Today, the Duck (blogger of The Duck of Indeed, of course) has the pleasure of sharing with all of you a post on the game that ranked #5 in our top 10 list, “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”. I was so happy to see that this game made the top 10 to begin with, as from what I understand, it’s a rather underrated game. While many people dislike how different this game is from other “Zelda” games, including the whole time concept, it is these very differences that make this game my absolute favorite of the series and one of my favorite games of all time. But, first, a quick summary.
In this game, Link ends up in a strange land called Termina, where the moon is about to fall in just three days, thanks to the evil Majora’s Mask that has possessed a Skull Kid. To be honest, while I adore the game, I do admit that the plot is a bit odd, and the way Link even ends up in Termina to begin with doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (which has caused some people to theorize that all of “MM” is a dream, while others go so far as to say that Link is, in fact, dead). In many ways, this game is very different from your typical “Zelda” game, as it actually has nothing to do with Zelda, and there isn’t really even a villain to speak of but a spooky, apparently sentient mask. And as you’d expect, masks make up a big part of the game, many of which can do pretty useful things, including several that can turn Link into a Deku, Goron, or Zora, while others are actually not so helpful. At all. And unfortunately, the dungeons the series is known for are…well, there’s not many of them. There’s actually only four, and while they are four good dungeons, there’s still, you know, just four. The rest of the gameplay is made up of various sidequests, but that’s not really as boring as you’d expect…. It really isn’t.
Okay, so now that I’ve gotten all the things anyone might be able to complain about out of the way, now on to why I love this game so very much. First off, it’s dark. I mean, the moon is going to fall and wipe out all life in just three days, and not only that, but this moon has a rather unpleasant face upon it, making it look rather bent on your demise. (And you can see up its nose.) But, don’t worry, you don’t really only have three days to complete the game. Not technically, because your ocarina can actually slow time and bring you back to the dawn of the first day whenever you choose. Some people may find this apparent time limit stressful (because the moon will indeed fall if you allow it to), but not I, says the Duck. Okay, maybe a little, but that’s one thing I loved about the game.
I just loved the whole time concept, which is actually really fun once you get the hang of it. Yes, that does mean you must finish a dungeon within the three days or your progress through it will be lost (aside from any major items you obtained), and sidequests must also be finished within the three days. And items go back to 0 every time you go back in time, which isn’t really too annoying (and you can save your rupees at the bank). But, just wrapping my mind around an entirely new concept was a lot of fun, and I got pretty good at multitasking, which is pretty important if you’re going to get the most out of your three-day timespan before you return to the beginning again. Okay, start Great Bay Temple, meet Anju at this time, then do this, and then that… I don’t know, I just get a bizarre enjoyment out of time management, I guess (and I can get 100% in “Pikmin” with time to spare, so yeah, I pretty much love these kinds of concepts in video games). It’s just different, you know. It was so refreshing to play a “Zelda” game with such a twist, which, for me, made it really stand out from all the others.
And because of how this game only takes place over the course of three days, one thing I absolutely loved about it was how the characters have their own schedules. I think I’ve mentioned such a thing in the past, but you know how the minor characters in games seem so fake, the way they do and say the exact same thing day after day until you progress to the next section of the game, where they then proceed to spout a new set of dialogue over and over again? Such a thing just has a way of reminding you that this is a game and nothing more. It makes the world feel so much less real. But, since Nintendo only had three days to deal with in this game, many of the minor characters have their own schedules, which makes them feel so much more real. Kafei delivers a letter in the morning on the first day, Anju takes the day off from working at the inn on day two to take a walk in the rain, where she eventually stops in the laundry pool to wait for someone that never comes, and so on. Eventually, you learn their schedules, and even though they repeat over and over whenever you turn back time, it still makes them feel like real people whose lives you are getting to witness over the course of a three-day period, people who are just trying to live their lives even as the moon above looms ever closer.
I think it is these two things that I love most about this game. Sure, the main thing people probably want in a “Zelda” game are puzzles and dungeons, and so do I, but you get that in all the other games, while this game gives you something the others don’t have. I love the three days, and I love how real the minor characters feel, and I also love that this game is dark. Some of the others are, too, of course, but this game is not only dark, but it has heart because you’re not just saving the world again like you do in every other game; you’re saving all the people you’ve gotten to know, whom you have helped through the many sidequests that supplement the game’s lack of dungeons. This game doesn’t have a lot in the way of main characters, but it does have a town full of minor characters that are able to feel so much more real due to the schedules they keep over the three days, that I was motivated more than ever to save these people.
Because I didn’t give a darn about the people in Hyrule Castle Town in “Ocarina of Time”. It was all too clear they were fake. I mean, I know they all are, as these are video games, mere pieces of software we pay money for. But, not only were those people fake, but they felt fake, and therefore, when Ganondorf manages to conquer Hyrule, I didn’t really care. Yet, in “Majora’s Mask”, I couldn’t allow that moon to fall and wipe out all the people I had gotten to know. I couldn’t let Anju die or Romani and her sister. I had gotten to know these people. I had helped them through their troubles. And then the last day nears its end, the ground trembling as haunting music begins to play (I get chills just thinking about it), and I watch how the various people deal with the knowledge that they don’t have much longer to live. I had to save them. I needed to save them. They had no idea that’s what I was doing, that I was on a quest to stop that horrid moon from wiping out the land of Termina I had grown to love just as much as its people, but I was, and I had a personal desire to complete the game so that no harm would have to befall any of the people I had gotten to know.
This game is dark and emotional, and it drew me in unlike any other “Zelda” game before it. I love the whole three day concept, which I believe managed to make this game feel fresh and new compared to all the other “Zelda” games with pretty much the same formula, and I loved how that same concept also created characters that felt so much more real, that I grew to care about even if they were only minor characters, which is not something that happens very often. How often do you care about the minor characters? Not very often, I’m sure, especially when they’re a bunch of random townsfolk. But, this game made me care, and while it lacks in dungeons, the sidequests serve to make this emotional aspect of the game stronger because it allows you to get to know the people you are saving better, which creates so much more of a bond than if they had included more dungeons in place of sidequests and just left the minor characters flat and bare.
It may seem weird, but Termina feels like home to me. I first played this game at a time in my life that was so carefree, in a place where I had spent a good amount of time growing up with some of the best friends I had ever known, and whenever I play this game, it feels like I am there again, and in some way, even if it might be a little strange to say, the places and the people in this game take the place of a home I’ll never see again and friends that I haven’t spoken to in many years. This is a wonderful game in its own right because it is so very different from what “Zelda” fans are used to, but that’s what makes it great, and for me, the memories associated with it only serve to make it better. That is exactly why this is one of my favorite games of all time and why I am not only so pleased it made it into our top 10, that I got to see that others actually love this game like I do, but I am also so happy to have gotten to share my experience with this game with everyone here.