I decided to make an analysis on a recent game, and chose The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was also a suggestion from a friend of mine.
I first need to tell you guys I never played a Zelda game in my entire life and I am deeply ashamed of it – however, I know a lot about Final Fantasy games instead. I just hope you’ll forgive me, but I don’t have many consoles, and even if I wanted to start playing Zelda, well as I don’t know a lot about it, I wouldn’t know how to begin. So if you have any recommendation to give me, please feel free! I have a 3DS, I’m sure there’s a good Zelda game on this type of console… right?
Well, let’s get back to our presentation then, shall we?
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was out on March 2017 on Wii U & Nintendo Switch, and the soundtrack was composed by both Manaka Kataoka and Yasuaki Iwata. As I didn’t have a single clue about it – except for the well-known theme that I know through Super Smash Bros – I listened to the soundtrack. This is when I realised how ridiculous I was not to have played a single Zelda game, because it was so good… Relaxing, beautiful, and the composers really thought it through. I also like the fact that you can hear Japanese instruments sometimes, like the Shakuhachi flute you can hear in Kakariko village’s theme with also a Koto. These are instruments I am fond of and would love to be able to play them. Hearing them in this soundtrack actually makes me travel, this is so agreeable!
The main theme of this game is really good, however I wanted to dwell on the Battle Theme. I am crazy about hearing the battle themes of games such as those in Final Fantasy, and this one seemed a bit different from what I’m used to hearing, and this is why I got interested in it. They usually have a certain constant rhythm, it is repetitive, it’s not like they are all similar, not really, but it’s a rhythm that you do not loose throughout the piece, and the beginning of the battle theme here seems a bit too peaceful at first.
Let’s check it out together, shall we?
Here are our parts of the theme:
- 0:00-0:14 Part A
- 0:14-0:34 Part B
- 0:34-0:54 Part C (Major)
- 0:54-1:13 (end) Part C’ (minor)
Part A (0:00-0:14)
I have noticed several instruments, and I was actually surprised there was this much. First, the marimba [resembles the xylophone], which is constant, with the same rhythm & notes, during this small part. I’m not a 100% sure it is a marimba, but I looked for it for a long time and couldn’t find better (true story). The other percussion you hear are the maracas, very constant almost throughout the musical piece, and it brings so much lightness compared to drums while still giving a pulsation. It also makes me think about steps, as if it were actually Link’s steps.
Then there are the violins, they seem a bit hasardous, and can actually be heard every 4 seconds (0:01, 0:05, 0:09). When I hear them, I have the impression they are unpredictable, as if they were sudden, aggressive, and it made me think about encountering monsters, because that would be exactly like that.
You can also hear the French horn and the trumpet, playing at the same time one long note in the beginning which also seems aggressive and is forte. It is held until you hear almost nothing, then can be heard more & more. To me, it is a bit scary, and is some kind of alarm, as if the louder it is, the closer a danger might be, which is stressful. Finally, there is a piano but random high notes can be heard (0:06, 0:08 etc.), which brings more anxiety to the musical piece.
The instruments here seem to be acting on their own, randomly, because they don’t follow each other at all, and act on their own. Because of that, I had the impression that it was “too peaceful”, “too light”, as it is not really oppressive.
Part B (0:14-0:34)
There was a small transition between 0:12 and 0:14 with a crescendo & an ascendant movement done by the piano, marimba and violins, which grew suddenly. The trumpet was playing something different which was its theme for this part. I actually love this one, and it’s interesting because you have 3 groups leading:
- Piano + violins
- Basson (0:26)
Because of that, you get confused about what you have to pay attention to. It’s also repetitive, they play their part over and over again, by themselves. I thought about the monsters again: imagine you are Link and have 3 against you. Obviously, they won’t attack at the same time & do the same thing. Well this is what’s happening here.
Also, this is the part when the maracas cannot be heard (0:14-0:30). Before it brought lightness but their absence here gives more heaviness.
An other transition can be heard from 0:31 to 0:34 before Part C, first with the percussions (marimba, maracas) and then it becomes more intense with the sudden apparition of the trumpet & violins.
Part C (0:34-0:54)
Now, the violins are leading and the trumpet is accompanying them, although it actually does the same theme: it is doing a canon, meaning they are doing the same theme, but not at the same time [with a bit of interval], so it confuses us.
The maracas come back and are constant again, while the other instruments seem completely unpredictable. Usually, one short note (or two) can be heard from them from time to time. For example, the marimba at 0:40 and 0:45 and the basson at 0:44.
It is repetitive here apart from that: the same thing is played over and over gain. To me, it is oppressing, overwhelming. This is a part when I’m not feeling well and I want to stop the music.
But I won’t, for you.
Part C’ (0:54-1:13)
In Part C, the notes were higher, and different. Actually, it has become minor here, and if you want to know what it means, simply try to listen Part C and Part C’ and try to spot the main difference. In Part C’, it is less joyful than in Part C, and this is typically how we feel about what’s minor in music.
The canon is still performed by the violins and the trumpet, and the piano joined the violins. It gives some dissonance that brings anxiety.
About every 3s (0:56, 0:59, etc.), a long & low note from the French horn can be heard, and it is aggressive, it also makes me think about the alarm from earlier (Part A).
At 1:11, the piano is playing descending notes, as a transition to lead to the beginning of the musical piece. As it is a battle theme and could last long, that’s the reason why it ends like this as it has to go back from the beginning.
This theme works as a Battle theme! The randomness of the monsters attacking you, the oppression, the aggressivity, the alarm, the anxiety… everything fits, even though I was a bit sceptical it the beginning, but I had to listen to it several times & pay attention to everything.