This gorgeous charcoal cover art was drawn by G. Houston Hanna

Twilight Symphony is the latest effort by the Zelda Reorchestrated team, who have collectively been slaving away for five years now to arrange and produce the biggest fan-made album gamers have ever seen. Twilight Symphony is an orchestral retelling of the events that take place in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by arranging the soundtrack of the original game as a full symphony rife with motifs and teeming with heart and soul. Beyond taking the listener on a voyage from Link’s humble agrarian beginnings to the final moments of his heated struggle against the Demon Thief, Twilight Symphony explores dozens of secondary and tertiary characters’ own journeys and their effects on Link himself.

The Zelda Reorchestrated team has yet to announce a date for the album’s digital release, but you can subscribe to the Twilight Symphony mailing list to find out as soon as one is announced.

Past the jump, you’ll find a full review of Twilight Symphony followed by a closer examination of the tracks and Zelda Informer’s exclusive preview of this incredible album. Without further ado, let’s begin!


Narrative

As stated above, Twilight Symphony was created to tell the story of Twilight Princess through the music of the original game. While listening to the music in its best possible form is certainly a boon to its appeal, the main focus of the album is its narrative. Surely you all know the story of Twilight Princess—Link sets out to rid Hyrule of the invading Twilight and slays the escaped Gerudo King, thus saving the world. Of course, Twilight Princess features a wide cast of other characters and dozens of themes both musical and nonmusical. Through its progression and arrangement, Twilight Symphony explores these aspects of the game as in-depth as ever.

Naturally, Twilight Symphony’s main focus is on the three wielders of the Triforce: Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf. Each of these three characters’ themes—“Zelda’s Theme,” “Ganon’s Theme,” and the “Theme of the Hero”—play a large role in several songs throughout the album and signify important events, locations, and connections. Twilight Symphony also highlights several characters of less importance, including Agitha, Prince Ralis, and even the Postman—and of course, Ilia and Midna are given proper attention.

One important thing to note about the narrative is that many songs lead perfectly into the next, which isn’t exactly atypical, but is a wonderful way to tell the story nonetheless. Due in part to this, Twilight Symphony truly sounds like a film score (or, you know… a symphony). Over the course of the album, Twilight Symphony shows the evolution of Link from a simple village boy in Ordon to the Hero Chosen by the Gods. We see Link enjoying the company of friends and helping others through sheer benevolence, as well as braving danger at every turn through devotion to protecting Hyrule and its people from a terrible fate.

Sound

Some will no doubt be disappointed to hear that Twilight Symphony is not played by a full, real orchestra, but don’t let that turn you away—Zelda Reorchestrated uses incredibly high-quality instrument samples that are often indiscernible from the real deal. The album also features over 200 live-recorded elements scattered all around, a painstaking effort that absolutely paid off. Furthermore, the production quality is incredible. Despite multiple arrangers and contributors, no song sounds out of place amidst the others and every sound, no matter how small, is crystal clear. Aside from one cymbal sample used only once or twice in the entire album, there’s no clipping to be found. Every instrument is beautifully emphasized and the attention to detail is simply remarkable. The sound quality in this album, from instruments to production, is truly top-notch.

Arrangement

Most of the tracks in Twilight Symphony owe a lot to their original composers. Of course, this is to be expected from an album dedicating itself to music we already love, but that isn’t to say that Twilight Symphony simply takes these songs and slaps a few real instruments onto them—Twilight Symphony is as creative as it is true to its sources. Several songs in the album begin with a small ensemble and gradually expand to include the full orchestra and more. This is a fantastic approach that allows listeners to hear each song the way it was originally composed, but also offers a new take on each piece that doesn’t disappoint. At times, this can fall into a predictable pattern, but there are plenty of songs that play with this formula to counterbalance that feeling of déja vu.

You all know by now that the Zelda Reorchestrated Team is perfectly adept at arranging music for an orchestra with great gusto, but Twilight Symphony goes beyond arranging each track uniquely. Themes of various characters are dispersed in appropriate places throughout the album, most notably the Hyrule Field motif, chosen in Twilight Symphony as “The Theme of the Hero,” to represent Link. Aside from these self-referential allusions, Twilight Symphony also features several nods—some sneaky, others quite conspicuous—to other Zelda games peppered throughout. Little else is more satisfying when listening to this album than making new discoveries upon each listen.


