Monday, May 12, 2014

Playing Games: Wind Waker HD

I think I mentioned earlier that my parents gave me a Wii U for my birthday and last night I beat Wind Waker and have really enjoyed playing it.  Great game in the Zelda tradition.  Really glad to have played it on the Wii U because I never owned a GameCube and hadn't seen this game at all.  It got me really excited for the upcoming Wii U Zelda game.

I thought the game had great music.  The in-game credits list Kenta Nagata (primary), Hajime Wakai, Asuka Hayazaki, and Atsuko Asahi as doing the music for the game.  Of course, Koji Kondo also has famous themes in the game-- curious as to why he's not listed in the credits?

There are numerous moments of the game that I could mention as being musically significant.  For one, when I started the second quest, I realized how some of the music you hear at the very beginning of the game is the same as music heard at the very end of the game.  The bookend effect is cool, clever, and traditional.

Playing this game also led me into numerous conversations with Vince about the use of canonic Zelda music.  Is it a cop out to use the same music again and again in a game series?  Simple, easy, and cheap?  Is it clever, bringing branding and tradition to the series?  Probably some of each, plus more.  However, one thing I appreciated here was that some of the music, for instance, the town music, Windfall's theme, was uniquely remade rather than an exact repeat of the traditional Kakariko theme.  This kind of work is ideal in my mind: it pays homage to the audio traditions of the series, yet keeps the musical experience fresh and vital.

Here are a couple of my other favorite musical moments.

The ocean (overworld) theme in this game is another one of those musical moments with elements of the traditional Zelda overworld music, but creatively redone.  In addition to melodic and harmonic commonalities, which I want to explore more in the future, one of the easiest things to hear is the traditional call and response Zelda overworld motive.  (If you're wondering what I mean, take a look at this video and you can see and hear these elements in the original LoZ overworld theme.)

Give a listen to the overworld theme below, and you can hear some of the traditional call and response elements from :48-1:10.

A second musical moment I loved was in the cutscene where you meet Ganon for the first time in the game.  I like the use of Ganon's theme from A Link to the Past as well as Zelda's Lullaby in this short cutscene.  Re-watching this reminds me how important and powerful the music is to the storytelling aspects of Zelda games, especially since there's no talking.

One last favorite to leave you with...  I love the reuse of the Hyrule castle music as well.  Totally brings me back to that rainy day at the beginning of A Link to the Past.

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