Posted on September 20 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
With the Link’s Awakening reimagining finally out, I think it’s time to take a look at the most popular song from the game. I’ll start off by saying “Ballad of the Wind Fish” is my absolute favourite Zelda piece out there. It has so much meaning for the overall plot of the game, and appears in several different forms. My favourite part of this theme, however, is that the player gets to build the song, bit by bit, as they explore Koholint Island, collecting the eight Instruments of the Sirens. This alone creates an unforgettable experience.
However, this article is going to be focused more on the new techniques brought to the piece. As such, here’s the original piece for comparison:
Changes in Instrumentation
Editor’s Note: This article was written before the full “Ballad of the Windfish” vocal arrangement was available online. Matt’s Musings here were based on the portions of arrangement heard in the Link’s Awakening story trailer.
The big to-do with this new rendition is, without a doubt, the vocals. More specifically the fact that they bring in lyrics to what was otherwise just a beautiful tune. The part is sung very well by a female vocalist, undoubtedly taking the part of Marin, Koholint’s siren of its own. Backing her is just a solo piano, and some ethereal sounds, including a couple seagull squawks here and there. So essentially, this is a completely new piece, with all new instruments. So perhaps we should expect to see this be the beginning of what we get to build on in the remake.
The music itself is pretty darn self explanatory. There’s not a lot going on, as the vocals are clearly the focus of the piece. That being said, there are however some cool things here and there. What caught my ear was the few little sprinkles of instruments being layered over the piano. At 0:08, there’s what sounds like a singing bowl, and at 0:15, though it is faint, there sounds to be a cello filling in the root of the chord. Shortly after at 0:17, a flute or clarinet plays a little trill, followed by the piano picking up in its accompaniment. Finally at 0:26, a violin comes in at the top, just before we are painstakingly cut off from what the rest of the arrangement sounds like.
Now for the big ticket item: the lyrics. This is a first, perhaps in Zelda music history, to have live lyrics being sung over the track. If you haven’t found a translation of the words yet, here they are (as well as the original article they came from):
“Please let this dream somehow not end
Although that is your desire
It is the nature of dreams to end eventually
That is time’s-“
So what exactly do these articles mean for the game? If you’re wary of SPOILERS, definitely do not read ahead, as there will be a few of them!
The first thing to establish is that these lyrics are, in fact, most likely sung by Marin, one of the key characters of Link’s Awakening and Link’s closest companion of Koholint Island. The first line, “please let this dream somehow not end,” is likely in reference to Marin’s feeling for wanting to keep Link as a companion, though she knows that she is, as revealed by the game’s finale, just a part of Link’s dream. The next line, “Although that is your desire,” backs up this hypothesis. Marin knows that Link needs to wake up, and it pains her to help him do so.
The next line, “It is the nature of dreams to end eventually,” is interesting because it actually comes directly from the source material. The original line, “It be the nature of dreams to end,” is said to Link by the Wind Fish himself in the game’s ending cutscene. This is also the scene in which it is finally revealed to Link that he is in a dream world, created by the Wind Fish, and that Koholint will vanish, along with everyone Link had met. It is heartbreaking to think of Marin singing these words, as she cares deeply for Link, and Link for her.
The final line, “That is time’s-“ is tragically cut off, so I suppose we’ll all just have to by the game to know what the end of the sentence is.
This new arrangement just adds to the already blazing fire that is my excitement for Link’s Awakening. As I’ve said before, Link’s Awakening is my favourite Zelda title, and “Ballad of the Wind Fish” my favourite song, so this one’s going to be a real humdinger! My biggest hope for this re-release is that they are able to capture the wacky style of the original game, which is partially purported by the music. This rendition of “Ballad of the Wind Fish” exceeded my expectations, and I will surely be having an excellent time listening to it once I get my hands on the game!
Is “Ballad of the Wind Fish” one of your favourite tunes? What song are you most excited to hear redone? What do you think the finish of the final line is? Let us know your thoughts and feelings 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!