Wednesday, 18 January 2012

This could go on a while, you might want to pull up some snacks or something.

Musing of the day: I don’t know about you, but if I was an evil villain hellbent on world domination, my first point of call would be to steal the crystals/stars/jigsaw pieces/bananas/etc of an anthropomorphic woodland creature, which  I would then scatter across 7-10 diversely lush and zany worlds full of conveniently placed difficult, yet completely solvable, puzzles, eventually leading them to my lair where they could beat the living crap out of me.

     I feel cliché going for a Zelda game (my defense is that it’s the black sheep of the series in so many ways) but I just have to open a fresh can of unrelenting passionate worship for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I believe I’ve already had a small rant about this in a previous post, so consider this an expansion on Why This Game Is Awesome.
     Majora’s Mask plays more or less identical to Ocarina of Time, being it’s direct sequel, but contrasts it’s predecessor in just about every other way. MM is full of heavy, dark undertones (and overtones, really)- rather than the classic Zelda plot of ‘good vs. evil’, this instalment places a lot of emphasis on the blur between good and evil. The plot is that the Skull Kid has become possessed by the titular Majora’s Mask and using it’s power, causes the moon to fall (the same moon that scares the living hell out of me scared me as a kid. LOOK. AT. IT), crashing into Termina and destroying the world. Link is sent on his Epic Quest Of Heroicness by the Happy Mask Salesman- but only has three days in which to save the world, and help as many people as possible along the way, in a three-day Groundhog Day Loop. The underlying twist is that the Skull Kid is just out to create a little mischief in the hope of causing his friends, four giants who show up and the end of the game to hold up the moon, to return- he doesn’t seem to grasp the damage he’s causing (world destruction) at all. Not to mention that the Happy Mask Salesman’s motives are questionable- it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable to assume he only gained the mask in the first place to cause havoc and destruction himself. And yet you’re returning it to him. Then there’s the fact that the creepy children near the end of the game all look suspiciously a lot like him.
     The game is packed full of sidequests, all of which are entirely worthwhile either for comedic value, some truly heart-gut-pulling moments, or simply to understand a little more about the random side-characters in Termina. And almost every single character, no matter how brief their appearance or how insignificant their role, has at least a little depth written in. For example, the swordsman who sits in his Dojo for most of the three days boasting that he’s unafraid of the moon crashing into Termina, as he will cut it in half with his sheer unrivalled strength…can be found in the last few hours of the third day hiding in the back room crying and pleading for his life. Visiting the ranch in the last few hours scores you a cute but sad scene where the eldest of two sisters tells the younger that she can try alcohol for the first time, as she finally recognises her as an adult. They then both leave, telling you, of all things, “See you tomorrow”. Bear in mind that all of this is accompanied by the saddest, most hopeless music you will ever hear.
     And then there’s the sidequest about Kafei and Anju, an engaged couple, the former of whom disappeared because the Skull Kid turned him into a child and a theif stole his half of a ceremonial wedding mask, which Kafei cannot return to Anju without. It takes all three days to help Kafei recover the mask and tell Anju that he’ll return- on the night of the final day, when most of the town has evacuated, including the rest of Anju’s family, Anju stays behind to wait for Kafei. Those few minutes you spend standing there waiting with her, with that music playing, are probably the single saddest, most atmospheric few minutes in  gaming history. Especially since he doesn’t appear until literally the last minute.
     Anyway, more on the music. The Zelda series has always used music rather uniquely in that it’s almost used as a narrative tool, to draw links between environments or even characters (such as reusing the Serenade of Water from Ocarina of Time as the theme of the Zora queen in Twilight Princess). Nintendo have picked up a habit of creating such links by reversing classic tracks. In this case, part of the theme of Saria from OoT was reversed to create the Song of Healing in MM, probably to illustrate how juxtaposed the two worlds are; Saria’s Song being an upbeat, innocent song, while the Song of Healing is calming but melancholy. Then there’s the music in Clock Town (the peaceful ‘hub’ of the game), which changes with each day. Day One’s music  is a typical laidback-but-lively ‘Town Theme’. When the clock reaches Day Two, the music is sped up, and suddenly has a certain frantic feeling to it. But when Day Three arrives, nothing inspires more dread than when the lighthearted music is pierced by a chilling, ominous series of nightmare chords.
     Finally, the immensely genius twist MM takes is in the final dungeon, when you go inside the moon itself. Ever wondered what the inside of the moon looked like?
     Chances are you don’t expect an endless grassy, sunny field with a single tree. The first time you see it, you sit there mind-blown for a good few minutes before finally approaching. As you get nearer to the tree, you see four children (the same ones I mentioned earlier), each wearing a mask of one of the major bosses in the game, and one sitting alone wearing Majora’s Mask, asking you to play with him, the answer ‘yes’ being the trigger for the final boss fight.
     …I believe that concludes my epic rant, leaving me with nothing but another abrupt ending (seriously, how do people end these things conclusively? My posts always just leave off like there should be more because I honestly don’t know.)
     Peace off!

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