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January 8, 2013

Let's discuss The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Part 2)


>investigating boundary limits

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>launching post 260

Now then.  Shall we resume our little discussion?  Waiting is not something I am particularly fond of -- especially if it keeps me from seeing the panicked faces of my beloved puppets.

You’re not leaving me with much of a choice, are you?  Plus, look where we are: a sprawling black abyss.  Getting out of here is not something I’m ready to even try -- especially if you’re hounding me.

All the more reason to finish the discussion.

That’s true.  So I guess I’d better get to it.

(And while we’re at it, I’ll be waiting for you to expose a weak point.  Once you do, I’ll be sure to take you down once and for all.  I just hope my theory’s right…)

You can’t talk about MM without talking about the three-day period/time loop that it’s built on.  It’ common knowledge that you have 72 in-game hours to do whatever you need to do (get the right song, clear the dungeon) before the seconds tick away, and the moon comes crashing down on Termina.  Before the last moment, you play the Song of Time to jump back to the start of the three-day period, with your key items intact and certain measures of game progress -- the dungeons you’ve cleared, the songs gained -- still in your name.  After clearing a dungeon once, you unlock a warp that’ll immediately take you to the boss room, and restore the order that your sword has won from the clutches of chaos.


But therein lays the problem.  As the player -- and as the hero -- you remember everything you’ve done up to that point.  No one else does.  Even if you save their ranch, Cremia and Romani will never remember your exploits from one cycle to the next.  Even if you help Gorman reconnect with his sensitive side, when you see him again after playing the Song of Time he’s back to his curmudgeonly ways.  Even if you end the eternal winter that plagues the Gorons’ homeland, all it takes is one reset to put them back into an extinction-level event. 

In spite of your best efforts, there’s an unmistakable level of futility to your actions.  It’s made clear as soon as you walk outside Clock Town’s gates and into Termina Field.  The first enemy you’ll likely encounter with that spiffy Hero’s Sword of yours in tow is a ChuChu.  It’s one of the most basic enemies in the game -- all it can do is bounce around, it only takes one slash to kill it, and it always dispenses an item that’ll fill your hearts or MP right up.  But barely ten seconds after you kill it, the ChuChu comes back to life, and bounces toward you again.  If you want, you can kill it.  But it’ll just come right back.  You can kill it again if you want, but it’ll be back within seconds.  There’s no point in killing it, because no matter how hard you try it’ll always return.  It’ll always be there, ready to cause trouble for you.  Or, from an in-game perspective, it’ll always be there to make trouble for any Termina civilians.  Link can’t stop it -- he can only offer a temporary solution.


And that’s this game for all but its final minutes -- everything Link does is just a temporary solution.  Theoretically, after getting all the necessary items you can go into every dungeon and beat down the four main bosses, but what’s the point?  By then you’ll have earned the right to challenge the main villain, and you’re not really doing much good in the long run until your ultimate mission is complete.  In some ways, you’re better off ignoring everything and everyone for the sake of taking down the cursed mask.  Things are a lot easier that way, right?  And besides, that’s the best thing you can do as the Hero -- tackle the big problem at the source, instead of slapping Band-Aids on all the little ones.  Not exactly a sympathetic route, but a practical one all the same.

Except the game does everything in its power to put people who need your help in your path.  Even if you somehow manage to ignore all the townsfolk of Clock Town, you’re still obligated to help a family of monkeys, a royal family of Deku Scrubs, the entire Goron population (specifically an elder and his crying child), a band of Zoras, one of which has just given birth (meaning that you’re saving an additional seven newborns), a father and daughter surrounded by evil spirits, and at least a half-dozen ghosts of a forgotten age seeking rest and peace.  Refusing to help them means refusing to see the ending credits.  Help them out, and you get a temporary fix…and then it’s back to zero when the “Dawn of the First Day” flashes across the screen.

Link’s efforts aren’t being undermined by an evil force.  He’s just going up against nature, and the way of the world.  All his efforts, all his kindness, all his gained bonds and all the smiles he sees along his journey are erased, again and again and again.  The question, then, becomes “What’s the point”?  From a gameplay perspective, clearing the same boss over and over just to get a slight change to the world is the definition of tediousness.  You’ve got more of an incentive to ignore everything and complete the bare-bones requirement of the game rather than explore what it has to offer.  At least, that would be the case if not for…


It’s a remarkably devious system.  If there’s one thing that motivates gamers to see everything a product has to offer (or shell out more money, if DLC is anything to go by), it’s incentives.  The masks are a way to slyly suggest that gamers get in deep with Termina -- it’s the classic “do good things, get a reward” mentality that’s been engraved by hundreds of titles.  With an entire section of the menu devoted to masks, and a special spot reserved for some unknown, likely-supreme item, there’s more than enough reason to explore what the game has to offer.  And in doing so, the player ends up getting roped in.  What was originally a quest to become the owner of the full set of items has you becoming Link in a way you never would have expected.  You’re not just in it for the masks.  You’re listening to these people.  Hearing their stories.  Lending a hand.  Offering your services in simple yet meaningful ways.  What may have started as a business affair becomes a chance to form a personal bond with characters -- characters with names, schedules, and of course their own minor stories to tell.  As the Hero, you’re obligated to help them.

