Gameological At Large

Zelda symphony orchestra

Rock Of Ageless

Legend Of Zelda: Symphony Of The Goddesses showcases the Bieberification of Link.

By Drew Toal • December 3, 2012

Before heading over to the Theater At Madison Square Garden for The Legend Of Zelda: Symphony Of The Goddesses, I spoke with fellow Gameological contributor Ryan Smith, who had attended the concert a month before in Chicago. “I felt overmatched,” he admitted. “I was sitting next to these Zelda obsessives who were crying and shaking like Baptists at a tent revival.” The shrieking hordes that concerned me more, however, were those attending the Justin Bieber concert taking place that same evening next door, at the Garden proper. The Bieberite swarm has been known to decimate entire city blocks, and I felt ill-equipped to confront the howling tween wave.

The Legend Of Zelda: Symphony Of The Goddesses is a traveling orchestral show that adapts scenes and music from the beloved series into a full woodwind and string musical experience. The four movements focus on The Ocarina Of Time (released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998), Wind Waker (GameCube, 2002), Twilight Princess (GameCube/Wii, 2006), and A Link To The Past (Super Nintendo, 1992). Bits from other games are thrown into the intro and finale.

Outside the box office, the Garden security staff looked harried but resolute, a Midtown Manhattan parallel to my mind’s picture of Marines manning Green Zone checkpoints in Iraq, circa 2006. Amid all the wailing and rending of commemorative Bieber t-shirts, there was a hint of barely contained violence circulating below the Cotto-Trout fight banner. These kids were going to see their floppy-haired prophet, and nothing short of the act of a vengeful God—perhaps upset at his children for raising up a false, YouTube-spawned icon—would stop them.

Zelda symphony audience

But among the writhing mass of young Bieber acolytes, there were more than a few green felt hats to be seen. While certainly fewer in number, the older, Link-loving crowd was no less visible. What they lacked in troop strength, they made up for in colorful Hyrulian regalia.

Justin Bieber was born in 1994. The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past predates him by three years, and Bieber was only four when Ocarina Of Time was released. For many of his most ardent fans, the Wii was their first Nintendo experience. So among Symphony Of The Goddesses’ four movements, Twilight Princess could very well be the only one they would recognize. The rest might as well be fossils.

Generational distance aside, the two fanbases share some important traits. Both are passionate to the point of obsession. The respective cults of Bieber and Nintendo leave no room for doubt or heresy. The people wearing green Triforce-emblazoned T-shirts, screaming wildly while they watch Link ride his obedient steed Epona across sun-speckled plains, could be mistaken for any shrieking Belieber next door. At least in that moment.

Bieber poster outside MSG

Yet a large part of Bieber’s appeal (to his fans and detractors both) is the almost certain fleetingness of his moment. His forebears—cultural obscenities like the New Kids On The Block and Backstreet Boys—were hugely popular during their brief time, but soon enough they are discarded, replaced by the next soon-to-be-forgotten trend. They and their fan base aged, and everyone moved on to different things. It’s the circle of pop-life.

There is no such natural death for the hero of Zelda (who, it should be noted, bears more than a passing resemblance to Peter Pan). Through over a dozen iterations, it has become painfully clear that Link is caught in some kind of cyclical nightmare, doomed to over and over again solve the puzzles, gain the Master Sword, defeat Ganon, and save the princess. It’s depressing. Where Bieber will in all likelihood one day get fat, lose his hair and do a turn on some terrible reality television program (or whatever passes for it in the future), Link is ageless.

Bieber’s music is a celebration of youthful energy; Link’s ocarina allows him to recapture youth itself. The price Link pays is that he must keep fighting the same battles over and again. Likewise, those of us who grew up invested in his quest are stuck right there with him. Because the mythology is so ossified, it’s difficult to appreciate the games as an adult through a different lens than we did as children. Link is a more perfect Bieber.

During each segment of the concert, scenes from each specific game would play out on three big screens. Link scampered through the scorched earth of the Dark World, flew through canyons using a chicken as a makeshift hang-glider, or battled an evil wizard. Who can forget the moment when a young Link was told he had moxie by the desert bandit Ganondorf, or the sadistic rigors of the Water Temple? Not this crowd. The Nintendo faithful ate it up while the crooner next door served up old favorites like “Baby” and “One Time.”

Zelda symphony mask guy

While enjoyable from a nostalgic standpoint, as a narrative device the videos didn’t really work. I could follow along easily enough with games I had played, but when scenes from Wind Waker—a game I had never played—flashed across the screen, I was lost. The local Orchestra Of St. Luke’s was excellent, for its part, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the violinist’s mind as she was applauded by a theatre full of 3DS-playing Keebler elves.

The visuals worked best during one of the three encores—three encores?—which included a short segment based on The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. This game strays further than usual from the standard Zelda paradigm, and that, I think, worked in its favor. By the finale, as the gargantuan Majora straddled the earth and time had run out on the hero’s quest, I felt something of the excitement perspiring from my fearful, trembling neighbors.

One young man in full Majora ensemble jumped into the aisle and took off his mask—shaking it wildly, exulting in his moment of triumph. The rest of Zelda’s worshippers roared their approval, as if he were a young snake handler in the grip of the Holy Spirit. It was like I had wandered straight into a Conrad novel. “I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, the smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption, the darkness of an impenetrable night.” But in Heart Of Darkness, Kurtz dies. The Nintendo god-tyrant Link, on the other hand, is apparently immortal. I’m not quite sure what this means, except that I had to resist the primal urge to buy a yellow and green T-shirt on my way out.

