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Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom composer shares insight into the music

Posted on April 13, 2024 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

Zelda Tears of the Kingdom music interview

Masato Ohashi, one of the composers who worked on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, recently shared insight into the game’s music. Ohashi shared a number of thoughts as part of a post on Nintendo’s recruitment website.

Music can sometimes be straightforward in games, but that wasn’t the case in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Ohashi gave one example by highlighting the ascent to the flying ship in the sky, or the Wind Temple. The goal here was to “make music that rose in tension”, which meant starting with just a few instruments and increasing the number as players keep going up. It’s topped off with a climax and the team decided not to have any music at all when the sky clears.

Here’s our full translation:

Sound effects (SE) are a very important component in The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom. For example, with the sound of a boulder rolling, the cries of monsters, a distant clap of thunder, plus things like Link’s footsteps, they are a very important source of information for going on an adventure. Background music play a complementary role in this. Of course, the impressive melodies of The Legend of Zelda’s world are important too, but it’s also necessary to create pieces that do not interfere with the flow of play, make the sound effects hard to hear, or clash with the mood or tempo. Most of all we want to make music that supports the gameplay experience.

For this game’s development, the compositions and arrangements I was in charge of were the dungeon interior music, character themes, cutscene music, and more, but the most rewarding was the music that played on the journey to the large floating ship in the swirling cumulonimbus clouds. Although the piece was light, it was a new piece that I made so it gave me a sense of accomplishment.

The challenge with writing the pieces was this game created a vast world with a large degree of freedom. Furthermore, it was difficult to make pauses in the piece, as the player spends a long time climbing upwards in a violent snowstorm and there were places where it was difficult to maintain clarity in the music. We decided to divide the area into steps: at the lowest altitude was the place of departure at the snowy mountains, in the middle were groups of blocky ruins, and at the highest altitude were the boats floating in the air, followed by a final scene of diving into the clouds; we wanted to make music that rose in tension as the player ascended.

There is a scene that takes place at the end of the very long journey. When you reach the peak in the last ship sailing in the sky, you look down to see a huge ship flying in cumulonimbus clouds, and then skydive into it. I felt this was a very dramatic scene and wanted to make a piece of music suitable for the climax. And from there I then worked backwards down the journey to make the others.

First we started with just a few instruments, and gradually increased the number as the altitude increased. We wanted to reflect the change as the player got closer to the hidden goal of their journey in the clouds, as they climbed higher and higher, and the cold became more severe. Then, when you reach the ship and jump down into the clouds, the blizzard stops and a blue sky stretches out before you, and we decided to have the scene without music, to give a truly lasting impression of a sunny spectacle. This was how music was then made by the programmers, and I was truly moved when I got to play it for myself, and see it had been realized according to plan.

The appeal of being in charge of making music is that you get to deliver the sounds and music you have made to players all over the world. Furthermore, I work next to other staff with different roles, such as programmers and designers, and being able to do that is also very appealing to me. It is thanks to being able to communicate carefully and with detail that we are able to polish up the music we make, and create it without compromise, that’s become a truly worthwhile part of being a sound designer at Nintendo.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is now available on Switch.


Translation provided by Simon Griffin, Philip Proctor, and SatsumaFS on behalf of Nintendo Everything.

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