FBM – Overworld Themes Part 1: Overview

Good afternoon, and welcome to the first in a new series of Flute Boy’s Meadow: Overworld Themes! As the name suggests, for the next few weeks Flute Boy’s Meadow will be looking at all of the overworld tunes from the Zelda series and see how they compare and contrast to each other. While I do aim to cover every game from the original Legend of Zelda to Skyward Sword, this is not going to be a sixteen-part series. I have way too much ADD to keep a singular focus for three and a half months.

The current plan is to cover these in sections, probably five or six, by lumping games into categories. Jump inside to see the overview and intro for this series!

Overworlds?
A game’s overworld is the main hub area from which the player can travel to the game’s locations. Since the series debut every Zelda game has had its own overworld in some way, shape, or form. Still, over the years the series has seen numerous variations and uses for these overworlds and, in turn, the music has changed appropriately. Some have opted for a march theme, others for rousing fanfare, and still more for a soft and relaxing tune all based on how the game’s overworld is structured.

In a way, each game’s overworld can be grouped into categories. To condense this series into a reasonable number of posts I will be using said categories. The overworld types are the Exploration Overworld, the Transport Overworld, and the Menu Overworld.

Exploration Overworlds

This is the lifeblood of the Zelda series. Most games feature this type of overworld, and deviation from it has caused some pretty disgruntled fans. The makeup of an Exploration Overworld involves a large, interconnected map that the player has every capability of exploring every inch of. These overworlds are typically traveled by foot with optional transportation like Epona and Moosh available.

The name comes from the amount of freedom a player has to explore these worlds. Towns, caves, forests, and any conceivable secret are all integrated into the world in a way that the player can find them at will. Themes for Exploration Overworlds are the most iconic to the series, featuring rousing tunes that keep one moving forward with excitement for the next nook or cranny to be found.

Games that feature this type of overworld are The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, the Oracle games, Minish Cap, and Twilight Princess. Essentially 70% of the series is built around this, so I feel it just wouldn’t do them justice to pack all of these into one post. This category of overworld will probably occupy at least two or three weeks of this series.

Transport Overworlds

Born out of The Wind Waker‘s Great Sea, these overworlds cannot be traveled without a vehicle of come sort. This limits exploration to specific pockets of activity such as islands or stations, and requires music that doesn’t bore the player as they sit and watch Link travel for them.

I wish the series would stop focusing on these so much anymore, but then I suppose it can’t be helped. Still, they have had some pretty great music selections; these are usually heavily reliant on their respective themes, so each overworld’s tune is based around its setting moreso than any other category.

There are only a handful of games that feature this sort of overworld: Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and Skyward Sword.

Menu Overworlds

Hardly worth the title “Overworld,” these are really more like Stage-Select screens from which the player chooses where to go next. As such, they probably will not receive much focus in this series if they even get a post. These sort of “overworlds” have only appeared in Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures.

Now, I can’t wait to get into actually writing about these different themes in the coming weeks, but for now I’d like to hear your thoughts. What are your favorite overworld themes? Do you prefer Exploration or Transport? What other Zelda music categories would you like to see dedicated series for in the future? Let me know in the comments!