I have said before that choosing a favorite Zelda game is difficult for me, but nonetheless I cannot help but feel a certain amount of fondness for A Link to the Past. Thanks to my brother I had the chance to play this game when I was a kid and to be honest, the nostalgia just never wears off. Part of what astounded me when I first played the game was its ability to create powerful atmospheres with hardware that was already dated by the time I played it. Of course, as this is a music feature, the main part of that atmosphere I’m going to focus on today is the music.
Jump inside to read my thoughts on one of my favorite tracks from this classic game!
Track: Dark World Mountain/Forest
Game: A Link to the Past (SNES)
I find it rather interesting that the most popular tracks from A Link to the Past tend to be the Dark World themes. Though the main overworld is by far the most loved by fans, it’s fairly easy to see that there remains plenty of love for the Mountain and Forest music as well. The song even made an appearance in Super Smash Brothers Brawl under the title “Hidden Mountain and Forest.”
This track serves the role of background music for two Dark World locations in the game: Lost Woods and Death Mountain. These areas are fairly isolated from the rest of the Dark World (especially Death Mountain, which can only be reached by using a portal from the Light World) and if anything are even more sinister and dreary in their atmosphere.
Lost Woods (or Skull Woods, as its dungeon is named) has a hazy overcast and is essentially a giant graveyard filled with bones in opposition to the living trees of the Light World. Death Mountain has running streams of lava between cracks in the rocks, a perpetual thunderstorm around its base, and enough of a bad feeling to give the Star Wars cast a heyday of one-liners. Still, there is also one more similarity these areas share: both of them have dungeons that require Link to exit and reenter them. In other words, while working his way through these dungeons Link finds himself wandering back out into the environment. Very few other dungeons in the game do this, but these two have something special to go with this facet of their dungeons.
This song carries an interesting twist to the Dark World theme. It’s fairly slower in pace, with more intensity to it. There isn’t as much of an adventurous feel to this piece. Instead, it feels more rigid and less whimsical. I get the feeling of an army marching to war. Better yet, considering the dreary locations this tune is paired with, I always like to imagine that said army is marching toward me.
Furthermore, I mentioned before that this song goes with areas whose dungeons require Link to venture outside from time to time. When that happens, he is greeted not by a rousing adventure tune but rather… this. Again, think of that army marching in. Somehow, despite lowering the pace of the drums and brass in the song, Kondo managed to make this theme more tense and urgent than its overworld sibling.
I love the mood this theme creates, especially considering its ties to the dungeons of Skull Woods and Turtle Rock. Even when you feel like you’ve found an opportunity to get a breath of “fresh” air outside the dungeon, you are still met with music that certainly doesn’t make you feel at home. It’s an excellent mood and atmosphere that only serves to improve the dungeons’ presentation as a whole.
If you like this track, be sure to also check out the updated orchestration created for Super Smash Bros. Sakurai’s team did a nice job of breathing new life into the track, and though it feels a little too light to be a truly faithful interpretation it is still an excellent piece to listen to . . . and smash your friends off-screen at the same time.
So, that concludes this week’s Flute Boy’s Meadow. I’d like to thank you for reading this feature, and as always I ask that you leave any thoughts or suggestions you have in the comments. How do you like this track? Do you think it ties well with the dungeons it’s in such proximity to? How do you like the updated variation for Brawl? What other Zelda tunes would you like to see me write about? Consider my ears open, and I look forward to bringing you another feature next week!