Nintendo

The Ups And Downs Of A Night Out At The Official Zelda Concert


Nintendo’s Zelda games are usually very good. Their music is among their better qualities. So an official Zelda concert should be good, right?

I went to one last night. I liked it, didn’t love it… meaning it was a little more Zelda II for me, not so much Ocarina Of Time. And definitely not Majora’s Mask, my favourite (go ahead, yell at me now).

The concert is officially called Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. It’s been touring around North America all year. The show I attended last night at Madison Square Garden’s theatre in New York City appears to be the fifth to last perfomance.

The show runs a little over two hours, including three faux-surprise encores. The triple encore thing is weird and makes it feel like we’re not at a concert but playing one of those video games that keeps having fake-out endings as the boss battle enters new phases. A Zelda symphony doesn’t need that kind of gimmickry. The core music is good enough on its own. Listen to the concert’s opening piece. I posted it up top. Good stuff, yes?

Last night’s concert was running in MSG‘s “small room”, as the theatre is sometimes called. The “big room” — where the Knicks play and the circus is held — was running a Justin Bieber concert. I can’t vouch for the music in that one.

These people were not at MSG for the Bieber concert, that much I know.

I attended the concert on Nintendo’s dime. They comped me and fellow Kotaku writer Jason Schreier. We were in section 100, row J, which means an oboist could have spit on us if they wanted to. We were that close. I sat two seats from intrepid Nintendo line-waiter Triforce Johnson, who had not been holding his seat there for the past month. During intermission we chatted about Wii U. He’s trying mightily to master all the Zelda levels of Nintendo Land. Triforce wears a Power Glove. There were a small number of cosplayers.

Most people in the huge crowd seemed like ordinary concert-goers. Not many people in costume.

Between movements, we’d hear from the conductor or the guy who arranged the symphony. They’d name-check Zelda games and — wouldn’t you know it? — Zelda II actually got a loud cheer. There were fans of lots of the games there. My favourite fans were the young women who sat behind me and sounded nearly in tears when some of the sweeter village and forest tunes would be played. They loved the gentler stuff. I think they had the right idea. The best Zelda music, I’ll submit, are the pieces that you hear while you explore. The songs you hear when you are galloping across Hyrule field or sailing the ocean in Wind Waker are what Zelda music is to me.

Zelda games are games of curiosity more than they are games of clashes. These aren’t combat epics. These are exploration adventures. So it was odd to hear the symphony’s medleys favour some of the series’ more martial music. The medleys were played in accompaniment with Zelda game footage and I can tell you that Jason and I wound up watching three Ganon battles from three games. These were major chunks of the symphony. It seemed out of balance.

Here’s a big chunk of the Wind Waker part of the show. The sailing music worked for me. The Ganon stuff? Not really needed.

Nice touch: the conductor used a “real” Wind Waker for that movement.

During intermission I spotted the best-dressed person at the concert. It was a guy dressed as Skull-Kid, wearing the mask from my beloved Majora’s Mask.

We did an interview. Me and the Skull-Kid/Majora’s-Mask! Career highlight, people.

And then we settled in for more medleys. Some Twilight Princess. Some Link to the Past, which made for the best music of the night, surprisingly. Really strong stuff.

Our first two encores were “The Ballad of the Windfish” from Link’s Awakening and “Gerudo Valley” from Ocarina of Time. Good pieces both, and the crowd was happy for these “bonuses”.

Then, third encore: Majora’s Mask. Happily, this medley was not as martial as the others. We got some time to just enjoy the softer part of that game’s soundtrack before going into Majora’s boss battle.

Cool experience? Yes.

Best possible Zelda concert? Not really. The music could use more room to breathe. I want to wander and wonder through a Zeldasymphony, not feel like I’m forever in battle. For me, that’s what Zelda is all about.