Posted on September 10 2019 by Matt Pederberg
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
Shops play an important part in any Legend of Zelda game, as is the music that goes along with it. In Link’s Awakening, there are a few outlet shops over Koholint Island, a few of which have their own themes, but there’s one particular ‘Shop Theme,’ and that’s the one we’ll be looking at today. This theme was composed by Minako Himanoa.
The actual song doesn’t start in this first trailer until 1:25, so feel free to skip ahead.
Here’s a link to the original track for contrast: ‘Shop.’
Changes in Instrumentation
The first new instrument coming our way is the flutes, taking the main melody:
Next is a new face, the clarinet, followed quickly by the bassoons. Underneath it all is a series of what sounds like tempo blocks (percussive, hollowed out shell shaped instrument that produces clicking sounds) giving a rhythmic base. Then, right at 1:30, everything cuts out to what sounds almost identical to the original piece! It sounds like a harpsichord (like a piano, but more tinny), but a little too crisp, so it’s probably a modern electric keyboard with a harpsichord sound. Either way, it sounds faithful to the original.
After that, the song begins to loop, but on the second time through the harpsichord takes the melody, with some completely new material underneath it!
At 1:30, the various woodwind instruments come in with a completely new harmony to the original theme. This is fantastic, as it is a way to break up the monotony of a piece that was originally eight bars of music on repeat. Unfortunately, after that the new piece repeats the first bars again, without the harmony underneath.
This four seconds of new material is very well added, especially from a musical perspective, as it is written in what is called, “in the bis,” counterpoint. Counterpoint is, in simple terms, when a melody directly contrasts the melody in direction of moving notes. So for example, when a melody goes A-B-C-D, the counterpoint goes A-G-F-E.
There’s not much to glean from this in the trailer, but my hope is that this new material means that the music will be dynamic. And by that, I mean hopefully depending on what combination or configuration your level is in, the music will have different instrumentation, have different harmonies, or some other fun musical differences.
What’s particularly interesting to me is that, in the trailer, this theme is playing over
I am still super excited for this new iteration of Link’s Awakening! This version of the ‘Shop’ theme gives me hope that the music is going to change based on your environment; as in the music intensifies when enemies are around, or gets softer when you’re safe. In general, this was never one of my favourite shop themes from the Zelda series, but this version kind of blew me away! One of the hardest parts about listening to Game Boy music is the way it starts to grate on your ears after a while. From everything I’ve heard so far, this re-imagining will easily fix that.
What do you think of this new version of the ‘Shop’ theme from Link’s Awakening? Do you like it more than the original? Do you find it easy to listen to older video game soundtracks from hand-held devices? Share your thoughts 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!