By GrantHeaslip 11 Comments
Perhaps my favourite thing about the Zelda games are their music, and Ocarina of Time (in this one's humble opinion) has the best. Having just finished replaying it on the 3DS, I picked out some of my favourites. These are in no particular older, and some good tracks (there really aren't any bad ones) were culled for the sake of brevity (and in in the case of Lon Lon Ranch, because I really don't like the female vocal instrument).
For those who haven't played Ocarina in a while, this might be a nice trip down memory lane. For those who haven't played it ever, you might want to get on that.
This is the first thing you hear when you start the game, and it does a great job of setting the mood. It's touching, but also of bittersweet and lonely, which I think is fitting because Ocarina of Time does have an undertone of isolation and loss, especially in the latter half. When you think about the track in the context of any other Zelda game, it just doesn't feel right -- it's so clearly a creature of this one. I didn't embed the title screen itself since it's hard to find a good capture of it, but it's so inseparable from the track that it's worth watching.
I don't think this is particularly noteworthy musically, but it's great in the context of the carefree, naive world of Kokiri Forest. It doesn't fit in at all with the rest of the soundtrack, just like Kokiri Forest doesn't fit in with the rest of the world. It's especially effective when you come back later in the game, because it reminds you that while Link has changed, the forest hasn't.
While the boss fights in Ocarina of Time really aren't that hard, the music gives them a manic, out-of-control feel. The drop straight into the relentless piano rhythm is a great "okay, this shit is on" moment.
Big surprise, right? This is the defining track in the game, and has to be the most recognizable. I vividly remember entering Hyrule Field for the first time, and this track hitting as the (at the time, massive) world opened up. I can't quite put my finger on why I like it so much, because musically I'm not sure it stands up to the overworld themes in other games, but like Kokiri Forest, it just fits so well. There's a surprising amount of variation, and most of my favourite parts of the track are minutes in.
This is just a fantastic piece. Like a lot of my favourite Ocarina of Time tracks, it's extremely evocative, bittersweet, and fits in perfectly. Even later in the game Kakariko comes off as a slow, vaguely-down-on-its-luck refuge, and this track does a lot of the legwork selling that. I don't know what the actual process was at Nintendo, but I imagine Koji Kondo must have written this with at least concept art and the town's backstory in mind. The orchestral adult Link version is also worth a listen.
The Lost Woods
Again, not really my favourite piece musically, but it's so evocative. More-so than any other track in the game, this one defines the area -- imagine how different the Lost Woods would feel if it were accompanied by slow, mysterious music. The layers of instruments are also faded in and out in gameplay to great effect.
Another obvious one, but man is this great. This one has hints of the unique brand of off-putting, somethings-really-wrong-here creepiness that Majora's Mask ran with.
Like the Kokiri Forest theme, this one really sells that Gerudo Valley is a very different place than the rest of Hyrule. It's also just a really catchy, foot-tapping piece. The game doesn't do much in the way of telling you what the Gerudo are like, so this and their visual design is really all the imagination has to work with.
Environmentally, the Forest Temple is my favourite dungeon in the game, and this track is a big part of that. Haunting, ethereal, yet rooted in place. Few N64 tracks make such deft use of the sound chip. Just perfect.
Fire Temple (original version)
So good. I've never really loved the chants (which were removed later on) -- which aren't done any favours by the N64 sound chip and seem to be mixed way too loud -- but it's the original and in my mind canonical version. Like the Forest Temple's music, the voices give the temple a strong ethereal quality. The drum beat in the background really makes the song.