*This post was originally published on The Game Bolt in November, 2016*
A few years ago I had the pleasure of coming across Theophany’s Time’s End, a tribute to the music behind The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The album was a wonderful piece from start to finish that played upon the music by Koji Kondo as its obvious inspiration. It was a piece of artwork unlike anything else I’ve come across in the soundscape of gaming soundtracks and tributes, and it wasn’t a score, soundtrack, cover, or a remix. Time’s End was a reimagining of a classic soundtrack that took the iconic midi music from Majora’s Mask along with its themes of eternity, time, and mortality and made it into a symphonic story.
Four years later, the second part of Time’s End is finally released. It is a triumph in the field of video game music. Once again, it is an album that demands to be listened to in its entirety. Where the first record is a general take on the world of Termina and Link’s emergence into the three-day cycle of Majora’s Mask, Time’s End pt. II tells the story of Link encountering the Skull Kid, leaving Clocktown, and entering the Southern Swamp in the first portion of his journey.
It begins in chaos. Horrid, far off screams, the gentle neigh of a horse, the piping of a flute and the cackle of laughter. This dissonance of sound is punctuated by the familiar tune of the Song of Healing sung by an angelic female soloist. Then the action snaps and the orchestra builds and builds into a cacophony. The pace becomes frantic, hurried. You can feel the pressure of the chase between Skull Kid and Link in the beginning moments of the game. But suddenly, it stops.
The music shifts to Link coming into the base of Clocktown’s clock tower and him meeting the Happy Mask Salesmen. At this point in the story, Link is sharing his body with the soul of a deceased Deku Scrub. The timeless tune of the Song of Healing comes in and what ensues is a musical conversation of harmony and dissonance that mirrors the torn soul of Link. When the song comes to a beautiful end it leads into the theme of Termina Field that combines with a few musical phrases taken from other Legend of Zelda overworlds as well. Here, the notion of a journey begins and the listener is treated to a cheerful rendition of that hypnotic tune behind Ocarina of Time’s Lost Woods.
All of this buildup leads into three similarly themed tracks that cover the Southern Swamp, Deku Palace, and Woodfall Temple areas of Majora’s Mask. Sound clips of fauna and rushing water accompany the beginning and end of each musical theme to convey Link’s physical, in-game passage through the swamps. The Deku Palace’s theme of blind anger comes through in powerful chords and a driving beat. Only to be completed with sound clips from the game’s guards when they spot Link sneaking through the palace grounds. The Southern Swamp feels ethereal and conveys a sense of desolateness and mystery. But where the music takes off is when Woodfall Temple, the game’s first dungeon, comes into play. The music begins simply enough, with tribal pipes and drum beats and the temple’s odd, wailing soundtrack from the game. It sets up beautifully for the next track which is, Odolwa: the temple bosses’ theme. It’s one of battle and fury as Link takes on the corrupted, masked warrior and ultimately defeats him, setting the spirit of the mask free.
The final track of the album, The Oath to Order, is a perfect encapsulation of everything that comes before it, while still heralding to the future of this project’s series. It begins with the gentle rolling chords of a chorus singing the Oath’s theme. A clock chimes, the sound of the earth rumbling, and the slow beat of a drum, mimicking the tick of a clock plays into a choir once more. Termina is ending, time is ending. But the distant cry of the giants, Termina’s guardian protectors, comes in and the music takes on an air of hope in the face of waking oblivion. As the music dies down, it leaves one breathless and hopeful for the future.
Theophony is a blessing upon the culture of gaming music. His work is on par with that of Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy 7), Gustavo Santalalla (The Last of Us), and Koji Kondo himself. Where Time’s End was a feat in capturing the feel of Majora’s Mask and reimagining its themes, Time’s End Pt. II a perfect synergy of music throughout the history of the Legend of Zelda series, Majora’s Mask’s tragic beauty, and a mix of cultural music throughout our own world. I found myself brought to tears more than once over the course of my initial listen. Majora’s Mask is a game that reminds me of so much. My battle with suicide and depression. My days spent playing Majora’s Mask with my father, one of the few activities we truly bonded over. My love for gaming as a whole. Time’s End Pt. II brought back a flood of memories from a game that is truly timeless. If you are a fan of Majora’s Mask, or even just a fan of The Legend of Zelda, you owe it to yourself to listen to Time’s End.