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1,531 Responses to “Rock Of Ageless”

  1. WaxTom says:

    The main thing I got out of this is that you really need to play Wind Waker.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:


    • Citric says:

      I got half-way through Wind Waker before I had to give the Gamecube I was using back. I want to try it again sometime.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Do you have a Wii?  Otherwise if you’re not opposed to the clutter, I’m sure a Gamecube can be found for next to free.  I think they mostly get ground down for parade confetti anymore.
           Parades celebrating minimum third-party support.
           Which occur with surprising frequency, desp[ite being a lackluster occasion.

        • Citric says:

          No Wii, alas. I’m sure Nintendo will do a splashy re-release on something in the future, they’re pretty good for that.

      • Asinus says:

        Dolphin Emulator and a WW rip (or get a Wii/GC compatible DVD drive. They exist and are pretty cheap now– probably cheaper than a GC). 

    • Captain Internet says:


      Twilight Princess on the other hand…

      • Neither of the Wii Zeldas really excited me, and I’m not entirely sure why not.

        In the case of Skyward Sword, it was probably the swordplay. I don’t enjoy when regular enemies have to be killed in a very specific manner. It’s tedious.

        Twilight Princess just had too much filler between dungeons, I think. The wolf parts in the beginning really slow things down, especially.

        Wind Waker, however, was awesome. I even found the ocean to be fun.

        • Asinus says:

          Yeah, that was a huge problem. I hate that the enemies can basically automatically block everything you do EXCEPT for that one thing. It made the combat way, way less fun than I was expecting it to be. 

        • Lord Autumn-Bottom says:

          I loved Twilight Princess, but I must agree about Skyward Sword.  Really not fond of having to hold the controller in quite so deliberate a manner with that degree of regularity.  I’ve found the best way to deal with regular enemies is to wait for them to attack and stun them with the shield, then slice ’em up with a few random slashes; not so bad that way.  Still a bit of a drag though.

    • Girard says:

      My initial reaction to reading  that paragraph was to scroll down to the comments to type/shout something along the lines of “OH MY GOD DREW STOP DOING WHATEVER IT IS YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND PLAY FREAKING WINDWAKER.”

    • double_hawk says:

       For the Love of God yes!

    • GaryX says:

      The only thing that ever stops me from being able to flat out recommend Wind Waker is the horrible fucking fetch quest they use to artificially lengthen the game.

      • Girard says:

         It’s pretty bad, though as I understand it, it wasn’t added to artificially extend the game so much as it’s the skeleton remaining after a significant portion of the latter part of the game had to be removed. Which still doesn’t excuse it.

        Luckily it comes late enough in the game that it (hopefully) has earned enough goodwill to pull some bullshit like that.

        • GaryX says:

          “so much as it’s the skeleton remaining after a significant portion of the latter part of the game had to be removed”

          Yeah, I kinda meant the same thing. It’s very, very obvious in that game that dungeons had to get cut. I have fond memories of the game, but that’s such a glaring pacing problem that I think hurts it (and isn’t really present in LttP, Oot, and MM as far as I recall). I do appreciate how imaginative it is with the Zelda staples though. I think Majora’s Mask will always be my personal favorite for how much it really did depart from a typical Zelda while staying true to its core concepts. I think if they had let Wind Waker bake a bit longer it could have truly been something. 

          Though, if they bring that art style back in HD, I will happily buy the next Zelda game (and a WiiU) like a fucking sucker.

        • Girard says:

           While I’m generally a proponent of each (main) Zelda game having its own totally distinct look, I can’t pretend I wouldn’t be all over a new WindWaker-style console-grade game.

          If you never checked them out, I’d recommend the MegaMan Legends games – not only are they very Zelda-like, but their art style, with its flat, bright colors, island locales, and chunky (pseudo-indigenous) motifs, is kind of Windwaker-before-Windwaker (the two lo-res DS Windwaker games remind me a lot of MML, visually).

          This is the part where I remember how awesome MML3 was going to be, and start to cry.

        • GaryX says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus Legends is definitely on my list of games to play. I’m compiling one of games from past generations I missed out on (trying to make PS1/N64 era the most recent), so any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

        • Girard says:

          @GaryX:disqus  I was a PSX guy, so I have some recommendations apart from the obvious FF7/FF9/FFT stuff:

          I am of the (minority) opinion that Brave Fencer Mushashi and the two main MegaMan Legends games are better 3-D Zeldas than OoT. Even if you think that estimation is batshit, I still suspect you would enjoy those games.

          There’s also a great MML spin-off called the Misadventures of Tron Bonne which combines MML-style adventuring with a bunch of other sort-of minigame play styles – a first-person dungeon-crawl, a Sims/Tamagotchi caretaking element, crate-pushing puzzles, etc.

          Alundra is another great PSX game, and suiting the theme of this article, is a solid 2-D Zelda-style game.

          Bushido Blade is my favorite fighting game, because it is a (semi-)realistic samurai fighting simulator (i.e. one hit to the head kills you, hits to limbs disable you). Imagine an intersection point between Tekken, Hotline Miami, and, uh, Ninja Gaiden. It’s awesome.