And that’s when the trap gets sprung.  Because even if you get the requisite mask (and keep it), their problems don’t vanish instantly.  They’ll face them again, and again, and again.  They’re beyond help, and beyond the reach of a Hero.  Unless you can break the cycle, they’re doomed to suffer eternally.  Unfulfilled dreams.  Secrets that die with them.  Love that fails to transcend adversity.  Families broken.  Memories buried.  Justice left undone.  Hope stolen away.

It’s worth noting the reaction of the different races as doomsday draws near.  The Deku Scrubs become highly-insular, highly-self-serving creatures of habit who always believe they’re in the right.  The Gorons are completely helpless in the wake of disaster, and are content with standing around and freezing to death (or just being annoyed to no end by a crying child) in spite of being the most mobile and potentially-nomadic race in all of Termina.  The Zoras pretend like nothing’s wrong, and focus almost-single-mindedly on a concert that’s almost certain to never happen -- or perhaps they know the end is near, and just want to make their last moments their finest, in spite of Link’s intervention being the only effort put towards that goal.  The dead of Ikana roam the land and terrorize whoever appears there, save for their long-dead and peace-seeking masters.  The humans, for the most part, react the most naturally: fleeing for their lives and hoping their meager shelters will protect them from the falling moon.  But even so, it’s very likely that apocalypse or not, suffering is part and parcel of the last three days of every living being’s life in Termina -- no matter how they choose to spend them.


If you don’t take action, they will suffer.  But even if you do -- even if you lend a hand and give them the boost they need -- suffering is the only option left to them.  Suffering, and the embrace of despair.

Such a shame…if only you mortals would give yourselves to chaos.  If you were to become like me, then you would so easily escape the suffering you so detest.  But perhaps you feeble beings are unable to overcome your binds.  Perhaps falling prey to your despair is the only facet of your nature that matters, when all is said and done.     

For something that’s never really understood humanity, you sure act like you know its foibles in and out.  Just where do you get off?

Have you forgotten so quickly?  I am the one that brought about that chaos and despair.  I did it as tribute -- as a means to bring as many potential playmates to my side as I could. 

What do you mean?

In the end, my tastes, and my desires, are simple enough.  I want people to come to me.  To play with me, and provide me with the entertainment that I so desire.  If that means I have to sever the cords that bind my puppets to such mundane lives, then so be it.  I would gladly spread discord for even a miniscule chance at some fun.  Surely you, as a “gamer”, can understand my mentality?

I’m no stranger to the “villain causing chaos just for fun” bit.  But I would’ve figured that you were just a creation by a bunch of Japanese game developers -- and better yet, a boss beaten by plenty of gamers across the globe.  Are you telling me that Termina and all the Zelda games are real, and you’re trying to cross over into the real world?


Hardly.  It is as you said: I am the creation of a certain group of people.  Their ideas, their intent, their insanity…all of it has coalesced, and allowed me to come into being as they envisioned.  I am here by the hand of a certain group willing me into existence, with all the necessary knowledge and memories engraved into my being as thoroughly as my will.

(So this Majora’s Mask is the result of people’s mental energy coming together…but who brought it here?  Who would help give a monster like this life and free reign?

Guess I can’t worry about that now.  I have to find a way to stop it here -- because if I don’t, we’re all in for a rough three days.)

So, bottom line: your plan is to wreak havoc and turn the human race into puppets -- toys you can play with for your amusement alone?

I do more than just entertain myself.  I do it to free them -- to let them embrace the state they so naturally occupy. 

All right, I’ll bite.  What are you getting at this time?

Exactly how much do you understand the nature of a hero?  As a gamer, you have likely played the role of savior many times.  But do you understand all the nuances?  The essence, the reasoning, the failures, everything? 

Not being a hero in my own right, I can’t say that I do.  But I’ve dipped my hand in a lot of fiction, so if nothing else I have ideals and standards to go by.


Ideals and standards…how cute.  Have you ever given thought as to the dark side of a hero?  What lies beneath that noble veneer they so commonly put forth?  I have -- for I have seen what lies beneath in the nude.  I know the corruption that hides within the heart of a hero…an unmistakable darkness, and a maelstrom of chaos that rivals anything I could ever hope to produce.  

