I don’t consider myself a particularly emotional person. It takes a lot to bring me to tears. But The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses managed to do it, as much as I fought to choke them back in a crowd of thousands of people in San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. As a musician myself, I always appreciate a good symphony, but when you combine it with my favorite video game series of all time? Played by the Skywalker Symphony? Well, the result is something along the lines of a nostalgic, emotionally moving eargasm, and it is beautiful.
If you’re a musician or regular symphony attendee like myself, believe me when I say that Symphony of the Goddesses is unlike any musical event you’ve ever experienced. By “event,” I mean synchronized video, themed merchandise, and more consecutive 3DS StreetPasses than you’ll ever seen outside of Japan. Something you won’t see are the usual hordes of senior citizens in suits and evening gowns, but green tunics and Hylian shields are not uncommon. The dress code ranged from graphic tee shirts to full Zelda garb, and even to full-body bird suits. But as long as you allow yourself to be a bit lax with symphony rules, these differences only contribute to the venue’s buzz of excitement.
Symphony of the Goddesses began touring as a component of The Legend of Zelda’s 25th Anniversary, and the group did play some familiar tunes from the soundtrack that was bundled with Skyward Sword, the latest Zelda game for Wii. The tour’s night in San Francisco this month was the second performance of the concert series’s second season, and there were quite a few new pieces that did not make an appearance on the anniversary CD. I won’t give away the entire program, as there are several fun surprises in store for those who have not had a chance to see it, but I will say that the twelve-minute movement based on a certain popular title for SNES and Game Boy Advance was particularly impressive. There was no shortage of cheers or fist pumping as one fantastic title was announced after another.
Several years back, I went to see the Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final Fantasy concert, also at Davies Symphony Hall, and I anticipated that the Zelda concert would be similar. And while there were some familiar things, such as the enthusiastic fans and the use of a video projector for an immersive experience, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the differences. Final Fantasy music is, well, Final Fantasy music, and Nobuo Uematsu is one of my favorite composers of all time. Certainly, the music of Final Fantasy is easily some of the best music ever composed
for video games (if you don’t believe me have a listen). There’s a reason that Square Enix developed an entire game based solely on music from the series.
However, Zelda is unique in the sense that most every game revolves around the concept of music and songs, which play an active role within the game. Instruments including an ocarina, a pan flute, a harp, and even a wolf’s howl have been featured, and are always central to the game’s story and mechanics. Those who play Zelda games already have a personal connection to the scores by acquiring instruments, learning songs, and using them throughout the game to progress the storyline, making hearing them played by a full symphony orchestra that much more incredible. As a band geek and a bit of a music snob, I wasn’t certain how I would feel about the focus of the show being largely on the projector screen, but experiencing the Ocarina of Time Symphonic Arrangement with the accompanying video was no less than magical.
This concert series is a Zelda fan’s dream come true. If you are not a fan of the series, the quality of the music and performance alone is reason enough to tag along. But beware: the video accompaniment to every movement showcases highlights from the game on which it is based, which means there is about a 100% chance of the endings of multiple games being spoiled. But if you don’t mind, or if you are a long-time fan of the series and its recognizable tunes, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is well worth your time and money, and promises to be an unforgettable experience.