Legend of Zelda ~Ocarina of Time~ Hyrule Symphony
- "Still leaving something to be desired, but a definite improvement over 'Sound & Drama'."
- Release date: 1999-01-27
- Catalog number: ZMCX-102
- Retail price: 3000 yen
- Publisher: Players Planet / Media Factory
Still leaving something to be desired, but a definite improvement over 'Sound & Drama'.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (1999-09-05)
"Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time - Hyrule Symphony" is one of the easier CDs I've had to review as of late. That's because this arranged album is very clear-cut in what it tries to accomplish and what it passes on. So is that a good or bad thing? Well, for Zelda fans at least, it's not bad at all.
Clear-cut Fact #1 is that the music is performed by a string ensemble, and that's about it. There's not a single beat of percussion or a solitary blast of brass to be found on the entire album. There are occasional appearances of ocarina and a couple other instruments, but the focus is almost entirely on the strings. Certainly this limits the range of musical tones that the album is able to achieve, and it can be a bit disappointing. To the album's credit though, the strings do cover a relatively varied array of moods and performance styles. For example, the plucked strings in "Kakariko Forest" give that track a suitably light-hearted feel, while "Market Place" takes on the feel of a country gathering with its performance style.
Clear-cut Fact #2 is that the arrangements are faithful to the original compositions, to put it kindly. You might say that they're simplistic to the point of being almost non-existent. What we basically have are the original compositions as is, with a live string performance replacing the synth. Make no mistake though, this is a huge improvement in itself, as the horrid N64 synth is probably the most glaring fault of the OST. But don't expect any of the sort of dramatic arranged segues and original moments of albums like Symphony Ys '95 and Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale.
One effect of the string-dominant performance and simple arrangement is that the album feels more like an instrumental recital than a game or film score. The different moods of the game may be conveyed to a fair degree, but the sense of drama simply isn't there. As far as my own tastes go, the more drama in my soundtracks the better, but others might appreciate the more strictly musical approach.
Given that these arrangements are so similar in structure to the OST versions, it's fortunate that the producers chose to include such enjoyable themes from the OST. Despite the lack of drama, the memorable melodies and the pleasant sound of the string performance result in an album that is - at the very least - mildly enjoyable throughout. Tracks like "Kakariko Forest", "Kakariko Village" (found previously in the A Link to the Past), and "Zora's Domain", which had pleasant melodies from the beginning, finally get their chance to shine when freed from the merciless N64 synth. "Hyrule Field" actually had a bit of an arranged quality in its OST version, and this translates well into the strings performance. "Ganon" is the only track without merit; with its simplistic composition it becomes repetitive and boring even before the end of its brief one-minute duration.
"Gerudo Valley" deserves special mention. This theme probably stood out more than any other in the OST, and it makes a similarly favorable impression here, as probably the only included Ocarina of Time theme with a powerful epic punch to it.
One track breaks the "Don't touch my OST" rule of arrangement followed by the rest of the album, and that is the "Legend of Zelda Medley" found at the end. A special treat to Zelda fans, this track takes themes from previous installments in the series and arranges them into a dramatic, coherent whole. Included are such fan favorites as the dungeon theme from Zelda 1, the dark overworld theme from A Link to the Past, and of course, the main theme of Zelda that everyone knows and loves. In the previous Zelda arranged album Sound & Drama, I'd complained about how the arranged version of the main theme was almost inferior to the 8-bit original, because it lacked that version's somber intro. Well, Hyrule Symphony has that intro, and it is perfectly suited to strings, as is the rest of the track. Hearing the excellence of this final track makes me wonder how much better the rest of the album could have been with a bit more liberal arrangement.
If Hyrule Symphony just had more diverse instrumentation, more dramatic arrangement, or at least a bit more content over the 42 minutes present, I would give it quite a high recommendation to Zelda fans and non-fans alike. Even so, it is still a quality Ocarina of Time arranged album, and better overall than the arrangements in Sound & Drama. For those who enjoyed Ocarina of Time's original soundtrack, or who wanted to but couldn't because of the mind-numbing synth, Hyrule Symphony is the way to go.
Admirable But Inessential
Passionate and evocative... you need this in your life.
Reader review by Kenny Peeples (2001-09-16)
Hyrule Symphony is based on my favorite videogame of all time, and was the very first game soundtrack I ever purchased. So, needless to say, it holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first time I'd ever heard music from the Zelda series performed with real instruments. That alone, was reason enough for me to have this disc. Yeah, it may not be a full orchestra, but I don't care.
I have absolutely *no* problem with any (excluding two) of the arrangements on this disc. "Title Theme" retains its beautiful, yet calm and serene feeling, while "Kokiri Forest" is still young, playful and spirited in nature. "Lon Lon Ranch", with its acoustic guitar and Malon's *real* voice, was so incredibly beautiful, that I had to force myself to move on after listening to it many times in a row. The mood of some arrangements have been changed entirely. Take "Gerudo Valley" for instance. Instead of the hip, Spanish flair found on the OSV, the piece was slowed down in tempo and the strings (along with the slower pace) give it more of an epic, yet evocative feeling.
The two questionable arragements are "Death Mountain" and "Zora's Domain". "Death Mountain" took me awhile to become accustomed to. Mainly because I felt that this track really needs percussion (not to mention I couldn't imagine it without the Goron voices!). I also wasn't too fond of the "Zora's Domain" arrangement. That was because it didn't have that tropical and soothing feeling of the OSV. After listening to these tracks numerous times, however, I found them to be very enjoyable. After all, the purpose of an arrangement is to present the already existing music in new ways. They've unquestionably succeeded.
