Posted By Robert H. about 10 months, 2 weeks ago
There are few names in gaming more synonymous with outstanding music than the Legend of Zelda series. From the classic Zelda theme of the original entry to the sweeping orchestras of the more recent games, the music in Legend of Zelda has always been appreciated. However, even with a series as lauded as this, some of the less famous entries seem to be a bit underappreciated. For as much as people rave about the soundtracks to Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, I barely hear anyone talk about the music from games such as the subject of today’s article: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. While the more celebrated releases definitely deserve their accolades, the unsung deserve just as many, especially when the music is as good as it is in Spirit Tracks.
The traditional Zelda whimsy can be found in abundance throughout the soundtrack. That’s not to say that the game can’t have more serious or epic tracks when the situation calls for it, because it does exactly that. However, one of the focus points for the Legend of Zelda series has always been the sense of adventure that comes with exploring the land of Hyrule (or whatever land Link is currently exploring). As such, nearly all the overworld area themes carry that sense of adventure in one way or another. The field theme gives a sense of simple discovery and even the rather melancholy “Cursed Overworld” theme encourages exploration, however cautiously. The best of the bunch, however, is easily the standard “Overworld Theme” for imparting a perfect feeling of adventure.
The series standards don’t stop with the adventurous music however. As with every entry in the Legend of Zelda series, Spirit Tracks has its own variations on some standards from the franchise. Namely, the theme for Zelda herself takes on a bit of a muted tone for her situation in-game and the theme for Hyrule Castle surprises by probably being my favorite rendition across the long-running series. Of course, the original Zelda theme can also be heard in-game, most clearly in the main theme for Spirit Tracks itself. Each instance both ties the game to the series further and stands as a good song in its own right.
The tradition of Link carrying some form of instrument is also fulfilled through the introduction of the flute. While the songs played with it don’t quite equate to some of the more famous usable music in the series, they are concise and cheery enough to always be a treat to hear. That same feeling also extends to the duets played with the Lokomos scattered across the land in order to restore each cursed zone. While short, they still manage to have good melodies and accomplish more than enough to be memorable, even with the limited time and capability of the flute.
Naturally, Spirit Tracks doesn’t just follow its predecessors in order to succeed. While Zelda games usually tend to have some fairly good battle music, Spirit Tracks really stands out from the crowd in this particular category. I can normally pick out one or two boss themes I really like from any given Zelda game, but practically any given theme from this entry could easily fulfill such a position. As an example, the battle theme for Byrne works rather well, speeding up his standard theme to fit an actual fight alongside using the unique instrumentation of his theme to make for a very different-sounding song. The entire sequence of tracks that make up the background music for final boss chain are also worth note, especially the final track, considering both the lead-in from a much quieter piece and the epic remix of the overworld theme that forms the backbone of the track.
As usual, I’ll finish off with some of my particular favorites from the soundtrack. While my favorite track is probably the aforementioned “Overworld Theme,” there are many others I have a fondness for. I’ve always liked “Demon Train Battle” for the very different feel of the track compared to the majority of the soundtrack and the echoes prevalent in nearly all the instrumentation. Another favorite is the “Tower of Spirits Staircase” theme, for the buildup across the entire game the theme receives. Every time you return to the tower, you can go a little bit higher and the theme gets a little bit more complicated until you can get all the way to the top and are treated to the finished product. It’s little musical details along those lines that really show the care that went into crafting these great tunes.
While the more high-profile entries definitely deserve all the credit and appreciation they have for their soundtracks, it’s best to not forget that the smaller entries in the series can often be just as good. Considering the series’ reputation, I have no doubt that Music Mondays will be coming back to it another time. For now however, it’s good enough to show appreciation for some truly great music that has been criminally overshadowed in gaming culture. It’s no stretch for me to say that Spirit Tracks rates as one of my favorite Zelda soundtracks and deserves a listen from anyone who loves video game music.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.