When it comes to the entertainment industry, the idea of recreating an old favorite or even giving it a “fresh coat of paint” is pretty divisive. Some people really enjoy the idea of visiting a classic again that has received a more modern touch while others prefer to let the past be the past. Video games are naturally no exception. An incredible amount of classic titles have received an HD treatment as of late but there is still a growing list of those that people wish were brought into the public eye once again. One highly requested title is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The fervor has always existed but it reached a fever pitch when it was announced that The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker would get the HD treatment (Check out my Remembering the Classics post about that very game!). Though Nintendo has repeatedly denied claims that a Majora’s Mask remake is on the way, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma definitely enjoys stoking the fires of remake desire. It is for this reason why I’ve decided to focus on this classic Zelda title this week and talk about exactly why it absolutely deserves a modern treatment.
Majora’s Mask first came to the Nintendo 64 on April 27, 2000 in Japan and the following October in North America. It is a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and features the same Young Link who grows to become the Hero of Time. If you want to get even more technical, chronologically Majora’s Mask is the beginning of the Child Era timeline where perennial nemesis Ganondorf was executed and Hyrule entered into a land of prosperity. Majora’s Mask is set in the land of Termina, which is similar to Hyrule, and Link’s journey begins when a Skull Kid uses the Majora’s Mask to turn Link into a Deku Shrub. Link is able to find a way to return to normal using his classic ocarina, but before he can the Skull Kid uses the Mask to set the moon on a collision course with Termina. In the course of three days, the moon will crash into the land and decimate every single resident. Using his ocarina to control time and mystical masks that both improve and change his physical attributes, Link awakens four giants that are able to push the moon away.
With its definite dark themes and focus on rapid time travel, Majora’s Mask stands out as being an extremely innovative title. Few games to date have been able to take such a complicated concept and give it such a simple spin. Link only has three days to save the world, but he can redo those three days as many times as he wants. Yes, this means that certain events will have to be redone completely, but each time Link reverses time he has new knowledge that will allow him to succeed in his journey. Thankfully, this doesn’t include the dungeons. Once a dungeon is beaten and link has received the corresponding mask, it’s done for the game. You will need to beat the bosses again though if you want certain events to happen again like poisoned water getting clean. Certain challenges however can only be done at certain times so you need to keep a keen eye on the people who need help, and you’ll occasionally have to get creative to finish tasks. Time control is really that extra element that makes an already incredibly fun game that much better.
Majora’s Mask also has one of the darkest themes in the Zelda franchise to date. Sure, every game has to do with Link combating ultimate evil, but few have him racing against time to beat the apocalypse. Everyone in the game is literally looking at their death in the face. Unfortunately, very few people within the game actually believe the world is ending until the final day. On the first day, everyone is enjoying their lives as normal. On the final day, people are panicking at the realization that the moon is about to obliterate their lives. It doesn’t help that the moon has a really creepy face too. Link gets to experience the near death of the world multiple times as many challenges require the clock to nearly run down to zero. Combined with an outstanding musical score by composers Koji Kondo and Toru Minegishi, the final few moments of Termina are straight up terrifying.
Lastly, the immense focus on mask collection has allowed Majora’s Mask to not just stand out from the franchise but from video games as a whole. Not many games make something as simple as a mask so immensely important after all. As the title obviously states, the events of the game surround a mask of pure evil. To ultimately defeat the Mask and the Skull Kid that dons it, Link needs to obtain a variety of different masks that will help him on his journey. Each mask has its own special benefits too. The bunny hood for example allows Link to move faster while the Don Gero’s Mask allows Link to communicate with frogs. There are four main bosses too and each provide their own masks upon defeat, though Link cannot wear them. They are merely trophies.
The three most important masks in the game are the Deku Mask, Goron Mask, and Zora Mask. Each of these three masks actually contains the dead sprits of a great figure in their respective races, and upon wearing one of these masks Link physically transforms. The Deku Mask turns link to a Deku Shrub which allows him to blow bubbles, glide, and skip on water. The Goron Mask turns Link into the titular Goron which allows him to roll at high speeds, walk on lava, and punch with intense strength. The Zora Mask, as expected, turns Link into a Zora which allows him to swim rapidly, walk under water, and throw his fins like a boomerang. He also rocks a sick guitar made out of fish bones. The ultimate mask is the Fierce Deity’s Mask which can only be obtained at the end of the game and when you have every other mask in your possession. By getting the Fierce Deity Mask, Link turns into the ultimate warrior, making the final battle against Majora a total breeze.
This game will always have a special place in my heart. I remember playing Majora’s Mask as a kid and being drawn to the fact that its gameplay is both extremely similar to Ocarina of Time and also vastly different. By playing Ocarina of Time first, I already knew the story and exactly what to expect with this new adventure. Yet there is so much about Majora’s Mask that makes it such a unique journey. Collecting all of the masks to receive the ultimate ending was an incredibly difficult challenge, one that my brothers and I could only beat with outside help. I enjoyed this game greatly as a child but didn’t really appreciate it for what it was until I played it again in high school. Yes, it was still a challenge at that time too.
There are few games out there that I honestly believe deserve a re-release and Majora’s Mask really is one of them. I’m not talking about putting it on the Virtual Console too. I’m talking about a full on HD recreation like we got with Wind Waker. Okay, perhaps that’s being a bit too hopeful, but the 3D re-release of Ocarina of Time was universally praised and Majora’s Mask definitely needs at least the same treatment. I want to say that with all the teasing and clamoring, Nintendo will eventually release an updated version in the near future, but without any solid confirmation we can only hope. If that fateful day does come though, I know I’ll be ready to fight the moon once again.