          Vagrant Story is a pretty great Squaresoft oddity, technically the first entry in that unified Ivalice world-thing (I think). It’s a dungeon crawl with a unique fighting system and some interesting design choices.

          Ghost in the Shell is a solid, fun shooter with Spider-Man style wall-crawling, and super-high-quality anime FMVs based on the eponymous Masamune Shirow manga.

          That’s off the top of my dome. Should keep you busy for at least a little while…

        • PaganPoet says:

          I’m gonna go ahead and chime in here to recommend Okami…while it’s a PS2 era game, it’s a must-play for anyone who enjoys that Zelda-like gameplay. Oh, and wouldn’t you know, an HD remake was recently released to the PSN for only $15.

          btw, kudos to @paraclete_pizza:disqus for the recommendation of Brave Fencer Musashi and Alundra, both excellent PS1 era Zelda-alikes.

        • Citric says:

          You like Brave Fencer Musashi and Vagrant Story? MY TWO FAVORITE PS1 GAMES EVER?!?!? Let’s be best friends forever!

        • WorldCivilizations says:

          Listing Zelda-style PSX games and not mentioning Castlevania SOTN? Well it’s a side-scroller but it’s still the best Adventure/Action-RPG of its generation.

        • Asinus says:

          I brought this up in the What We’re Playing This Weekend (or, sorry, whatever it’s called if I screwed it up) last friday, but using Dolphin Emulator to run WW at full res on my monitor (or 1080p on my TV) with antialiasing, filtering, etc. looks fan-freaking-tastic. It is totally worth the hassle of tracking down or ripping your own rom (if you have the capability) to play it. Also, with the built-in Action Replay, you can give yourself what you need to skip tedium. Since they broke AR compatibility on the Wii (unless you have a modchip so you can use a boot utility to boot the AR), it’s pretty nice. If I bothered to have webspace where I could do it, I’d post a full-res screen grab, but there are a few around. Link’s disgruntled toothy frown is even weirder in high res.

          ETA: I see you’re recommending some good PS games, too. Vagrant Story also looks great with a good emulator like PSXE. I was also amazed at how much nicer the character models look in FF9– their expressions are a lot easier to see. God I love FF9.

        • Girard says:

           @The_Asinus:disqus You are super-right about emulating late-period Square PSX games. I remember noticing while playing them that it looked like they were trying to cram more visual information into the textures and so on than the system could handle, and it turns out that as a result, they up-res super well.

          I recently emulated FFXII and it fared super well, also. I only just recently got a computer that could emulate that generation, and had never considered Dolphin-ing Wind Waker, but oh, lord, now I’ve really got to try that.

        • Asinus says:

          I should get hold of FFXII. I’ve heard both very good and very bad and I suppose I’ll have to decide for myself. I haven’t cared too much about a PS2 emulator because there are only about 3 games on it that I’ve cared to play and I already have a PS2. But I got curious and just downloaded PCSX2 and have been goofing around with it. 

          Now I’m must waiting for my replacement SD card (my Wii modchip will only write to a non HC SD card in the GC memory slot) so I can rip Xenoblade. I think that will look awesome. 

        • Girard says:

           @The_Asinus:disqus : Is there anything special you have to do, controller-wise, to play emulated Wii games? I imagine you need one of those little bluetooth USB dongles and something with two infrared LEDs to recreate the sensor bar?

          FFXII is…solid. Was it life-changing, or radical, or the most productive way to spend 50+ hours? Nope. But it hangs together visually very well, is mechanically kind of an interesting departure from previous FF games, and has a sort-of cameo from Ultros, which is always a good thing.

        • Asinus says:

          I just got a Bluetooth adapter today and Dolphin takes care of all of the controller itself, you don’t need additional software. However, you can also emulate a GC controller (I use a PS2 -> USB adapter to use a logitech wireless PS2 controller), a Wiimote (you can use the mouse for the IR pointer emulation. Not a bad option if pointing at the screen isn’t necessary e.g. Super Paper Mario) and attachments (I set up the PS2 controller to be the classic controller). 

          The Wii+nunchuck are a little weird– the dead-zone seems exaggerated and, for some reason, it would “stick” and continue to steer me into lava in Mario Kart. I didn’t have that problem with the PS2 controller, so it might be a bluetooth issue, I’m not sure yet. 

          Oh! If you get a wireless wiibar (or just turn your wii on and put the bar on your monitor) you can use it perfectly normally. 

    • Link The Ecologist says:

       Wind Waker is one of the only games I’ve played where I would rather travel the long way instead of using the teleport system. Another recommendation here.

  2. PugsMalone says:

    I saw this in Philadelphia because a childhood friend was playing violin. She told me that watching me play the older games while visiting my house was the only perspective she had on the games.

    Also, the eyes on Majora’s Mask are the same as the moon’s eyes.

  3. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    But Bieber’s intransigence is almost completely identical to Link’s.
       You talk about his music, and cursorily mention his place in the endless rotation of manufactured pop template; but that’s the heart of it.
       Sure Bieber will fade, but the next iteration to come out of the dispenser is still going to experience the corporate musical career in the same proscribed steps.  Boomerang, bombs, then Master Sword.
       If Zelda games didn’t end immediately upon defeating Ganon, who’s to say you wouldn’t see Link grow fat, lose recognition in the kingdom he saved all those forgotten years ago, and tries at one last self-deprecating stab at relevancy by going on a poorly produced reality show where he’s partnered with an alcoholic Deku Scrub.
       Then the execs at Triforce Inc. scout out the next fresh-faced kid to put on the green tights.
       Bieber may make insipid music.  But it’s worthless to be upset about him or his songs.  He is the current placeholder in a much larger system that honors repetition.
       In that regard, he very much is like Link.  Or Ganon, I guess.     

