The Missing Link
It’s time for Whose Blog Is It Anyway?! The show where everything’s made up, and the points don’t matter! That’s right, the points are about as useful as Malon’s father! Hi, I’m your host, Drew Linky. C’mon let’s have some fun!
First off, my apologies for being extremely tardy with this Whose Blog? Life has been chaotic of late, and I’m actually procrastating more important stuff right now to do it. (But hey, you’re all worth it, am I right? Right? Right!?) Just so you know, this coming week is going to be very busy for me, so I won’t be blogging much; hopefully one of my comrades here will fill in for me over the next week (cough cough).
Anyways, I looked through many of the comments in the last Whose Blog? announcement, and many of them didn’t strike my fancy right away, but several of you wanted to hear about various things in Majora’s Mask; surprisingly, I’ve been very mum about the game so far, and I feel like there’s no better time than the present to do so. So today’s Whose Blog Is It Anyway? will be about The Curse of Majora.
Now, let’s get one thing straight before we get started. Yes, I am quite aware that there are the stubborn few out there who, to this day, believe that Majora’s Mask yet remains the best darn Zelda game of the lot. Despite all the debates and comparison/contrast discussions about Majora and the various other titles, still you remain unconvinced by their persuasions. The devotion those of you possess to the game transcends, what us “other people” would say, all logic. We have to be fair, however; the Majora fan-crowd is a small one. Majora is, according to a high percentage of the populous, considered to be inferior to some other title, oftentimes ranking in some position well out of the Top Three, those positions usually reserved to the likes of Legend of Zelda, Past, Awakening, Ocarina, and even Waker.
Yet when you look at Majora without the context of the other games to jade your opinion, Majora remains a quality Zelda game. It is a game that by and large speaks of many of the characteristics that make a “Zelda game”; it is a game that you could give to Joe Microsoft or Sony Williams and say, “This is what Zelda is about. Go forth: enjoy and be merry.” Yet counterintuitively, it is a game that many fans write off as “nothing oh-so-impressive”.
What do the faithful acolytes of Majora see that so many disregard?
The obvious quality is depth. Majora in many ways is the foil of Ocarina; it excels at precisely the things that Ocarina failed to truly represent. I know that it is dangerous ground to criticise Ocarina of Time, but the world of Ocarina, at least as presented in the setting of the game, has no life to it. Sure, characters in Ocarina have impressive characterisations–at least the main ones do–but the world seems entirely fake, and it only takes a critical eye to find those immersion-breaking moments. I still have yet to find an NPC in all of Kakariko Village or Hyrule Castle Town proper that makes me believe that he or she could exist in the real world; there is no one of Kafei’s or Anju’s depth in the entire city (or should we compare to Malon or Saria since we are in the realm of Ocarina?). Joe NPC sits in spot X all the live long day spouting “Welcome to
But we are talking of Majora, not Ocarina.
Majora killed this blandness by creating what appeared to be the first city that actually felt as if it functioned. Characters actually moved through the city; they had objectives to complete, paths to follow. Events within Clock Town actually occurred, changing the status quo of the city. I instantly felt as if Clock Town were a real Renaissance town, the likes of which could be seen in my state’s RenFest. The scenery was also ten times the believability of Ocarina’s, no longer appearing to be a finite amount of space guarded by vertical boundary walls. The scenery made it appear as if the world truly went into the infinite and beyond. This is no Oblivion or World of Warcraft, but for an cartridge-based N64 title, it had an amazing richness.
Yet all this was not what many gamers wanted… or at least cared a lot about. Majora is still criticised for its several prominent failures and flaws; it simply failed to deliver a “full experience”, leaving most gamers feeling as if the game was lacking in so many ways. The game was too short, there weren’t enough dungeons, the plot was horrible, the three-day time limit was annoying, the fairy sounded like a doorbell… We needn’t delineate all the reasons; you’ve heard them all before.
All these complaints about Majora, however, aren’t the right complaints. No, I’m not saying that all of the smaller issues here are irrelevant; they are indeed serious criticisms. However, nearly every complaint about Majora can be traced back to a single cause, and it was this cause why Majora remains one of the overlooked Zelda games.
The Curse of Majora… was that there was too little time to properly develop the game.
Majora’s Mask is the only game to date (other than Four Swords Adventures, which doesn’t count because of how different it is from Waker) to appear as the second Zelda game for a single gaming system. (You might consider Ages or Seasons, but I challenge you to figure out which one is the Cucco and which one is the egg.) [UPDATE: Thanks to Psy below, I stand corrected. LoZ and AoL were both on the NES; however, to my credit, AoL is very much different from LoZ. But I still fail. Big time.] It also had the misfortune of following one of the greatest and most loved Zelda games of all time: Ocarina.
