Another Zelda score, another classic.
Reader review by Kenny Peeples
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is the second game in the legendary Zelda adventure/RPG series to be released on the Nintendo 64. The first N64 Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, had a fabulous and highly under-appreciated musical score. I'm proud to say that The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Original Soundtrack is a more than worthy follow-up to that masterpiece.
The first thing you'll notice upon listening to this soundtrack, or playing the game, is that Majora's Mask shares a lot of music with Ocarina of Time. Mainly these are the less important tracks like the playful "Mini Game", "House", with its innocent string plucking, and the Carnival-like "Shooting Gallery", among others. There are even a few songs from Zelda games prior to Ocarina of Time. "Drum Practice Music" is "Cave" from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. And "Piano Practice Music" and "Bass Practice Music" are the "Game Over" and "Underworld" themes respectively, both from The Legend of Zelda on NES! You will also notice that Majora's Mask has an even darker, more serious tone than that of Ocarina of Time. A lot of the songs throughout the soundtrack are more ominous and in a lower key. The Clocktown theme starts out on a positive note, but doesn't necessarily end that way! Take "Clocktown: Day 1" for instance; it is a beautiful town theme with nice and varied percussion sounds and a very catchy melody. "Clocktown: Day 2" is slightly more hurried and has less instrumentation, but once you hear "Clocktown: Day 3", with its eerie string work and frantic pace, you know that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong!!
My absolute favorite pieces of music from the Ocarina of Time soundtrack were the dungeon themes. The dungeon themes here aren't as elaborate as those found in the previous game, but they're great all the same. I absolutely love "Woodfall Temple" with its funky drum and bongo beats and strong bass line. "Snowhead Temple" isn't very musical at all except for a few piano notes and guitar plucking here and there. It sounds really cold, and I like that sound effect that sounds like someone pulled the plug on a huge piece of machinery! The "Great Bay Temple" track reminds me of the musical "Stomp", where the musicians would use all types of trash can lids, pipes, pots, and pans to create music - it's just a bit more aquatic-sounding! I think the last dungeon's themes (yes, themes!) are simply genius. "Rockvale Temple (Outside)" is a very soothing piece with its catchy ocarina melody, a nice beat, and very moody male chorus. Now on the flipside - literally (!) - we have "Rockvale Temple (Inside)". The male chorus in now changed to a female chorus (or maybe a boy's choir?), the beat is reversed, and the instrumentation overall is different, yet the melody remains the same. I like the addition of that "flickering" sound that travels between the left and right channels, as it makes the song sound more mystical and surreal. You wouldn't think these two songs would actually be dungeon themes upon first listening to them, but they're extremely effective. Very well done!
Now, I'd like to talk about the battle themes! I find "Battle" to be very interesting. It begins very low and subtle, unlike traditional battle themes, and doesn't really pick up until around the :27 second mark, before it crescendos into a full blown epic battle track. I like this, because it makes it so that only the worthy enemies get the epic portion of the song. "Middle Boss Battle" is my personal favorite among Toru Minegishi's three stellar contributions to the soundtrack. I like the 'call and response' trumpet melody and the low-key piano rhythm, and the drumbeat is excellent. I like how the song ends with a timpani roll and clashing symbols. Nice work. "Boss Battle" seems to be perfectly suited for the Goht (Masked Mechanical Monster) battle, as it seems like a chase theme as much as a boss theme. If you listen closely, the drums even follow the pattern of a galloping horse! I like how the trumpet crescendos in this one midway through, and at the very end.
