3. Palace Theme
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
I know I have a rather unhealthy obsession with Zelda II, but no one (and I mean no one) can deny that its Palace Theme is one of the best Zelda tunes in its twenty-five year history. Otherwise known as the musical backdrop to Super Smash Bros. Melee‘s Hyrule Temple, this piece of music is just one big can of whoop ass.
It accompanies Link’s journey through each of Northern Hyrule’s six palaces, driving him deeper and deeper into the maze-like bowels of each dungeon with its killer bassline. Those first eight notes in particular kick off proceedings with a serious statement of intent, and once the main melody’s in full swing, there’s simply no turning back. It immediately draws you in, setting you up for adventure, and while several dead-ends and punishing monsters may make you feel slightly overwhelmed at times, this piece of music is what always keeps me going in times of desperation.
One thing I particularly like about this theme, though, is the way it builds and builds to an almost furious wall of sound, mashing your ears with a frantic counter-melody around the one-minute mark, before falling away to almost nothing– a mere three beats and nothing else. Considering most 8-bit soundtracks could only produce three or four notes simultaneously due a console’s inherent hardware limitations, that’s pretty impressive.