That’s right.  You know Link pretty well.  You faced off with him, but you rose again and came here.  And…let me guess.  This is the part where you reveal his true nature?

Do you think you could fare better than the one who saw the heart of the Hero?

I guess not.

Then allow me to indulge you.  I know the Hero rather intimately, as a result of our skirmishes.  I could see clearly into his heart, and the depths therein.  I knew his despair -- his desperate search for a lost friend is what drove him to his limits.  To say that he remained immune to the pain and suffering of others would be a fallacy -- for he very nearly plunged into absolute despair.

Alas, he soldiered on.  He could see no other alternative; his past adventures across two tumultuous epochs gave him the courage, the wisdom, and the power needed to believe in himself.  He had gained so much -- and as a result, he became corrupted.

What is a hero without some ability, some superhuman force that sets him above the average man?  Nothing more than the damsel a hero is obligated to save.  And it is precisely that fact that gave the Hero his reason for being; his power became a part of him, a reason as to why he could act on behalf of the innocent.  His trials against the King of Evil codified his existence; to save the people of Termina meant saving his very being from a life of mediocrity.  He had everything he wanted and needed…or so it seemed.

And that is exactly why I saw fit to steal away his power -- to condemn him to life as a mere Deku Scrub.  I would drive him to despair by way of sealing such an essential part of himself…but there would be a more entertaining effect to follow.


“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”  You made him realize that he needed power, however he could get it.  And as a result, you made him focus more on his power than he ever would have in Hyrule. 

I wish I could try and deny it, but I can’t. 

The entire point of the game -- of any game, arguably, Zelda or otherwise -- is to gather enough power to take down whatever enemy comes Link’s way.  Gaining new tools, gaining new moves, gaining new magic, gaining ancient artifacts that may contain incredible amounts of evil power…it’s all a means to increase Link’s abilities.  He’s doing it because he’s the Hero, but somewhere along the line he has to be doing it for himself. 

In his default form, Link’s just a kid -- but after the events of OoT, he knows what it’s like to be an adult -- an adult, a warrior, a savior, the chosen one, all that and more.  The problem is that he got a taste of that, and can’t divorce himself from what he was.  He needs more of it.  He needs to be more than just a kid again; if clearing dungeons and helping others is all just a means to become more than just a boy, then he’ll gladly do it.  He’ll embrace with open arms whatever new source of strength he can find.

And you knew it all along.  It was all a part of your plan -- you wanted him to become corrupted, and be your ultimate playmate.  And you gave him just the tool he needed, at the very end of his journey:


Ah, yes...the Fierce Deity’s Mask.  Precisely the counterpart I had always wanted, strapped so securely to the puppet I always wanted.  Are you familiar with its strength?  Its ability to command you, compel you to seek it out and use it as you see fit? 

I can’t say I know how it feels to wear it, but I’ve dealt with it before in the past.  I remember playing my brother’s file just to give it a spin -- and we gave the glitch that let you play as the Fierce Deity a shot as soon as we found out it existed.  Of course, doing so meant that you couldn’t use the ocarina, meaning that you couldn’t go back to the first day -- and as a result…

Everything laid to waste -- all for a brief taste of power.

But then again, that is to be expected of you mortals -- and precisely why I can always count on you to entertain me.  If you are as bonded to the Hero as you say, then you must know that my fun extends beyond virtual dimensions.  To corrupt the Hero is to corrupt the player; his lust for power consumes him, corroding the ethics and virtues he holds dear.  In the face of a world that cannot be saved, and people forever doomed to suffer through their soon-to-end daily lives, the futility is made apparent.  All that matters is gathering the items that will bolster your strength.  With each cleared event comes a reward.  Rewards breed strength.  Strength breeds enjoyment.  And in the end, I know that I will always have a partner to play with.

I will never be alone.  Because everyone in this world -- real or unreal -- is just like me. 

Everything humanity holds dear as a testament to order -- ethics, virtue, ideals -- is nothing more than an illusion.  A justification to help separate the men from the beasts…or more appropriately, the just from the wicked.  But society itself is built upon the same tenets that I embody.  Chaos.  Control.  And most of all, fun.  All that we do is for our own benefit, our own propulsion into higher states of being and elation; acts of altruism are merely acts made for the sake of reciprocal gain, or to avoid the backlash of those that would decry you for inaction.  In the end, man is nothing more than a self-justifying devil. 


But you gamers -- those who play freely in fictional worlds -- have a better grasp of reality than any other being.  You know that you exist to benefit yourselves, and are regularly given playgrounds to do so.  But step outside your virtual worlds and what do you receive?  What do you comprehend, day after day?  A world built on one gaining all he can for himself.  Fame.  Fortune.  Furnishings.  Food.  Feelings.  Fun.  That is all there is to life.  That is all there is to the nature of man.

