Many of last year's games had some excellent songs, but none matched The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's shining example of how to use music in a game. Its individual songs are not exceptional in and of themselves, but the way they are used to make every aspect of the game come alive works wonderfully. Music accompanying story sequences perfectly compliments each emotional turn in the plot, running a wide range from the somber melodies that define Link's lonely quest to the hilariously appropriate theme song of Link's swaggering rival. Haunting melodies greatly add to the atmosphere of the dungeons, and energetic tracks add excitement to its boss battles.
One of the most charming aspects of Skyward Sword's music is how it is almost constantly shifting to reflect what is happening to Link. The instrumentation of a song will change if Link does something to affect the environment around him, and the music changes to announce the approach of enemies without missing a beat. Even a place as humble as the Skyloft Bazaar can be a land of musical wonders, with the instrumentation changing wildly from stall to stall. Most importantly, the care with which this variety of music was crafted and used shines in every aspect of the game, and as a result it simply makes the game more enjoyable at every turn.
Just because Zelda took the cake this year doesn't mean that the runner ups were slackers. Audio director Darren Korb created a small but impressive soundtrack for Bastion. His vocal tracks are haunting and memorable, especially the game's ending song, "Setting Sail, Coming Home," which blends two other songs from the game into a masterful duet. Beyond that, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky brings a huge soundtrack full of diversity. It is loaded with upbeat pieces and flowing melodies that add to the feeling of embarking on a great adventure. Both games deserve praise for their music too.
by Nathan Schlothan and Michael Cunningham