Following up from last week’s look at The Wind Waker‘s title theme, this week I have elected to look at another excellent piece of title screen music from the Zelda series: Majora’s Mask‘s theme.
As one of the darker and more unique Zelda games, Majora’s Mask has a lot of contrasts throughout its world that play on the theme of light and dark. Not to be left out, its music follows suit and the title theme is the perfect example of such. Mixing a soft, gorgeous tune with the demented twisting of the Skull Kid, Majora’s Mask has one of the more memorable title themes in the entire series. Jump in to read more!
Track: “Title Theme”
Game: Majora’s Mask (N64)
Purpose: Title Theme
Composer: Koji Kondo
I already covered much of the title theme’s point in last week’s post, so I will keep this brief. In short, a game’s title music and/or opening cinematic has the difficult job of summarizing and introducing its game to the player. Therefore, it has to be able to capture the game’s mood and draw in players to what it has to offer.
In Majora’s Mask, we are given one of the darker scenarios in the Zelda series: the world you have just entered is on the verge of death. It is going to end in three days, and all you can do is watch people live out their final days again and again until you save them. Heavy stuff. This is not the light-hearted energy of The Wind Waker nor is it the adventurous spirit of Twilight Princess; it is tragic, plain and simple.
The urgency of Termina’s imminent doom (which Link has been thrust into) is reflected in the music of the game’s main hub, Clock Town. The Clock Town music portrays simple daily life and a bustling town in a lively tune . . . the first day. The second day, the festive drum beats are gone and the song speeds up. By the third and final day the song has become a rapid and urgent theme that makes the listener feel out of time.
That is the basic template used for the Title Theme of Majora’s Mask. The song uses the primary melody of “Clock Town,” particularly the Second Day version, but at a much slower tempo. Without the festive drum beats or rapid undercurrent, it is overall a much mellower tune as a result. Another touch is the change of the primary instrument from an ocarina or different woodwinds to the much softer harp.
These elements change the song drastically. It goes from a festive town or urgent race against time to a quiet lullaby or soft testament of peace. All of these are played alongside images of Termina at rest; the inhabitants are shown going about daily lives with Link in their midst, everyone enjoying life one chore at a time. Everything is right in the world. This is a peaceful, pleasant tune that one could almost fall asleep to.
. . . until the end. A little over a minute and a half into the song’s course, it begins to fade. We lose one instrument, then another. A soft dread creeps into the music. Then a sudden, almost alien sound overtakes the tune and in the cinematic we are greeted with our first image of the possessed moon hanging over the city like the death sentence it is. The Skull Kid stands atop the Clock Tower, gazing into the sky unfaltering in a bizarre and creepy image that nobody soon forgets. The song is no longer peaceful, it is now jarring and unnerving. It is a completely different tune. Peace has gone and been replaced by madness.
I feel the opening clips for Majora’s Mask are more effective in conveying the game’s mood than any other in the series . . . and that is saying something. The course of the game carries you through a peaceful land where you can enjoy numerous wonderful characters and their respective quests and minigames, but no matter what there is always a clock at the bottom of your screen ticking away the time. There is always a moon hanging over you, ready to destroy everything you love in this world. There is always Skull Kid to be dealt with.
Sure, every Zelda game and its mother involves Link getting sidetracked when he should actually be saving the world. But Majora’s Mask is the one game that does the best job of making sure you never forget that. Therein lies the reason its intro is so perfect; we see the people. We see the peaceful land of Termina. And we see the jarring disturbance to the peace and sanity that is Skull Kid and his horribly powerful mask (or is it the mask and its Skull Kid?). Independently, the song and its associated images are powerful. Together, they are perfect.
So what are your thoughts on Majora’s Mask and its opening theme? Do you think its intro conveys the mood of the game well? Are there other songs in the series that you think capture their respective games better? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to give me requests for future music features!
The First, Second, and Third day renditions of “Clock Town” are the source of this song’s melody, and each gives its own touch to the song based on how near the moon’s imminent crash is. Be sure to give ’em a listen!
The full cinematic for the scene this tune is taken from makes the whole thing work perfectly. It is certainly worth watching to get the full effect.