The grand finale of the disc is non other than "The Legend of Zelda Medley". This track is worth the price of admission alone. I remember listening to it for the first time as if it were only yesterday. Only a minute and few seconds into the song, and it had already literally brought me to tears. It was *so* beautiful, and I never heard something so evocative, so epic, so spectacular... I just could not hold back the tears, nor did I even try to. No song had *ever* had that kind of impact on me.
The biggest reason why I love this disc so dearly, is because it has one thing that is sorely lacking from the majority of the soundtracks released nowadays: heart. As when a musician is really feeling the music that he or she is playing. The musicians who perform these arrangements really put their heart into playing these compositions. You can tell, and it really shows. I really, really wish I was there when they recorded this.
I still long for a fully orchestrated Zelda album, and that time will come. But for now and forever, I will continue to enjoy The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Hyrule Symphony.
These arrangements bring new life to classic themes.
Reader review by Steven 'Tangman' Tang (1999-12-31)
Hyrule Symphony is probably the best of game arranged music out there. It stays very true to a full orchestrated soundtrack and focuses mainly on strings. Of course, there are other instruments that are added, such as the ocarina, to give a real "Zelda" feel to it. I thought it was impressive to hear the themes I knew as a child arranged into beautiful music. Even the new Ocarina of Time tracks on the CD are precise to the themes in the game.
The only disappointment to this magnificent CD is that it only contains a short, but sweet, 13 tracks to it. When I finished listening to the tracks, it left me wanting more arranged music from Mr. Koji Kondo. All the harmony and moods are captured well in this arrangement. It's peaceful music from a great video game series.
When you first pop in the CD, you start to hear the somber mood of an ocarina, and the familiar opening title theme to Ocarina of Time. Excellent, and beautiful, it stays near the actual OST version of the music. "Lon Lon Ranch" stands out from the rest, almost, by adding harmonious vocals to them. It's even better than the OST version as well. The mix of female vocals and strings is excellent and fits well in this track.
When I listened to "Death Mountain", I was disappointed to hear only a guitar and some strings. I don't really like that track myself, but it is translated into arranged music very well from the OST. The last two tracks are definitely spectacular and a treat to all Zelda fans. "Ocarina Medley" includes all 12 ocarina songs, arranged. You have to hear it to believe it, and it includes the duet with Sheik as well, the Minuet of Forest. "The Legend Of Zelda Medley" is the best track on the CD, because it includes arrangements of previous music spanning from The Legend Of Zelda to Link's Awakening. You start out with the familiar and classic arranged Zelda title theme, then the Adventure of Link title theme. I particularly liked that part of the track, because I never heard any music arranged relating to Zelda 2. It moves on to arrangements from A Link To The Past, then Link's Awakening. The Link's Awakening section is the Ballad of the Wind Fish, and is a superb piece of music, going into solo then full strings.
If you think the music in the Zelda series is great, this CD makes you think the music is excellent. Koji Kondo always does a great job in handling the music in the Legend Of Zelda series. I wish that these tracks could be longer, because it left me wanting more. It's hard to just describe this music in words. You have to buy the CD, listen to it a few times, and you'll fully understand the music for yourself. Overall, it's an excellent CD, and a must have for all types of Zelda fans out there. Hyrule Symphony lives up to its name and is the most enjoyable game arranged CD I've heard.
A superb arranged orchestral album of a modern classic score.
Reader review by Jon Turner (1999-05-02)
Looking for Zelda music performed by an orchestra? Well, look no further! This arranged album of "The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time" is your ticket to orchestrated Zelda music... sort of. The "orchestra" is mostly a string ensemble, which is not bad by any means, but just not full enough to be an orchestra. There are a couple of additional instruments every so often in some tracks such as a guitar, an ocarina (duh!), and a piano, but overall, the orchestra is a rather small ensemble.
All that said, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time - Hyrule Symphony isn't bad at all for what it is. All the musical arrangements are excellent, and they remain faithful to the original compositions. I was pleasantly surprised with all the tracks, due not only to how identical they sounded to the originals, but to how fluently they were performed. The vocal performance on "Lon Lon Ranch" is beautiful (and it sure beats listening to the synthesized voice on the original game soundtrack). I wasn't so sure at first about "Zora's Domain", "Gerudo Valley", and "Goron City" all being performed by an orchestra (these pieces were never intended for a symphony orchestra), but they pulled it off well. Very nice surprise.
Out of the thirteen tracks on this album, two are medleys of various themes. "Ocarina Medley" features all 12 of the Ocarina songs (yes, even the duet performances with Sheik, such as "Minuet Of Forest" and so on). They are all arranged brilliantly and beautifully flow with one another for each transition. I didn't think this would be possible (the Ocarina songs are more like brief fanfares than songs), but the track works out well.
The last track (and arguably the best) is a treat for Zelda fans. Titled "The Legend Of Zelda Medley", this track contains various melodies from *all* the previous Zelda games (such as The Legend Of Zelda, The Adventure Of Link, A Link To The Past, and Link's Awakening). All are performed, of course, by the string ensemble. This track brings back fond memories and is the highlight of the album. In fact, after listening to it more than once, I am wishing that there will be future album compilations of Zelda music - Link's Awakening and Link's Adventure perhaps?
Overall, this arranged album is above average. It may not have as full of an orchestra as one might expect, but thanks to the amount of music (and the memories - there's a really cool booklet with history on the Zelda games, notes on the arranged versions, and messages from the creators), The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time - Hyrule Symphony is quite enjoyable.
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