That is why I exist.  Not only to obtain all that I desire, but to prove the truth that unites us all.  Heroes are nothing more than a fantasy.   

Heroes, a fantasy…?

Precisely.  You will never find a hero beyond the confines of a story -- because in the end, that is the only place they can roam.  They can never, ever exist. 

There is no maybe.  What I have spoken is the truth -- a truth as evident as I.  As an embodiment of chaos, I know the truth…I know it, because I have seen the flaws apparent in reality.  And I am the one best suited to reveal them, as a result of my own unerring power. 

I am chaos itself.  I am perfect.

…Now you’ve gone too far.


I’ll gladly let you go on and on about the nature of humanity like any villain would -- but if you’re going to make a case for yourself, you’d better make a good one.  Don’t go spouting philosophy lessons when you’re doing so with some massive contradictions.  And you sure as hell better not throw out any bogus phrases like “I’m perfect” or “I’m chaos.”  If you do, you’re just setting yourself up for a big fall.

So, you think you can stop me, merely by taking note of these contradictions?

Yeah, I think I can.  Because if my guess is correct, the key to taking you down -- at least with my zero-combat toolset -- isn’t going to be a one-on-one fight.  If thought energy is what’s making all this possible, then it’ll be by my thought energy -- and yours, too -- that’ll get you out of my hair once and for all.

Is that right?  Well then, if you think that I am something that can be stopped, then by all means try.  I welcome your foolish bid at heroism.

All right then.  Time to give it a go.

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9 comments:

  1. I always took the Fierce Deity Mask as the embodiment of the moon that Majora had sealed up in order to take control of the falling rock. But that's just my theory.


    But anyways, the theme of futility is what I always liked about Majora's Mask. Nothing you do really matters except for stopping the moon from falling. Can you really consider yourself a hero if you're the only one who actually benefits from your actions in the end? You get the masks for helping them and they get better, but when time resets they're back to their woeful states and you still have the masks, so why bother helping them out again?


    Interesting read, although you kinda got carried away there at the end (which if that's what you were going for, speaking as Majora, then congrats).

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  2. That Random Game BloggerJanuary 9, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Personally this has always been my favourite game in the series, in many ways it took more risks then any other Legend of Zelda games and its dark depressing theme is a radical shift from the games

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  3. In light of Skyward Sword, I can't help but wonder if ALL the Zelda games have dark, depressing themes, and plenty of gamers (myself included) just missed it because of we were on a grand ol' adventure. It's enough to make me want to replay all the games I can, just to analyze them and make sure.

    But yes, you're right. Even if the other Zelda games are dark, this one is overtly dark. The pressure, the despair, and the outright horror are all more in-your-face than any other Zelda game (to generalize); Majora's Mask asked a lot of its players, but those who played it were justly rewarded.



    Though to be honest, I can't say for sure if it's my new favorite in the series, let alone my new favorite game. Not until I go through Wind Waker, at least...

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  4. Well, what is a villain without an evil, maniacal rant about the nature of man and the world? You could call it a weakness, I suppose -- and one that may be more than exploitable. *wink wink nudge nudge sparkle sparkle*


    Actually, I have my own theory about what Majora's Mask -- and to a lesser extent the Happy Mask Salesman -- may be, but I'll hold off until Part 3. What I can say is that some praise has to go to Nintendo for leaving so many blanks; an unclear villain invites interpretation, and can extend and deepen our connection with a game. Though I'm guessing the guys at the Big N have some sort of design document that outlines all its villains in full...up to and including the villain for the next game.


    ...


    ...I wonder if I could ever launch a successful sneaking mission into Nintendo HQ. It'd certainly give me a reason to try some Solid Snake cosplay.

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  5. This game has been coming up a lot recently on the Internet. I always thought that no one liked this game, but recently, I keep seeing so many people either praise it or hate the shit out of it. I wonder why, now, this game is a hot topic.

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  6. Probably because of the whole December 21st "end of the world" deal. Honestly, I was trying to get my post on the game out for that date, but it didn't pan out (hence why I split into three parts).



    There could be other causes, though. There's a video on YouTube somewhere of a Majora's Mask HD remake with updated graphics -- not legitimate, I'm guessing, but more than enough to get people talking about the original game again. And with Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 on the way -- and apparently borrowing gameplay elements from Majora's Mask -- that's just another way to bring up the old Zelda game.


    Or maybe the moon really is about to crash into the Earth. I don't know; I should probably start keeping up with the news.

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  7. ...yeah, good luck with that whole break-in thing. Solid Snake getup or not, that would be one hell of a mission to pull off.

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  8. Then my course of action is clear. I'll just have to fine-tune my conversation ability until my power of suggestion and negotiation borders on the hypnotic. I'd assume it's the most peaceful way to resolve a struggle, if nothing else.

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