Thoughts on Majora’s Mask (after all these years)

“Whether a parting be forever or merely a short time…that is up to you”

These are the words given to you by the Happy Mask Salesman upon leaving Link and setting out across Termina Field. His words seemed applicable as The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask had taken me about a decade to finish and I had set out to play through the game a second time.

Getting my copy of Majora’s Mask in the mail is one of my fondest childhood memories. I was able to persuade my mom into ordering a special bundle from nintendo.com( online ordering was still a novelty in 2000, living in the middle of nowhere) that came with the gold cartridge collector’s edition of the game, the soundtrack cd, player’s guide, and a year subscription to Nintendo Power. I hadn’t really played many Zelda games until Ocarina of Time came out on the N64(and is still my favorite Zelda game…not a real original opinion), so I was excited to play the follow-up which for a considerable amount of time was listed as Zelda: Gaiden in Nintendo Power. I remember playing Majora’s Mask and really enjoying the world and the storyline, but for reasons I don’t remember to this day I kinda just stopped playing about 2/3 of the way through. I picked up the game a several times over the next few years with the intention of completing it, but never did. I read several gaming magazines saying it was EVEN BETTER than Ocarina of Time which I couldn’t comprehend at the time, I just wasn’t in love with the seemingly tedious item and mask quests that relied on a specific day and time to be completed and had a difficult time finishing the game. It was about nine years later by the time I finally finished it. I gained a better appreciation of the game once I made my way through the Ikana Graveyard and Canyon on my way to the Stone Tower and eventually the moon itself. Over time, developing a deeper admiration for the game that a very large portion of the audience did not or could not love as much as its predecessor – Ocarina of Time.

I eventually got the re-release of Majora’s Mask for the 3DS a while ago and made a conscious effort to play through the game within the same week to see what my feelings of the game would be after 19 years…

In the 3DS version of the game there are changes from the N64. There are a lot of minor location changes such as Heart Pieces and Stray Fairies within the main 4 dungeons. Several of the masks are located in different locations. The Giant’s Mask for example, is not acquired until mid-way through the Stone Tower boss battle with TwinMold whereas it’s located in a large chest before you enter the boss room. This made it tricky when I would pull out my weathered Nintendo Power Official Player’s Guide for the game and the items simply weren’t there.

Traveling back and forth throughout the 3 days before the moon crashes into Clock Town and destroys everything in a central mechanic to the game, and the 3DS version has streamlined this a bit. In the N64 version, if I wanted to be somewhere at 10pm for example, I would play the Song of Double Time and warp to either the dawn or night of a given day. You would warp to 6pm(nighttime) and have to wait around until the clock hits 10pm. In the 3DS version however, you can travel by 1 hour increments so you can warp directly to 10pm without having to stand around waiting. This isn’t an enormous, game-changing thing, but it does save a lot of annoyance at the fact you’re sitting waiting for something to happen.

I really liked the fact they moved the location of the Clock Town Bank in the 3DS version to right behind the clock tower and owl statue, which serves as your fast travel points throughout the game. There are countless times where you will pull out your ocarina, Deku pipes, Goron drums, or Zora guitar(coolest instrument in ANY Zelda game, IMO) and play the Song of Soaring to fast travel to Clock Town solely to deposit all of your rupees in the bank as your item inventory will reset once you play the Song of Time and return to the dawn of the first day. Again, this isn’t something that warrants the long explanation but it’s one less inconvenience that I had a hard time liking about the game back in 2000.

My favorite battle is still Goht – the Snowhead Temple Boss

The boss battles are still one of the most memorable parts of Majora’s Mask. The battle with Goht in Snowhead Temple taking place within a circular “track” where you must derail him with your spikes while rolling with your Goron Mask on, seems akin to chariots slamming into each other while racing in the Roman Colosseum. Your fight with TwinMold at the end of the twisting upside-down and then right side up Stone Tower was also memorable. The boss battle that turns into a giant(PUN!) wrestling match once you acquire and wear the appropriately named Giant Mask. In which Link, grabs the stunned TwinMold by the tail and swings it around like Mario fighting Bowser in Mario 64.

The music in the game is still probably my favorite from any Zelda game; from the intro – a sunny, baroque madrigal-esque passage before taking an ominous and foreboding turn, to the Astral Observatory theme – an absolutely enchanting and sublime melody which still brings out all sorts of warm, fuzzy nostalgic feelings after all these years. ( I have included a link below to listen)

There is always the sense of catastrophe hanging overhead…

In summary(finally), my admiration and respect for Majora’s Mask has grown deeper and more affectionate over the years with a better understanding of the game’s darker, more mature themes. It is equal parts beautiful and tragic, showing parallels between the story and our own lives. We go through our lives in a frantic state simply trying to accomplish our goals and ambitions because there is the constant feeling of impending doom, along with helplessness and loneliness; the sense of not having enough time for everything. I am beyond satisfied to have re-experienced this game. Majora’s Mask is a dark masterpiece that I did not or simply could not understand at the time.



Dreams of the Wind Fish – My First Playthrough of Link’s Awakening

To the finder…
The Isle of Koholint is but an illusion…
Human, monster, sea, sky…
A scene on the lid of a sleeper’s eye…
Awake the dreamer, and Koholint will vanish
much like a bubble on a needle…
Cast-away, you should know the truth!

