Every time a new Zelda game is set to launch, I find myself drawn back to the series, eager to explore what’s changed over the past 27 years, and what has remained the same. Usually this culminates in a month’s worth of revisiting my favorite legends past – A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Link’s Awakening, Wind Waker, and Minish Cap – but every once in awhile, I’ll be motivated enough to go back and fill in some of the embarrassing gaps in my Legend of Zelda knowledge. This year, I finally completed The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, a game that manages to be excellent from beginning to end despite being the weakest of all the portable Zeldas. It’s a milestone I’m glad to have crossed, but I didn’t find it as cathartic an experience as when I finally completed Majora’s Mask for the first time. I guess it came along at the right time in my life.
I wrote about that experience a few years ago, back when Invisible Gamer was barely a thing and I hadn’t earned the 3 dedicated readers I have now. Give it a read below, and see what’s special to me about Majora’s Mask. And maybe in the comments below, tell us what some of your favorite Zelda games are, and why?
The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask turned 10 this year, and to celebrate, I promised myself I’d finally complete it.
What’s that? No, you read right. Despite being one of the biggest Nintendo fans you’re likely to ever meet, I’d never actually made it through Eiji Aonuma’s directorial debut. That is, until tonight.
10 years ago, my world was a vastly different place. My mom was still alive. I hadn’t been married, or divorced. 9/11 hadn’t happened. And I was still in high school, and working my first full time job…at Funcoland. Despite the fact that high school was quickly coming to an end and I was supposed to be making major decisions about “my future,” I was far more concerned with showing my friends that I didn’t need the upcoming Playstation 2 to stay in the game. That my N64 still had plenty of life in its 4 year-old carcass, thank you. Conveniently, the day the PS2 was unleashed on North America – October 26th – it was accompanied by one of the worst selections of launch titles to ever disgrace a game console; Nintendo dropped Majora’s Mask the same day and made my argument pretty easy to support. Majora required 8 megabytes of RAM, for chrissakes, how could it not be amazing?
As it turned out, I’d actually been playing the game for a couple of weeks before it shipped. Thanks to a Nintendo rep who took his job way more seriously than any of us did, Funco had a demo cartridge at the beginning of October, for customers to try before commiting to a pre-order. Unbeknownst to those customers, however, was the lie implicit in the cartridge’s “not for resale” label: this was not a demo, but the full game, and I’d been taking it home every night, working my way as far as Snowhead before my own copy arrived and I had to start over from scratch.
Majora’s Mask, despite its premise of a world-ending calamity in the form of “THE MOON IS FALLING!”, tells an incredibly nuanced tale about knowing who your real friends are, and it’s absolutely brimming with sidequests directly related to fulfilling this conceit. Forget dungeons: they’re present, of course, but the real meat-and-potatoes of Majora’s Mask is these sidequests. Unlike its predecessor, Ocarina of Time, Aonuma’s game demands real detective work from players hoping to bring order back to the lives of Clock Town’s citizens. Characters have specific, intersecting schedules, and though the world is set to end three days after Link’s arrival, players won’t be able to see the game’s complete ending without addressing everyone. This is only possible because the game plays out like an extended version of Groundhog Day, with Link’s magical ocarina giving him the ability to reset the “doomsday clock” at any time.
I’m not entirely certain why I stopped playing Majora’s Mask shortly after I received my own copy, but It’s likely these sidequests, and my absolutely loathing the idea of not “saving” everyone, that ultimately caused me to put the game on hold for 10 years. But I’ve finally come back to it. I’ve filled out every slot in my Bomber’s Notebook, collected every mask, and stopped the moon from falling. I’ve finished Majora’s Mask! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how to feel about finally getting to check this off my list, but I do find the circumstances under which I’ve completed the game highly appropriate. Majora’s Mask is awash in nostalgia for a bygone era – one of simplicity, of nuclear relationships, of knowing exactly who you are and where you fit in the world – that has quietly been subsumed by anonymity. The last time I played the game, I knew myself and everyone I interacted with. Today, with the ubiquity of the Internet, we’re all hiding behind Majora’s Mask, hoping that maybe, if we do something big enough, someone will notice us.