There is so much to like about this soundtrack, it's kind of overwhelming. I know I've been talking about how dark the soundtrack is, but that's not to say that there aren't any light-hearted and even heart-string tugging pieces present on the album. For instance, there's the "Song of Healing", of which I can't decided which of its variations is the best. Of course we have the ocarina version of the song, but more importantly we have the very beautiful and stirring "Clock Tower", the zany "Mask House Theme" (another song with brilliant percussion), and finally, the riveting "[Song of Healing] Demo" - the song that has given me the inspiration to learn how to play the piano. Similar types of pieces include the very beautiful and celestial "Astral Observatory" and the moving "Theme of Giant" (along with its variations), among many others. Also, notice how the Zora Band's (the Indigo-go's) song starts off as just a "Bass & Guitar Session". Then Evan adds the hook in "Evan's Piano Solo", and the entire band performs the song in "Zora Band". Finally, we're treated to the finished song in its entirety during the "Staff Roll". I thought it was very cool how the song was conceived and becomes more and more complete as the soundtrack goes on (and the band rehearses!).
Other noteworthy pieces include the "Pirate's Fortress", which is just... epic. "Last End" gave me the feeling of overwhelming sadness and hopelessness, yet it is still very beautiful - in a melancholic kind of way. If the world as we know it were coming to an end, this is the song we'd probably hear during the last six hours! Then there's "Ikana's Ancient Castle" which is beyond epic, with its slow cadence, blasting brass, moody chorus, pounding bass drum, and shrieking string sounds toward its end. "Majora's Theme" is nothing short of genius, in all of its renditions. I love that "clanking" sound (which I've dubbed the 'Majora sound'! If you've heard the song then you know what I'm talking about!). "Majora's Mask Moon" uses the same rhythm as "Theme of Chase" but it uses the synth indigenous to "Majora's Theme". Also, the four 'area' tracks: "Marsh Land", "Snow Mountain", "Great Bay Coast", and "Ikana Valley" all sound as if they begin (and end) with the "Majora's Theme" motif, just with a couple of notes omitted in the beginning.
Speaking of "Majora's Theme", the Final Boss themes are all variations of this theme as well. "Majora's Mask Battle" is a synth orchestra's performance of the theme. It is lovely, though it still manages to be quite ominous and evil. I love the strings in this one! "Majora's Reincarnation Battle" is, well, extremely weird. But it's also the best of the final boss themes in my opinion. I won't even attempt to explain it; you just have to hear it for yourself! I *love* the way it ends!
I don't know how I've gotten so far neglecting to mention that the "Main Theme of The Legend of Zelda" (or simply "the Overworld Theme" to everyone else) is back as "Termina Field". I knew Koji Kondo would include it after the backlash he received from not including a complete version of this theme in the previous game! Listen for it a few times throughout the soundtrack, including during the brilliant "Staff Roll", which is the second-best Zelda ending theme in my opinion (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past still has the best Zelda ending theme!).
The sound quality is really good as far as I'm concerned. The same synth used in Ocarina of Time is used here for Majora's Mask. The samples aren't really any better, but the sound library has been expanded as there are more instrument samples here.
As mentioned earlier, I thought the Zelda 5 OST was truly a remarkable work. But I think its soundtrack release was pitiful, with it being only one disc and all. Well, the Majora's Mask OST is a two-CD set, but it still could've been a lot better. I don't know why the staff tried to cram 112 tracks onto two 60-minute CDs. Why not two 70 to 75-minute CDs? Or even better, let *every* track play through twice (except for ocarina songs and fanfares of course), and add a third disc! While a definite improvement over the Zelda 5 OST, I still won't be satisfied until I get every song *twice* and no songs are cut short ("Snowhead Temple" is missing just over a minute of music).
And that is about all I have to say about The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Original Soundtrack. I wish a lot more of the songs were looped, but I'll live! It certainly is a classic and worthy of a purchase. No game (with the exception of Final Fantasy Tactics) had me itching to buy its soundtrack so badly. And I'm very excited about the fact that the Zelda series is moving to disc format (via Gamecube). This is obviously a great thing for the composer, Koji Kondo, as now his Zelda scores will be able to flourish without being held by memory and sound limitations. But anyway, if you're a Zelda/Kondo fan, you should already have this soundtrack. If for some reason you're not, I still feel that you'll find very much to enjoy here.