An Experience in Fear: A Majora’s Mask Retrospective

(Play me.)

“It’s okay, girl. It’s just fog,” you say to your horse as you try to comfort her, petting her in circling motions. Honestly, how quickly the fog has moved into the woods has you a feeling a little uneasy as well. Whether it’s the chill that’s starting to settle in or the eerie twilight darkness, you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something doesn’t feel right.

You push on through the woods. There’s someone you need to find. You’ve called out many times, but still no answer. Could she really have run this far in the woods? What was she thinking?!

Lost in your thoughts, you don’t notice the small, oddly-dressed child. Spooked, your hose throws you off and nothing makes sense for a minute or two. When you come to, you realize the child has taken some of your things and is riding off with your horse.

…was it wearing a mask? …those eyes…

They seem stuck in your mind.

Your horse! Your stuff! In a fit of desperation, you run after the child only to trip and fall into a hole. You must’ve hit your head, because it felt like you were falling for a long time and had the strangest dream. Something about living plants chasing you. And…

…those eyes…

You pull yourself up and dust yourself off, but you don’t feel quite right. You look down at your hands. Your skin is rough. You gasp. That wasn’t your voice. These aren’t your hands! This isn’t your body! What happened to you?! Before you’re able to think, a strange man starts talking to you. He’s demanding that you get something for him. But you’re not you. He pushes you out a pair of large doors into a bustling town square and all you can think about are…

…those eyes….

There’s just something about The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Without fail, it almost always shows up anywhere fellow geeks talk about spooky stuff. It’s no Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but there is definitely an uneasiness to most of the game.

A (Semi-) Quick Rundown of the Game

From the very beginning, right when you start Majora’s Mask, you’re met with an opening of this heart-shaped visage spinning and whooshing toward and away from the viewer, then a strange man is seen almost worshiping the mask. Okay, that’s odd, but then we’re introduced to Clock Town and it feels safe and comfortable. Even listening to the music, you can see the bustling town square, the inn, people going about their lives… but underneath it all lies something sinister the characters either don’t realize, or don’t want to until it can no longer be ignored. The moon feels very close and stares down the town.

And that’s just the opening! You haven’t even pressed START yet!

When you do start to play the game (hopefully not an unmarked cursed cartridge you got from a crazy old man in a garage sale or), your player-character, Link, has been transformed into a plant personan enemy from the previous game called a “Deku scrub.” Middle school me was floored by this! I felt Link’s confusion and anger! During Ocarina of Time, these guys would spit stuff at us all the time, and if we didn’t pay attention, they’d hurt! These guys were in the Great Deku Tree when their queen drained our guardian of his life! And now we’re one of these guys?! This is body horror! This is a nightmare! How do we get our body back?!

Deku Link

Deku Link

Dawn of the First Day

After a small tutorial that didn’t even feel like a tutorial, Link finds himself inside the Clock Tower where a strange man is waiting for him: the Happy Mask Salesman. He tells Link that Skull Kid has stolen one of his masks and he needs to get it back before he leaves in three days. Link has no other choice but to agree and then the game really starts. Link steps out of the Clock Tower and wonders around town chatting it up with the locals and making friends with the local children who then let him into the observatory.

In the observatory, Link makes friends with the astronomer who lets him look into the telescope. There, he spies Skull Kid standing on top of the Clock Tower, mocking him. Link looks up and HOLY GEEZE WHY IS THE MOON THAT BIG AND CLOSE?!

Big Moon

Dude! Gimme some SPACE!

A tear falls from the moon like a meteorite and shakes the ground. Link goes outside and takes it because…I guess that’s not something an astronomer would care about?

This Moon’s Tear actually starts a trading sequence that is pretty much mandatory at first; the game will not let you progress unless you trade the Tear. Who do you trade it to? Well, to the Business Scrub you met when you first walked out of the Clock Tower. It sounds obscure and absurd, but you were taught in the tutorial to find a large flower and burrow into it so you can get shot out and fly a little bit. So when you first run out of the Clock Tower, you see a large flower and try to burrow into it, only to be stopped by a Business Scrub who says that’s his spot… but might be willing to give it up if you gave him something valuable. …And what’s more valuable than a super rare crystal from the moon? So Link gives him the Moon’s Tear, the Business Scrub gives him the deed to his flower, and Link tests it out. It shoots Link higher than the ones before and, lured by a shiny on a platform on the Clock Tower, Link learns that that is a place he can go.

