A Look Back at the Music of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

In anticipation of the HD re-release of 2011’s Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, composer Adam Fligsten reflects on the soundtrack as it relates to the legacy of the Zelda series. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, originally released in 2011, represented the ultimate culmination of decades of Zelda titles. While it carries the Zelda legacy that began with 1986’s The Legend of Zelda, it is probably more accurate to see it as a continuation of the 3D Zelda franchise that began with 1998’s Ocarina of Time. So many of Ocarina of Time’s innovations and systems are showcased with Skyward Sword, as well as many recognizable musical melodies. 

We have memorable themes such as Zelda’s Lullaby, originally from Ocarina of Time.

The theme is very faithfully expressed, except with a larger and more pronounced orchestral section. It becomes an excellent exercise for the woodwind section to express the beauty of the melody, with subtle string and harp accompaniment. 

We hear a wonderfully triumphant version of one of The Legend of Zelda’s most memorable themes of all time during the final credits, the Overworld Theme.

Within the mainline world of Zelda Games, this is among the most significant and most triumphant versions of such an important melody. A wonderful orchestral version of a classic melody. After playing through the game the first time, I was delighted to hear such a powerful rendition of one of my favorite video game songs of all time. 

The last of the classic melodies shows up in the File Select theme.

This is a fully orchestral rendition of the traditional Fairy Fountain melody. It remains a marvelous experience to hear musicians at the top of their game playing these beautiful melodies, which were originally rendered on much more limited audio hardware. 

But it is not only classic themes; there are wonderful new compositions to represent new worlds and new friends or foes that Link encounters along the way. The composers Hajime Wakai, Shiho Fujii, Mahito Yokota, and Takeshi Hama show an evident classical music influence in much of their scores.

With wonderful boss melodies such as Final Ghirahim showcasing wonderful 20th-century classical music techniques.

Also, the Grooseland Theme showcasing a tremendous impressionistic Debussy-esque influence. We can feel the wind floating by as we hear this theme while in a world of Groose. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword had a (perhaps unfairly) lukewarm response when it came out. Much criticism was leveled at the control mechanics, while other players complained that it felt too similar to previous 3D Zelda games.

With the HD re-release on Nintendo Switch, hopefully, fans will give this game a new chance. I hope we all can understand it as the ultimate culmination of musical ideas more than a decade in the making.