 3 arrives, that you realize that you only have so much time left to do what’s needed, before ultimately resetting time, or challenging the powerful Skull Kid yourself. As the stakes increase, so does the tempo of the songs!
- Final Hours
This is another piece of music that is heard primarily within the boundaries of Clock Town. Once the third and final day has concluded, the game REALLY, REALLY wants to set the mood by letting church bells echo throughout the region, only to be met with absolute silence. That deafening silence is what makes this piece so epic, because the player realizes that there isn’t really anyone left in the town, because they’ve all abandoned ship and fled to safety. Essentially, you come face to face with the fact that you are the only thing standing in between the safety of the world, and it’s cruel destruction.
- Stone Tower Temple
Talk about eerie… This track from Kondo accurately portrays the life and struggle of the Ikana Canyon. The area is described as the canyon of death, and this song echo’s a chilling sense of mortality. The final, and most difficult dungeon in the entire game has this song playing throughout it’s corridors, and to great effect. The unnerving sounds of the Ocarina as it plays on top of a ritual-like hum, drums and tambourine will quickly send chills down the player’s spine. The song’s bars capture the psyche-testing challenges and puzzles within the dungeon in pure melodic form.
As I said, I could do this all day, but I want to save a little bit of Majora’s Mask excellence and brilliance for another post! Feel free to comment what you’re favourite Majora’s Mask song is. Hey, I’d even open it up to what your favourite thematic piece of video game music is!
Until next time guys, it’s been a slice!
– Chris Pie