3, 2, 1, killshot! Let's discuss One Punch Man!


January 22, 2013

Let’s discuss The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Part 3)


>investigating boundary limits

>scanning for data

>recording found

>uploading

>launching post 269


(All right.  Time for me to bring this discussion to an end.)

There’s no denying that Termina’s in a shoddy state when Link visits -- and arguably before that.  The name of the land is one letter off from “terminal”, so you can expect some problems Link’s sword skills can’t hope to fix.  The most obvious is the undercurrent of racism; as a Scrub, Link finds himself mistreated more often than any other race.  The toddler vigilantes, the Bombers, want the Scrub to prove himself -- and even then they’re more than a little annoyed by his very presence.  The guards at the gates won’t let him pass, but they’ll gladly let human link go by…this, in spite of being the same age, with the only difference besides race being that he has a visible sword.  The dog in South Clock Town will try to tear the Scrub apart every chance he gets.  It’s no wonder, then, that the Scrubs -- outside of those looking to make it big with their real estate and small businesses -- are isolationist, and just as likely to reject the other species.  The castle guards will immediately reject human link, but Scrub Link is allowed inside without escort in spite of being a complete stranger.  The only other time race becomes a problem is when only a specific form can handle specific tasks; for example, there’s a Goron in Clock Town who will only sell Powder Kegs to Goron Link due to safety reasons. 

It says a lot about a world when it’s not only troubled before you even set foot in it, but troubled in spite of your antics.  Things have gone down long before Link was even born -- race relations that likely won’t be ironed out for decades.  The blood-soaked history of Ikana, driving all but a thief and a father and daughter to live in the eastern canyon.  The exact identity of the Zora septuplets’ father -- implied to be Mikau, but I like to think that it’s possible one of the other band mates might have done the deed, and Lulu isn’t sure who’s responsible.  Link can only reset time to the point where he first arrived, and not a second before.  By that logic, there’s only so much that he can do.  He’ll enter Termina, lend a hand, and then exit silently before anyone knows he was there.

Except people do know he was there.  Or at the very least, one person: the player.


A means to validate wasted time, and nothing more. 

I’m not done yet.  There’s a big gap in logic that you’re leaping over.  It’s like I said earlier: not every gamer is the altruistic sort.  Or maybe they are, but they don’t have the time or patience needed to scour the earth for every item, or do every good deed imaginable for a reward.  So maybe they won’t.

More proof on the true nature of humankind. 

Not quite.  See, a funny thing happened while I was playing the game.  When I started, I told myself that I wasn’t going to get all the masks; I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it -- not quickly, at least -- without a walkthrough, and in the interest of wrapping up the game and making a post as quickly as possible I figured I could let it slide.  I’d already seen the endgame once before, and the rewards, and the masks.  No need to get them again.

Except halfway through, I DID have a need to get them again.  I wanted to see the stories of these people.  I wanted to see their reactions.  I wanted to see their joy, their relief, their release.  Realistically, the masks aren’t all that important or even useful save for a handful.  The most you can do with a huge number of them is get some Pieces of Heart, or change Link’s appearance a bit; the All-Night Mask has no merit outside of that.  The Mask of Truth doesn’t offer anything a walkthrough can’t offer better, especially if you use a walkthrough to find out where it is.  There’s only one situation where the Bremen Mask, Kamaro’s Mask, and the Giant’s Mask come in handy.  And for all the hype given to the Fierce Deity’s Mask, it’s all but useless outside of the first boss fight and the final one.  Goht is too fast to slash at, you can maybe snipe Gyorg if you’re lucky and the camera permits it, and Twinmold is best beaten with the Giant’s Mask.  There’s actually not much point to getting it besides bragging rights -- certainly not for the sake of feeling powerful, which, as I’ve explained before, can get downright boring when it comes to video games.

So what’s the point, then?  Why did I bother to collect all the masks?  That’s easy.  The reason is that there was no reason.


A contradiction?  I would have assumed you of all people would avoid those.

And I would have assumed you of all masks would learn to let me finish.

You’re over-thinking this whole hero business, Majora’s Mask.  You don’t need a reason to be a hero.  You don’t need to endlessly fret about whether what you’re doing is pointless, or insincere, or beneficial only for you.  If someone needs your help, you offer it.  Even if it’s useless…no, because it’s useless…that’s what this game is getting at. 

