This is just a single post of Stray Observations
about the classic Zelda game. No progress, just a bunch of little details and thoughts. I'd love to discuss other stuff if you want.
Sorry for the length. :)
Read whatever, respond if you want, it's segmented, sorta...
"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"
= Is there anything more iconic than The Happy Mask Salesman's first words? GOD I LOVE WHEN A GAME NAILS A FIRST IMPRESSION. (Also: "Good morning, Crono!"). Certainly the whole "follow the white rabbit" idea is a great way to start the game coming off the last epic adventure (and showing so little from OoT's 'realm'), your horse is suddenly snatched from you, and you pursue the mysterious mischief maker in a surreal chase through winding and unknown paths into a twisted reality on the brink of destruction.
It's like you're in a dream.... but it's sadly a bad one, or one that just isn't you own.
= The Salesman himself is a brilliant balance of methodical and mysterious, 'a little evil', passionately twisted (like never destroying the titular mask despite its potential danger), and yet still kind of a good guy. He's a very ambiguously defined character, and I think he's a brilliant addition to the very unique Zelda NPC compendium and an amazing role despite how small. The world ending in 3 days and his "leaving" is...such
a coincidence that speculating is hard not
= I love that the game's title implies ownership. Majora's Mask
. Indeed, what bigger mystery is there in this game than who the hell Majora was in the first place, what its motives are, and what-thing-happened-way-back-when to set this WHOLE ordeal in motion in the first place (the non-canon manga apparently tries to explain it...). Zelda games are irritating and fascinating for the amount room they give you to speculate these things. ...Or, perhaps in a more traditional fashion, there is nothing really to explain and it simply 'is what it is' and that same simplicity working in the "classic-ness of it all".
= I was about to sing praises about the NPCs in this game.... but one thing the Zelda series, in general, never gets enough credit for, is the amount of UNIQUE NPCs
!!! Basically all of the games have this, very rare or few doubles (oh and uh except peoples of other races...which are clearly and unabashedly copy/pasted).
But yeah, Majora's Mask managed to take some of the strangest, dryest, pointless non-playables from Ocarina of Time
and rework them beautifully and meaningfully into Majora's Mask and with some of the best character idea and quirks in the franchise history.
= Transformation Mask Order of Awesome:
(1) Goron Mask
(often had it as my Shortcut Mask). Good attack, amazing speed. My go-to mask every "time reset" to
roll and collect items in Termina field.
(2) Deku Mask
. Useful! Cute! Great instrument! The spin attack is surprisingly good at crowd control. I love the added "hat thorns" for his spin attack
(3) Zora Mask
. Eh. Cool instrument, but not as strong a fighter, annoying boomerang, slow swimming (it's definitely useful for the dungeon, but the fact fast swimming is linked to the magic meter till it runs out was one of the rarer 'bad changes' in this).
(yeah I'm not ranking the Fierce Deity Mask
, doesn't feel the same and it's one of those stupidly-good bonuses rewarding you for the amount of groundhog day shit you had to deal with)
= Cool Non-Transform Mask
(1) Bunny Hood
(naturally). The fact you get it so early is (IMO) a clear response to help intimidated players... and maybe in order to avoid the idea of "The Hero of Legend" rolling
all day long to save everyone.
(2) Don Gero Mask
. I think the mini-quest associated with this mask is a great mix of getting a lot done. Plus, Frog Music! :D
(3) Captain's Mask
is just kinda cool. The "alliegiance" of skelletal-kind is cute and funny, and I love that it "tricks" a certain boss
for great comedic effect (and an occasional running gag in the series).Honourable Mention:
The Couple's Mask for it's gorgeous and elegant design (but wtf, the sun and moon mask are just creepy for matrimony).
The Giant's Mask for having a cool concept that is unfortunately tied to the next statement...Dishonourable Mention:
Anything used only once. :(
I actually loved the Kamaro's Mask. The scene where Link (wearing the creepy dancer's BUST as a mask) dances for the girls to teach them some new moves while a guard silently enjoys this strange lesson from afar is a great touch. In general, the game features some excellent and very deliberate camerawork (a little off topic, but the Giant's arrival is another great scene for its showing representative lands with carefully places shots).
= Fav Dungeon Order. I'm happy to say I don't hate any
really. Sadly, I didn't like the "between dungeon" stuff as much (not including actual sidequests)
(1) Stone Tower
- Hard, but brilliantly designed, uniquely built, and a great test of everything you got. The boss was long, but still a cool idea. It was a proper final, and the temple's gimmick was too good (how scary is falling up?).
