The importance of music in the series

When your game series has an entry titled The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it’s no surprise to say that music plays a major role in this series. However, this aspect of the series is something that can be overlooked when remembering The Legend of Zelda. Some may remember the great hero of Hyrule not by the music he plays but by the tunic he wears and the weapons he wields. While these are all incredibly defining aspects of Link, another key characteristic that doesn’t always come to mind first is how often Link uses music to complete his quests! Obviously, there was the Ocarina mentioned in the game above, but Link used instruments to achieve a plethora of goals!

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The first introduction of instruments in The Legend of Zelda actually came from the very first game with the title that gave the series its name. In this game, released in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Link can find a recorder. This logger is used for dungeon completion and for a few niche secrets, but otherwise it’s not of much use. The instruments and their musical capabilities have been greatly expanded with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. In this game, Link’s entire quest revolves around acquiring eight musical instruments to awaken the Wind Fish and leave the dream world of Koholint. Unfortunately, in this game, instruments play more of a role as quest items than usable tools. The use of instruments as self-accessible tools will not come until the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.


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When the Nintendo 64 classic was released, the focus was on the ocarina. With the Ocarina of Time, Link could change the time of day, teleport to various locations in Hyrule, and even cause sporadic storms! While I can’t say that music in our world can spontaneously make it rain (although playing music to improve the chance of rain is found in many cultures), I can say that playing music can have an effect on time the same way it works in the game. Music can enchant us in ways that make time feel different, and we can get lost in the sounds of instruments as time passes around us .


A screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Picture via Nintendo

Like with rain, music can’t be said to physically teleport us to different places, but it can take us there mentally. Musical pieces can implant mental images in our minds of anywhere in the world, from mysterious jungles in the lawless wild west to serene places in Asia. The Legend of Zelda just takes those aspects and tweaks them with a little whimsy to make them work better for the game. These gameplay elements, while primarily serving the structure of the game, actually have parallels to how music works in our own world. This is further extended through direct sequel play, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.


While Ocarina of time played in a very linear way, Majora’s Mask instead chose to focus a lot more on the characters in the world, which means a lot more opportunities to see how the music impacts them. Several times throughout the game, Link uses the “Song of Healing” to help ease the pains of those around him after the very song was used to cure him of the curse placed on him by Skull Kid. This parallels how music can help us work through our troubling emotions, to heal after all the pain life can throw at us.

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Also used in Majora’s Mask is various iterations of the “Song of Time”. This song was originally used in Ocarina of time, but it was not as important as in Majora’s Mask. In this game, the song is used to reset Link to the start of the three-day time loop he’s stuck in. On top of that, players can play two variations of the song which each have their own unique effect. The “Song of Double Time” will automatically advance Link to the next night or day (unless you’re playing the 3DS Remake, in which case you can actually choose what time Link stops), and the “Inverted Song of Time” will allow Link to slow the passage of time to 30% of the original value (or 50% in the 3DS remake) which gives him much more leeway to complete urgent quests.



Stone Tower Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Picture via Nintendo

These two songs follow the previous theme of how music and time can go together, with one affecting the other. An additional aspect of Majora’s Mask That’s how important music can be to those living in the strange land of Termina. Link learns many songs from people around him, and these songs can do things like put someone to sleep or wake someone up. These align much more easily with how music can affect us in our world, even though in-game the songs work much more effectively than a lullaby could work for us.

One more example where music is important in The Legend of Zelda is found in an often overlooked game on the Nintendo 3DS: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. In this game, Link uses a spiritual panpipes to play the songs he learns, and the songs are often used in duets with individuals known as Lokomo. Spiritual tracks puts more emphasis on Link’s performance with other musicians, and through the various duets he is able to fuel the spirit tracks the game is named after.


These train tracks unlock new areas of travel for Link and allow him to continue his adventure. It could be seen as the game showing how the power of music can be amplified when played with more than one person. Of course, there will always be a whimsical side when it comes to talking about The Legend of Zelda, however, Link cannot power the rails on its own, nor can the Lokomo power the rails without Link. Only when they unite and play the music together can they summon the powers necessary to bring the tracks back to life.


legend-of-zelda-spirit-tracks
Picture via Nintendo

Returning to the different entries of The Legend of Zelda, it’s clear he has a deep connection to music and the abilities it has to affect not just us but the world around us. While it’s easy to just look at the songs and dismiss them as a way to advance gameplay and story, that would be ignoring the simple fact that they chose to create the song-related abilities instead of make it another shape. . For example, it could have been easy to just make songs of the magic spells Link could cast to progress, but instead it was decided to tie them to songs Link would play.

This choice shows how important those at Nintendo who created the games think music is and how impactful it can be. They made a deliberate choice to make it something we can relate to and even replicate, and in some ways the songs can even affect us in the same way as how they work in respectful games. The “Healing Song” is very calm and peaceful, and undoubtedly helps to implant a serene emotion in the hearts of those who hear it. Music is all around us; it permeates our lives and can have effects on us that, to this day, seem almost magical. In this way, music is the bridge between our world and the worlds of Zelda universe, and that’s why it’s so important when looking at what makes the series so memorable and impactful for the hundreds of thousands of people who play the games.



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