Singlehandedly, Ocarina of Time was the game that brought the Legend of Zelda into a time of Renaissance for the series. Prior to this, the next earliest game in the series had been five years prior and for the original Game Boy. Ocarina swayed millions of gamers to the series to the point where it began to have a cult-like following. (Just look at our community today! All because of Ocarina.) As the Cult of Zelda began to complete the game, all eyes turned to Miyamoto and Friends, asking, yearning, pleading for another Zelda to be released. Zelda, not Mario, became Nintendo’s true flagship at that time, and while Link hasn’t been pimped out quite so much as Mario, it only takes a poll over at GameFAQs every year to realise that Link is easily more loved than the portly plumber.
Because of this attention, Nintendo had to develop a Zelda… fast. The fans would not accept another five-year delay as happened in the creation of Ocarina. However, at odds with this decision was a painful paradox. Simply making an Ocarina of Time 2 wouldn’t bode well because, well, let’s face it. While we do like the “Zelda formula” (painful as it is to say), the Zelda series doesn’t thrive constantly on the same-old same-old. There has to be new stuff at every corner, stuff that we don’t expect, stuff that is surprising, stuff that is innovative. However, at the same time, to make the game quick, trashing all of the character models, scenery textures, items, and game engine would ensure the game wouldn’t come out within such a short timespan. What to do? What to do?
I don’t know who came up with the solution, but whomever it was had to have been brilliant. They proposed a battle plan to solve both problems in one fell swoop. Take all the characters and rename them; Ruto became Lulu, Joe Goron and Sam Zora were recast into their new-world unnamed counterparts, the Gerudo became the Pirates, the carpenter boss became the festival carpenter boss, and Malon became both Cremia and Romani. Then, the enemies were ported. Then many of the scenes from Ocarina were embedded straight into Majora such as the hollow logs and the new-world Hyrule Field. All that was needed was to add a few knick-knacks here and there, develop the new twist on the game (masks), and create all new dungeons. As such, the concept of Majora was born.
In an effort to make the world that much more than Ocarina, they spent tedious amounts of time on Clock Town. It wowed fans as they went through the first three-day cycle of the game before they moved onto the Swamp. Yet this wonder also became a liability as well; the Deku, Goron, and Zora cities are distinctly not like Clock Town; they seem to be mirror images of Kakariko Village, Goron City, and Zora’s Domain: relatively lifeless cities which serve solely as reservoirs for NPCs to hang out it.
They also wanted to make the dungeons of the game wholly new experiences as well, so they developed four extremely impressive dungeons, the most unique of which being Stone Tower Temple. However, the time poured into these dungeons innovative left them little time to create numerous dungeons, and so they were only able to complete four. And with only four real dungeons of which to speak, even if the game were the same play time (don’t ask me if it is or not), it would still feel shorter in comparison every time just doing strict math. (Ocarina’s nine is more than twice Majora’s count.) I had always heard the rumour of a fifth Sky Dungeon or something, but whether it was planned or not, my copy doesn’t have it, sad to say, and thus its plan is ultimately irrelevant.
They also strived to make the characterisation of the characters top-notch, with Link actually able to interact with the characters rather than them just being random NPCs. They improvised this with the Bomber’s Notebook, and it was through this where you could truly affect the lives of other characters. Yet only with a few characters–Anju and Kafei, Romani and Cremia–did Link ever get truly involved with. Anju’s grandmother, ???, the Guru-Guru Man, and the dancing sisters were simple one-time events; you did them a favour, and that’s all you could do with them. This just leaves us with the horrid thought of “what could have been” if Anju and Kafei’s depth had been everybody’s.
This all seems harsh criticism, but don’t misunderstand me. I have a lot of praise for Majora because it tried so hard to be the next best Zelda since sliced bread. The inevitable problem was that Ocarina was just that much more stark a contrast from Past and Awakening, and Majora just could not hope to compare with that magnitude of a difference given its two-year development time. Amazing things were done, but the odds were horribly against it for it to do what Ocarina did and become the next pinnacle game of the series.
It is a shame because Majora was a great Zelda game; it is easy to see why there are ardent fans of it. Unfortunately, it just was never to be super-great because of unexploited potential of what it could have been, and it is even easier to see why many choose to all but ignore its existence.Follow This Entry | Read Other Posts by The Missing Link