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01 – Prologue & Title Theme | Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Orchestral Arrangement

Thanks everyone for patiently waiting. 3 years 9 months is how long I’ve been stuck on this track. I would always quit and do some other track, and this one always kept nagging on me until I finally gave myself an ultimatum to finish this up or none at all. I spent nearly every day of the pandemic working on it. Zelda II is such a different beast compared to the rest of the series, which is why I am an apologist for it. I really like how populated the world is, and funny enough it’s still the game furthest along in the timeline. I treated it as if it was everyone’s favorite in the series. This may be my only track where you see a perfect mesh of story, visuals, and music working in perfect sync.

I prefer the American version of the title theme much more to the Japanese FC version. The instrumentation is softer, and the tone is sinister and unpredictable, shifting between minor and major keys, never wanting to commit to a certain narrative. While the soundtrack doesn’t have catchy themes like other Zeldas, the music is incredibly lyrical. This opening title left such a huge impression on me with how unique it was. Many people say this was Souls before the Souls genre existed and I agree. The side scrolling perspective increases the scale of the environment and enemies, giving them an aggression against Link I never felt in the other Zeldas until Ocarina of Time.

To match the tone of my interpretation, midway through my writer’s block, I felt one thing holding me back was that the original story in the manual doesn’t add enough to the darkness and oppression shown in the game itself. This is because the introduction of a new different Zelda who’s been asleep for hundreds of years does not create any urgency to the player. I don’t understand why I have to wake her up to save Hyrule from ruin. I also find myself constantly asking where did the current Zelda go, and why isn’t she helping me. So I ended up writing up a new prologue that replaces the sleeping Zelda with the same princess from the first game. My rewrite follows a more natural progression from the previous game where we get everyone else’s reaction. How does the population react to Hyrule’s turn of fortune, how would neighboring kingdoms deal with a new superpower kingdom, and how does this tie in with Ganon’s monsters trying to hunt Link down?

Which brings me to the construction of the arrangement. It’s two loops of the original theme (with the phrases doubled up) and one third arc that takes all the articulation of the track and jumbles them together. However, the tone of the track is divided into two halfs of equal length. The first half follows Princess Zelda as she deals with everyone’s nonsense. One big influence here was Danny Elfman’s score for Alice and Wonderland. I liked the use of the female choir just humming along in the background. Following this, the music bursts out in grand fashion, and we then follow Link’s journey instead. The lush strings that follow are inspired from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ opening overture. I thought this mirroring was interesting, as it shows how Zelda is wise but prone to pressure, while Link is brave and heroic but too silent to voice any objection. In addition, you pile on the people’s rejection of Link, and you might have a good idea what Link is thinking about during the entire game. I know in the original game he’s not treated this way, but I thought it would be interesting to have Link’s treatment be identical to how the game itself is treated by the fandom. For the third arc that is set to gameplay footage, I wanted the music to sound like Link’s internal frustration, where he wants to just cry out in anguish over everything that’s occurred, but too introverted to display it publicly.

I’ve been trying to be more dynamic with my instrument usage and I’ve done some new things here. I’ll have some instruments start off a melody that would be taken over by another instrument family, with various other instruments chiming in the harmony and pulling away. Whether through the slow or faster parts, I wanted the track to feel like it was constantly moving with purpose, as if the orchestra players were unconcerned with being showy and were dead focused on all telling this emotional story. There is heavy usage of dissonant sounding major 7th, 9th chords. From the opening cascading ostinatos played with the harp, that I then bring back in full force with the strings at the end, you can almost see the tears in the violin player’s eyes. It’s a stark contrast to the prologue I did for the first Zelda, where I was too busy trying to pull in callbacks to other Zeldas that each section sounded too piecemeal in how it was put together.

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Arrangement and illustrations by Jeremiah Sun
Artwork at 5:16 is a redraw of the panel in page 5 of the manual
Original Theme by Akito Nakatsuka
You can play Zelda II on the Nintendo Switch Online NES app


Video transcription:


Video Games,Orchestra,Orchestrated,Orchestration,Soundtrack,Midi,Remix,Music,Zelda,Zelda II,The Legend of Zelda,Breath of the Wild,Arrangement,Nintendo

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