Music is a big part of my life. I love listening to it, playing it and talking about it. Because of that, it’s not surprising that it’s one of the most important aspects of a game to me. Last year was filled with some fantastic game music, so let’s quickly go through some of my favorite musical moments and memories. This is not a ranked list–instead, it’s going chronologically through the games I played throughout the year.
Throughout December, I was busy with a certain other massive game, so I had to put the second DLC pack for Breath of the Wild on hold. The first pack, The Master Trials, was a romp that included a mixed grab-bag of new features, including the fun Trial of the Sword. However, its limited scope made me wary of recommending it for the full $20 it costs for the DLC pass. Does The Champions’ Ballad change that?
This will include spoilers for the DLC pack and the rest of Breath of the Wild.
When people talk about the 2D iterations of The Legend of Zelda, the clear standout that most people think of is the SNES title, A Link to the Past. That game is often credited for making Nintendo’s epic adventure series into what it is today. However, one title whose contribution is often forgotten is the fourth entry in the series, Link’s Awakening. Beginning life as a Game Boy port of A Link to the Past, it quickly developed its own identity and became something more.
It was the first game in the series to really focus on the surrealism and strangeness that would later come to define some of the best games in the series, such as Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. The dreamlike scenario, goofy characters and cameos from other Nintendo games set this far apart from the other Zelda games. Even today, it feels like a much more understated and intimate experience than its SNES counterpart, befitting of its home on Nintendo’s old handheld. Full spoilers for a 20+ year old game will follow.
Ever since I completed Breath of the Wild, I’ve been dying for another reason to dig into this amazing game again. While Nintendo’s DLC strategy has been questionable, forcing you to buy a $20 “season pass” without giving you the option to purchase the DLC as a standalone package, I have still been looking forward to this DLC. This is not a “full” review, since I don’t think this DLC warrants it, just some random thoughts on it.
I’m a lifelong Zelda fan–one of my earliest video game memories was pouring hours upon hours exploring the sprawling world of Link’s Awakening on my large, monochrome Game Boy system. Since then, I have extensively played every game, and I have set opinions about what the “best” Zelda games are. I was struggling to place Breath of the Wild on my list after my first playthrough. I knew it was high up there–it’s a great game. But now, in the middle of my second playthrough, it’s clear as day to me now. Breath of the Wild is the best Zelda game Nintendo has ever produced.
I have read a lot of… mixed opinions on Breath of the Wild‘s soundtrack from Zelda fans. This is mainly due to the minimalist themes that play while you explore the world, a style far removed from the thrilling, marching themes of the past. It’s still a little early to say if it’s my favorite soundtrack from a Zelda, but Breath of the Wild doubtlessly has one of the greatest soundtracks ever composed in a series with consistently fantastic music.
Surprisingly, Nintendo brought on the talent of Manaka Kataoka, the composer responsible for one of Nintendo’s best ever soundtracks, that of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It’s easy to see the link between the quiet, beautiful soundtrack of New Leaf and the new Zelda. In any case, she’s a fresh face, and it’s nice to see Nintendo tap into new musical genius that not only matches the old songs from The Wind Waker or OcariThisna of Time, but at times even surpasses it.
Here are 15 tracks from Breath of the Wild that I love, in no particular order.
Note: For the purposes of this review, I played through the Nintendo Switch version of this game. A Wii U version is also available.
Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda franchise is a deeply beloved series with a long, storied history, entwined with the history of Nintendo itself. However, let’s be frank, Zelda has been in a bit of a rut for a while now. While still a very enjoyable game, 2011’s Skyward Sword amplified all of the worst characteristics of the games that preceded it, being filled with long, tedious tutorials, linear environments and obnoxious hand-holding at every step. The two Zelda games released for the Nintendo DS, Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass, were similarly enjoyable, but failed to leave the same kind of impression that great games such as The Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time left.
After these games, Nintendo said they were looking to shatter the traditions of Zelda going forward. 2013’s A Link Between Worlds did just that, providing the most open Zelda experience since the old NES and SNES games. If A Link Between Worlds was Nintendo dipping their feet into this kind of “open” design, Breath of the Wild is the full plunge.
I say this very carefully, since people are prone to hyperbole when discussing The Legend of Zelda. 20 years ago, Ocarina of Time ushered in a new era for this series, and after that point, it was hard to go back to the older games. After all, they just felt dated and inferior next to Ocarina of Time. Similarly-after playing Breath of the Wild for over 50 hours-it will be very difficult to go back to not only older Zelda games, but other action RPGs. Breath of the Wild is a defining moment, not only for Zelda, but for Nintendo.
Warning: I will talk a little bit about the story to help my impressions, but I will avoid outright spoiling the story itself. I will also dive into the game mechanics involved. You’ve been warned.