Ocarina of Time: Spirited tracks

Feature

– Nicholas Payne

Music has always been an integral part of the Legend of Zelda series, thanks to the work of Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, who lent his genius to Link’s first foray in 1986.
But it wasn’t until the fifth entry in Nintendo’s puzzle-solving tunic simulator when gamers were given the power to create and play tunes of their very own.

For many players, 1998’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was their first experience using an instrument in-game, employing a nifty button-system which freed music from the backing track and gave it pride of place as a main gameplay mechanic.

Ocarina of Time is still regarded as one of the greatest games ever made – it sold more than 7.6 million copies worldwide and gave the humble ocarina its greatest spike in popularity since the days of 19th century Bologna.

The graphics haven’t stood up well (like most N64 titles), but those ocarina tunes still evoke a warm pang of nostalgia.
So grab your hookshot and make sure you keep a few bottled fairies handy, as LoadScreen ranks all 12 learnable songs from one of the greatest adventures in gaming history.

12. Prelude of Light

A prelude is an introductory piece of music, a glimpse of things to come. It’s the perfect place to start our countdown.

Link learns the Prelude of Light as a way to warp back to the Temple of Time and travel between the realms of his child and adult self. That time-travelling mechanic was a huge part of Ocarina of Time, shocking many first-time players, but the Prelude of Light itself is a sugary tune without the impact or power of some of the songs higher up this list.
As a prelude, it’s hamstrung by the need to not overshadow what’s coming up next.

11. Sun’s Song

Taught to Link in the Kakariko graveyard, the Sun’s Song is a simple tune which can come in incredibly handy during the game. Playing the Sun’s Song gives Link the ability to change night to day, or day to night.

It also causes the shuffling ReDeads and Gibdos to freeze solid, giving players much-needed time to escape. It’s a very basic melody, with no extended version, and the high-pitched combination of notes can actually be a little harsh on the ears. The Sun’s Song’s in-game usefulness kept it off the bottom of the rankings, but not by much.

10. Nocturne of Shadow

The Nocturne of Shadow transports Link to the site of the Shadow Temple. A nocturne was originally a musical composition either intended to be played at night, or inspired by the gathering darkness. Often gloomy and expressive, a nocturne is the perfect song to send Link to a cursed graveyard dungeon.

The Nocturne of Shadow fits the mood well – it’s pensive and foreboding, though it lacks the flow and structure of some of the stronger Temple song additions.

9. Minuet of Forest

Link first learns the Minuet of Forest as a way to travel to the entrance of the Forest Temple.
The minuet was originally a French social dance, plodding along to a tune of the same name. The Minuet of Forest sticks to that same social theme – it’s a jaunty song, with a back-and-forth duet sound which comes across as almost conversational.

As a Kokiri Forest tune, however, the Minuet of Forest comes up short when compared to the far-superior Saria’s Song.

8. Epona’s Song

Ocarina original.

Extended version.

This is the first song on the list with two distinct versions, making it harder to place. While the Minuet of Forest had the one main version, Epona’s Song consists of the Ocarina-played original, as well as the Lon Lon Ranch theme, which acts as basically an extended, more complex version.

I’ve included  both so you can get the idea. Epona’s Song is a calming, peaceful tune, evoking sunsets at Hyrule’s Lon Lon Ranch.
It also has the main benefit of summoning Link’s faithful steed, Epona, to his side, and if you play the melody for one of Hyrule’s cows they’ll reward you with a bottle of life-replenishing milk.

7. Zelda’s Lullaby

Ocarina original.

Extended version.

Okay, so this might piss a few people off. Zelda’s Lullaby has been around since 1992’s A Link to the Past and has featured in a whopping 12 Legend of Zelda titles.

It’s the Hylian princess’s theme tune/entrance music and arguably the main song of the entire Legend of Zelda series – but the stand-alone ocarina version is fairly dull.

In Ocarina of Time, the c-button notes for the song are left, up, right, left, up, right, reminiscent of the same triangle symbols as the all-powerful Triforce. Despite the epic reference, the song itself doesn’t have much effect in-game – it’s mainly a trigger for events and a few minor side quests.

Zelda’s Lullaby is definitely important to the series, but it’s a mid-range tune at best, so seventh place is a decent result.

6. Bolero of Fire

The Bolero of Fire transports Link to Death Mountain Crater, an active volcano home to the Goron-gobbling dragon, Volvagia.

It’s a strong tune, and the rising notes are underscored by drumbeat of military-style cadence. A bolero is a slow-tempo Latin composition of Cuban or Spanish style, and while the Bolero of Fire doesn’t present an immediately-recognizable Latin influence, the music still possesses a heat and rhythm which sets it apart from other Ocarina of Time tracks.