The first track on the album is the symphony’s overture, which is traditionally meant to encapsulate several themes and motifs from throughout a score and prepare the listener for everything to come. The overture in Twilight Symphony does exactly that, and masterfully so. “Overture” draws mostly on Twilight Princess’ title theme, but as expected, it nicely covers several motifs from the franchise, including the original Legend of Zelda theme. Throughout the track, there is a wide diversity of instrumentation to not only keep the listener interested, but to express the vast range of emotions and tones felt throughout the album, and of course, Twilight Princess itself.

“Ordon Village” begins exactly as one would expect, with lovely pizzicato strings keeping the rhythm. In a decision absolutely perfect for Zelda, the lead is played not by a flute, but by an ocarina solo that sounds absolutely magnificent. Soon thereafter, a stunning acoustic guitar begins to compliment the lower strings. In the later half of the song, the full orchestra comes in to play the song with a pleasing hint of Twilight Princess’ Hyrule Field theme—used in Twilight Symphony as the “Theme of the Hero”—in the background. The song is followed by “Ordon Ranch,” which perfectly encapsulates the calm endearment of the village farm with an acoustic guitar and a french horn solo featured most prominently.

“Midna” begins with a perfect feeling of quiet melancholy, introducing Link to his twilit assistant for the first time. Not long afterwards, the song embraces a tinge of bouncing joy, which suits the character and her wide range of moods just right. As Lead Arranger Wayne Strange puts it, this track is “a comprehensive exploration of Midna’s theme and the memorable moments of the game that make use of it.” Through reinterpreting the beautiful original composition, combining it with various peaks of Midna’s importance throughout the game, and mixing in pieces of Princess Zelda’s theme later on, this piece achieves incredibly moving results.

If there’s one song in the album that surprised me, it would undoubtedly be “Hyrule Field.” Being everything it is and was both in and outside of the realm of the game, I had extremely high expectations that simply weren’t met. But don’t take this to mean “Hyrule Field” isn’t a stellar track—it simply isn’t the unfathomably stellar orchestration I expected it to be, and that’s likely my own fault. What I do love about this piece is the way the team blends the variations on the Hyrule Field theme together, from walking, running, and fighting, to riding on Epona’s back. The end signifies Link’s first visit to the calm Kakariko Village, a haven from the dangers of the open outside world, and transitions very smoothly into the next piece.

“Kakariko Village” begins with Renado’s theme, a quiet and soothing piece reflecting the haven that his home truly is and the relieving felicity felt both by Link and the children upon their reunion. After the transition, an ocarina comes in to play the full Kakariko Village theme, complimented later by a solo trumpet. The theme then picks up with a backing form the string section, a rhythm guitar, and a lot of bass drums, probably reflecting the livlier mood the village takes on after Link vanquishes the twilight. I think the traditional Kakariko Village theme from A Link to the Past tends to overshadow the version from Twilight Princess, but the Zelda Reorchestrated team really blew this song out of the water. Eric Buchholz got wonderfully creative as this piece’s primary arranger, and it most certainly pays off.

Just as we accustom ourselves to the beautiful calm of Lake Hylia, “Hyrule Castle Town” pops in to remind us that Zelda songs aren’t just about beauty, but about fun. This track gets the bouncy vibe of the original just right while feeling entirely its own the with woodwinds in the background and ubiquitous creative twists. It also reminds us that we’re in a bustling city with dozens of residents as a vocal soloist chimes into the song, as if Link were passing a street performer. The song ends with a quick allusion to “Malo Mart,” but sadly does not include those infamously misinterpreted lyrics. But why take my word on this great track when you can listen to it for yourself?

The next song is “Rutela’s Wish,” an emotional piano solo performed by Kyle Landry. If you recall, Queen Rutela’s Theme in Twilight Princess was a re-imagining of Ocarina of Time’s “Serenade of Water.” Soon afterwards, the piece transitions to the theme from Zora’s Domain, where the arrangement gets very creative. Part of me wishes at times that the orchestra had come in later to back the piano up, but it alone is still absolutely gorgeous, especially with the nod to Ocarina of Time’s title theme towards the smooth, calm, and beautiful ending.

