I’m Matt Pederberg, I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, and Link’s Awakening is my favourite Legend of Zelda game. As such I am incredibly excited for the remake coming out later this month. I am excited to both relive my favourite moments in glorious HD, as well as find out everything that is different (to my delight or dismay remains to be seen). One of these differences, as already apparent as the updated graphics, is the music. With a new age comes new compositional techniques. My aim throughout this month is to compare and contrast some of the music that we’ve already heard through various gameplay videos and trailers before delving deeply into the composition after the game’s release.

Introducing the Piece

All of the tracks I’ve been able to get my ears on so far have been re-imaginings of the original pieces. What that means is that the majority of the music keeps the same tune, usually note for note, has the same harmonies, and chordal structures. Instead the changes come from the updates sounds which, in the case of Link’s Awakening, means a live symphony! The first piece we’ll be looking at comes from the announcement trailer back in February. Its original Game Boy/Color equivalent track is titled ‘Title Screen.” This is fitting as we first hear the re-imagined song as the title of Link’s adventure fades on screen.

Here’s a link to the original track for contrast: “Title Screen.”

Special Instrumentation

Immediately at 0:35 (which is where the “Title Screen” theme begins in the trailer) it’s easy to tell that there’s something different going on, and that feeling only increases the further in you go. Off the cuff, I’d say there’s some flute action, combined with a harp, perhaps some piano, and probably bassoon, all in those first four seconds. They’re all subtle, but distinctly there. Next comes the oboe, joining the flutes, as well as a piccolo (essentially a little flute), and some wind chimes, all culminating in a crash cymbal before the familiar Zelda theme comes in at 0:45. Immediately after that, the snare comes in to provide a rhythmic floor. So in all, that’s at least nine different instruments in ten seconds! This really gets me excited for what the game is actually going to sound like!

General Analysis

From what I can glean of just listening to the music and how it lines up with the game, it seems that Link is going to be characterized by the oboe. I came to that conclusion as Link’s first appears onscreen at 0:54, which is the exact same time the oboe truly has its own line:

At this time the main theme is being played by the flutes and backed by the oboes. After that, the main theme gets thrown around to a few different instruments. First to the oboe at 0:59, then at 1:08 to the bassoon (still overlayed by the oboe, mind you), then to the piccolo at 1:15, then through quickly through various instruments before the haunting echoes of the first bars of the “Ballad of the Wind Fish.”

The next thing we can hear in this tune is that the arrangers are clearly headed in the direction of whimsy, which is fitting considering the source material. Link’s Awakening is different from most Zelda games in that it walks the fine line of fantasy and something completely wild. The peppy beat of this new arrangement of the “Title Screen” seems to hint that the music, too, will be leaning into, and hopefully over, this line!

Comparing the Pieces

There’s not much to contrast with these two, other than the obvious instrumentation changes. Other than some additional percussion lines, the notes stay essentially the same. The difference is that it is much easier to articulate notes on a real instrument than it is to do so with a digital one. The lines are all practically the same otherwise. There’s also the wonderful ability to have separate instruments taking different parts of the theme, something also very difficult to convey with the limited resources of the Game Boy.

Matt’s Musings

I am hopeful that this track is going to be indicative of the changes to be made to the rest of the soundtrack in the official release. It would be excellent if this remained the track that plays when the player sits at the title screen, but at the same time would not be surprised if the composers left it more simple in the actual release, but fingers crossed! This track opens up countless possibilities for instrumentation changes, which I would happily welcome. Though I love deeply some of the original tracks, I can’t wait to see what the Nintendo team does to amp them up (pun definitely intended!)

What do you think of the musical changes obviously coming in the new Link’s Awakening? Are you going to get the game as soon as it comes out? Does the music you hear impact your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Matt Pederberg is part of the Writing Team at Zelda Dungeon, holds a Bachelor of Music, and has used that knowledge to develop his love of excellent music in excellent video games!

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