By Joe Strange
It’s the end of months of speculation, teasing and excitement, but today, Friday the 13th of February (a pretty damn apt date for one of the darkest entries into the series) sees the release of the long awaited, and requested, remake of The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask.
So, I’m sure some of you are wondering, why has this one game, a game that’s only a remake, caused such a monstrous commotion in the gaming world? What makes this game, a game in a series that some argue is just the same story retold again and again, so special?
Because it’s a f*cking awesome game, that’s why.
Oh I know, I should elaborate.
For me, and for many other Legend of Zelda fans, when Ocarina of Time was experienced for the first time it was mind blowing; it had huge 3D environments, a story that carried the player over generations and a world full of character.
Then, 2 years later, Nintendo released Majora’s Mask. Using the same engine (but this time, with front flips), Majora’s Mask sees Link attempting to find an old friend (we assume Navi, the fairy companion from Ocarina). While wondering through the Lost Woods, Link is set upon by the Skull Kid and his two fairies he steals Links horse and ocarina, and eventually turns him into a deku scrub. (He’s a bit of an ass-hole.)
When Link finds his bearings he discovers that he’s in the land of Termina, where, in three days, an evil faced moon will crush the town and destroy the residents of Termina and all the surrounding area.
It’s not even hypothetical, if you fail to stop the moon in time, at the end of the three days, a huge fireball will engulf the town and kill everyone. The townsfolk even take action in the run up to this, some flee, some hide, some even get their little sisters drunk so they won’t feel death.
Yeah, you head me right, this game is dark.
In fact, there’s a whole host of theories about Majora’s Mask being an analogy for Link’s death in the Lost Woods. I’ve talked about the Game Theorists before, and they’re take on that topic is really worth a look, if I’ve wetted your appetite.
It’s often considered the darkest game in the series, rivalled only by Twilight Princess, but that one’s more due to tone than actual content. Zelda games can be dark in places, but none are as harrowing as Majora’s Mask. But darkness alone doesn’t make a game good.
No, what makes Majora’s Mask stand out isn’t just the atmosphere, or the tightened controls from the previous game, it’s because it’s unique in being a Legend of Zelda game, that’s almost not a Zelda game.
First of all, there’s no Zelda, you’re not saving a princess, and there’s no Ganon, instead it’s a giant moon and a child possessed by an evil nightmare mask. There’s not any mention of the Triforce or the goddesses, and while Ocarina of Time had 9 full dungeons, including Ganon’s tower, Majora’s Mask has only 4, and they’re not really the highlight of the game.
You see, what really makes Majora’s Mask special is the time limit it sets the player. The player has 3 days, about one real life hour, to save the land, at the end of that hour, you either take on the moon (if you’re ready) or you reset the clock using the Song of Time, sending you back to the moment you arrived in Termina.
It’s basically Groundhog day, if Bill Murray had to fight a giant celestial body.
You might think that using the same three days over and over again is a cheap and lazy way to design a game, if so, you’re quite wrong. It’s not about that; Majora’s Mask is about the people you meet and interact with between the dungeons. The dungeons are a means to an end, the people you meet, the way they react to their demise, are the real stars of the show.
Like I said earlier, everyone in the town takes the threat of death differently and every single person has their own story, some overlap with others, while some are completely solitary. It’s reliving their last few days with them again and again that brings you even closer to the people of Termina.
One of the best ways it does that? Everyone you meet is based on a character you will have met when you played Ocarina of Time. You see, the game uses your previous connections to these characters, to the quest and interactions you had with them before, to make their new, darker stories even more effective.
Because the game is such a departure from the series’ staples, and because there hasn’t been a game quite like Majora’s Mask since, let alone in the Zelda series. It stands out as a fantastic, refreshing entry into the series, with fantastic key mechanics, with an engaging and heartfelt story. Majora’s Mask was kind of a big deal, and now that it’s been remastered, and reworked to iron out any kinks, if you’ve not played it yet, now is the perfect time to pick up my favourite game of all time.
Oh, yeah, I really like this game, hadn’t you guessed?