(2) Snow Head
- Great height and a fun use of the Goron's abilities made this a blast. That boss is a joy on par with TP's Stallord.
(3) Great Bay
- Eh. Less confusing than OoT's Water Temple but brought down by annoying swim control. Still cool to look at and "solve"
(3) Wood Fall
- Tied 3rd. It's, again, not bad but a bit simple. Odolwa was made really easy, but he still has his awesome sounding vocal sounds.
= Good changes:
(1) Song of Double Time for taking out the annoying wait.
(2) Link's face. Good god he looks amazing now. I know this is an OoT change, but fuck you it's my list.
(3) Swapping Swamp and Mountain Great Fairy rewards
(4) Save statues (this is a handheld afterall)
(5) Those graphic upgrades in general. They can't be understated enough.
(6) The game clock is much less intrusive; and I've always loved when it, finally, goes away.
= Changes I'm Sad didn't make it:
(1) I said it before, but a black shadow filter a kin to the N64 art would have been great and set the mood better. The graphics for the 3DS are INFINITELY better
, but the mood isn't quite the same; and when a title is as atmospheric as Majora's Mask is, it might have been better to make as few changes there as possible. But I will NEVER deny the game looks bad or may have, in some sense, "needed" the facelift. The N64 graphics have aged and aged poorly. This remake is absolutely stunning
(2) WW did it; but why can't songs be skipped? Especially the Song of Soaring; first YOU play it, then the GAME plays it for you, then you hear it one last time when it flies you off. I don't understand changes present in a past title, but gone from a future one -- especially if it's a good feature
(3) Why do BOTH Start AND Select take you to the Bombers Notebook? I'm not THAT keen on touch screening it for menu, maps, and masks... and the notebook isn't THAT important to need BOTH FREAKING BUTTONS.
(4) Getting rid of tools for transformation masks to map specific skills/attacks unique to each mask could have worked WONDERS for them, especially the Zora Mask which took an originally fun and free Mask and stifled it. Linking magic use to speed boost is a waste.
(5) Goht's Room with free analog.
= Oof... it feels like a few music tracks were really scraping from the bottom of the Ocarina barrel. Only so many notes are available, so I give the composers credit for doing what they could. But the Sonata, Lullaby, and especially the New Wave Bossa Nova just sound more weird than charming (especially against the way more pleasant Ocarina tunes in OoT).
That said, I LOVE the Song of Healing
. It's mysterious and calming, and it really works when it's used during cutscenes. Darmani's send-off
is a beautiful "final hurrah" to a great heroic Goron (the Zelda world's most precious race :D )
The Oath to Order
is powerful as well (less-so from an Ocarina, but the giants vocalize it like champs).
But I also really like how the Double-Time song and Reverse Song of Time
were played out into new but fitting melodies (double time 'speeding up' the song of time into a rushed version and played by simply 'doubling' the notes, and the reverse tune weirding-up the original and noble song).
= Best [new] tracks (in no order):
- Final Hours https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0kXVfqPrLs#t=227 : Holy FUCK. This honestly doesn't sound like it's from a Zelda game, it's too surreal and brilliant, and has...well, that really cool dystopian 80s synth vibe. :P I'm not good with words sometimes. Anyways, this song captures so much, the mood it's set within and the clock tower bells going off really make it feel like the world is ending... I do think this later segued nicely to how unique Twilight Princess managed to capture the strange otherworldly atmosphere of the Twilight Realm
- Clock Town http://youtu.be/K0kXVfqPrLs : Yeah, it's sort of ear-grating actually. But I love how it changes per day. I love that the first day is chipper, the second day is a bit calm (to match the always forecasted rain), but day 3 is quick with a very ominous violin accompanying the track
- Astral Observatory http://youtu.be/s0krxH0dWhU : Amongst the chaos and grief is this very hopeful tune with a friendly old man at the helm of a giant telescope. This song is so dreamy...
- Deku Palace http://youtu.be/4kkBYe3olsQ (redux!): I feel that because the Deku are a wood and 'earthy' species they could...or WOULD have gone more 'earthy instruments'. A pan flute, didgeridoo, some weirdo instrument made of clay.... They sort of do this with Goron-related themes. The Deku Palace sounds almost European folk-y, something you'd hear in the village after a good harvest and everyone's getting drunk. Maybe I'm reading into it, but it's different than I'd have expected! Also the more "unique" place the developers had to design for (since the Deku never really had a "culture" in OoT).
