Link skydiving in the Great Sky Island.

‘Tears of the Kingdom’s Newest Piano Motif Does NOT Disappoint

One of my absolute favorite pieces of video game music is the horse-riding theme from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Not only is the piece gorgeous in its simplicity, but it only plays when you’re riding your horse, and its general beat matches the rhythm of the horse’s canter, granting the player a closer, more grounded feeling to their current gameplay experience. And in binding the player to the moment, the song is able to express to you what it wants you to feel while exploring the world—peaceful, curious, and alive.

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Now, we have a new motif to work with, one that instantly made me release my tension and exhale as soon as I heard it, because I knew what the game was trying to do: ground us in the moment. Our newest motif plays when Link skydives from a sizable distance (i.e. the Sky Archipelago), and compared to the horse-riding theme, its tone is noticeably different. It’s more somber, and contemplative, which works perfectly.

In Breath of the Wild, taming a horse to ride was a massive first success. Suddenly, the world wasn’t so big and alien anymore; even if you didn’t keep your first horse, you had a companion in the moment, and it made all the difference. The horse-riding theme’s motif reflected that, with a bouncy, jovial step meant to rejuvenate your spirit and help you understand that you are just as much a part of this wild world as any other living being in it. Similarly, the nighttime variation of this song played on the motif’s energy in a warier way, because you had to be more alert at night.

But in Tears of the Kingdom, the newest motif is slower, because what else can you do as you fall but look around? The game is telling you that there is majesty all around you, and it’s asking you to surrender yourself to it—to accept the reality that you must save the world again, and to look around you and see things as they really are. This heightened repose is naturally more melancholic than the quick-stepped energy that horseback riding brings, even as you’re plummeting to the ground.

In my opinion, the layer of mystery surrounding the plot only adds to this more-somber motif. You’re only falling because there’s a world to fall from—a hidden, alien world in the sky, previously undiscovered. How much are you going to have to uncover? How far will you go, not just across the land, but from above and below?

I still have to finish the game, so these answers are yet unknown to me. But the feelings are there. Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom composers Manaka Kataoka and Yasuaki Iwata, you are two very talented people, that’s for damn sure.

(featured image: Nintendo)

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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).