Music has always been vital to the Zelda experience. It’s hard to imagine some of the most iconic moments from previous games without the matching music. But Breath of the Wild developers wanted to adapt many of the conventions for the franchise, including music. This added an extra challenge to composer Manaka Kataoka, especially when creating the main theme for Breath of the Wild. Kataoka has shared her thoughts on the main theme on Nintendo’s Zelda development blog (with translation from Perfectly Nintendo).
Kataoka explained that the setting is the true protagonist of the game. From the vast natural beauty, to the ruthless and rough areas, she felt that the map is the main appeal. Kataoka didn’t just want the main theme to reflect the emotion of the setting, but to add to it. Just as a character’s music would add to their personality, the main theme had to add to the feeling of a certain location. She understood the importance placed on the history of Hyrule and wanted to create a song which could represent that, while also expressing the ordeals which Zelda and Link go through.
To compose a song which can do so much, Kataoka decided to use traditional instruments which may not always be used in a typical modern orchestra. She felt that the shinobue and the erhu would be perfect to add to the history of the land, while also expressing the changes which had taken place. Kataoka also used chord progression in the theme, which is not typically suited to classical music. However, the chord progression perfectly added to the sense of history and story which the setting creates.
She added the break in the main theme to relate to Link’s 100-year sleep, with the music starting again to reflect Link’s first breath
Kataoka also realized the importance of reflecting Link’s emotions and journey. She added the break in the main theme to relate to Link’s 100-year sleep, with the music starting again to reflect Link’s first breath when awakened. The break in the music symbolizes the divide between Link’s past, and his first steps in his new adventure. Kataoka mentioned that she does not usually analyze her own work like this, but is glad to have the opportunity to do so on the Zelda blog.
There was a lot that had to be conveyed in the main theme for Breath of the Wild. Kataoka had clear ideas on how she wanted the music to add to the emotion of both Hyrule and Link’s journey. The theme has received a lot of praise and it’s good to see Kataoka getting the acknowledgement she deserves for her hard work and expertise. Eiji Aonuma has previously revealed his favourite music in the Zelda franchise, perhaps it’s time for Aonuma to consider whether Breath of the Wild’s main theme deserves to be in his top three.
What are your thoughts on Breath of the Wild’s main theme?