These cryptic words are etched into a wall in the back of the Southern Face Shrine. Link our shipwrecked hero finds them after gaining access to the Face Shrine – one of the latter dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

I will begin by stating my quest was to play through Link’s Awakening for the very first time, which I completed very recently. I sheepishly admit I had never actually played the game even though it had been on my list for quite some time. I am even more ashamed to admit I have only completed a handful of the 16 Legend of Zelda games as I begin far more games than I fully complete(I counted the Oracle games as 1, and am not counting the Phillips CD-i games at all…). I decided to set my sights on Link’s Awakening as I knew very little about this particular Zelda game and also the fact it was recently announced from Nintendo that a remastered version for the Switch will be released in the near future, so it seemed a good place to start. There is also the fact that I have been playing more original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games that I had missed out on. I had played Tetris and few other games on a friend’s Game Boy, but didn’t get a Game Boy Color of my own until after Poke-mania had swept across the country and I begged my parents for one.

I played through the original version on my Game Boy Color, though many prefer the colorized DX version that was released later. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

Link’s Awakening was originally released for the Game Boy in August 1993 and Link’s Awakening DX was released for the Game Boy Color in December 1998. I played through the original version as I haven’t come across many copies of the DX version on the past. The differences in the two versions are minor, the DX version has an extra dungeon – the Color Dungeon which incorporates the fact that it’s….in color as well as the picture mode in the game which you could then use the Game Boy Printer to print out copies of the in game pictures.

The game takes place after the events in A Link to the Past and the opening of the game shows Link sailing over the ocean on a mission to recruit others in the fight against evil but is caught in a fierce storm and ends up shipwrecked on the beach of the strange island of Koholint. Link then comes across a mysterious owl( A different one – Kaepora Gaebora isn’t introduced until Ocarina of Time)who informs him that the island is being terrorized by nightmare creatures and tasks Link with waking the mythical spirit – The Wind Fish who sleeps in a giant egg atop Mt. Tamaranch. The owl tells Link to find the 8 Instruments of the Sirens found in dungeons throughout the island which will wake the Wind Fish and dispel the nightmares from the island. It is in the latter stages of the game you read the above verse and discover that the island itself along with its inhabitants are merely a dream manifested from the Wind Fish’s slumber.

I was impressed with how well the controls worked, given the limitations of the Game Boy(s) having only a D-pad, A, B, Start, and Select buttons. You have an inventory item assigned to each button which can seemingly make for a lot of pressing the Start button to pause the game and assign different items. This can mean switching items over your 2 buttons every few screens. You can have your sword equipped with A and your shield with the B button and go up a screen or two and then will need to press Start to assign bombs or your bow to a different button. There are also items that you can use by pressing A and B simultaneously like the Pegasus Boots and Roc’s Feather which allows you to dash jump over greater distances or if you have your bow and bombs equipped to A and B you can press both at the same time to shoot bomb arrows which I found interesting. The saving mechanic for the game(in the original GB version at least) is….interesting however. You need to press the A and B buttons along with Select and Start at the same time with will prompt you to save and quit the game, this proved the be a minor inconvenience though.

Walking Madame MeowMeow’s “dog” BowWow. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The items are all the typical items we’ve come to expect to see in a Legend of Zelda game. You find your sword and shield and then will eventually acquire more items like the hookshot and bombs, as well as the wonderfully overpowered boomerang. The game has the distinction of having absolutely no mention of Princess Zelda(other than titular) or image of a Tri-Force. Another anomaly is multiple crossover characters from other Nintendo franchises are present on Koholint Island. There are goombas and bloopers along with a small round enemy that tries to inhale you known as an Anti-Kirby. You come across a Yoshi doll in a multiple item trading sequence through the game, during one of these trades you bring a letter from the character Christine the Goat who is an actual goat to her pen pal Mr Write who then proceeds to show you the enclosed picture of his pen pal which has an image of Princess Peach. My personal favorite though, is the island denizen Madame MeowMeow who asks you to walk her “dog” – a giant chain-chomp named BowWow.

The dungeons I found interesting; each getting less linear and more complex in design as the game progresses, with some having multiple levels to navigate. From the first dungeon, the straight forward Tail Cave to the labryinthian Turtle Rock. Each dungeon has a Nightmare Boss defending one of the 8 Instruments of the Sirens, along with a mini-boss(sometimes two). The final dungeon Turtle Rock was one of the highlights of the game for me. A dungeon of 4 floors culminating with a battle against the Evil Eagle on top of the mountain. After collecting all 8 instruments you play “Ballad of the Wind Fish” on your ocarina(another game mechanic that is further expanded in Ocarina of Time) to break open the giant egg and stumble down into the maze below. You then battle the Shadow Nightmare which takes the shape or shadow, rather of some familiar foes including Moldorm, Agahnim, and Ganon before transforming into the cycloptic creature Dethl, who you must slay in order to wake the Wind Fish.

The boss battle with Evil Eagle at the top of Turtle Rock dungeon was my favorite. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The game design I found was interesting and really enjoyed the general “strangeness” of this particular Zelda game. This has a more lighthearted, whimsical tone to it, whereas other later entries have a decidedly darker feel. There is however, still a lingering feel of something sinister lurking within the island. Game Director Takashi Tezuka has stated his intent was to create something akin to the tv show Twin Peaks. You are washed ashore on an island with very odd, quirky inhabitants and full of monsters which you are throughout the game questioning what is actually real, if anything at all. The Owl admits during your quest that even he himself didn’t believe you are real at first. After you recover the 8 instruments, you discover the Owl is actually the spirit of the Wind Fish guiding you along. I do very highly recommend this game as it was a great experience. I am now planning on playing through the Oracle game(s) on the Game Boy Color next. I am truly glad I was able to experience this entry into the Legend of Zelda timeline and this makes me EVEN MORE excited to play the remake on the Nintendo Switch…whenever that is.