    • This is a very Foucauldian take on things, distinguishing structures per se from the individuals that may happen to occupy/embody them at any given time.  

      I rather like the idea of treating “Link” as a paradigm rather than an instance. 

    • lokimotive says:

      I had been thinking about something somewhat similar recently, though in a more mythical sense rather than a sociological one. It was kind of spurred on by people noting how the new Super Mario Bros. for the WiiU has the same basic gameplay and plot as all the Super Mario Bros. games before it. Which is kind of an odd complaint to make, I realized, considering at this point the plot of Mario is a scenario rather than a real conveyance of new narrative. We understand the scenario of a Mario game just like the Greeks understood the scenario of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex before they saw it, or the French understood the scenario of a Harlequinade.

      It occurred to me that those people attempting to map a chronology of the Mario games or the Zelda games on one narrative continuum have it fundamentally wrong. At least in terms of how the games are probably conceived. These games are not really concerned with telling the epic tale of the adventures of one or two protagonists, or even world, indeed they’re just really the same game over and over again.

      Which, really isn’t that unusual in the grand scheme of things. The way story’s were told for the longest time assumed that the audience was vaguely familiar with the conventions of the story, and the tension was due to filling in the details.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

           I like the mythical aspect of the games as well, and agree that trying to map the story to a unified timeline is a silly endeavor that saps the stories of what makes them interesting.
           It’s a product of the same fundamentalist brain chemistry that has surprising cross-pollination between religion and hobbies; that everything has to be resolved into a single corroborating dogma.
           As though weeding out all contradictions and errata will give the narrative a better chance at being true.
           And granted, the difference between your Bieber’s and your evergreen franchises is each generation will only have one relationship with a Bieber, whereas many of us are on our tenth plus Zelda.
           So that fosters the tension between updating the franchise and keeping it true to the past iterations.
           But as for Mario and Link, I’m still more inclined toward the Elric model of the Eternal champion as written by Moorcock.
           Or as they say in AV Club proper, Moor…

           …OF COCK!  

        • Girard says:

           I’m doing research on empathy and artmaking, and your talk about fundamentalist “brain chemistry” reminds me of the phenomenon of “psychological rigidity,” which is pretty much that – an intolerance of ambiguity and a desire to force experiences and ideas into rigid pre-conceived categories. This rigidity can hamper your ability to be sensitive to people’s immediate, uncategorizable, situations, and can inhibit empathy.

          What’s interesting is that they’ve done studies linking perceptual rigidity to psychological rigidity: people who can’t handle visual ambiguity (e.g. non-naturalistic or non-objective paintings, Link suddenly being cel-shaded and not looking just like he did in OoT, an image that very gradually changes into another image), tend to have trouble with conceptual/experiential/social ambiguity. So exposure to a wide variety of artistic experiences (or, uh, maybe a wide variety or Links?) can maybe make you a more open-minded person.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus  That’s funny, because I just came back to this thread to read your response after being on Kotaku and commenting on a post of few pieces of Link fan art.
             And  naturally I was saying I didn’t find it to be particularly evocative of Link.
             But in my defense, I wasn’t stating so because I don’t think Link should look different, I just didn’t think the artist did a very interesting job.
             As a side note, one of the comments I received to my post was “Lol butthurt fanboys”, which reminded my why I hide here from the rest of the internet.

      • Asinus says:

        “These games are not really concerned with telling the epic tale of the adventures of one or two protagonists, or even world, indeed they’re just really the same game over and over again.”

        That’s how I’ve always viewed it as well. The addition of the “legendary hero” mythos within the games themselves have always seemed problematic for me as well. That seems to be how they imply continuity without actually forcing any, but it still comes across as way too contrived. Once you could start naming Link, it did break the idea that this was one character living along a linear timeline, but since his age seems to remain in stasis between some of the games but he ages in others, even trying to put them in any reasonable order is nonsense (with, maybe, the exception of LoZ and AoL). After that I, like you, assumed that it was a re-envisioning of the same story. It’s almost like an oral tradition– the first game, being so vague due to “language” limitations had to be reinterpreted by the teller, who keeps the central gist, but adds flourishes here and there to make the story more colorful and lush for the listener. I understand why some pre-adolescents might need to think about them being in order, so again, the “legend” thing was thrown in. To which incarnation does the legend refer? It doesn’t matter. 

        • GaryX says:

          I’m being lame and replying late, but while I agree with you that it doesn’t really matter, some games directly reference other Zelda games have having happened in a way that would require willful ignorance for it to be the same story over and over again.

          Though I do like the idea. It’s just that stuff like Wind Waker, the Adventure of Link, or Majora’s Mask would make even less sense then.

