Few games have considerably ramped up my anxiety levels in my time on this planet (nearly 30 years).
In fact, so few have evoked this feeling that I have a hard time remembering them by name. That is, of course, aside from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Majora and I first crossed paths in spring 2000 (the same year Luke encountered Pokémon Silver) when it was originally released on the Nintendo 64. I know for sure that I pre-ordered a copy, being a huge Ocarina of Time fanboy, and I cherished the gold cartridge with its hologram artwork when I finally held it in my hands.
Love soon turned to frustration when I inserted the game into Nintendo’s final cartridge-based console. Why is the Skull Kid being such a jerk? I thought. What did he do with Epona? followed by THE HAPPY MASK SALESMAN IS TERRIFYING! All of my questions were inevitably answered as I made my way through one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences of my life. Sorta. I ended up selling (or trading in?) my copy of Majora’s Mask a week or so after completing it because I said to myself that I’d never play it again. Why? The anxiety.
The crippling, fever dream-inducing anxiety that came with playing Majora’s Mask was out of control. Sure, I can’t remember the dreams now (some 15 years later), but I know they happened. How do I know this? I just had one of ‘em the other night. Like Ocarina of Time before it, the second LoZ N64 title was recently remastered and upgraded (in several aspects) for the Nintendo 3DS. And for a few months there, I thought I’d finally cave and buy a Nintendo handheld after swearing them off for so many years.
I realize there are a lot of great games to play on the DS, but I’m just not a handheld person. Sorry (not sorry). Still, the New Nintendo 3DS piqued my interest to the point I almost pulled the trigger, especially when those Majora’s Mask-themed ones hit the web (and sold out within minutes). But there was a beacon of hope for my handheld hater-y: Nintendo decided to close down its then-Club Nintendo system and in doing so they revealed a slew of killer rewards for anyone with coins. For those wondering, the coins are basically rewards points that you earn for purchasing Nintendo games, consoles, etc. And sitting pretty among those new rewards? Majora’s Mask for the Wii’s Virtual Console.
I picked it up a week later—I was finishing up the good-but-flawed Deus Ex: Human Revolution—and once again immersed myself in the land of Termina. Hello, anxiety my old friend… Typically, I view anxiety as a negative, an issue I mostly dealt with as a pre-teen/teenager with sweaty hands, persistent stomach aches, and outright fear of being called on in class. But now? Yeah, it’s still there and poking around in my brain sometimes, but I try to embrace it while realizing that most people struggle with anxiety on some level. It’s that exact sentiment that makes me absolutely love playing through Majora’s Mask again. Sure, the save system drives me crazy as I’d rather hit the B button on the pause menu and save whenever I want, but the low-key aggravating save system makes the game that much more … of an experience.
You have to perform tasks at certain times or you’re basically screwed until you play the Song of Time on your ocarina (or mask-themed instrument) and restart the three-day cycle. While the system has pissed me off a few times already—I just got the Zora mask, for those wondering—I can appreciate the gameplay mechanic. Yes, it makes the game more challenging, but that’s the point. It also makes you appreciate the concept of time more than you probably already do. And it should go without saying that the narrative will make you truly understand the idea of friendship, love, togetherness… Friendship is really what Majora’s Mask is all about, aside from fate, madness, and other stuff.
It’s about what relationships can inspire and ultimately destroy. It’s about trusting someone and perhaps even losing them. It’s about “us.”What I’m ultimately getting at is that you need to play Majora’s Mask in some form. I don’t care if you buy the New Nintendo 3DS, track down the N64 copy, or just get the Virtual Console version as I did. Just play this game, ok?