Posted on December 01 2019 by Sean Gadus
Link’s Awakening has been a huge hit on Nintendo Switch. The remake featured a striking new art style that was impossible in 1993, as well as some quality-of-life improvements. In addition to the visual and control changes, the music was revamped and rearranged with modern sensibilities. The soundtrack of the Link’s Awakening remake is incredibly memorable, though some fans may not always have the musical vocabulary to explain how/why the music worms its way into your brain.
This detailed video by 8-bit Music examines how the composer of Link’s Awakening Switch updated the music for 2019. In the video, 8-bit Music points out that composer Ryo Nagamatsu was extremely faithful to the music from the original game. The speaker explains that the “note to note composition of each piece” is relatively untouched from the original to the remake. For much of the music in the remake, small chamber ensembles of live instruments are used to enhance the “character” of the original pieces.
8-bit Music also discusses how difficult it was for composers to create music on early consoles and handhelds. Because of the limited memory of the Game Boy, Minako Hamano had to be extremely “deliberate” in her construction of the music and sound effects. It’s pretty amazing that so many classic game composers were able to create such memorable music despite the rigid limitations of the hardware. Notably, the music from the original Link’s Awakening is actually present within the remake. Several key pieces like “Face Shrine” and “End Credits” integrate the original chip tunes into the new orchestrated arrangements.
Another fascinating topic discussed in the video is the use of wind quintets and sextets within the remake. A wind quintet is a group of five wind instruments, commonly consisting of a flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon. The beauty of using a wind quintet is that each instrument has a different “voice” and, depending on which voice is highlighted, the tune can sound remarkably different. Composer Ryo Nagamatsu even goes a step further by using a wind sextet consisting of a flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, base clarinet, and recorder. This musical creativity, versatility, and ambition are examples of how Link’s Awakening set its music apart from other games.
Overall, this video does an excellent job of explaining its musical terminology for those who may not be seasoned musicians or musical experts. 8-bit Music Theory does a great job of showing what makes the music in Link’s Awakening sound so memorable and distinct.
What do you think of this analysis of Link’s Awakening‘s music? Let us know in the comments below!