It's the time of the year when the days get shorter, retailers stay open longer, big games are released and there seems to be a holiday every other week. Defunct Games wants to ring in this festive season with a look at the most memorable video game themes of all time. For five weeksstraight, Cyril Lachel and Kevin Bailey will share their thoughts on themes from the last thirty years. Join us every day between November 22 and December 25 for The 34 Game Themes of Christmas!
The Legend of Zelda
[ Company: Nintendo | Year: 1987 | Console: NES ]
Stop me if you're heard this one before: Link must battle evil forces in order to save Princess Zelda and bring order to Hyrule. That's a storyline Nintendo has milked in countless sequels, retellings and spin-offs on multiple consoles. It all started with a waterfall and peach-colored sky. This was the Nintendo Entertainment System game that launched a quarter century of adventures. Journey back to Hyrule and hum along as you listen to one of the most recognizable theme songs in video game history.
I don't envy the person who had to create an epic theme using the Nintendo Entertainment System's five-channel sound hardware. While this Zelda theme lacks the fullness of Howard Shore scores, it does manage to deliver a memorable hook you'll be humming for days. The melody is playful; it's lighthearted and upbeat, not interested in foreshadowing the darkness that is to come. And even without lyrics, this Legend of Zelda theme is easy to sing along to. What ultimately hurts this theme is the abrupt ending. There's no fade out or climactic finish, it simply ends at an absurdly random spot. It sure is catchy, but this Legend of Zelda theme ultimately feels under-cooked.
In listening to this theme again after so many years, it strikes me how I've gotten used to the higher tempo orchestrated versions of more recent entries in the series. This original version begins with what feels to me like an ominously slow, dark intro on the title screen before switching to a story screen and bringing in two harmonized and uplifting lead lines. The two lead instruments carry the whole song, with the bass just playing slow root note gallops and what sounds to me like a matching closed hi-hat or perhaps snare pattern. As nostalgia-coated as the theme is, its slow tempo and simple rhythm section take away from the exciting leads. While a good start, I feel like newer versions have improved upon it with a slightly higher tempo and more active, intricate rhythm section.
The maker of some of Midway's greatest games returns with a truly terrible racing game. Somehow this theme song ends up being even worse.