When the three days have lapsed, the town hosts its turbulent celebration. During this time, a small door on the Clock Tower opens up, which just happens to be right at the platform the Deku Flower can shoot Link at. Convenient! Link knows what to do and shoots himself up to the opened doorway, climbs the small stairway, and comes face-to-face with Skull Kid. Skull Kid mocks Link and summons the moon to crash down upon them. Link has to do something, so in his Deku Scrub body he…spits…at the evil moon-pulling child. It works, somewhat, and Skull Kid drops the Ocarina of Time. Link goes to pick it up and memories of him and Zelda come rushing back (Editor’s Note: This is why MM follows the Child Link branch of the timeline). He plays the Song of Time and is thrown back to the beginning of the three days, just before he stepped out of the Clock Tower. Link finds himself back in the Clock Tower and the strange Happy Mask Salesman freaks out on Link for not getting his mask back, but then realizes that, perhaps, there wasn’t much Link could do trapped in the body he’s in, so he teaches Link the Song of Healing. When Link performs the song, his body returns to normal and his previous body is contained within a mask.

Now in his normal body, Link travels to the outside lands of Termina, visiting four kingdoms set in the south, north, west, and east through swamp, mountain, ocean, and canyon.

In the swamp, Link finds that the Deku Kingdom’s water has been turned to poison, the temple is being inhabited by an evil spirit, and the Deku King is about to sacrifice a monkey for stealing his daughter. And, of course, this is all related. The Deku King’s butler mentions that when Link wears his Deku mask, he reminds him of his son who he hasn’t seen in a while.

In the mountains, Link is lead by a ghost to its final resting place. The Goron Village is buried under ice and snow, and a child mourns the loss of someone dear to him.

Dawn of the Second Day

On the way to the beach Link stops by a Romani Ranch, ran by Cremia and her younger sister Romani. Link learns that their father had passed away a few years and left the ranch to his daughters. Romani is practicing using a bow and arrow because once a year, mysterious beings known only as “They” appear to steal ranch’s cattle. On the third day, when the moon is about to crash and consume the land, Cremia gets her little sister drunk so she won’t be sober when the end comes.

When Link finally arrives at the beach, a dying person is floating in the ocean and being pecked at by seagulls, pirates are stealing unborn children, and there’s a cursed house.

Here, in the canyon of Ikana Valley, is where things get deathly scary. The undead wonder the dry desolate land, tormenting the inhabitants. A little girl shuts herself away in her house to get away from the corpses circling her house. All the while, her dad is inside turning into an undead. Reanimated skeletons command the only graveyard in the game and the nearby kingdom, whose king refuses to die. It is here that Link learns the song Elegy of Emptiness which has a somber, melancholic tone. The song allows Link to create statues of those who have passed and, oddly, himself…

 Dawn of the Third Day

True face

After visiting and freeing the giants trapped in each temple, Link heads back to Clock Town. All the townsfolk have either left before the celebration began or are hiding in fear that they are now witnessing their final hours, resigned to their fate. Even the courageous sword master has lost hope.

The Final Hour

In the final minutes on the final day, Link burrows into the Business Scrub’s flower and shoots himself back up the Clock Tower for one last showdown with Skull Kid. With the moon so close to destroying the world, Link calls for the help of the trapped giants. From the four corners, they come. With their immense strength, they try their best to keep the moon from falling further. Skull Kid screams in pain and drops to the ground. Seconds later, Skull Kid rises off the ground. “A puppet that can no longer be used is mere garbage. This puppet’s role has just ended…” and Skull Kid drops again, the mask it was wearing still hanging in mid-air.