5. Song of Time

If this was a Majora’s Mask list, this song would be number one. Ocarina of Time’s N64 sequel raises the Song of Time to new heights, giving Link the power to continually re-live his own three-day Groundhog nightmare.

Sadly, once you open the Door of Time in Ocarina of Time, the most you’ll be doing with this tune is getting rid of a few annoying blue stones covering cave entrances.

The Song of Time is much simpler than some other entries such as the Minuet of Forest, lacking the extended version which comes in Majora’s Mask, but what it does accomplish is a perfect example of how basic notes – left, A, down, left, A, down – can combine to produce a surprisingly beautiful piece of sound.

4. Saria’s Song

Ocarina original.

Extended version.

Another strong addition to the list – and arguably a contender for the top spot – Saria’s Song provides one of Ocarina of Time‘s defining tunes. This song enables Link to communicate with the Forest Sage, Saria, as well as with Navi the fairy.

It’s a mechanic which admittedly doesn’t have a big impact in-game, but the real strength of Saria’s Song is in its catchiness – the music is an absolute earworm, burrowing in and refusing to let go.
The extended version in particular is a jaunty, happy tune which expertly encapsulates the early mood of the game and the fun intentions of the Legend of Zelda series.

3. Requiem of Spirit

This song transports our hero to the Desert Colossus, the entrance to the Spirit Temple. Keeping with the “spiritual” theme, the requiem was typically the musical setting for the religious service of the Requiem Mass. Early versions of this mass were often sung to Gregorian melodies, and the term requiem has since become synonymous with moody mourning and religious tunes.

The Requiem of Spirit doubles down on this history, starting off in brutally sombre fashion before giving the slightest glimpse of hope in the last few notes.

The Spirit Temple is the final stop in the main quest before Link takes on Ganondorf, so, by the time players hear this song, they’re so invested in the story that the finality of the music takes on a special meaning.

2. Serenade of Water

The Serenade of Water warps Link to Lake Hylia, and the door of the Water Temple. Water dungeons pose a unique challenge in adventure games, thanks to the added dimension of underwater exploration. In Ocarina of Time, that dilemma is made even worse, with Link donning heavy Iron Boots and navigating a system of changing water levels.

It resulted in more than a few thrown N64 controllers, but this this often-frustrating dungeon is sharply juxtaposed by its musical accompaniment – the delicate, peace-inducing Serenade of Water.
The serenade began as a form of musical greeting, traditionally a way of showing respect or honouring an individual. Over time, the serenade has entered popular culture as a romantic gesture performed by enamoured suitors – a concept which fits in well with Link’s somewhat one-sided relationship with the Zora princess, Ruto.

While other songs on this list have been criticised for being too flowery or simple, the Serenade of Water takes a calm, light influence and runs with it, adding layers of subtext which hide below the surface like an iceberg.

1. Song of Storms

Ocarina original.

Extended version.

Here we go, number one.

It’s a left-field pick, and one of the least prominent songs in the game, but listen to the extended version and then hear me out. Unlike Zelda’s Lullaby, the Song of Storms is an Ocarina of Time original – and it’s taught to Link by the mysterious organ grinder musician Guru-Guru, one of the quirky side-characters who make the Legend of Zelda universe so compelling.

The Song of Storms creates a temporary tempest, allowing Link to water beanstalks and replenish the fairy pond at the desert oasis. The most important in-game application of the song is when it opens the path to the super-handy Lens of Truth quest item at the Bottom of the Well.

The Song of Storms is a carnival-like tune, catchy but vaguely threatening as it builds in intensity, as the strange organ rhythm is followed by crashing thunder and the patter of rain.
It’s a bizarre, layered beat which stands out completely from anything else the game’s soundtrack has to offer.

Throughout their Ocarina of Time journey, players need to reconcile the fact that the video game realm of Hyrule – which at first seemed so fun – can still be a place of violence and emotional upheaval. Like the Legend of Zelda series as a whole, the Song of Storms navigates this space between charm and menace, and there’s no more deserving pick for the number one spot.

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And there you have it folks, Ocarina of Time’s best tracks, listed from worst to first, trash to smash, stud to dud. There’s bound to be some murmurs of disagreement out there, so hit us up on Twitter or Facebook with your pick for the rightful number one. 

You can discuss Zelda with Nicholas on Twitter at @nicholas_payne. For more video game features and news follow LoadScreen on Twitter @load_screen and like us on Facebook.

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