The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
the game get’s pretty existential toward the end.
You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you? – Happy Mask Salesman
alright lets get this out of the way, this isn’t really a review so much as a highly opinionated rant about one of the most polarizing titles in the Legend of Zelda franchise. If that’s not for you then I’d stop reading here, if not then here we go!
Ok so back in 2000 Nintendo released “TLOZ:Majora’s Mask” a pseudo continuation of the blockbuster “Ocarina of Time” on the nintendo64 platform. Majora would soon become a sort of black sheep of the franchise as it introduced one of the most annoying game mechanics ever invented “a timer” to the classic zelda formula. Link is straddled with the problems of a whole new kingdom and had a mere three days to complete his task before the moon crashed down and destroyed the world. Now to the young gamers of yesterday trying to complete this whole adventure in such a small time frame was just to insurmountable. And to their credit the game only briefly eludes to how to handle this restriction properly. Seeing as its the first major problem I’ll take that first!
A Race Against Time: the first three days of the game are spent helpless as a deku shrub as you wander around the enigmatic clock town attempting to find a way to the top of the towns titular “clock tower” this first three days serves as a tutorial of sorts for the rest of the game and something that the average gamer seemed to have ignored. You have a singular goal “surmount the clock tower and stop skullkid” you then have the puzzle of how to do that, not being allowed out of town you have to use what your provided, people. Over the course of three days link meets most of the towns people, hears their stories, their fears, and watches them go about their day to day tasks (this was a game with a whole town that moved like clockwork about their routines six whole years before the radiant AI system in elder scrolls oblivion) solving their immediate problems got you closer to your final goal and when you get to the top of the tower your given the key to your release from the fear of the three day timer. The ocarina of time and the ability to travel into the past.
But the solution is only half there, you now know that each three day period needs to be focused accomplishing one thing before time traveling like a time lord into the past with new knowledge. The other key was that the ocarina of time could speed up, AND slow down time. Effectively increasing your three days into almost six. With the pressure of having to do to much in such a short time you could simply choose to learn the events of a single character, tackle a dungeon, or try to solve a problem and then jump back in time with the knowledge and at times a new item that would help you make use of your next three days. Result: Time was not the problem!
ever present and terrifying
Next I’d like to talk about the atmosphere and what Majora’s Mask risked doing that few Zelda’s have attempted. These things are a dark storyline and a departure from series mainstays like ganon and the all important princess Zelda.
Majora takes link into dark waters that ocarina of time only briefly tread toward the end of it’s game. The people of Termina are very aware of their coming doom. Some choose to go about their lives resolute in completing the clock festival, others are spending the last few days with their families, all around link is confronted by hope, and crippling despair. The game begins with link losing his trusty ocarina and his faithful steed Epona only to be cursed and straddled with an abusive fairy. But being a hero he stands apart and chooses despite his deku form he will save termina from destruction. Everything from the music which grows frantic and distorted as day three approaches, the (at first) oppressive and ever present clock, and the stories represented lead this to be one of the most narrative tales in the series. Its filled with the grand dungeon crawling adventures that are common and the truly human stories involving each of the games many “masks” I’d like to avoid saying things like “it was ahead of its time” but it definitely lends it self to the statement as it attempted to do an “adult” zelda story before we had twilight princess six years later, and still manages to be the most complex game to date.
Also lets talk about the lack of ganon, the tri-force or zelda! Zelda herself only shows up in a brief flashback and there is no mention of the tri-force in termina. Some would argue that without these things it isn’t a real “Zelda” title and i’d like to argue that its instead a game that gives Link the spotlight story wise, something that hadn’t been done since ‘Link’s Awakening’ only two games prior. Instead link is alone with a damaged fairy, who together facing the last days on their bleak world attempt to bring hope to the hopeless. Past games had side-quests that never truly amounted to more than getting a piece of heart and even future titles like “wind waker” don’t ever attempt to make you as emotionally invested as they do in Majora’s mask.
Do I think Majora’s mask is underrated? Of course, do I believe that it gets more hate because of misunderstanding, I do. But it did have its flaws and these were that the game did not explain itself very well, that its bar for entry was pretty high and required you to have knowledge of schedules and meticulous schedule keeping. You couldn’t just flounder about, you had to actively take notes and learn behaviors and know when something inconsequential could mean to the past/present/future of termina. In that Majora’s mask asks the most from the player than any zelda game in the franchise and for that I believe it gets the hate AND adoration from the fan community.
I hope you enjoyed this breif rant of the legend of zelda majora’s mask. If you’d like to see me rant like this more about stuff alongside my normal reviews just tell me in the comments! For now keep playing games, and above all enjoy yourself kupo!
Skull-kid and the moon just hanging out about to destroy the world