For some reason Majora’s Mask is the game that we just can’t seem to stop writing about here at Zelda Informer. There’s no doubt that it is clearly the favorite of the series amongst our staff, though some do dislike it. We love it for being unique; for being unafraid to be different; for not caring about how much its time restrictions and saving mechanism infuriated us players. Of course, we’re not alone in our views, but our love for Majora’s Mask isn’t so widely shared. The lovers are there, and so are the haters. Some of our loyal commenters wish we’d even stop writing about Majora’s Mask. Whatever people’s opinions are, there is something that makes Majora’s Mask different, something that makes people either love it, or hate it. The question is, what?
Being the follow up game in the series to the legendary Ocarina of Time, Nintendo would have felt the pressure and expectations placed upon them in developing Majora’s Mask. When you consider that Zelda Wii has been in production across five years, the one year allocated for Majora’s Mask can seem quite tight, but yet again, they did manage. It was spawned when Shirgeru Miyamoto challenged Eiji Aonuma to make Ocarina of Time’s sequel. Some would say they managed by not caring about what the gamers thought, they just did what they wanted to do. And hey, when you’ve got a guy living in the toilet, hints of an affair amongst a touching love story, and a tower with four giant phalluses, you can’t deny Majora’s Mask is out there. Needless to say, when you’re on a tight schedule to make the sequel to a highly regarded game what do you do? Aonuma hasn’t been shy on the topic.
Aonuma has stated that directly following Ocarina of Time, Miyamoto wanted to make a quick rehash of the game, in what would come to us eventually as Master Quest. Aonuma was not interested in this and wanted to create a sequel instead. It was then when Miyamoto ‘handed the gauntlet’ to Aonuma and challenged him to make the sequel. Only one year was allowed, and whether you are a fan of Majora’s Mask or not, what Aonuma accomplished is quite remarkable, what he even calls ‘a big turning point for Nintendo’. The way he did it was by copying the foundation of Ocarina of Time.
This is perhaps the main point of why Majora’s Mask is disliked. The engine, the characters, the items; they were all simply copied across from Ocarina of Time with not everything being created from scratch. Aonuma didn’t waste time recreating the look of the game, or even the characters for that matter, they just used what they had and went for it. In a sense, copying the foundation, the part that can often take the longest to conceptualize, allowed them to focus on really making the game what it is.
Aonuma didn’t work on Majora’s Mask with the direct mindframe to outdo its predecessor; rather, he aimed to do what Ocarina of Time couldn’t do. He fleshed out the parts of Ocarina that he wished were more developed. The Happy Mask Shop sidequest became the overall premise for Majora’s Mask. Things like the trading sidequest to obtain the Goron’s Knife became central to the gameplay of Majora’s. Furthermore, Aonuma wanted a game where the characters developed over their daily life. He was disappointed that Ocarina of Time didn’t show that everybody has a story, and in Majora’s Mask, Link was there to watch characters as they went through their lives. Moments like the reuniting of Kafei and Anju are what stand out to many players as some of the greatest in gaming. Ocarina was action, it was twists and turns. Majora, that was emotion. When on such a tight schedule to make a game, don’t try to dream up fantasy stories, go back to the simplicity of human life. That’s what they did.
Maybe the reason why Majora’s Mask is so readily comparable to tales like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and many other in the fairytale genre is because they all inspired a storyline that was tossed together quite quickly. In the end, whether or not you are a fan of Majora’s Mask, the game accomplished something. It was rarely a game that people were mellow about, it was either loved or hated. Why? Because it was nothing but a game that copied its foundation from another and changed it to make it a new game. Whether that’s good or bad is for you to judge. Some people can only see it as a cheap copy or rehash; others see that by copying the fundamentals the creators could do so much more with the story and sidequests. That there, is the very thing that made Majora’s Mask what it is.