01. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda. I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s an indescribable magic contained within the words. And that’s only the words, before we get into what makes them magical: the history, the story, the characters, the puzzles… oh, and the music. The Legend of Zelda, is, without a doubt, one of the greatest, most enduring video game franchises of all time.
More than 27 years after its conception, Nintendo continues to keep the legend alive with beauty and grace. With two new Zelda titles arriving before the year’s end (Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds), as well as what will be Nintendo’s 17th Zelda title in 2015 (Zelda U), that’s a whole lot of Zelda, and a whole lot of Zelda music. But out of them all, the most influential would have to be Koji Kondo’s pre-eminent score for the 1998 N64 classic, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Koji Kondo, without a doubt, is the sound of Zelda, but when the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996, it spelled new, exciting things for many of our beloved Nintendo franchises; it was a turning point. The N64 was a next-gen gateway into a whole new dimension: 3D, a sacred realm where Zelda had never been. As Nintendo’s Sound Director, Kondo had a plan, and marched to the front lines armed with a thematic infrastructure he’d been developing since day 1 (The Legend of Zelda, NES, 1986).
Drawing upon themes and motifs he’d written for both The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past (SNES, 1991), Kondo set out to re-establish the world of Hyrule with a new, reinvented sound for the franchise. Gone was the instantly recognizable Main Theme while exploring Hyrule Field. In its place, something familiar, but different. It felt… younger, more spry. Suddenly, players weren’t just playing a game accompanied by a soundtrack, they were asked to use an in-game ocarina to participate in it, solve puzzles, and cast spells. The world map revealed new lands to explore, and with those lands came unique characters and cultures, all with their own musical identity.
With The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Koji Kondo unwittingly crafted a soundtrack that instantly rung nostalgic, while also expanding the fictional scope of the Zelda universe, ripples of which the series still feels today. Culturally on a broader scale, the game itself reinvigorated interest in one of the world’s oldest musical instruments, the ocarina, which to this day continues to inspire.
Ocarina of Time was inarguably the biggest, most ambitious Zelda title to date. As a game, it set the bar and established a template for every Zelda game that would succeed it. As a soundtrack, it remains one of the most accessible and universally beloved. Whether or not you’re familiar with the game or the franchise, if you’ve any interest in video game music, let alone Zelda, Kondo’s masterpiece is a marvelous way to start a new adventure. –-Jeron Moore, Producer/Lead Creative, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses