Posted on August 20 2018 by Taylor Wells
With fandom comes lore debates and with lore debates, quite often come statements or responses from the creators of the art. If you’ve been paying attention to Nintendo releases lately, we recently got a new addition to their trifecta or Triforce if you will, of Zelda knowledge tomes in the form of the Hyrule Encyclopedia. This complete’s their current release plans, having already put out the Hyrule Historia and Hyrule Arts and Artifacts. With this, our knowledge of the wide range of topics introduced over the years concerning in-game lore of Zelda is a bit more directly addressed. In fact, it is now the definitive canon for the Zelda universe until Nintendo changes their minds… again. So why is this important? To me, one of the best games in the series has always been Majora’s Mask and it is here where I’ve received the most saddening shock.
Warning, if you haven’t already read the Hyrule Encyclopedia, major spoilers follow.
So What’s The Big Deal?
For much of Zelda’s history as a video game, Nintendo has been pretty hands-off in responding to fans’ questions regarding things like timelines, which games are sequels and which are prequels, is Link the same Link in each game, etc. In other words, when it comes to story aspects not directly addressed by the games themselves, they tended to be a bit mute. This has changed recently with the release of Hyrule Historia, released in Japan back in 2011 and 2013 for the rest of the world. In this hefty book, Nintendo introduced the official Zelda timeline as well as explained quite a bit about the lore of Skyward Sword and how other games in the series related to it. In addition, they also featured plenty of never-before-seen concept art and story elements for every Zelda released prior to Skyward Sword.
Infamously, this has caused a divide among fans of the series, especially in regards to the timeline. Since then, Nintendo has been conspicuously more open with their discussion of all these elements, much to some people’s joy and others’ chagrin. One of the arguments frequently brought up is that Nintendo was better off with their hands-off approach in the past because the things released in recent years either conflict heavily with their source materials or because (in their opinion) what they’ve come up with doesn’t make sense.
Hyrule Encyclopedia now seeks to fill in many gaps and story tidbits that have also never been addressed before. Now, I’m going to preface this by saying that by and large, I like quite a few things that the Encyclopedia introduces or discusses. There’s a lot of interesting things in there and if you haven’t picked it up yet, I definitely recommend it. That being said, what they’ve done to Majora’s Mask is a terrible, terrible fate indeed.
What They’ve Done
Majora’s Mask is a fairly sweeping tale of many different themes considering how short of a game it actually is. Much of the content of it is focused around the effects of the titular villain on the lives of everyone who lives in Termina as opposed to the spotlight of the Hero’s Journey featured in Ocarina of Time. While this is partially what drew me to it in the first place, really experiencing the breadth of story that Nintendo developed with each character and quest really took my breath away during and after completion. In particular, the ending, which changes by the way depending on how many quests you completed prior to taking on Majora itself, left me feeling with a sense that I had actually made a tangible difference in each person I’d met and helped throughout the course of my adventure.
This sense of accomplishment culminated with the heartfelt discussion between Skull Kid, Tatl, Tael, the Mask Salesman, and Link. In it, Skull Kid comes to terms with his loneliness and grief, realizing that what he thought was lost was always with him. Tatl comes full circle and finally reunites with her brother Tael, acknowledging everybody and their growth as people, especially her own. The Mask Salesman departs while waxing poetic about friendship and how after a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. There’s more, but we’ve covered the essentials in order to establish the issue.
What the Encylopedia presents us with when reading the entry on Majora’s Mask is… dissatisfying at best and ruining at worst. According to Nintendo the ending of Majora’s Mask is almost the same as Link’s Awakening. In other words, Termina ceases to exist and everything you have accomplished other than saving Skull Kid, is for naught. How you ask? Well, when Skull Kid acquires the evil mask from the Salesman, it preys on his spirit and loneliness. With its power, Skull Kid dreams up a fantasy world based off of his experiences in the real world of Hyrule and makes it a reality. Albeit a temporary reality, more like a parallel dimension that only lasts as long as Majora’s power does. So when Link defeats Majora and purifies the mask, its power fades, and after Skull Kid and Link spend one last day there, so too does the land of Termina.
Why This Is Wrong
Many may ask why this is so bad when Link’s Awakening did it before to wild applause. The answer, at least for me, is very simple; because it was the first time. It was also a concept and story note that felt like the whole game was developed around. Personally, I don’t have that same vibe from Majora’s Mask. Similarly, while Link’s Awakening certainly had side quests and people you helped along the way, defeating the big bad and freeing the Wind Fish still always felt like the primary objective. Conversely, I feel that in Majora’s Mask, the game was primarily about the people you encountered and how many people you could help before you were forced to confront the source of the issue. The three-day time limit was such an interesting mechanic that gave such perspective over the events of the game and how we as players experienced it.
Bringing it back to helping people, it was always fascinating how at the end of a session of playing, I was always questioning whether what I (and Link) was doing actually mattered? If I help five people, does it matter if I don’t have the ability to stop the moon anyway? That I’m continuously forced to turn the clock back not just to save myself, but to save everybody while I continued to prepare myself for the ultimate confrontation? The game is such a masterful blend of hope and hopelessness that I never thought I’d experience as a ten year old in a video game. It still blows my mind to this day.
So now we have a canon material that throws almost all of that away. That in a few short paragraphs surmises my experiences as a child playing this game as something that ultimately doesn’t matter at all. In a game that focuses on helping everybody and questioning everything about your experience and those of everyone else in the land, at the end of the day, you save one person, and nothing else was real. I think if Link’s Awakening hadn’t already done this before, I might be okay with it. But because the game itself doesn’t really give any indication that this is what’s happening apart from clearly happening in a different land or dimension, this explanation seems extremely unnecessary and not planned beyond, “We need something to talk about for Majora’s Mask, cause I got nothing.” Ruined childhood experiences for a bad plot explanation we didn’t need or want? I’ll part with that canon.
Taylor Wells is an Senior Editor at Zelda Informer. Want to ridicule his lack of regard Hyrule’s new canon? Perhaps you’d rather share in his misery? Feel free to hit him up on Twitter, Twitch, or in the comments below!