There’s no denying that a major theme in this game is despair.  At every turn, you’re reminded that the world is coming to an end -- there’s a clock at the bottom of the screen that winds down.  Hanging clocks grind on and on.  You can hear the bell of Clock Town, no matter where you are in the world.  The ever-ominous title cards that tell you what day it is have been engraved in the memories of countless gamers.  But even with all that in mind, despair is NOT the spirit of the game. 

It’s hope


There isn’t a single thing you do in the game that’s pointless.  Yes, you are gaining more power, and it’s the only way to clear a path to the endgame.  But you can’t -- you most certainly can’t ignore the world around you, and its cries for help.  You’re compelled to lend a hand however you can, even if it’s just a temporary fix.  Even if no one remembers you -- even if your deeds go unrewarded, and unrecognized -- you do.  You know there are people out there that need help.  People you can help.  People you do help.  And the memories you have of them don’t fade.  Not just because of the masks on your inventory screen; it’s the experiences you had together, however fleeting, and the glimmer of hope you offered them.


At a glance, it seems like a world that continuously resets isn’t worth saving.  But the efforts of one person -- and one player -- make waves that can be felt for years to come.  You’re free to ignore these people and go about your way to the endgame…but can you really?  Can you deny these people of even momentary happiness?  Or do you, out of some unexplainable drive, want to give them the strength they need to face the next day?  To see their father’s legacy honored, or their chicks fully matured?  To feed a helpless Goron, or to give a soldier the eternal rest he deserves?  Can you turn your back on two lovers separated by a curse -- lovers so strongly connected that they’re willing to face the apocalypse together?  I say no, you can’t.  You’re Termina’s last hope, from the rescuer of its guardian spirits to the perpetuator of the latest dance craze.  To be a hero is to become hope itself -- the ultimate bringer of happiness.

Such beautiful words…empty, but beautiful.  If you were hoping to persuade me, I am afraid you have failed.  Triumphantly. 

Oh, I’m not trying to persuade you.  I’m trying to beat you the only way I know how: you’re about to get nitpicked to death.


Absurd.

I wouldn’t say that.  Let me start by asking you a question: what are you?

I believe I already answered this question.  I am an embodiment of chaos.

No, you’re a mask -- the embodiment of some particularly devious Japanese developers’ thoughts given form.  But in a canon context, you’re a mask created for rituals and hexes.  

And yet…for years now, I’ve been wondering something. 

Who the heck is Majora?

There are a lot of gaps about the nature of Termina, and especially the game’s titular villain.  It was something that drove me up a wall when I was younger, but now I’m all right with it.  There are some mysteries that don’t need an ironclad answer, especially for a being like you.  One approach is to offer hints and mysteries; leave juuuuuuuuust enough material to give a player ideas, but never flat-out say who or what you’re supposed to be.  So at the most, all I can do is come up with theories about your true nature.

My true nature is clear enough.

Is it?  I wonder…actually, maybe you have a point.  Because after all these years, I think I’ve got you pegged.  And if I do, then that means you’re about to bite it hard.

The obvious answer is that you were created by someone -- preferably, someone named Majora.  But I’d like to think that your existence was made possible thanks to the efforts of a certain someone:


The Happy Mask Salesman’s method for creating masks is to use the Song of Healing -- taking wounded spirits or souls and condensing them into a wearable form.  So it’s entirely possible that the “Majora” in the equation is someone who had died or was near death, and the Song of Healing saved them…so to speak.  But if that’s the case, then where did the original body come from?

The final fight inside the moon gives some clues.  If you look closely at the masked children, each one is a redhead wearing white clothes.  The first fact is most important; it immediately calls for the image of the Mask Salesman, to the point where I suspect there’s a relation between them.  So my theory is this: what if the Mask Salesman, in spite of his unnerving nature and grisly methods, is actually one of the good guys?  Based on conversations with him, the cursed mask was sealed away by someone else -- sealed away in terms of the Song of Healing, I’m guessing.  He just searched for it so he could keep it safe, knowing the corruptive effect it might have had on anyone that put it on.  He was doing Termina -- and Hyrule, by extension -- a service by seeking it out.  It’s a service that he took upon himself, to some extent…but I’d argue that he knew about the mask, the dangers it posed, the Song of Healing, and all the particulars, because he has an intimate connection with it.  Namely, because he’s a descendant of Majora’s clansmen.  And because of his connection to the mask, he knows he has to right the wrongs that have occurred and will occur.  He wants masks to be remembered as joy-inducing, hopeful things, not causes for planetary cataclysms.  Ergo, the Song of Healing.