The mask flies up to the moon and moon awakens, roaring “CONSUME! I MUST CONSUME!” and engulfs Link and Skull Kid. And then…silence. Link awakens to find himself in a lush, green pastoral field with one large tree in front of him. With no idea where he is or what has happened, Link heads toward the tree to find four children running around the tree and one sitting at the base, his knees drawn up to his chest, wearing the mask. The children running around wear the masks that the giants wore when they were trapped and will ask Link odd existential questions:

Your friends…what kind of… people are they? I wonder…do those people…think of you…as a friend? You…what makes you…happy? I wonder…what makes you happy? Does it make… others happy, too?” “The right thing… What is it? I wonder… If you do the right thing…does it really make…everybody…happy? Your true face… what kind of…face is it? I wonder…the face under the mask…is that…your true face?


Fierce Deity

If Link trades all his masks to the other children, he will be given the best mask in the game: the Fierce Deity’s Mask.

When Link checks on the sad child, he asks if Link will play with him. Link agrees and the child suggests to play “good guys against bad guys. Are you ready? You’re the bad guy. And when you’re bad, you just run. That’s fine, right? Well…shall we play?” Link is then transported to a strange, trippy room where the giants’ masks attach themselves to the walls and Majora’s Mask comes to life with otherworldly screeching. Long, red tendrils grow from its backside as it floats and attacks. One has to wonder: did these tendrils attach themselves to Skull Kid’s head so he couldn’t take the mask off?

Majora's Mask

The other masks will detach themselves and try to attack as well.

During the second phase, Majora’s Incarnation sees Majora’s Mask sprout spindly arms and legs. Enraptured with its new limbs, it carelessly runs and dances around the room. If Majora’s Incarnation was a person, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine it wearing a straight jacket as it blithered to itself in a high-pitched voice.

Majora's Incarnation

During its third and final incarnation, it becomes Majora’s Wrath. It no longer just looks like someone attached skinny arms and legs to a heart-shaped mask, but something demonic. It becomes muscular, sprouts a head with horns and a third eye in the middle, and its hands become tendrils. Its movements are no longer erratic, but they have meaning behind them: quick and spiteful destruction. Its voice is no longer goofy and high pitched, but like that of a scorned woman.

Majora's wrath

Dawn of a New Day

Once Link defeats Majora’s Mask in all its incarnations, he finds himself outside the walls of Clock Town. The moon does its best post-Thanos-snap impression and turns to dust, blown by the breeze and leaving a rainbow. The townsfolk are cheering and Skull Kid, now wearing its true face, is free from Majora’s curse. The townsfolk return to their homes and giants look down upon him and it is then that we, the players, realize that all this happened because he was afraid of losing his friends.

Welling up with emotions, Skull Kid can do nothing but stand there shaking as the giants return back to their corners to guard the land once more. The strange Happy Mask Salesman has finally received what has been stolen from him and notes that the evil that resided in the mask has been exorcized. “Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. However, that parting need not last forever. Whether a parting be forever, or for a short time, that is up to you.” And with that, the Happy Mask Salesman continues on his travels to sell his masks. Link and Skull Kid part ways, and during the credits we see that joy has returned to Termina and the celebration that half-heartedly began last night is in full bloom today! The Indigo-Go’s are able to play, dancers dance, the ranch is safe, the father and daughter in the canyon are playing outside, and there is the most beautiful of weddings between the innkeeper and her fiance.  And then… and then the Deku Butler finds his lost son. A moment that should be full of celebration is turned to grieving when he notices his son has been turned to nothing more than a twisted chunk of wood. Link continues his search for the friend he lost, surrounded by fog and trees.

I do not believe I could do Majora’s Mask justice. It’s one of those games you have to experience for yourself. There are many side-quests and branching storylines. Do yourself a favor and pick up this game on either the Virtual Console or the remake on the 3DS. A lot of people get hung up on the three-day time mechanic, but it’s really not that difficult when you realize you can reset time and slow it down. At the very least, pick up the manga (Yes, it reads like a traditional manga, right to left).

Justin Jones

Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri; I now live in Nowhere Southern Illinois (aka, the not-Chicago part) with my wife and two teenage dauniesters. My first gaming system was a Super Nintendo and I've been a Nintendo fanboy ever since. If I'm not gaming during my free time, chances are I'm either modding action figures or taking some toy photography.

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