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A Defense of Breath of the Wild's Soundtrack (VGM Analysis Video)

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Hi all!

Last year I made a post here about my video essay regarding Super Mario Odyssey's soundtrack.

Well, recently I made another video essay - this one is about why I think The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's soundtrack is effective. BOTW's music seems to be a bit divisive within the Zelda community: some criticize the game for being to quiet or having too few good/memorable songs.

I'd appreciate if you'd check it out, let me know if you like the video! I'm looking for feedback and constructive criticism, what did you like about the video essay and what could be improved?

And what are your thoughts on Breath of the Wild's soundtrack? Do you think the change in approach was good for the game, or did it lose something important from previous Zelda soundtracks?

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I'm watching this now!

Before seeing it in full, I will note that much like the aesthetic of Wind Waker, there seemed to have been a knee-jerk reaction to BotW's music, and in hindsight many of us are seeing just how smartly the new game's soundtrack is put together.  I feel that with time, the soundtrack will only gain more appreciation in the community.

I'll edit this post with thoughts on your video after seeing it.  :)

Edit: I feel that -- at least among my friends here -- nobody is complaining about Tarrey Town, Rito Village, the Molduga theme, or (especially) the Hyrule Castle theme.  All of those pieces are wicked good, and for the most part, scored in traditional fashion.  Similarly, few folks hate on Kass' concertina playing.  Worth mention since you analyze Hyrule Castle a bunch: there is also a Ballad of the Wind Fish reference right as the A theme loops back around that really makes me feel as if this is the moment I'd been playing dozens of hours for.

But many folks would say that the drive and melody behind those pieces only serves to emphasize how stark the landscape and shrines feel with only Debussy-inspired piano for much of the grasslands, forests, and snow areas.  Personally I don't mind that, and agree with your argument that the sparseness there makes for a good contrast to the locations that feature more traditional scoring....

...except for the Shrine theme, which at the very least should be different for "reward" shrines, "combat" shrines, and "puzzle" shrines.  The same theme for 120 dungeons is a little ridiculous, and you don't reference this at all.

Now, I think that there are some good arguments in favor of the sparse music without having to say "hey, at least it isn't sparse all the time," even if that is a point worth making.  For instance, the lack of a strong rhythmic pulse (thanks to short phrases with long gaps between them) helps allow the player to feel independent while exploring rather than as if they're being guided through a shared experience.  The gaps also allow for incredibly smooth transitions into and out of variations on the multiple pieces composed in this style -- for instance, approaching the Temple of Time, the piano feels as if it organically integrates the tune into the soundscape rather than loading a separate track.  That's not actually the case -- but because of the way the gaps work, it's easy to be fooled into thinking that's the case.

Overall, I think it's a fantastic score.  The impressionist music fits neatly with the Miyazaki-styled graphics, and the piano lends itself well to the nostalgia that fills the entire narrative of Breath of the Wild.

Edited by BardicKnowledge

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10 hours ago, BardicKnowledge said:

I'm watching this now!

Before seeing it in full, I will note that much like the aesthetic of Wind Waker, there seemed to have been a knee-jerk reaction to BotW's music, and in hindsight many of us are seeing just how smartly the new game's soundtrack is put together.  I feel that with time, the soundtrack will only gain more appreciation in the community.

I'll edit this post with thoughts on your video after seeing it.  :)

Edit: I feel that -- at least among my friends here -- nobody is complaining about Tarrey Town, Rito Village, the Molduga theme, or (especially) the Hyrule Castle theme.  All of those pieces are wicked good, and for the most part, scored in traditional fashion.  Similarly, few folks hate on Kass' concertina playing.  Worth mention since you analyze Hyrule Castle a bunch: there is also a Ballad of the Wind Fish reference right as the A theme loops back around that really makes me feel as if this is the moment I'd been playing dozens of hours for.

But many folks would say that the drive and melody behind those pieces only serves to emphasize how stark the landscape and shrines feel with only Debussy-inspired piano for much of the grasslands, forests, and snow areas.  Personally I don't mind that, and agree with your argument that the sparseness there makes for a good contrast to the locations that feature more traditional scoring....

...except for the Shrine theme, which at the very least should be different for "reward" shrines, "combat" shrines, and "puzzle" shrines.  The same theme for 120 dungeons is a little ridiculous, and you don't reference this at all.

Now, I think that there are some good arguments in favor of the sparse music without having to say "hey, at least it isn't sparse all the time," even if that is a point worth making.  For instance, the lack of a strong rhythmic pulse (thanks to short phrases with long gaps between them) helps allow the player to feel independent while exploring rather than as if they're being guided through a shared experience.  The gaps also allow for incredibly smooth transitions into and out of variations on the multiple pieces composed in this style -- for instance, approaching the Temple of Time, the piano feels as if it organically integrates the tune into the soundscape rather than loading a separate track.  That's not actually the case -- but because of the way the gaps work, it's easy to be fooled into thinking that's the case.

Overall, I think it's a fantastic score.  The impressionist music fits neatly with the Miyazaki-styled graphics, and the piano lends itself well to the nostalgia that fills the entire narrative of Breath of the Wild.

Thank you for watching the video and writing up such thoughtful and in depth feedback!

That's a good point about the shrine theme. I do agree a few variants would have better served the overall experience. I probably should have mentioned something about the shrines (and Divine Beasts for that matter) in my video.

As for your second point, I totally agree, and that's one thing I was somewhat struggling with while writing the script. I was trying to strike a balance between arguing that the sparse and impressionistic music was good on its own merits, but also arguing that quiet atonality isn't all the soundtrack has to offer, if that makes sense. Upon reflection I think it may be a bit imbalanced, as I talk a lot more about the songs that aren't sparse and impressionistic. Raising a few more points in favour of the sparse overworld themes probably would have strengthened my argument overall; your point about the smooth transitions would have been a good one.

Thanks again for the critique - thoughtful comments like these help me fine tune my writing style for future videos.

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