As a gamer that grew up playing the Nintendo Entertainment System and owning a Sega Genesis for their first gaming console, I have an extreme appreciation for classic gaming. Looking at my video game collection, a majority of the titles I own are from pre ‘current gen’ consoles. I’ve gone as far to purchase the infamous 3DO system (‘what is that?’ you ask) just for bragging rights. Friends have even associated the word ‘retronaut’ with my passion for all things classic. Case and point: I love classic gaming.
Don’t get me wrong, though – my appreciation for modern day games runs deep, too. Many of the classic gaming franchises I was exposed to as a child still exist today on current generation platforms (i.e.: Super Mario Bros., Metroid), while some have been discontinued due to lack of popularity (R.I.P.: Mystical Ninja, Vectorman). While some of these franchises still stand, few can claim to have created a history that both ‘retro’ and ‘modern’ gamers can appreciate. Franchises that, throughout the test of time, have adapted to rapid technological advancements in programming and design, yet still continue to deliver high-quality gameplay. Franchises that are beloved by gamers from every demographic, despite the growing number of gaming genre segments we see today. Whether you are casual or hardcore, retro or modern – gamers from all walks of life learn to appreciate franchises that exhibit the traits listed above. For myself (in addition to millions of other gamers around the world), The Legend of Zelda is the series that accomplishes all this. Moreover, it is not just the gameplay that is universally accepted among all gamers, but the music as well.
Koji Kondo, the series’ composer, manages to evoke the entire emotional spectrum into a listener when one of his pieces from a Legend of Zelda game is heard: anger to happiness, chaos to peace, sadness to jubilance. So it shouldn’t surprise those reading, that hearing the live versions of this music played by a professional orchestra can only amplify those emotions. Now what if those versions were actually symphonic movements, musically arranged to tell the canonical story of Link and his fabled quests across Hyrule? And what if you also had the opportunity to see footage from the various Legend of Zelda games projected on a big screen while you listened to the story being told? The listener isn’t simply just ‘listening’ anymore. They are ‘experiencing’ the rich, abundant history being told through sight (the visuals) and sound (the music); history that is achieved by extremely few franchises. This is the musical experience that is The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses – one that, whether you grew up playing Link’s Awakening on the original Game Boy or Skyward Sword on the Wii, satisfies both ‘retro’ and ‘modern’ fans of the series.
Though I recently attended the concert in Philadelphia, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen the show performed. I was graced with the honor of interviewing the show’s Producer (and now good friend), Jeron Moore during their stop in Austin last summer. Fast forward to July 2013, and I’m getting the opportunity to experience the show’s ‘Second Quest’ (i.e.: their second season), this time being played by the Philadelphia Orchestra. ‘Second Quest’ features all new musical content that is introduced in between the symphony’s four main movements (the four movements being: Twilight Princess, Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, and Wind Waker). The day started off with a bang, as I got to attend dress rehearsal for about an hour.
Many thanks to Jeron Moore for the invitation!
At the dress rehearsal, I met other avid Legend of Zelda fans: Jason Rappaport (CEO of Zelda Universe), Chris Liu (Artist for The Zeldanime Project), and Rachel Rodini (Rupee Pillow Maker Extraordinaire for Rachel’s Rupees). If you think you are a series fan, wait until you’ve met these individuals. Not only are they extremely friendly people, but their specific skill sets bring various aspects of the Legend of Zelda series to life in ways you couldn’t imagine. Chris has just completed the first issue of The Zeldanime Project, “a reimagining of the 80s “Legend of Zelda” cartoon in a comic/manga format” (taken from project’s Facebook page). The comic has it all – everything from Link actually talking to him saying “Well excuse me, Princess!” The comical dialog and artistic detail put into every pane stays true to the original show produced in the 1980s. If you decide to pick up one of Chris’ comics, why not pick up one of Rachel’s comfortable rupee pillows to lie on while you read? Rachel’s rupee pillows come hand-crafted in a majority of your favorite colors (red, blue and green). What I really admire about these pillows is the immense detail that each one has; the different shades of colored fabric give the impression that the rupee is glistening in the light. If you’d like to learn more about their projects or wish to place an order, you can check out their Facebook pages below:
Fast forward to the evening of the show, and I’m surrounded by dedicated Legend of Zelda fans in cosplay representing the entire Hyrule Historia timeline walking throughout The Mann Center for Performing Arts. Both ‘modern’ and ‘retro’ characters from the series could be found taking pictures with fans – Midna from Twilight Princess, Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask and more. As you saw in the opening article’s picture, some of the cosplayers and I decided to throw in a little Ocarina of Time nostalgia with my ceramic STL Double Octave Ocarina. I only know one song at the moment (Epona’s Song), but didn’t know it well enough to call up a horse and deliver me to the concert.
8 PM strikes and I’m seated waiting for the concert to start. Eimear Noone, the Zelda Symphony conductor, takes the stage to give a brief background about the concert’s history, before introducing Jeron and Chad Seiter, the concert’s Music Director. After giving a brief synopsis of what to expect for the night, the epic musical experience finally began.
Throughout the night, I would frequently close my eyes and just ‘listen’ to the music being played. While the music played ever so eloquently in the background, I started to reminisce over the times I played these games as a child. This is what I enjoyed most about the concert – the music’s ability to take me back in time (without the need of an Ocarina ;)) and relive all the trials and tribulations I constantly overcame throughout the games.
To give you a specific example – whenever the Title Theme from the Ocarina of Time Medley was being performed, I closed my eyes and flashed back to my first time ever playing the game. It was a Friday night in the year 2000: I was inside a Blockbuster in Fort Worth, TX and saw that a copy of the game was available for rent. Having heard rave reviews about it from my middle school friends and Game Informer magazine, I flocked to the last copy within the store and paid, where I then proceeded outside to my sister’s car and anxiously awaited the ‘long’ five minute ride back home to my house. As I inserted the cartridge into my Nintendo 64 and turned on the console upon returning home, the Ocarina of Time Theme Song and the scene of Link riding through Hyrule on Epona majestically played in the background. At that exact moment, I had never experienced anything quite so tranquil or calming in my life. Hearing that soothing Piano/Ocarina combination resolved any worries I had about life at that present moment. Worries like: getting made fun of at school by the popular kids for liking something they did not (like Pokemon)…all those worries of ‘being different’ were wiped clean. Hearing the Ocarina of Time Theme Song for the first time was a turning point in my life. It was a time where I learned that it was OK to be different and it wasn’t worth worrying over trying to please everyone. Link was a character I could directly relate to – he was ‘different’, so was I…and that was OK.
The Philadelphia Orchestra performing the concert at The Mann Center for Performing Arts, an outdoor venue that provided for a unique listening experience
Throughout the night, similar moments like this occurred for me. Tears of joy and nostalgia were shed. The Legend of Zelda games that were a crucial part of my life growing up were being brought back to life through the live performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Needless to say, the entire night was an unforgettable moment. It was an emotional, musical ‘experience’ that few game franchises can claim to say they have accomplished. Whether you are a fan of the modern-day Skyward Sword, retro-day Link’s Awakening or another game somewhere in between, I hope that Legend of Zelda fans from every demographic get a chance to experience what I did at this amazing concert.