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The Other Soundtrack to Ocarina of Time

I venture to the end of the path, leaving Kokiri Village for the first time.

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The instructions from the Deku tree are clear and the advice from Kaepora Gaebora understood.

I step out into Hyrule Field and my quest begins. The sun is in my eyes and a rolling green expanse stretches away from me, leading to a distant castle. A twinkle of music begins, dancing across my ears. It evokes the morning sunrise before gradually building and resolving into the theme for… Adventure!

Koji Kondo’s score for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the all-time best. It’s certainly one of my favourites, up there with Ko Otani’s Shadow of the Colossus soundtrack and Michiko Naruke’s score for Wild Arms. It’s an awe-inspiring collection of compositions that accompanies one of the greatest ever video game adventures.

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As a soundtrack it has everything; danger, thrills, humour, and beauty. And through the clever use of the titular ocarina the music is also fundamentally tied to the time-bending gameplay. It’s perhaps it’s the ultimate video game soundtrack. (So good I made a podcast about it once…)

But The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time also has another soundtrack. A secret one. A soundtrack that exists, perhaps, only for me. A soundtrack that is different, but also appropriate. A soundtrack that, over the course of the last 15 years, has become inextricably linked to my pursuit of Ganon and the story of Princess Zelda. This personal Ocarina of Time soundtrack is the album Deserter’s Songs by Mercury Rev.

Deserter's Songs

Deserters Songs was released in 1998, shortly before Ocarina of Time. It’s a startling collection of music. A sonic adventure that is enchanting, pastoral, psychedelic, mournful and on occasion, threatening. Just like Ocarina of Time.

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When I played Ocarina of Time it wasn’t that I muted the game’s score, rather that I enjoyed the album at the same time. I listened to it at home and when I was out, on my Sony Minidisc player (How quaint that seems now). Over the course of that winter the two become linked. When I listened to the album it felt like I was taking a part of Hyrule with me. Deserter’s Songs complemented the game, evoking the same emotions of mystery and exploration.

Today the game reminds me of the album and the album, always of the game. There is a connection tonally and thematically. The opening notes of Holes conjure memories of crossing Hyrule Field under cover of darkness. Likewise, when I explore the corners of Lake Hylia I am urged to to listen to Tonite it Shows. Two separate pieces of art touching each other and creating something quite magical. For me at least.

These moments are not common. Yes, there is an element of nostalgia at play. Games and music can be bound together by nothing more than time. One example would be another late 90s classic, Air’s Moon Safari. That particular album is a reminder of afternoons at university playing GoldenEye 007’s multiplayer. This is not a thematic connection however. More a nostalgic evocation, a shared moment in time. Likewise the slightly more recent Crackdown and the White Stripes’ Icky Thump will always make a nostalgic team if I want to recapture the summer of 2007.

The Ocarina of Time / Deserter’s Songs connection is different. A chance collision that merged, entwined, forever bound together.

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I would love to know if the same thing has happened to any of our readers? Have any pieces of music come to represent a game for reasons of theme, tone and subject matter? Let us know in the comments below.

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Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Paper Mario: The Origami King, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe.

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