Despite being released in the late nineties and early 2000, the Nintendo 64 Zelda games both had excellent music for their time. I don’t want to get into which was better since I hold both games in high regard in their own right, but this week I realized that I have not given much attention to the soundtrack of Majora’s Mask and hope to remedy that.
Today’s music feature is looking at the “Deku Palace” theme from Majora’s Mask, a favorite for many people. I often say I enjoy songs for their simplicity, but that really only applies to the softer tunes. My favorite part of “Deku Palace” is its complexity. With its blend of exotically upbeat themes and a very memorable melody it is easy to see why.
Track: “Deku Palace”
Game: Majora’s Mask (N64)
Purpose: Background Theme, Town/Fortress
Composer: Kōji Kondō
The Deku Palace is Link’s first foray into the strange villages and cultures of Termina . . . and oh, what a foray it is. He is greeted with high, brightly colored exotic walls encasing large gardens and a strange tribal people whose princess’s capture has driven them into a frenzy.
Visually, the place is a far cry from the quieter Clock Town and the green fields outside. Bright colors are splashed across every wall, and every inhabitant of this palace moves sporadically and seems to dance as they move. The music of their home ought to reflect the raw energy of the palace and especially its strange, exotic feel.
“This is the royal palace of the Deku Kingdom. This is no place for outsiders.”
There is also a gameplay aspect to the Deku Palace in which Link must navigate its gardens without being caught by the sentries. If he is caught, he is thrown out and scolded by the pair of guards at the entrance before being reminded he is not to go anywhere in the palace but where they want him to.
Most sneaking scenes like this one tend to call for quieter yet tense music, but that is difficult to marry to the palace’s energy. The theme of this palace would need to accompany both the environmental colors and vigor as well as the tension of sneaking through a place where you are unwanted.
Tension and energy. More the latter than the former, but nonetheless those two words fit this theme to a T. The groundwork of the song is the percussion duo of drums and tambourine. The pair keep a steady repetition that holds the beat of the song intact, and the tambourine’s accents of the drum’s beats give it a nice exotic feel that compliments the rest of the song well.
The primary melody of the tune is what really makes it, though. It is made up of a back-and-forth between three instruments, and trying to describe all their intricacies would take all day. What can be said is that they never slow down. These instruments seem to pass the tune back and forth like serves between basketball players, with one instrument playing its section before tossing it to the next one for a repetition and then right back for more.
Still, there is no single refrain that goes on for long; each quickly passes into the next section and the next until they reach a slow part that is almost there to catch your breath . . . and then it is right back to the beginning of the main tune. Plus, underneath all the back-and-forth of the main theme there is also a tense pulse that keeps the song from letting up and to keep you on your toes.
It is hard to really give justice to every facet of a song with so many intricacies throughout. I said before that the tune needed to compliment the palace’s exotic and vigorous atmosphere, and it does so with flying colors. This is a strange place that Link has never seen the likes of. It is very upbeat and energetic, but at the same time while he is sneaking around it can be tense and dangerous. Just as Link has to keep moving to stay out of the view of the guards, so too does this song keep moving and never let up.
There is always more that can be said about this theme. Still, I would say overall that it is an excellent piece; it is very catchy, very energetic, but not quite annoying . . . at least, not for me. It is a song that keeps you on your toes, and that’s just what it needed to do. Any time I hear it I need to resist the urge to tap my feet and/or bob my head.
What are your thoughts? Do you like the Deku Palace theme, or does it pale next to other Majora’s Mask favorites? What are your favorite songs from the game and the rest of the series as a whole? Be sure to let me know your favorites and give me some suggestions for the future, and check back next week for another Flute Boy’s Meadow!