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The composer reimagining Secret of Mana, Zelda, and other SNES soundtracks with analog synths

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‘It all started as a weekend project’

Graphic by Michele Doying / The Verge

Last year, composer Will Patterson released a curious concept album: it featured nine tracks from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but the classic chiptune bleeps were replaced with analog synthesizers. It lent an iconic soundtrack a new, more intense feeling. Now Patterson is back, taking the same approach to reimagine the music of another SNES game, Secret of Mana. “It all started as a weekend project,” he tells The Verge, “but it became more popular than my own pop music, so I decided to turn it into a series.”

A digital version of Secret of Mana is available to buy now on Bandcamp, though you can also grab it on both vinyl and cassette; preorders for the physical editions start today. And while the theme is similar, the new album represents something of an evolution for the composer. “For Secret of Mana, I spent a lot more time figuring out sounds and honing in on details. Now that I have a base of listeners, I want to take it seriously and make the best soundtracks I can,” Patterson explains. “I also bought some new synthesizers, so I had a larger palette of sounds to choose from.”

The project started out almost by accident. Patterson, who composes film and commercial soundtracks by day, bought a new synth and started playing around to see how Zelda songs would sound. It turned out well enough that he posted a few tracks to Reddit, where it really took off, inspiring the full album release. For Patterson, who grew up wanting to make game soundtracks, it was a thrilling experience. “There’s so much amazing music in these old games that I’ve always felt was overlooked,” he says, “and I wanted to help do the composers justice by presenting the compositions in a way more people could latch onto.”

The series, called “Switched on SNES,” will also continue beyond these two albums. Patterson says he’s particularly excited about tackling EarthBound next, and is also looking at tracks from Chrono Trigger, the Donkey Kong Country games, and F-Zero. “Eventually I’m going to branch out of SNES, but there are so many games that I can remix, it will probably be a little while until I get through all of the ones I love,” he explains.

That said, given the experimental nature of the project, there’s no guarantee which soundtracks will actually work well. “I’ll just have to try them out and see what works,” says Patterson.