Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time ~Hyrule Symphony~

"Modest strings-only arrangements, but an improvement over 'Sound & Drama'." Cautiously Recommended

Artist Credits

  • Ryuichi Katsumata (arrangement)
  • Koji Kondo (composition)
  • Akito Nakamura (composition - track 13)
  • Kozue Ishikawa (composition - track 13)
  • Minako Hamano (composition - track 13)
  • Kuwafuji Joe Strings (strings)

Tracks

42 minutes total
  1. Title
  2. Kokiri Forest
  3. Hyrule Field
  4. Hyrule Castle
  5. Lon Lon Ranch
  6. Kakariko Village
  7. Death Mountain
  8. Zora's Domain
  9. Gerudo Valley
  10. Ganondorf
  11. Princess Zelda
  12. Ocarina Medley
  13. The Legend Of Zelda Medley
  • Released Jan 27, 1999 by Players Planet / Media Factory (catalog no. ZMCX-102, retail 3000 yen).

Reviews

Modest strings-only arrangements, but an improvement over 'Sound & Drama'.

Cautiously Recommended

Editor's review by Adam Corn

Though labeled a symphony, "Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time - Hyrule Symphony" is essentially a string-ensemble album. There's not a single beat of percussion nor blast of brass to be heard for the entire duration. An ocarina and a couple of other instruments do rear their head on occasion, but aside from that it's strings, strings, and more strings.

The arrangements are almost direct adaptations of the original N64 compositions, adding some modest touches afforded by the live string performance but nothing particularly new or surprising. Make no mistake, this is a huge improvement in itself, as the infamously underpowered N64 synth was probably the most glaring fault of the OST. Just don't expect anything with the dramatic range and instrumental variety of the best Final Fantasy, Ys, and Dragon Quest orchestral albums.

Given that the arrangements are so similar to the OST versions, it's fortunate that the producers chose many of the more enjoyable themes from the OST. Several combine solo plucked strings with the strings section in full for a folksy country charm - the lullaby-like "Kakariko Village", the quirky but still understated "Goron City", the peaceful "Lon Lon Ranch" (the latter of which is made even better by tender vocal accompaniment). And then there's "Gerudo Valley". The standout theme of the OST makes a similarly strong impression here, as probably the only arrangement from Ocarina of Time with dramatic punch.

The rest of the Ocarina of Time arrangements, if not particularly striking, are at least mildly enjoyable (excluding the short and repetitive "Ganon"). One effect of the string performance and simple, quaint arrangements is that the album feels more like an instrumental recital than an adventure soundtrack. The sense of drama you normally expect of an adventure game soundtrack simply isn't there. Generally I find the more drama in my soundtracks the better, but others might appreciate this more strictly musical approach.

Supplementing the Ocarina of Time arrangements is a special treat at the end of album. "Legend of Zelda Medley" takes several themes from previous installments in the series and arranges them into a dramatic, coherent whole, beginning with the main series theme that everyone knows and loves. With the previous Zelda arranged album Sound & Drama, I'd complained how the arranged version lacked the 8-bit original's powerfully somber intro. Well, Hyrule Symphony has that intro, and it is perfectly suited to strings, as is the remainder of the arrangement. It makes me wonder how much better the rest of the album could have been with a bit more liberal arrangement.

Without more diverse instrumentation, more ambitious arrangements, or at least a bit more content over the 42 minutes present, Hyrule Symphony probably won't have much appeal outside of fans of the series. Still, for those who enjoyed Ocarina of Time's original soundtrack, or who wanted to but couldn't because of the poor synth, Hyrule Symphony is a respectable arranged album.

Passionate and evocative... you need this in your life.

Reader review by Kenny Peeples

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

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.

Recommended

Reader review by Jon Turner

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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