A Battle of Music: Game vs Franchise

Video game music knows various degrees of enjoyment. We all know the many great pieces of beloved franchises like the Legend of Zelda, Super Mario or even Pokemon. These games feature pieces of music that you can always hum along and certain pieces won´t be forgotten forever. The Super Mario Bros.-theme is such a piece of music, the Zelda-theme and many of Ocarina of Time´s soundtrack are, as well. But all these pieces of music share a certain similarity, and there is a reason why i refrained from using the word “song”. They are not.

Let me say that you won´t find a guy that loves the soundtrack of all the mentioned Nintendo-games more than me. I have a lot of them in my daily playlists, I whistle the Song of Storm or Gerudo Valley-song all the time. But these aren´t songs. They´re part of a video game soundtrack, created to set up a certain mood in certain parts of the game. You could say, in a way, they´re “atmospheric songs“, there to enhance the gaming experience. That´s why I suppose that Nintendo is so shy of using orchestrated soundtracks for their games, as it takes away from the interactive atmosphere of the game. With Nintendo´s current music-philosophy, the music always matches what´s going on on-screen, changing on the spot if something happens.

But that is also the reason why every Nintendo game lacks it: A theme song.

There is the famous Zelda-theme, but it is not a song. It is a game-opening welcomer, like a voice in your head that tells you “yeah, my friend, you´re about to start a whole new adventure, have fun!” and you know you will.

Legend of Zelda – theme

This kind of music transcends beyond single games, though. It´s the signature-theme of a whole franchise. Whenever you here this theme you know it´s the Legend of Zelda. But it doesn´t tell you anything about a specific game within the series. That is what Nintendo´s games in general are lacking. The ONE identifying song, the ONE song that makes you remember the game you´re playing that moment. That song doesn´t exist. But it should.

Maybe, to clear things up a bit, I should give a simple example of what I mean. We all know James Bond, agent 007. This is the James Bond-theme that everyone around the worlds associates with the famous action-movie series:

James Bond – theme

It´s a great theme, but it doesn´t relate to a specific movie within the James Bond-franchise. That is where we proceed to James Bond: Casino Royale, with Daniel Craig as the lead actor. Listen to the following:

You know my Name (Casino Royale opening)

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a theme song. It is perfect. It is a fresh piece of music. It gives you chills. It creates dramatic pictures inside your head. It makes you want to get more of that experience. And it is a piece of music, a song, exclusively made for that one movie. Whenever you hear this song, you think of Casino Royale, instead of just generalizing “oh, it´s James Bond”. It´s that kind of songs that Nintendo´s games don´t have. And to give an example of a video game series that does what Nintendo does not, here is the Metal Gear Solid 3-theme:

Snake Eater (Metal Gear solid 3 – theme)

I´m definitely no big fan of the Metal Gear Solid-games, but in terms of creating a great theme song for the third game in the series, Konami did a damn good job.

In the end, what I´m saying is: Using all the old, famous tunes is nice, and I´ll be in full hype should Nintendo reveal Zelda Wii with the traditional Zelda-theme. But what I´d hope for is that upcoming Zelda-, Mario-, Pokemon-, you name it-, games got a little more recognition as specific games, more so than “just” games that are part of a bigger franchise. Or in other words: When Nintendo reveals the “Legend of Zelda: Sky Diver” for Wii, I want a theme-song that makes me think of “Sky Diver” instead of “Legend of Zelda“.

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