VGM Entry 45: A Link to the Past
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)
I never did find out why Koji Kondo did not score Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but then, very little about that game made much sense in any department. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past got the series back on track both stylistically and musically.
Yet the music to A Link to the Past never much agreed with me as a kid (though I enjoyed it more than Super Mario World). It’s got a really dark side to it which I think often goes unrecognized, and which made it incredibly appropriate for the game. I mean, there is nothing warm and fuzzy about A Link to the Past. Monsters all over the place, guards out to kill you… The whole world’s got only one town in it and everyone there’s a crook or a witch or just all around unfriendly. Your only real companion is some chick’s voice in your head, and you don’t really ever get to interact with her along the way. In spirit, this was more some horror/nightmare game than a standard adventure/RPG. It made me really uncomfortable as a kid, and it should have. You know, half your companions might die or betray you in Final Fantasy IV, but at least you had them. As Link, you’re quite alone in the world.
I think Koji Kondo perpetuated the angst. You can divide the majority of the soundtrack into string and trumpet tracks and harp tracks. The latter are soothing, sure, but they mostly occur in little safe haven faerie pools. I’m sure glad Tinker Bell is on my side, but I don’t think I’ll be sheathing my sword any time soon. And the former, the former are spooky. Seriously. When you get the same tones on the Hyrule Castle theme (2:25) that you hear in the Forest (3:55) there’s got to be something up. Hyrule Castle is supposed to be protecting your realm, and sure, you’re an unwelcome guest, but the effect is to make the castle itself feel like it’s under some dark spell. You’re not just battling corrupt politicians here; there’s something evil pervading this whole world. Indeed, the forest ends up being one of the most comforting songs on the album, because the flute it least renders it merely mysterious and not obviously dangerous.
Kakariko Village (not sampled here), the only town in the game, uses slightly different tones, but they still have that sort of ghostly texture to them, and in consequence it feels no more comforting than that enchanted mysterious forest.
I think I can best describe my childhood Link to the Past experience as simultaneously captivating and unnerving. I don’t care to speculate what Koji Kondo had in mind when he composed it, but suffice to say I think its consistency with the gameplay is phenomenal.