        • Asinus says:

          @GaryX:disqus , I think that’s why they introduced the “legendary hero” story to the games. The references are indirect (though I think Adeventures of Link is an explicit sequel). I just assume that they all acknowledge The Legend of Zelda and that is the hub that the others grow out from. So there is some chronology, but really trying to put the rest in order is unnecessary. That’s just how I see it, of course, I am not deep enough into Zelda lore to defend that very strongly, it’s just how I’ve come to think about it without making myself nuts trying to decide how old link is in which game etc. (though I think the only time I’ve read a definite age for link is in LoZ where he’s 8, and I read that a long, long time ago when I still had a NES). 

    • Electric Dragon says:

      – But I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of preassembled sets of submasculine archetypes to tug at the heartstrings of a 12-to-17-year-old fanbase.

      – Funny, I’ve always been fascinated by their ability to bring up my lunch.

  4. Citric says:

    The beauty of Link is that, as a complete fiction, he can never really disappoint. He doesn’t really talk, he never gets past his early 20s, he’s not going to get in a scandal and he’ll never get old. Plus, given the nonexistent continuity, if he’s ever in a disappointing game, you can just write it off and pretend that it wasn’t your Link.

    Heroes die young, it allows them to be in suspended animation, perpetually perfect. Time has a way of forcing out human flaws. Link is the ideal hero because we never have to worry about his flaws. He appears, he saves the day, and disappears again.

  5. Dikachu says:

    There’s something wholly depressing about realizing kids today are growing up with the current slate of shitty adventure games, and thinking of the original LoZ and Link to the Past as dusty old relics.

    • George_Liquor says:

      There’s something wholly depressing about realizing kids today are growing up with the current slate of shitty graphical adventure games, and thinking of the original Zork and Colossal Cave as dusty old relics.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        On the one hand, nostalgia blows. On the other, kids are actually awful little shits. 

    • GaryX says:

      You’re becoming your father. Just about video games.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      That is a nostalgically flawed thought that crosses my mind frequently, only to be swatted away by the realization that that’s age talking in my head.
      Every generation needs its own set of specific pop-culture and it rarely translates to the next one beside a few eccentrics. Music, film, art, clothes, hairstyles all follow that trend and the fact that gaming follows it only means that it’s one of them.
      Click on any music video from the 80’s on Youtube and try to NOT find a post stating that this was when music was better and it’s a shame that today’s kids grow up with JB up there instead. But that’s a fallacy derived from nothing but slowly becoming disconnected from the mainstream, or whichever -stream you occupied.
      Personally I haven’t discovered a whole bunch of new music lately because my chosen field of music has moved quite a bit and it makes me uncomfortable and nostalgic, both feelings I actually find really rather pointless and without merit.
      Just because something is older, it isn’t by default better, because thinking in these lines of seniority is a crass generalization. (I am not saying you were doing this, I am already rambling here).
      @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus stated it beautifully how JB is a symptom of a movement rather than the massive black spot we make him out to be, me included. Which is especially odd of me, who has never heard a single note this kid has sung (I religiously avoid radios.)
      Saying his music is vapid and dumb because they are vapid and dumb is fine, but I suspect that many of us hate this kid and “his” music for their newness in the same line we consider old things more worthwhile.
      But uplifting things due to nostalgia is something I hated my parents doing and it’s something I desperately want to fight in myself, even though it’s really hard at times. To fondly remember things of one’s past regardless of their actual quality is just too damn tempting…

      So… while the original LoZ is certainly a bit of a milestone, I’d assume, it’s not like today’s kids are missing out on an apocryphal masterpiece that can’t be ignored. Zelda is not the Rosetta stone of gaming. We think of it that way because when it came out the gaming landscape was bland and limited. But today’s kids grow up with games of massively improved complexity, so we can’t really chide them for missing out on the humble beginnings. This really works against gaming mostly because some of us are close to the first generation of home-gamers rather than arcade-gamers, so we probably lay a bit of a self-righteous claim to the whole field. People who like movies and music don’t have that issue, because the first generation for those is long past.

      I just don’t want to end up like my parents who never understood the appeal of a GameBoy, because they thought the Game of Life was all the entertainment a young person should need. Extolling the past has the dangerous side-effect of making the present and future look less amazing than it is, at least for myself. As such I try, so far with limited success, to keep an open mind and not automatically becry that my nieces and nephews have to grow up in a dark, dystopian future without Morrowind and Baldur’s Gate, but rather accept that they are entering the field way ahead of that and are making their own experiences.

      • Dikachu says:

        I think the example of music is a bad one, since today’s popular music really IS much more awful than the stuff from a couple decades ago.

        • Girard says:

           The truly awful stuff from decades past doesn’t stand the test of time or get radio play today, though, so we’re listening to the past through a kind of normalizing filter (which also omits a lot of the awesome outre stuff that you wind up having to “discover”). Oldies radio in 50 years will probably have a fairly solid selection of formally strong stuff from now that makes this era seem like the freaking golden age compared to the unfiltered arena of auditory crap that people will be complaining about in 2062.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          You are comparing the best-of in your head with the whole gamut of today’s music, which I find a common mistake everyone makes, me included.
          Today’s music is for the most part different, but to claim that the Doodletown Pipers, The Monkeys or Chubby Checker are critically different quality-wise than Justin Bieber may just prove exactly the nostalgia-point I made.
          After all, it was not all Doors and Elvis Costello back then. We just blank out the crap.

