Let’s talk about how the Breath of the Wild 2 trailer uses video game sound design, specifically reversed audio and reverb, to reinforce its themes of resurrection, horror, and the supernatural. Headphones recommended.
How the Breath of the Wild 2 Trailer Uses Reversed Audio – Video Transcript (Best Experienced By Video):
I first fell in love with Zelda: Breath of the Wild for its serene moments, the occasions when Link trotted along the Faron Grasslands or unearthed treasure across the neighboring shoreline – all while scattered melodies quietly juxtaposed a Hyrule in ruin. Breath of the Wild celebrated openness, and at nearly every juncture its emergent qualities worked together to create a space wherein the player was granted all sorts of freedoms, including those which were more whimsical and light-hearted. That’s why when I first watched the trailer for Breath of the Wild 2, which painted a picture of a more foreboding and claustrophobic adventure, I was struck with an immense curiosity, and maybe a little trepidation.
Will Zelda and Link’s descent into the crypts beneath Hyrule Castle alter the major ways in which players experience the systems featured in Breath of the Wild? Is Ganondorf being revived by some sort of ancient evil, and are the Sheikah potentially responsible? Will we finally get to play as Link instead of Zelda? Just kidding. I have so many questions, but more than anything, I am impressed with how Breath of the Wild 2’s trailer uses thoughtful sound design and music to reinforce its themes of resurrection, horror, and the supernatural. It starts with a heartbeat.
Resurrection and incarnation are two themes which run their course through the Legend of Zelda series, however where Breath of the Wild focuses on the resurrection of the Champion Hero, its upcoming sequel seems more interested in the awakening of an ancient evil. Breath of the Wild 2’s trailer begins with the sound of a heartbeat, albeit faint, as a strand of green energy slowly coalesces above what appears to be a Gerudo corpse. The heartbeat, which slowly increases in frequency, foreshadows the corpse’s reanimation and the birth of a new evil. By the end of the trailer, the sound of the heart is beating consistently, signalling the success of the malevolent ritual.
To further emphasize the concept of revival, the audio engineers responsible for Breath of the Wild 2’s trailer included reversed audio, which is a brilliant technique that not only bolsters the creep-factor of the entire presentation, but cleverly conveys the reversal of time and transcendence from death into life. If you’re unaware, the process of reversing audio is pretty straight-forward, and in this circumstance, the editor flipped the vocable, causing the tail end of the sample to be heard first via playback. Let’s take a listen.
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While the vocals now seem like backwards gibberish, this technique layers even more tension and mystery overtop the trailer’s music, which is already filled with shrill stringed-instruments that rise in pitch – causing the listener even more discomfort.
The second way that we can utilize the reversed audio technique is to apply it to a reverb. If you’re unaware, a reverb (or reverberation), is created when a sound wave is reflected multiple times over, simultaneously building up and decaying as the noise is absorbed by the various surfaces within a given space. In layman’s terms, reverberation adds an echo to the end of an audio clip, and this natural effect can be reproduced and modified in a million different ways by music gear and computer plug-ins.
So what’s a reverse reverb, anyway? Well, instead of rendering an echo behind the waveform, this technique places the echo prior to where the source emits its expected sound, thus creating an incredibly unnatural tone that’s reminiscent of a ghost or other supernatural being.
- Here’s an example of my voice that’s being saturated by a traditional plate reverb.
- Here’s what my voice is like with a reverse reverb applied to it.
Creepy, right? That’s because both of these editing techniques are callbacks to classic horror sound design. In entertainment, perhaps one of the most scary noises is an out-of-tune piano, or even worse, a perfectly tuned piano being played by itself. One of the most formidable tactics that a sound designer can use to cause their audience discomfort is to make an everyday object sound out of place, out of time, or different from its natural tone. It’s important to note that this isn’t anything new in the video game space, but as an enthusiast, I’m endlessly fascinated by the process of making games. If we look back to 2017, Breath of the Wild’s sound designers employed this philosophy in the game’s battle themes and the music featured in the Lost Woods, by using syncopation to disturb the regular flow of rhythm in the song, thus rendering the listener’s ear lost in the music.
Time and time again, Zelda sound designer, Hajime Wakai, alongside his team of wonderful composers, have demonstrated their sheer prowess for understanding the role that sound and music play in the Legend of Zelda franchise. Whether the experience mirrors the one I first fell in love with, or completely changes the series’ formula once again, I am eager for all that Breath of the Wild 2 will be.
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Don’t forget to listen to the OK Beast Podcast, which you can listen to every single Monday on iTunes, Spotify, and any other podcast app. If you’re looking for more Breath of the Wild content, check out our video from 2017 during which we explained why the game was one of our favorites of all time.