Anyone who has played video games in the last three decades has at some point likely taken a trip to Hyrule -- the land ruled by gaming's beloved and oft-kidnapped princess Zelda -- throughout the franchise's 20-odd iterations. While players may have been thoroughly engaged in the action, the epic musical soundtrack has always been an added bonus to the experience. So in order to celebrate the series' 25th anniversary in 2011, a symphonic score was released to accompany latest title, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
The disc received such a positive reception that after a small production at E3 2011, it unlocked the gates for a potential touring show, The Symphony of the Goddesses.
Jeron Moore, The Symphony of the Goddesses creative producer, has worked on Prey, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos, and the controversial Duke Nukem Forever games. He pushed Nintendo to do the symphony.
"We brought the idea to Nintendo, who had already been working on something, but the idea was sort of foggy to them," says Moore. "They hadn't quite fleshed it out and so they put us on their team with the 25th Anniversary symphony, and they were very into our ideas, with little negative feedback."
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Link's quest to unite the Triforce, save Princess Zelda and slay evil Ganon has required a constantly evolving soundtracks over the past 25 years. As well, aside from Final Fantasy, no other game can boast a North American orchestra tour.
There was nothing like dodging, dribbling and firing the ball through the goalkeeper along to Blur's "Song 2" and then getting knocked down again to Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" in FIFA 98. The soccer series was one of the first to pair remixes and electronic music with gameplay and has maintained that long tradition ever since. Sports games and music licensing have never been the same since.
With all the extra time you spend levelling up your characters in the Final Fantasy series, epic music is key. Nobuo Uematsu must have known this when he composed the music for the first title, because they had him back for eight more. The Final Fantasy series has spawned 24 albums and nine singles in various global markets, and the soundtracks are even available as sheet music. SEPHIROTH!
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had a significant Miami-themed soundtrack, but the San Andreas iteration integrated music like never before with six 1992-era L.A.-centric radio stations, all while loosely basing the game around the life of gangster rap icon, Eazy-E. A six CD box set of the soundtrack was also released through Interscope Records.
From the somber Gregorian-chanting monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz to the warbling London Bulgarian Choir, the composers of Halo’s soundtracks (Michael Salvator, Steve Vai, Marty O’Donnell and currently Neil Davidge of Massive Attack) have consistently delivered stern, awe-inspiring soundscapes that keep gamers alert and cringing at the thought of yet another headshot.
The tinny trills of Megaman’s soundtrack brought both chills of excitement and tears of agony to young gamers. When levels got a little hairy, it was sometimes helpful to flat-out mute the music to focus on gameplay.
American-made hip-hop interpreted for the Japanese gaming market gave life to cut-out style animations of Parappa, the hip-hop dog, feeding the rhythm-based gaming craze. Millions “Kick, Chop, Punch”-ed their tears away with Master Onion!
The skateboarding islander Alex Kid just wasn't cutting it as Sega’s mascot and so Sonic the ring-hoarding Hedgehog was born. The team knocked it out of the park with a soundtrack as memorable as the game itself. For the hardcore fan, check out the obscure Sonic related J-Pop tune remixed by Akon titled "Sweet Sweet Sweet Akon Mix 06."
Freed from the fetters of clunky 8-bit pixels, a smooth-edged Mario burst to life with a quirky soundtrack punctuated by springy sound effects and platform-hopping bliss.
Tetris?! Yes, Tetris. Tetris makes the list for being what is probably the most recognizable game soundtrack ever created. The game had such a wide audience at its peak in 1988 that you could probably ask your grandpa Yevgeni to hum music option A (Russian folk song, the Korobeiniki), and he’d pull it off with a smile.
Working with Chad Seiter, the symphony's music director, as his partner, they took on the task of deciding what to include and how to convert segments of the archaic 8-bit Zelda themes from the original NES system written by Koji Kondo into properly symphonic music, a considerable challenge considering the minimalist nature of those old themes.
"The tough thing was that the original Zelda was written for an orchestra" said Seiter. "So to re-adapt it was sometimes difficult, but the greater thing is that you have these melodies that have withstood the test of time, so it wasn't too hard to put it into this setting. I've been playing Zelda all my life so it's been in the making for 25 years."
Along with other adaptations, Seiter made the decision to add a bit of a cowboy color with a string-theme to accompany the many scenes of Link traveling across the desert on his trusty steed, Epona.
Thankfully, the gaming industry has seen a considerable boost in musical sophistication, and later Zelda episodes that the symphony pulled from A Link To The Past(SNES), The Wind Waker (GameCube), The Ocarina of Time (N64), The Twilight Princess (Wii) and Majora's Mask (Wii) have had more work involved on an orchestral level.
The symphony is also accompanied by a video component that has had fans cheering in their opera booths as Link accomplishes memorable tasks like slaying the evil Ganon, or recovering pieces of the sacred Triforce all in sequential series that are in line with the game's generation-spanning storyline. But for the production's Irish conductor, Eimar Noone, who's own resume includes in-studio orchestration for Triple-A titles like Blizzard's StarCraft 2, the real win has been converting gaming fans to symphony fans.
"Video gaming has produced a whole new musical genre that I see as very important to the orchestra in terms of generating a new audiences," says Noone. "It's a gateway into this whole other world. Game composers didn't just mushroom up out of nowhere, they are right there in music history at the end of a very long line, and its really inspiring."
When asked what special Zelda-ish traits she is bringing to her production, Noone says, "I think she brings more to me than I bring to her, but it makes me feel good because she's the princess and Link is the warrior, so (as a conductor) it feels good to be a bit of both."The Symphony of the Goddesses is currently touring North America until December 14, 2012, and has been selling out consistently. So get your ticket fast if you're looking for an exclusive trip down Hyrule's elfin memory lane.