  6. Anspaugh says:

    I’ve liked a lot of symphonic renderings of classic gaming scores, but the kind of crowd these shows draw… eesh. Your typical audience at a classical symphony performance know when to keep their mouth shut and when to applaud: always during the performance, and at the end, respectively. Game enthusiasts just drive me away.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Don’t be so quick to condemn.  Think of the organizers of these things!  LOOK AT THAT ALBUM ART.  JUST LOOK AT IT!

      Yeah, people are paying to see the fricking London Philharmonic play such classics as…Overture from Diablo III(?!), but some person willfully chose to set those up.

      The other bad thing is that even without the narrow, probably pandering category of “video game orchestration,” they pander even more by avoiding deep cuts. looks no different.  I mean, really, Uematsu?  You can’t play Final Fantasy III’s The Dark Crystals this once instead of causing the kid with the Cait Sith megaphone to weep with 1-Winged Angel Yes Seriously Again?

      • caspiancomic says:

         Oh man, I actually bought a few tracks from that London Philharmonic Best Game Music Whatever Megamix thing, and the music itself is really rad. I had to curate my choices though, because they focused really heavily on modern games with, in my opinion, not particularly memorable or noteworthy scores (Assassin’s Creed, Halo, COD, God of War, that sort of stuff). And you’re totally right about the cover art, it’s dreadful. The worst part is that they’ve released two volumes in the series so far, and both covers were variations on that “modern army guys are synonymous with the medium of video games” theme. I mean, going for something deliberately retro and 8-bit would probably have been too on-the-nose, but at a glance what the hell does an angry soldier guy with a violin have to do with video games!? ARGAHrg

        Still though, the Sonic 2 medley is lovely.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Don’t get me wrong.  It’s taken Yasunori Mitsuda 7 years and counting to put out Chrono Cross Arranged , and I will genuinely cancel plans with Real Friends in Real Places to make time for it when it comes out.  But that’s because the orchestrations will find new interesting bits in the original compositions, not because I weep when Angry Birds: Main Theme is validated by someone who pounded out years of perfect Mendelssohn to get her current job.  I can’t help but think that people wearing Majora’s mask just want the ultimate nostalgia trip.  Miyamoto prancing around with a toy sword and shield would ENHANCE their experience, I think.

          *agrees with rest of post*

        • GaryX says:

          The Sonic 2 medley is great though I think my favorite is the Super Metroid one. I realize it’s not even that creative, but that opening fanfare with some actual fucking orchestration behind it? 

          That’s some damn space opera magic.

        • Citric says:

           I’m trying to remember what the generic game icon was back when I was a kid, I’m not sure it was actually better than Generic Military Dude but it might have been more creative.

        • GaryX says:

          @Citric:disqus When I was a kid, it was mostly an anthropomorphic animal with some funky shoes. 

        • Citric says:

          @GaryX:disqus  I think I prefer that to Generic Military Dude.

      • Destroy Him My Robots says:

        Lookt at it this way: At least “our” version of shitty compilations of Air on a G String, Pachelbel’s Canon and Piano Sonata No. 16 (titled “Music to Unwind to by the Fireplace”) was recorded by the London Philharmonic.

        Plus, you can always pull a Tracy Jordan at the New York Philharmonic. You could call it the Magical Sound Hour.

      • Girard says:

         That album cover has finally convinced me: Video games are not art.

        • EmperorNortonI says:

          I wonder . . . when you said that, did a Gameological staffer die?

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Side note: those are communications devices or ammunition in his pouches.  He’s powered by Call Of Duty Code Red Mountain Dew.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:


          “Do you believe video games are art? … If you believe, tap ‘a’ repeatedly!   Don’t let Toal die!”

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Holy hell.  Every time someone looks at that album art, a baby otter gets a malignant tumor.

      • Citric says:

        I like game music, I have a lot on my hard drive, that cover art made me want to delete it all. Good thing I wasn’t at home when I saw it.

    • fieldafar says:

      I was at a video game symphony performance earlier this year, and you are not too far off the mark. Most of the audience behaved well, but there were a few who would yell/cheer out during the pieces. It probably didn’t help that Wil Wheaton (along with two other guys whose names I forgot) was hosting the night, and that two other guys (championship players) playing a few rounds of some fighting game (forgot again) at one point.

      But if you ever want to go to somewhere you can find classical music aficionados and gamers in the one place, and have both groups enjoy themselves, go ahead to one of these events, you’ll probably like it too.

    • Electric Dragon says:

      There’s been a lot of debate in classical circles about when to applaud. It was actually common before the 20th century for audiences to applaud during a work – usually at breaks between movements. Even during movements was not unknown at moments of high drama: a really interesting article by Alex Ross discusses the history of concert etiquette, including a description by Mozart of audiences cheering and applauding in the middle of a movement:

      Right in the middle of the First Allegro came a Passage I knew would please, and the entire audience was sent into raptures — there was a big applaudißement;

      Apparently it was in the 1920s when conductors like Leopold Stokowski, Otto Klemperer and Wilhelm Furtwangler began to insist on silence. Ross quotes a biography of Stokowski in which he says to a meeting of women concert-goers:

      “When you see a beautiful painting you do not applaud. When you stand before a statue, whether you like it or not, you neither applaud nor hiss.”

      There was a lot of opposition to this: that meeting actually voted overwhelming to continue applauding during the performance, and other composers and conductors spoke out against it. It seems to have only been post-WWII that “no applause until the end” became the widespread rule – possibly under the influence of audience-less studio recordings.