It’s possible that the Song of Healing was a treasured ability amongst the Mask Salesman’s ancestors.  It’s also likely -- probable, even -- that masks have been a part of Termina’s culture for centuries, necessitating the need for a song like that.  But Majora’s Mask -- and Majora himself -- represents what happens when things go awry.  The teachings, the culture, whatever you want to call it, all those things and more were lost when it came to dealing with him.  It got to a point where he started lashing out, and brought a few others along for the ride.  It didn’t pan out, of course, and Majora and his partners in crime -- Odolwa, Goht, Gyorg, and Twinmold -- were sealed away.  Maybe forcibly so -- as in, someone decided the best way to deal with Majora was to kill him first, and then turn him into a mask.  Just to be safe.


But in the end, what is Majora?  Well, I think that what we see of him inside the moon is exactly what we get: a lonely child that refuses to play well with others.  And when given a chance to play, you have to do so by his rules -- you’re the bad guy, and all you can do is run away.  Run away, and fall prey to his onslaught.  In fact, it’s almost uncanny how much the final boss fight plays out like a child’s fantasy.  The first form has a child spinning around doing whatever he wants; it’s hardly lethal or even frightening stuff, given how lazily the mask just kind of flies around.  Pressure him enough, and he’ll call on his friends -- the other masks -- for help…but you can knock them aside pretty easily.  The second form has the mask getting frustrated, spazzing out, and just trying to play its games -- in fact, attacking it only serves to make you look like a monster, and the second form to be unprepared to actually fight.  The final form, however, is when things get serious; you’ve spoiled its fun for too long, and now it’s ready to fight you in earnest…relatively speaking.  It may be the form most likely to kill you, but it has a very distinct “keep your distance!” and “get away from me!” fighting style reminiscent of Street Fighter’s Dhalsim.  It’s also notable for being one of the few enemies that ignores the invincibility frames Link gets to avoid being hit multiple times -- the reason being so it can flail at you with its tentacle-whip tantrum attack.  It’s enough to make me believe that Majora isn’t some angry god or cruel sorcerer, but just a child -- either physically or at heart, though more than likely the latter -- that always has to have his games go his way.

And where is the fault in that?  What reason is there to interrupt -- to disturb the delight derived from my games?  As we are all the same, we are all enjoying them at some level --

I wouldn’t try changing the subject if I were you.  Because if you keep it up, it’ll just look like you’re starting to crack under the pressure.

Inconceivable.  You earnestly believe that a mere mortal, a foolish and weak puppet such as you, can try to unravel me with little more than words?

Hey, aren’t you the one who wanted me to give it a shot?  I would’ve figured this is exactly what you wanted.  Unless…you weren’t expecting me to be able to fight back, were you? 


Impossible.  Simply impossible.  I am chaos.  I am --

That’s it, isn’t it?  I’ve seen how you work in-game -- you mess around with people, knowing that they can’t do a thing to stop you -- but in reality, you’re gone before they can even take the first swing.  But you weren’t expecting Link to stand up to you, and even take a few swings at you, now were you?  You turned him into a Deku Scrub when he followed you into Termina, just to make sure he didn’t have a chance of beating you.  But you underestimated his resolve; he not only chased after you, but confronted you on the night of the third day.  You didn’t know what to do, so you tried to drop the moon on him -- and you would have killed yourself in the process, but kids throwing temper tantrums aren’t known for rational thought.

As long as you had the moon, you automatically won -- you knew Link wouldn’t let it fall, and once he used the Song of Time he had his own absolute defense against you.  But you were content to just let him build up his power, so you could play a new game with him when the time came.  And even if you had a chance of losing, you always had the moon.  Your ace in the hole that could beat rock, paper, and scissors in one fell swoop.  But by letting him experience those three days over and over again, you gave him a power well beyond the Fierce Deity’s Mask.  Well beyond any mask.

Letting him explore Termina, letting him realize the stakes, letting him meet and bond with people of all races, ages, shapes and sizes gave him the one weapon he needed: drive.  He wasn’t just being a hero for his own sake; it was his courage, his will to bring the dawn of a new day that brought him before you, ready to finish the fight no matter where it ended up.  You threatened him and the world with despair; he fought back with hope.  And you lost.


And you know why?  It’s because you underestimated a hero, and overestimated yourself.  You could have put an end to him at any moment.  You could have sealed that door to Clock Town and put a stop to his adventure right then and there.  But you didn’t.  You challenged him and you lost, all because you had something to prove.  All because you played a game against someone better than you. 

