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Zelda Week: Majora’s Mask

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Jon

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If you’ve kept up with my One Sentence Gaming at all, you know by now that one of my favorite games of all time is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. As far as gamers go, this game is very love it or hate it. Infact, here at ONS, it’s an even 80/20 split. 80% of the people either haven’t played this game or aren’t fond of it. The sole 20% (i.e. me) loves it. But why is it that way? Let’s go over some of the game mechanics, and then we’ll touch upon why I actually think those same things that people hate were stuff I actually liked.

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According to online rumors (which may or may not be true), Majora’s Mask was intended to be a full fledged sidequest to Ocarina of Time. Originally developed for the N64 Disc Drive, when a developer at Nintendo griped about having to essentially make the same game, they decided to make Majora’s Mask it’s own game with the added restriction of doing it only in a year’s time. As such, the game has a very “sidequest-y” feel to it. There are only four dungeons (plus the final one) instead of the usual eight, and a lot of emphasis is placed on character interaction rather than chasing the bad guy. While yes, your main point of the game is to defeat Skull Kid and stop the Groundhog Day cycle of reliving the same 72 hours before the Moon crashes, about eighty percent of your time (if you’re a completionist) is spent doing various sidequests for the masks.

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Another complaint, and perhaps the biggest one I’ve encountered *is* the 72 hour cycle. So many people tell me that it’s unfair you have to beat the game in a “time limit”, and I’ll admit, when the game first came out, I thought the same thing. It wasn’t until about a year ago I was convinced that the clock really only determined what events happened where in Termina. Some places are only accessible on certain days, some people are only in the game until a certain time of a certain day. And if you messed up, you just played the Song of Time and you’ll be okay. Yes, you did have to deposit your rupees in the bank so you didn’t lose them when you played it. And yes, if you forgot to do something before playing the song you’d have to beat the boss of a temple again (but not the temple itself), but it wasn’t annoying. It was a neat addition, at least, in this writer’s opinion. And the last, but the lesser of the complaints I’ve heard is that Ganon(dorf) isn’t in the game and Zelda is only mentioned once in a flashback. That didn’t bother me either, but remember, the gamer community heavily dislikes change.

But why did *I* like the game? Well, that’s a very good question. I guess it took what made Ocarina of Time and added onto it without breaking the game. I’ll admit, I can’t stand Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It was too different and while I’d probably like the game now, I just don’t have the time to go back and go through it. The story was interested and dark, which was a departure away from the usual lightheartedness of the Zelda series. The characters you could interact with were extremely interesting, and infact, it produced one of my all time favorite video games characters: The Happy Mask Salesman. A lot of people think he’s creepy, but I found him to be arguably one of the better (and IMHO, the best) characters in the entire Zelda series. You could never tell what his true motives were, but a manga based on the game lets on he’s not as timid and meek as he appears. As touched upon earlier, the emphasis on sidequesting irked some people, but I liked it alot. I never really interacted with characters in Zelda much, and this game kind of forced me to. It also helped that even minor characters were fleshed out and given a backstory. For example, while running around in Termina Field, you find a ghost looking to pass on his dancing skills. He cannot rest until this is done. So you play the Song of Healing, and you get Kamaro’s Mask. Then with Kamaro’s Mask (which teaches you his awesome dance), you find two sisters who just can’t seem to get their dance right as it’s too basic and uninteresting. So you show them his dance, and they are thrilled and give you a piece of heart. Later on, in the credits, if this side quest was completed you’ll see the Rosa Sisters dancing at the Clock Town Milk Bar. And of course, the music for Majora’s Mask is nothing but top of the line, perfectly mood fitting Zelda tuneage. It was just a fun game that differed completely from other Zelda titles, and the bleak and gloominess of it all made it my favorite Zelda game.

One of the biggest debates with Majora’s Mask is what did it all mean? Was it a dream? What was the message they were trying to convey? There are countless theories, but one of my favorites it that each section of the game relates to a certain stage of grief.

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1) Clock Town is denial. Nobody in the city even acknowledges that the moon is falling.

2) The Deku Swamp is anger. They imprison a monkey who tried to save their princess, as they have nobody else to take their problems out on.

3) The Goron Mountain is bargaining. With nobody who can stop the winter, they only keep hoping their fallen hero will come and save them despite the fact that he’s dead.

4) The Zora Bay is depression. They mourn over the death of their guitarist continuously.

5) The valley is acceptance. Desolate and empty, Link is finally at peace with himself as everybody in the area is already dead and gone.

I am not sure if this theory is what they were going for, and you could debate it for hours, but I definitely see some truth in it for sure. As with any video game, what you get from it is up to the player themselves, so you’ll have to play it for yourself to see what you get from it. All I know is, as far as Zelda games go, it’s very, very hard to top Majora’s Mask for me. And I really really hope that Operation Moonfall succeeds, because a 3DS port of the game would be freaking sweet. This concludes my part of our annual Zelda Week, so hopefully you stay tuned for what else we have in store!

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Continue to check back on the site this week for more Zelda articles as we continue to celebrate Zelda Week here at ONS Gaming! Don’t forget to look forward to our return to regular games on the 29th.

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7 replies »

  1. It’s funny, but I never even thought about the fact that Ganondorf isn’t in Majora’s Mask. And because he isn’t I think it makes the game that much better. I’m a fan of having Ganondorf as the main villain in many of the games, but it’s nice to step away from Zelda’s standard formula every once and a while. In fact, Twilight Princess could have been something special had they utilized Zant to his fullest extent. But, because Ganondorf was introduced suddenly toward the end of the game, it ended up feeling like a very traditional Zelda game with a few twists. Majora’s Mask is something special because, like you said, it is driven heavily by side quests. Overall, I love Majora’s Mask because it’s so different.

    • It’s funny you mention that actually. A friend of mine and I were talking about the upcoming Zelda game and how it might be in space. A departure from the standard formula can always be a blessing in disguise sometimes. Thanks for the comment, Joel.

      -Jon

  2. Although i at first hated the time restraint I did enjoy this game so much. If i still had my 64 i’d still be playing Majora’s Mask. Thank you for the review on one of my favorites.

    • Yes, that was a problem for a lot of people. I hope now MM has a chance to be looked upon as one of the true masterpieces of the franchise. Can you believe Nintendo Power ranked it as only the 11th best Zelda game of all time? Thanks to the efforts of Operation Moonfall, we’ll all be able to play it on our 3DS or Wii U in the future!

      -Jon

  3. For me personally, I always felt that despite there only being four dungeons, there was actually a sense of there being more to do in Majora’s Mask. The NPC’s are also engaging and actually a vital part of the game. The music was written to perfection. Best of all though, the feeling of an almost sinister wrongness permeating the land of Termina which you had to solve was just so interesting. A little touch of darkness really made this game outstanding.

    • I agree completely. I think the darkness and the way the NPCs interact with not only the player, but within the world itself really brought a new experience for longtime fans of the series. It’s a shame that the game is always so low on ranking lists by so-called professionals, because it’s definitely a top five Zelda game and a top twenty (at least) game all time. My post on Final Fantasy IX inspired a few people related to us who either brushed off the game for whatever reason or rekindled those who have beaten it to replay the game. I hope this particular post on Majora’s Mask has the same effect. Thanks for the reply!

      -Jon

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