      In recent times some have attempted to change that trend, but not without confusion: Ross in a lecture to the Royal Philharmonic Society (pdf) tells of a 2003 performance in Sydney of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique. The third movement of the symphony ends in a big, powerful march that builds to a climax, accentuating the contrast with the slow, mournful fourth movement – and on this occasion the climax roused the audience to cheers. The conductor, annoyed, mockingly applauded back: this just encouraged the audience further and the orchestra ended up having to give a bow. At this some of the audience, thinking the performance over, left the concert.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

        I applaud you, sir, on this post.  I am theoretically and usually of the opinion that audience response should be encouraged and should be organic.  I think even in my wannabe-liberal mind, however, there may an inverse correlation between how organic an audience should be allowed to be and how much of my hard earned money I have to pay to sit in my seat and watch everyone else be “organic”.  The one time I was able to see Les Miserables performed at the Kennedy Center while visiting DC, I had to sit through the entire performance directly behind two nine year old girls who thought that because they could sing along with every song, they certainly should (their mother was oblivious even after another patron tried to talk to her about it during intermission).  They weren’t belting, they were whispering, but it was that annoying ever-present whispering that can really drive you nuts.  On one hand, they obviously seemed to love the play — they really did know every single word and were having the time of their life — on the other hand I didn’t pay a large amount of money to hear two children murmer over top of the performers. 

        My own personal resolution was to simply never pay that much money to see something again, as I could that way be sure it wouldn’t be ruined by an uncouth audience.  Since that day, I have been very happy to invest my money in a good sound system and concert blu-rays (I don’t live in a region that gets a lot of Broadway so its not like I’m turning down opportunities left and right). 

        Obviously, however, the hermit approach is not one that fills the seats.  It seems like it should be the job of the parents to teach these things but apparently that can’t always be counted on.  The knee-jerk reaction is to tell the schools to teach it, but the primary and elementary schools are already overburdened with so many social expectations that I don’t think that would do much good. 

        What it really comes down to is that even with chatty girls or obnoxious games, at least they are interested in something other than the vapid norm.  I suppose we can’t be too hard on them for being “noobs” lest we simply come off as elitist and squash their curiosity. 

        At the end of the day, I really wish we could find ways in which such cultural experiences weren’t so expensive.  This is for two reasons. 
        1. I really do believe that would help old farts like myself be a little less uptight about any single performance. 
        2.  It would allow young people attend more often, which would acclimate them better to what is expected.
        But concerts do take money, and unless we want video ads playing on the ceiling and the string section dressed as soda cans, I don’t see any realistic way to accomplish this any time soon.

        • Electric Dragon says:

          My personal view is that people should keep quiet during actual music, but I don’t object to applause between movements or even after big arias. I think the thing is, sadly, classical music has tended to drop out of the mainstream cultural discourse – it rarely gets any kind of mention at the AVC, let alone any articles – so the norms of behaviour don’t get passed on. Parents who grew up with the Beatles and the Stones or Bowie or the Sex Pistols aren’t that likely to be listening to Mozart or Sibelius in the first place let alone getting their offspring interested.

          Perhaps orchestras could do more to reach younger audiences, say by having special concerts with cheap “family” (for adults+children) tickets, or touring schools. Then there’s things like the Dr Who Prom, or Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra, which I view as positives for showing children that music outside of X Factor/Radio 1 exists and that concerts need not be daunting.

        • Girard says:

          I suspect that if our country had halfway-decent arts funding – like in most industrialized nations that give a shit about their culture, it would probably help there be more productions to reach a wider audience, and make it so that such productions could be staged without charging extortionate ticket prices. If you could get a grant to put on a really good show, you wouldn’t have to recoup costs as much. That would be a realistic way to go about democratizing that element of culture.

          But it would also require a paradigm shift among American politicians – already generally a right-leaning bunch, and recalcitrant to federally fund stuff – from seeing art and culture as so much window dressing, and recognizing its central importance alongside the scientific and (largely military) industry concerns that do get subsidized.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          I must say, that when I think of some of the long silences in, for example, Mozart’s “Requiem”, I’d hate for them to be plastered over by applause. I strongly believe that silence even between movements is a desired part of the music, sort of a palate cleanser between Vivaldi’s last accent of Summer and first snow of Winter.
          The fact that some people can’t keep their excitement together for a bit, having to relieve it by smacking their hands into each other like someone who can’t hold going to the toilet anymore, has always struck me as odd. It’s made even more odd by the fact that while clapping is apparently acceptable for the celebration of high-brow entertainment, whistling or howling for example would be seen as boorish and inappropriate.
          Maybe it’s pretentious to put classical music into a category of its own, away from Blues and Jazz, which are very conducive to a bit of audience commentary, or rock and pop, which have the constant volume and presence to exist above the constant roar of its followers. But for me, few musical directions are as meticulously and surgically designed as the Classical music of Beethoven, Holst or Bach.
          I might be way off by attesting classical music this kind of extra distinction, but I’ve always held that extra regard for it. Fist-pumping and cheering is fine when reading a comic, but not when gazing in contemplation at “Guernica”. Music has the same levels. Proclaiming “Preach it” to a gospel choir is just fine and adequate, clapping over the ominous silence during the “Carmina Burana” probably isn’t.

