I grew up playing video games, like many children of the 1990s. They became an activity I could share with friends and with my younger brother, as well as a chance to engage my imagination. Fairly quickly, the Legend of Zelda series became my favorite.
The games typically follow a fairly simple narrative. Set in the medieval fantasy world of Hyrule, Link, the elfish protagonist, must rescue Princess Zelda from the clutches of the evil Ganon. Of course, there is variation on the characters and the world from game to game. Each one sends Link through a series of dungeons wherein he must solve puzzles and defeat enemies with sword and shield, as well as using magic and an assortment of other items.
They allowed me to feel like a hero. Link never said a word. As a result, I entered the character and made him my own. However, as the years passed, games meant more money and time I did not have as much of. My engagement with the series had to change.
For me, one of the chief triumphs of these games is their music. Zelda music is sweeping and epic, haunting, catchy and uplifting. As technology has progressed, the quality of the music has also advanced, becoming more symphonic and professional as the series progressed. Earlier this semester, I noticed a poster that said that the St. Louis Symphony would be putting on a show called “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses,” featuring music from the entire series.
Listening to that iconic music brought me back to the games and the memories attached to them. I recalled key scenes, aware of my emotions. I remembered the suspense of clearing dungeons and the thrill of traversing the world. I felt like a child again, able to listen with wonder to the sounds of Hyrule once again, as if for the first time.
There also were pieces I did not recognize. These gave me a direct opportunity to experience music from someone else’s childhood. If the opening theme from Ocarina of Time, my favorite game, can nearly bring me to tears, a theme from a later entry can do the same for the people who grew up with it. Everybody in the audience that day shared in a love for a storied and beloved franchise with many iterations and many themes. I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t feel that joy that The Legend of Zelda has provided me for more than fifteen years.
It began as a child’s romp through a fantasy world. Today, it continues as a source of inspiration. I look at Link and see an embodiment of how each of us can overcome our limits and achieve great things. The music gives me a chance to share in his emotions: awe, uncertainty, sorrow, and joy.
Cover image triforce, via Flickr User Joannie Dennis, Flickr Creative Commons, available here.