The Intermezzo to Twilight Symphony is where things really pick up. As Wayne Strange says, the Intermezzo is “like the Act 1 finale, quickly recapping what has happened, starting from the journey’s beginning and leading up to when Link pulls the Master Sword from the Pedestal of Time.” The rendition of “Hyrule Field” in the Intermezzo is incredible, and it even references Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule Field theme. It plunges you into wonderful moments from the game, including lessons from the Hero’s Shade, the Sacred Grove Guardians’ frustrating puzzle, memories of Ilia, and more, all leading up to the dramatic moment where Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal and graduates from “boy” to “Hero.”

“Hyrulean Odd Jobs” follows the character trend with an arrangement of the themes from various businessmen all around Hyrule, showing us a glimpse into the way the fantasy world works. This piece was arranged by Braxton ‘Skotein’ Burks, creator of Pokémon Reorchestrated, alongside Zelda Reorchestrated member Tim Stoney. There’s a lot of creativity in the transitions between the themes, and I particularly love the flair Skotein brought to the Postman’s song. There’s a moment in Falbi & Fyer’s theme were Link climbs in the cannon and the music gets ever more frantic with runs and percussion, which I really enjoy. This is definitely a piece included in Twilight Symphony solely because it gives a better sense of the original game rather than for any narrative benefits it brings. For this reason and its general nature as a medley, it can seem somewhat disjointed in itself, but it’s one of the symphony’s stronger tracks regardless.

“Fishing Hole” is the next calm piece on the album, primarily arranged by guitarist Jake McCoy. There’s a nice piano to underscore the orchestral mood, with a french horn solo that sounds incredible. The shakers could stand to be just a little quieter in this song, but the lovely arrangement more than makes up for it, leading to one of my personal favorites.

Following the battle with Twilit Fossil Stallord, we are taken to “Ganondorf’s Exile,” the story of who Ganondorf is, his crimes against Hyrule, his trial and execution, and of course, his further atrocities. The song builds suspense in the beginning with a celeste and several other ominous sounds, and changes appropriately to recreate the drama of the scene. This is another piece not memorable for its original melody, but for the chilling cutscene with which it is associated and the justice done to it by the orchestrators.

“A Door to the Past” is Twilight Symphony‘s rendition of the Temple of Time theme. The narrative of this piece is excellent, with a lovely piano playing nice descending notes at the temple’s entrance and increasing grandeur as the track progresses. I particularly enjoy the choir not only for the skill displayed in this piece, but the variation from the traditional long, low, slurred vowels. After stepping inside the Temple of Time, Link reencounters Ooccoo and her theme song begins. The charming woodwind runs at the start of “Ooccoo, Fellow Adventurer” reflect the nonsensical notion of an eight-breasted birdwoman from a higher society, while the rest is hectic and inexplicably delightful.

“Hidden Village” accomplishes excellence both in sound and narrative, which is truly impressive, but the following theme, “Ilia,” is even more stunning. I’ve been using the word “beautiful” to describe a lot of tracks, but for none is this word more accurate than “Ilia.” The lead and orchestration are played on with several variations, and it eventually becomes a grandiose performance, rather than a quaint ensemble. This is really what I imagine as the true theme of love for Twilight Princess, much like those of the Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid games, and Twilight Princess does everything right to make it a sweeping, romantic ballad.

Another song the Zelda Reorchestrated team absolutely nails with Twilight Symphony is “Usurper King Zant.” This is mostly a recreation of the various phases of battle with the Twilit ruler, which is a wonderful climax to the game and to the album, and masterfully recreates the shifts in tone and intensity as you struggle against Ganon’s puppet king.

After transforming into a beastly state and facing defeat in the second phase of battle, the arc that begins with “Throne of the Demon Theif” continues through “Blood, Spirit, and Hatred.” Blood, Spirit, and Hatred is a new take on the pieces of the Triforce and their relation to its bearers—the blood of the Hero, the spirit of the goddess, and the hatred of the Demon King reincarnate—as revealed by the events of Skyward Sword. This track is mainly the horseback battle with Ganondorf, but because it is the only point at which the three bearers of the Triforce meet in battle, each of their themes are interwoven to represent their struggle. After knocking the warlock off his horse, Link is challenged to the final duel in “Dark Lord Ganondorf.”

