Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64)

In celebration of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s release we’ll be sharing a few Zelda stories over the next two weeks from ourselves here at AWttP and guest contributors. Today’s story comes from a friend of ours here at AWttP – Ian (a quite different Ian from last week!), as he shares with us how Majora’s Mask left him enthralled and bewildered as his birthday wish left his fate uncertain…

Ian likes to look at games in a more academic, sometimes abstract way.  He graduated with his Masters in Art History in 2013 where he specialized in the study of interactive arts and digital media: ultimately video game studies.  He always has an eye for how games as an experience affect the player as that is a very important part of the whole gaming experience for him.  He also has a very endearing and personal relationship with the Legend of Zelda series: his favorite gaming series of all time.  You may as well call him a Deku nut 😉

The year was 2000.

I was a pre-teen about to experience my 13th birthday that November.

I just started my 7th grade year in Middle School in the Fall of 2000.

I was a gamer and had been all my life, but at this point I was just strictly a Nintendo fanboy as much as I ever could be. I had a Nintendo Power subscription, I had a Nintendo 64, a Gameboy Color, and I would sit at the lunch table with my gamer friends during school hours. While eating we’d either pass around the recent issue of Nintendo Power to read or we would discuss the video games we were currently playing. Most of us were playing the same video game so it was always fun to look forward to that time during the day to talk about them.

In this group of friends I had one particular best friend and his name was Ken. We shared the same passion for The Legend of Zelda series and we were both foaming at the mouth on any info that was released about the upcoming sequel to Ocarina of Time which was called The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – a direct sequel to the 1998 masterpiece.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a peculiar title. It is widely regarded as a darker, more obtuse entry in the series akin to Alice’s adventures while in Wonderland. This is extremely apparent at the start of the game – just play it.

Majora’s Mask is set in Termina – an alternate version of Hyrule, where the Skull Kid has stolen Majora’s Mask: a powerful ancient artifact. Under the influence of the Mask, Skull Kid causes Termina’s moon to slowly fall towards the surface of the land, where it will crash & obliterate the world after three days. Link, pitted against a 72 hour clock, must race against it to save Termina and ultimately save himself.

The clock is always ticking.

My desire and yearning for this Zelda game was super intense & my best friend had it preordered. I did not. I did have a gut feeling that my parent’s were going to gift it to me for my birthday since the game launched on October 26th and my birthday is on November 6th. You can see why I had a hunch.

I recall being disappointed that I did not have the game preordered because it was the only way you could get the gold cartridge and I always ALWAYS wanted the gold cartridge of any Zelda game if I could manage it. If you preordered Majora’s Mask…the game cartridge even had a holographic sticker on it which I just had to have, but I remember never pressing my parent’s about it because Ocarina of Time was a bigger deal. In fact I was way more annoying about that game than probably any other game in my life (ok I lied…when Windwaker was approaching release I was up my parent’s asses day in and day out the week of release hoping they’d pick it up for me when it went on sale).

My birthday came around and Ken came over to celebrate and stay the night. That night we had pizza and cake dinner. Afterward we sat around the table with my parents as I opened my gifts. That birthday I received my very own sound receiver and a 5 disc CD player set as well as speakers for it. These were HUGE gifts. But my Mom handed me a peculiar package that was obviously in the shape of an N64 video game box. I tore it open and shouted out with glee that it was a copy of Majora’s Mask and it was the collectors edition. I hugged her and thanked her with such excitement.

After finishing our birthday celebration, Ken and I ran up the stairs to my room and I popped the game in and he watched me play the whole night. This game required the expansion pac to play which was basically an upgrade in ram for the Nintendo 64. It was immediately noticeable what the expansion pac did for the game too: improved textures, bright and colorful hues, & interesting shading. But the first thing I noticed was how cool Link’s flips and aerial jumps were compared to Ocarina of Time :D.

That night I got to the first dungeon before calling it quits. The next morning was election day and my Mom took us out so she could vote, but we also went by Kmart (when those existed at the time) and I managed to grab a copy of the Nintendo Power Official Strategy Guide for Majora’s Mask. I am not really a strategy guide person at all but I knew with 24 masks to collect, 32 heart pieces, and a massive amount of quests to find and do… I knew I needed this guide. And boy if I had it still or even a picture of the guide… you’d see that I wore it out. The cover eventually fell off and the spine broke… that is how much I consulted it.

I completed the game over the course of several weeks – completely mesmerized by the intricacies of Termina, the relationships and cycles the inhabitants of the world partook in and the tiny nods to other games that Majora’s Mask reflected on… one in particular being Link’s Awakening. In addition to the two games thematically dealing with death and the end of existence there is a part in the game where you have to put together a band to perform the Ballad of the Windfish – a well known track from Link’s Awakening. This made me smile as Link’s Awakening is one of my favorite Zelda games ever.

I think my favorite thing about Majora’s Mask is that under a strict development time and the re-use of assets from Ocarina of Time Nintendo managed to create a weird game that is brilliant & quirky in every way. I am also a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda games that stray away from the Triforce Cycle because I feel there is so much lore and material to grapple with that the possibilities are endless. I also loved the OST of the game with Termina Field, Clocktown theme, Song of Healing, & the Oath to Order being some highlights from it.

Over the years Majora’s Mask has remained in my top video game list of all time. This was even more solidified when Nintendo remade it for the Nintendo 3DS which was released in 2014 and it was a beautiful remake. It really capturing the color palette and design that the N64 original just couldn’t create due to hardware limitations.

Majora’s Mask is the Alice in Wonderland of the Zelda series for me. Not many games have managed to create such a condense detailed world brimming with NPCs that felt real. The only one that recently comes to mind is Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. But this is a Zelda post and I will keep it that way. If you haven’t played this game, I highly suggest it. If the time clock is really off putting to you go for the 3DS version…it definitely helps.

You’ve Met with a Terrible Fate, Haven’t You? Reading this piece. I hope not. 😀

See you all in Termina.

PS: I highly recommend Theophany’s Times End album which is a Majora’s Mask tribute album that captures the beauty, sadness & dread that the game makes you feel from time to time. It also has my favorite version of the Great Fairy’s theme ever on the album.

Here, take a listen.

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