You’re not just a lonely child -- you’re a stupid one.

You have no proof.  All you have is conjecture -- circumstantial evidence.  Nothing concrete.  Nothing worth your excitement and bravado. 

You’re sure?  Because there’s one thing I’m curious about.  Why the Skull Kid?


The Skull Kid?  Ah, yes, that discarded puppet.  I merely needed a… 

A host body, right? 

…It was random chance and nothing more.  He merely happened upon me, and allowed me to…  

To?

I had no need for a puppet.  My power far outstrips his -- and that of anyone else in this feeble world.

I don’t buy that for a second.  The Happy Mask Salesman had you right where he wanted you, and you couldn’t do a damn thing about it.  If the Skull Kid hadn’t intervened, you would have stayed on the Salesman’s sack until he decided to throw you in the fires of Death Mountain.  But the Skull Kid put you on his face, and you got everything you needed.  You not only got a host to siphon energy from and reawaken, but a kindred spirit -- two lonely children, going up against the world for the sake of games and mischief. 

Except the Skull Kid had an advantage over you. 


He had friends.  Tatl, and Tael, and the four giants -- and eventually, Link.  No matter how much you tried to keep him bound to your side, and drag him down to your level, you couldn’t do it.  You couldn’t get him to play along forever, as long as he had his own mind, body, and willpower. 

Face it.  You can’t beat Link, you can’t beat the Skull Kid, and you can’t beat me.  Know why?  Because at the end of the day, you’re not nearly as powerful as you make yourself out to be.  Heroes may have their flaws, but I know for a fact that they’re real.  Both your game and your actions have taught me that.

I will teach you nothing but despair -- despair, and the full extent of my pow-

Will you shut the hell up, already?  That act has gotten WAY old.

You --

Listen up, Majora’s Mask.  There’s one last lesson I have to thank you for.  The proof that I need to shut you down once and for all.

You’re not perfect.  In fact, you’re downright suicidal.


video

2 comments:

  1. Hmm, The HMSM is the descendant of Majora's clansman? That's an interesting theory I haven't heard before. That WOULD explain how he was able to get the mask in the first place... though I always just assumed that the boss's masks were just the heads cut off from the body and called "masks", Majora included. And I've always just thought that the HMSM was, like, an extra-dimensional being or something. Oh well, another theory to keep us fans speculating for all time!

    That aside, I'll agree with the assertion that you just can't ignore getting all the masks, both from a story and gameplay perspective. In fact, I've gone through several times with the thought process of "Ok, no masks except for those I really need... well the Bunny Hood is useful for getting around fast... the Romani Mask will let me get the Chateau Romani... dammit why am I waiting for Kafei AGAIN!?" I literally cannot NOT get all the masks, it's the only way I know how to play. I HAVE to help everybody, because who else will? Who else will reunite the two star-crossed lovers?

    And I really like that residual memory theory. I've argued something... similar-ish, in other websites, that the ending is the amalgamation of all the acts you have performed during the game. Though I like that you've carried that through to the other characters in the game. That would certainly seem to explain some gameplay inconsistencies like with the magic seed salesman, and it makes all the actions you've taken in the quest really do mean something in the end. Something to fight back against the thoughts of futility I feel while playing...

    Btw, great job on that ending video. Studioforce for the win!!!

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  2. You know, I was wondering what people would say if I used Through the Fire and Flames in the ending. DragonForce seems to draw unique reactions from people, but I wanted to go with a (mostly) recognizable song. And it was on my mp3 player, so I figured "Eh, why not?"


    Anyway, now that you mention it, there's no reason why the Happy Mask Salesman (and all the rest) CAN'T be extra-dimensional beings. They might all be a part of the same clan, but that clan doesn't necessarily have to be from Hyrule or Termina. Maybe they're actually from the moon. Or the CD-i games.


    Also, a fun fact about the ending video: drawing up Majora's Mask -- via MS Paint -- made me realize that, well, it's kind of silly looking. The eyes are kind of creepy, but not nearly as much after you stare at them for a while. Its colors are all over the place, so much so that I can't help but think it looks like someone puked up a rainbow. It's got the silhouette of a heart, only with a bunch of spikes. (I actually made an edit or two to the design; I only added three lower spikes on each side instead of four because anything else just seemed excessive.)


    So I guess visually, MM isn't as impressive as I made it out to be; it looks like something out of a child's fantasy, as it should, but looking back it's not much more than that. Or at least, the design is good enough to suit the game's purposes.

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