Worst song: wtf Great Bay? Ew. Granted, a "warm ocean" conveys a pretty ugly atmosphere....but still. It's also home to a shitty stealth segment and garbage enemies. At least the [perfect] Zora Domain theme stayed for the Hall (and I LOVE the Indie Go Go designs
ODDS AND ENDS
= It should be said that I really like Link in this incarnation (specifically, in this 'sequel'). Something about him using "big boy equipment" gives him a bit more character. He IS a seasoned veteran to world saving by this point, so I like that he sort of just "feels" more mature as well.
= Wizzro and his fucking dumb redesign and numerous encounters can rot in hell
= So can Wallmasters...every time they've ever existed these 25 years.
= I love that the mask transformation are seen during different 'death events'. The Deku Mask is an off-screen death, the Goron Mask is in the middle of transitioning over to "the other side", and the Zora Mask is you bearing witness to the death itself.
And honestly, the 'painful' transformations are such
a cool touch, I love that the masks "emote" for that one brief moment before you actually transform too. Indeed, between that and the "new" Mirror Shield showing a terrible pained face for the rest of the game, the Moon's constantly strained[?] face (complete with celestial meteor tear), the game has subtle touches to demonstrate constant pain and sadness amongst its inhabitants.
= 3DS Save Scumming has upset veteran nostalgic fans. Really, the only problem I'd be upset to miss is fucking up the Anju and Kafei quest on the last day.... But one thing I like is even if you DO screw it up, you see a very sad and short clip that implies you're stuck inside Sakon's hideout till the end. It's tragic. I also love the other "bad end" for Anju and Kafei if you GET the Sun's Mask but don't tell Anju to stay behind... Kafei running into an empty room is quite heartbreaking.
Indeed, I love how the timeline is played very strict with regards to success, failures, or "alternate futures". In that, I also adore how varied NPC reactions are when you wear different masks. The observatory worker and guards treating "kid-like Links" differently than if he appeared more "adult like".
= I could list all of the best "minutes away from death" reactions from inhabitants... but they're ALL
good and I wish there were more (indeed, Termina is the only place concerned). They capture such a PERFECT variety of reactions to the inevitable demise. Some keep quiet, some are oblivious, some just laugh it off, and some are terrified and devastated.
Notable MM reactions:
The Swordmaster "on vacation" being hidden from view, shouting how he's scared to die
Romani having her first (and actually last) "adult drink"
The Barman "waiting it out", with his favourite customer
The workaholic postman conflicted about his important job
The guards work here too... Their legs shake and gaze up, encouraging people to leave as their duty keep them behind.
Tortus facing death "If you're gonna fall, just DO IT ALREADY"
= I love how success in this game is measured in such small steps.... and in doing so, it usually involves letting a lot of people down each new cycle. Romani and Cremia leading some of the most tragic events in their first two days, closed off to the world and up against some bad neighbours, and it's too late to do anything for them by Day 3.
One that makes me think the most is the transformation masks. These are needed characters that are, tragically, killed in events that can never
be fixed (and Link taking on their forms as a cruel glimmer of hope and a necessary sacrifice to lend Link their body and power). This is not a positive game...
Best Visual Details:
= The chase introduction
= The mysterious lone Deku Scrub near the beginning... sadness is written all over it and Deku Link's appearance....
= The comedy in Link's first human encounter with the Happy Masked Salesman...the "look of shame" is so good.
= Skull Kid "screaming" at the moon. The strangeness of his character and design feel so inspired
= The screen getting "smaller" with every bell ringing into a new day... Precious time is, literally, "slipping away
= The Elegy of Emptiness 'replicas'
I think this is the big point I want to end on...
But can you believe how PERFECT this game is on a visual level? Between character reactions and interactions, using the time-cycle element to redo mistakes (and, unfortunately, undo victories)? To creating a new and whimsical world free of the usual, overplayed, Hylian Lore? The look and design of each place you visit?
The look of the Majora's Mask is so creepy, the eyes and design are instantly arresting and memorable, the look of the terrifying moon that looms over the land (and gave me some serious scare as a kid), the four lands experiencing peril, and the clock is running while the Skull Kid stands at the centre of the stage.... Despite the re-used assts from OoT, the ideas are so original, and the creative process was on high, no part of this game was a "less inspired sequel", but a legitimate addition to an already great series right off the heels of one of its best-known titles.
Furthermore, I can't tell you how great it was to ignore the Triforce for once and not have Zelda plead to you to save the world, but where the threat felt real because victory came slow, failure was necessary, and because the game is always
counting down to the actual
end (and no, Ganondorf isn't just 'waiting' in his lair, or Zelda is hoping for hero will arrive).
I still don't feel it'd be fair to say which is better between the two N64 titles. But Majora's Mask
is perhaps the most unique Zelda and the most creative even in spite of its flaws.
Honestly, I still could go on...