As soon as Nintendo announced a world tour of the Legend of Zelda symphony, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Two of my favorite things – the Legend of Zelda and orchestral music – in one event? Awesome. So when they finally announced concerts in my area, I immediately got tickets. And earlier this month, I got to use them. Finally.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with the Philadelphia Choir performed The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses flawlessly. I figured that they would be playing most, of not all of the tracks included in the CD that shipped with Skyward Sword, and I was mostly right. I also chose ahead of time not to spoil the set list for myself, either.
The performance began with the Overture, which you may remember from Nintendo’s E3 press conference last year. It’s essentially a medley of songs from nearly every Zelda title, and worked well for the opener. From there, they went into a few shorter songs before beginning the four-part symphony; these included a Dungeons medley (which focused mainly on the dungeon theme from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, which is still probably the most iconic dungeon music out there), Kakariko Village’s theme, and a medley of Ocarina songs.
The Symphony itself was a four-part movement which included a prelude of the music from the creation of Hyrule as an homage to the three Golden Goddesses before delving into the heavy stuff. The first movement focused exclusively on the Ocarina of Time, and included samples from the title screen (people went absolutely nuts in the stands when they started that), Hyrule Field, the Lost Woods, and the final battle with Ganondorf. Following this, they went into the Wind Waker – for this, the conductor used a replica Wind Waker baton, which I – and everyone else in the audience, I’m sure – felt was a nice touch. Here, we were taken out on the ocean with Link and the King of Red Dragons and back down to the depths of the sea to a ruined Hyrule, to defeat Ganondorf once again.
It should be noted that through each piece, large screens showed gameplay and cinematic footage from the games the music was from – and it was all synchronized to the music pretty fantastically. Whoever was running the video screens deserves a pat on the back, seriously.
After a quick intermission we got back into the music, starting with the Great Fairy Fountain’s theme. The creative director came out and said he felt “refreshed,” which was fitting, I suppose. He then introduced the third movement of the symphony, which was Twilight Princess. We saw Link’s transformation into his wolf form and his bond with Midna grow. Following this, we had the fourth and final movement of the symphony – A Link to the Past. From Link’s first steps out of bed and into the castle sewers to find Zelda, to the battle with the wizard Agahnim and subsequent transport to the Dark World to the final scene with the Triforce itself, everything was portrayed beautifully and this was by far my favorite movement of the symphony itself.
Seriously, give it a listen.
Despite the fact that the symphony was over, we weren’t quite done yet. A three-song encore was performed by the orchestra. The first of these songs was the Ballad of the Wind Fish from Link’s Awakening. I’ll be honest, this was my favorite song of the night. Link’s Awakening was the first Zelda title I was ever exposed to, the first I bugged my parents to take me to Funcoland to buy and the first of Link’s adventures I got into. Hearing that song orchestrated took me back to when I was about eight or nine years old and I was one of just a few kids at a barbeque my parents had taken me to. One of the other kids there – I don’t remember his name – had a Game Boy Color like me and had the DX version of Link’s Awakening. He was at the Moblin’s Castle mini-dungeon and let me beat it for him. From that point on, I was hooked. The overwhelming nostalgia from hearing Ballad of the Wind Fish was just an incredible feeling – and now I’m playing through Link’s Awakening again.
The second song of the encore set was Gerudo Valley, a track that came on the CD that shipped with Skyward Sword. Hearing it live, however, was just amazing, and seeing the footage from Ocarina of Time to go with it was awesome as well. This was by far the biggest crowd-pleaser of the night, judging by the response it received when the main melody started.
Finally, we heard music from a game that otherwise wasn’t mentioned at all that night – Majora’s Mask. The creative director came out and explained that they took fan feedback into consideration when they were planning on expanding the tour, and the thing that fans asked for more than anything was a selection of music from Majora’s Mask – and so they delivered. The suite consisted of the beginning of the game, when Link is first transformed into a Deku Scrub, the theme from Clock Town, and the final battle with Majora. Despite the fact that Majora’s Mask is one of my least-favorite Zelda titles, I still got a kick out of hearing the music. I can also appreciate the fact that the people in charge of this endeavor are taking the fans’ opinions into consideration as they add to the set list.
Overall, this was an exhilarating concert experience. As a lifelong Zelda fan, I would definitely go see it again. However, the casual fans (of which there were several sitting right around us who were taking notes on which Zelda titles they now wanted to play) clearly enjoyed the experience as well. The tour continues through the fall and you can see all the tour dates at their website.