        • PaganPoet says:

          Well, the thing about applause, and I say this as an instrumentalist and singer myself, is sometimes they disrupt the performer’s thought process. For example, if a singer is expected to begin a movement on the first beat, he or she is getting the determining what the correct pitch based off of whatever the chord of the last movement was. If there is applause in between the two movements, that’s really going to distract their thinking and make it more difficult for them to get the correct pitch.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

          I’m wondering if anyone started applauding during the performance of John Cage’s 4’33”; I suppose that would just be part of the performance, too.

        • PaganPoet says:

          @The_Misanthrope:disqus  I always joked that I was going to program 4’33” in my senior recital just to get under my professor’s skin. Hey, why not? He’s a legitimate if controversial composer, right?

          Of course I was too chicken to actually go through with it. I could imagine my parents thinking “THIS is what you’re paying all this tuition for!?”

      • Asinus says:

        There is some mozart that I don’t think I would have been able to help applauding, especially at the time when you couldn’t just scroll through thousands of hours of music and pick whatever struck your fancy. There are some pieces by him that honestly have just made me laugh the first time I heard them. It’s weird… but it’s almost as though sometimes the music is clever wordplay. I don’t know… maybe there is something wrong with my brain. 

        That is really interesting stuff, though.

    • GaryX says:

      I have a feeling that a lot of those people are the same ones who post youtube comments like “OMG when i hear this pallet town theme i just remembr all the gud times i used to have as a kid and i cant help but cry i know im a man but i cant help it i just love games and i loved being a kid HIT LIKE IF YOURE THANKFUL FOR ALL THE GREAT NINTENDO MEMORES!!”

  7. Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

    Should I be the worst kind of nerd and point out that Link is not immortal or stuck in a time-loop, but that rather the name “Link” is given to a number of different heroes throughout time (with similar fashion sense) who serve to save Hyrule?

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       True enough.  That makes the Bieber/Link comparison even more apt, since we can assume that Bieber is just part of the Idols of Pop Music mythic cycle.  Every time the pent-up prepubescent longing of the tween population starts to threaten our world, another Idol emerges to save the day with his voice and parent-friendly image.

      While I’m on the subject of the Zelda franchise, I can’t believe someone at Nintendo actually managed to tie all the games together into an official continuity (too lazy to look up the “link”…pun definitely intended).  Whoever pulled off that retcon deserves a promotion.  I’m not sure I’ve ever known a game series that actually has a divergent timeline based on losing one of the games; I think the Legacy of Kain series did something along those lines, but I can’t remember for sure.  Granted, its all a wash, since the “Hero of Time” cyclical structure ensures that all the games will be largely similar in plot anyway.

      • Moonside_Malcontent says:

         It seems overdue for this discussion, so I’m just going to say it.  “Monomyth”.  James Campell.  Golden Bough.  There, now this thread about archetypes is up to code.

        • Electric Dragon says:

           James Campbell?

        • Moonside_Malcontent says:

          D’oh, I mean Joseph Campbell.  Would that I were the Hero with a Thousand Revisions.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

           Oh suuuure, everyone knows about Joseph Campbell, the jet-set billionaire Campbell brother, but few people seem to mention the real brains behind this “Hero’s Journey” enterprise, James Campbell, his nebbishy smarter brother, the Mycroft to his Sherlock Holmes.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

             Joseph and Bill Moyers living it up, snorting cocaine of some supple PBS intern’s behind while in the shadows, James Campbell seethes.

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          At least James Campbell has his lucrative soup business to keep him going. But sometimes, he wanders down to his cavernous library, picks up a dog-eared copy of The Odyssey, and wonders…

    • Girard says:

       I don’t think the writer is asserting that there is only one Link who runs through all of the games.  He’s talking about the “agelessness” of the Link character/archetype which is facilitated by that diegetic explanation of multiple heroes of time. Kind of like how, even though the Anansi stories don’t cohere into a single linear narrative, and often contradict each other, we can still talk about the character of Anansi as a single literary entity with traits derived from those stories.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I think the argument works either way, with Link both as the named entity through time and the idea of Link as a cultural phenomenon.

  8. Girard says:

    I think it’s important to acknowledge that Link’s windswept bangs put even Bieber’s to shame.

  9. Mike Mariano says:

    I love the title screen music to the original Legend of Zelda.  It’s just so perfectly executed in its NES form.

    I have the Zelda Anniversary Orchestra CD and that’s the only track I listen to.

    • Girard says:

       That screen itself is just so beautiful and mysterious, too. The waterfall, those opening, isolated notes, that salmon sky. It’s so evocative.

  10. GaryX says:

    Hey I work near there!

    That’s about all I got.

  11. PaganPoet says:

    You should make it a priority to play Wind Waker, Drew. It’s the best 3D Zelda game, in my opinion.

  12. I love Link.  He’s such a balanced Super Smash Bros character, they should give him his own game some time…

    • PaganPoet says:

      I played one game where the main character kind of looked like him, but it was called Zelda so obviously it was a rip-off of the NES Willow game.

  13. zebbart says:

    The only two songs I remember from junior high concert band were the highlight and the lowlight of those years: the theme from Zelda and Bryans Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You from Robin Hood Prince of Theives. Odd how prominently songs from fantastical stories about archerss in green tights feature in my formative years. But yeah playing crash symbols for the Zelda theme was so much fun.

  14. yifu490 says: