When I researched the music of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, I found many questions about whether there were any changes to the original soundtrack. Even Koji Kondo, lead composer of the original Nintendo 64 release, downplayed the differences in the new OST, saying that there was only “some rebalancing.” After careful cross-referencing and listening, I need to say that the differences in the soundtracks definitely warrant more merit.
The fact that most people can’t spot a disparity in the soundtracks shows that Mahito Yokota’s and Naoto Kubo’s remastering is just that good. The N64 OST used the best computer instruments of that time, which sound jarringly retro to contemporary ears. When I listened to the Majora’s Mask OST, my first thought was, “Whoa, N64 instruments, OK,” before I made any notes about the music itself. This was not my first thought when starting my play-through of Majora’s Mask 3D. Instead, my initial thoughts were of the joy, nostalgia, and welcoming of familiar tunes. Yokota’s and Kubo’s remastering is so clean and subtle that I consistently forgot I was playing a remake of a 15-year old game.
Yokota’s and Kubo’s talent for remastering is most evident when comparing the Nintendo 64 and the Nintendo 3DS OSTs side by side. The instruments are of better quality, but not by too much. After all, Koji Kondo wanted “to protect the feeling of the game because the music was tied so well to the original gameplay.” The most notable change in instruments is Mikau’s (or Zora Link’s) guitar, which now sounds less like an acoustic guitar and more believably like fish scales. The overall sound of the Nintendo 3D OST is fuller, with volumes adjusted, instruments spread out, and effects added. The result is a rich sound and a much more immersive experience.
There are no changes in score, so I won’t talk too much about the songs themselves. After all, RPGFan already has two music reviews and two game reviews of Majora’s Mask. But I do want to say something about the music in this game that none of these previous reviews have touched on.
Although the game’s predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is named after an instrument, music has more power and plays a more meaningful role in its dark sequel. In Ocarina of Time, the ocarina songs are mainly passwords or tools for teleportation. Two songs provide methods of communication (“Saria’s Song” and “Epona’s Song”), and two songs cause events (“Sun’s Song” and “Song of Storms”). All of the ocarina songs are practical and functional.
In The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, the ocarina songs hold powers that are much deeper and more emotional. One of the central ocarina songs, “Song of Healing,” converts one’s pain into a mask. This is one of many ethos of art: channeling emotions into creative works, especially for the sake of communication or self-expression. Majora’s Mask is about art, emotions, communication, and identity.
Over the interminable three-day span, Link encounters many situations in which music saves people from grief, loss, loneliness, fear, and death. “Goron’s Lullaby” soothes the lonely and distraught Goron Elder’s Son. The Music Box House’s “Farewell to Gibdos” drives away evil, death, and fear. “Song of Storms,” written by the Composer Brother Flat, cleanses his brother Sharp of his curse. And most drastically, “Oath to Order” calls forth the world’s guardians to stop the destruction of the planet. Music is a tool and a medium to block off or cleanse oneself of negativity.
Music is also a form of communication and community. “Oath to Order” not only assembles all four giants but also reunites the giants with Skull Kid. Link gathers the separated Frog Choir from the corners of the world to sing “Frog Song.” The most obvious example of music as a form of communication and community is the performance of “Ballad of the Wind Fish” in the Milk Bar. Toto teaches different parts to Link’s different masked forms, all bearing their culture’s instruments, and together they create the haunting melody of “Ballad of the Wind Fish,” which inspires Gorman to open up about his past. Music joins together people of different cultures, species, genres, and instruments.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is about the Hero of Time trying to save a world that he accidentally fell into when searching for his friend. But it’s also about the power of music to better understand one’s emotions, to bring peace to people, and to bring people together. This epic’s sequel is so much more than the typical romantic adventure of the typical The Legend of Zelda game. For that, I’m so glad that it was rereleased on a newer platform so that we can enjoy it again.