Claiming Majora’s Mask is the darkest installment on the Zelda series would be correct, but it would also be a major understatement. Its darkness does not just stand out among all of Link’s adventures, it remains pretty noteworthy even when the most twisted and devilish games ever made are also considered.
The title’s most impressive achievement is that whereas the average ominous software will muster an eerie atmosphere through the use of a generally pale color palette, Majora’s Mask does it while being colorful. The assets used here, from character models to textures, are almost completely extracted straight from its predecessor – Ocarina of Time. Yet, as if through some wicked sorcery, the developers were able to, by using the very same bricks, build a totally different creature.
Its lighthearted visuals, which transit somewhere in-between cartoonish and fairytale-like, are in fact so utterly out of place that the game ends up feeding off of them. Everything, from the inhabitants of Clock Town to the dwellers of the regions on the outskirts of the world of Termina, gives off a charming tone that is in no way compatible with the gigantic disaster that is about to strike this place.
The angry moon constantly looms large in the sky as a reminder that, within three days, life will come down to a calamitous end save for a herculean miracle. Still, despite the impending and clear Armageddon, these people continue to go about their daily business without expressing the concern that such a disaster would warrant.
Link, the hero of time, seems to be the only one that gives the matter any sensible thought, which makes all occurrences in Termina mutually bizarre and unsettling. The weight of the journey that must be taken ends up being even heavier due to the fact that, instead of aiding you, these soon-to-be-annihilated beings are not shy to block your advances and send you on fetch quests.
And while Link goes out of his way to help them, the clock never ceases to tick down to the scheduled apocalyptic hour. The sands of time wash away very quickly, and although Link knows that the playing of a powerful song will reset the countdown, the sense of urgency is huge since going back to the beginning of the maddening cycle means losing all progress that has been made.
Most games fail to broadcast desperation. Characters may shout “Hurry and rescue the princess!” as loudly as they want, but there will always be time for the savior of the world to drop by the nearest potion shop or sleep in a nearby inn. With Majora’s Mask, though, there is no kidding around; when one tells the hero to rush, he had better do so, or punishment will arrive swiftly and brutally in the collision of the moon against this odd universe.
All those feelings and weirdnesses experienced by a legion of gamers back in 2000 will be resurrected next year on the Nintendo 3DS. The long-awaited and often-rumored remake of this sometimes overlooked classic will hit the system and be a must-buy to all Nintendo consumers. Those who loved the original game will have a great excuse to replay it, those who didn’t will have the opportunity to re-evaluate it, and younger fans will be given the chance to tackle a game that is completely unique both among the Big N’s canon and the history of the Zelda franchise.
If the Nintendo 3DS release of Ocarina of Time turned that tridimensional version into the game’s definitive outing, the same is bound to happen for Majora’s Mask. There is a bad moon on the rise, and soon enough three days will remain between us and the end of the world.