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MASKDA

22 October 2005

The following will be a blurt about everything I have to say about Zelda. This week I began playing Majora's Mask for the first time, which was generously re-released for the Gamecube. This game was loudly praised for being a darker Zelda, edgier, and I was very curious towards it. Having only played a few hours into it, I am not disappointed. One of the great things is that even though it most definitely is very dark, very scary and even menacing, it isn't monochrome at all. In fact, this world is even more colourful and quirkier than Ocarina of Time! But it's exactly in this quirkiness that the secret to real terror lies. The absurdist world that is sketched out in front of us (and indeed, the minute you enter it you simply feel that people have spent years pouring their wildest ideas and fantasies into the game) makes everything feel bizarre and unreal. It's very comforting, sure, because the style is the same as Ocarina, but at the same time this is an entirely new beast.

It's Zelda gone mad. There's what I would like to describe as the scariest character ever in any game, that disturbing and genuinely frightening moon, constantly descending onto the hapless inhabitants of the lands, threatening to crush them all. But do they take notice? No- in fact, they go about their mundane business all day long, and as you stress to reach your objectives before those three dreadful days are over, they hinder you with every bit of jurisdiction and oblivion they can muster. You will turn back time itself to give your impending doom the slip, but the moon will simply reset as well: it's an inevitability. Agent Smith may have quipped that the oncoming train was the sound of the inevitable, but this is the real thing. It will take a hero to stop it. This game is all about pulling a victory when you've already lost, going ahead against impossible odds. The pressure and responsibility -even in those first few hours- are terrifying and great. This is genuine darkness, not a cheap cosmetic make-over like a certain middle-eastern Prince took, who learned a few cuss-words and put on some eyeliner.

I'm sure I'll have plenty of things to say about Majora's Mask before I finish it, but I'll keep it at this for now. Going to the newest Zelda, Twilight Princess, one can make obvious connections to Majora. It is a turn for the dark as well, leaving the wonderfully designed shores of Windwaker for a more realistic approach. Uh-oh. Didn't I just say that the whole crux of Majora's scariness lay in the fact that it was so absurd that you got a feeling of wrongness? This new Zelda, tied to its self-imposed realism, certainly isn't going to put a ghastly moon in the sky and let nobody notice it. It wouldn't fit. I'm sure it's quite a fashionable thing to complain about the return to realism from the cell-shaded style of Windwaker, but I think it weakens the exact thing predecessors like Majora established.

The thing is, I like the diversity Zelda offers. So I'm not going to go boo-hoo that there's now a manga-inspired Link. What I will bitch about however, is the awful design of the characters. Have you seen the NPC's? They're horrible! Effigies with nauseating lip-synch mouths, almond-shaped eyes and what-have-you! They're trying to marry high-resolution, realistic graphics to the stylized, abstract quirkiness of Zelda and they are birthing something so hideously disfigured it'll be rejected by the church and called a blasphemous child. Of course I have to see it all in its proper place before I can make a true judgement call. But I'll be damned if I go easy on it or close my eyes just because it's sacred Zelda.

But if that dark Zelda will fail to capture me, I'll still have Majora. Beautiful, quirky Majora.

Roderick.