The final track in Ganondorf’s Twilight Symphony arc is originally from his final duel with Link. This track gets very intense with choir chants that are, as my notes put it, “very cool.” The track builds up the listener’s adrenaline which becomes incredibly noticeable as the song enters a calm about halfway through. As the two swords clash and the struggle between them gets more intense, the adversaries’ themes weave their ways into the track, representing moments of each one’s respective advances. One thing worth noting is this piece’s incredible use of The Grand Pause as indication of the most dramatic moment in the score—Ganon’s death.

As Michael Isaacson notes in “When No Music is Better!,” “[The Grand Pause] is an island of silence in a sea of music that uses negative space to underscore a speech, action, or dramatic beat that has just occurred. It is a silent gasp, an unsounded meditative moment or a tacit recovery from a dramatic impact and often, the most dramatic music that you will not write.” In other words, Ganon’s death is expertly dramatized by a moment of near-silence in an otherwise bombastic track, making remarkable note of Link’s triumph by making no note of it at all.

Twilight Symphony’s renditions of the ending credits music is, simply put, phenomenal. It wraps up so many themes into one so well and magnificently concludes the story. In truth, a lot of this credit is due to the original composition, but it would be nothing like it is in Twilight Symphony is not for the wonderful arrangement and tinges of personality inserted by the Zelda Reorchestrated team. The beginning of the credits signifies the light returning to a world immersed in darkness, while a broad range of emotions and and styles take shape throughout. I’m holding off on a full explanation here because this piece will impart so many emotions on you that it’s best to hear it for yourself, so as not to spoil the pure satisfaction you’ll feel upon hearing the final tracks.


If you haven’t yet been convinced, perhaps a sample of the album could persuade you. The wonderful people at Zelda Reorchestrated have done us the honor of allowing us to show you dedicated readers the piece, “Hyrule Castle Town.”


We also have the opportunity to share with you a complete list of tracks from the album.

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Twilight Symphony Tracklist

Overture

Back from the Spring

Ordon Village

Ordon Ranch

Into the Twilight

Midna

Hyrule Castle Overtaken

Light Spirit’s Message

Faron Woods

Ook and the Boomerang

Twilit Parasite Diababa

Hyrule Field

Kakariko Village

Colin’s Kidnapping and the Battle of Eldin Bridge

Death Mountain

Goron Guardian Dangoro

History of Light and Shadow

Lake Hylia

Hyrule Castle Town

Rutela’s Wish

Ralis, Prince of the Zoras

King of Shadows

Midna’s Lament

Princess Zelda

Sacred Grove

Intermezzo

Hyrule Field at Night

Waltz of the Bugs

Hyrulean Odd Jobs

Fishing Hole

Gerudo Desert

Arbiter’s Grounds

Ganondorf’s Exile

Snowpeak Ruins

Twilit Ice Mass Blizzeta

A Door to the Past

Ooccoo, Fellow Adventurer

Twilit Arachnid Armogohma

Hidden Village

Ilia

Twilit Dragon Argorok

The Twilight Realm

Usurper King Zant

Hyrule Castle

Throne of the Demon Thief

Blood, Spirit, and Hatred

Dark Lord Ganondorf

End Credits, Part I

End Credits, Part II


Twilight Symphony is without a doubt the most impressive piece of work by and for Zelda fans that the community has yet seen. Arranged and recorded by professional musicians and long-time fans, this heartfelt love letter to Twilight Princess could not have been left in more capable and devoted hands. Twilight Symphony is not without minor flaws, but they are completely dwarfed by the aggrandized vision of Hyrule the Zelda Reorchestrated team has laid out before us. Never before has a fan album accomplished quite so much, and for everything that Twilight Symphony achieves and all the effort and detail poured into it by its creators and contributors, five Reggies doesn’t quite seem to be enough.

…(so I threw in a Jovani for good measure).