Game Music, Reviews

Skyward Sword In-Game Audio and Symphonic CD Impressions (Review)

November 18, 2011 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Skyward Sword In-Game Audio and Symphonic CD Impressions (Review)on Twitter

Can you believe that Zelda day is finally just around the corner? We’ve talked a lot about Skyward Sword over the past couple of years and have been impressed with what we’ve heard, and you may recall that a piano arrangement CD is being released in Japan along with retail copies of the game including a Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony CD. Yeah, it has a little something to do with that concert that was held in October.

So, with Hajime Wakai at the helm, does Skyward Sword live up to the franchise’s rich musical legacy? Does the bonus CD give fans who were unable to attend the concert last month an accurate taste of what they missed?

Find out in our review!

Let’s start with the game itself, which I can safely say being nearly through with the game is probably my favorite Zelda game since Link to the Past. And Link to the Past is my favorite Zelda game, so that’s saying a lot. Nintendo has done so much to reinvent the franchise as it always does and add that element of wonder through the fun controls (which actually NEVER get tiring, although occasionally frustrating), innovative dungeon and world design, actual character development (with lots of lovable characters!), and long list of things to do and explore in the game.

I won’t delve too much into the game itself because our focus will be on the music, but I did want to say that I think fans are going to be very pleased with what they encounter. And that, of course, includes the music, which is some of the best to grace the franchise in a long time.

So, does a live orchestra make an appearance? Yes! Time and time again it shows through, as several key themes (including the instantly classic main theme), all boss (and even mini-boss!) battles, and other moments are experienced in their full live orchestral glory. Given the work that went into the soundtrack from a quality standpoint, I won’t be surprised if Skyward Sword gets a Club Nintendo soundtrack release.

In terms of the content, however, the main town theme is probably my favorite, and has been stuck in my head for days. It has an upbeat and playful melody that has a kind of Celtic folk sound, reminding me of something out of a Suikoden title. It’s a great theme that I’d love to hear on CD and arranged several times over. Other key themes include the fully orchestrated flight theme as Link explores the world above the clouds, coming as triumphant and bold with the addition of marching snare drums when enemies approach.

And that gets us to the interactive music system in the game, which is basic at its core, but works wonders in immersing the player. The game’s dungeons, for example, start with a sort of soft basal layer before more instruments are added, gradually building up to a climax before the final encounter with the dungeon boss. Layers are also added and subtracted based on how close a player is to a music source such as an objective, or whether the player is underwater, etc. This creates a fun and engaging experience in every single dungeon of the game, which also sport some amazing compositions as well. The forest temple, for example, starts with a low bass progression to which strings are eventually added, and near the end, a choir comes in to really add emphasis. I also dug the ethnic-tinged desert palace theme with its use of exotic percussion.

Other highlights have included the playful Faron Woods theme with its pizzicato strings, some of the ambient swells and glassy pads found in dark caverns and other locations throughout the game, and the belltone variations on some of the themes when visiting the ethereal “Dusk Realm,” which is a tense alternate dimension where you are chased by ominous guardians who you must avoid at all costs.

And let’s not forget the game’s musical instrument, the harp. While playing it is a bit awkward at times (I always mess up which button I’m supposed to press to take it out), it’s a lot of fun to play, and you can do so while moving about the screen. There are a few mini-games and other uses that it serves as well, so you’ll be doing more with it than just using it as a story element.

And this is just a taste of all of what the game has to offer. There are so many memorable melodies and great audio-inspired moments in Skyward Sword that will bring a smile to your face. Even the familiar fairy fountain theme in the main menu and the classic jingle that plays when you solve a puzzle are here to bring it all home. I can’t convey just how much I’m loving this game and its music, and I hope you all will too.

That brings me to the 25th Anniversary Symphony CD. For whatever reason, Nintendo has an embargo on the track titles themselves, but given that we covered the concert at length and listed the track titles there, suffice it to say that most of the key pieces performed are featured on this CD. In fact, eight of the sixteen pieces performed (totaling a hefty 45 minutes of music) are here, including the key medleys, symphonic movements, and of course the Skyward Sword main theme. The only one that I’m incredibly bummed is missing from the CD is the “Selected Shorts” segment from the concert, which was easily one of my favorites from the night. My other favorite featuring dual harps is here, however, so I’m sure fans will appreciate that. You’ll honestly be left wanting more because it’s so good, but even though it’s not an exhausted presentation of the concert, it’s an amazing bonus, and a sign that Nintendo may be coming to understand the importance of the music in their games as entities outside of the game.

In all, I couldn’t be more satisfied with Skyward Sword. I’m curious to know what all of you will think as you dig in this Sunday, November 20 (earlier for those in Europe!), so feel free to chime in and let us know what you think of the CD, the game’s main theme, lovely town theme , and more!

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