The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000) is a weird game.
Sequel to the critically-renowned Ocarina of Time (1998), Majora’s Mask cobbled together reused assets from its predecessor and a touch of Nintendo’s signature je ne sais quoi to create one of the most aesthetically pleasing, indulgent, richly-textured game worlds the series has seen. Familiar faces from the previous game are given new identities and roles in the twisted world of Termina, where vibrant neon colors and Daliesque architecture clash with ominous music and monstrous enemies, and just overhead, an ever-present, grimacing moon hangs low in the sky, threatening to crash down to earth in three days time.
With such a captivating hook ithe game has naturally inspired myriad fan art. Most notable of these is M. Bulteau’s work-in-progress fan opera, Majora.
An Unconventional Piece of Fan Art
The intensely unusual fan project is an ongoing labor of love. It especially pays homage to the game’s brilliant soundtrack composed by Koji Kondo and Toru Minegishi. The opera takes classic tracks from the game and gives them lyrics, occasionally playing with tempo and harmony as well.
Bulteau has recorded a number of demos already and the songs are…remarkably good! The lyrics and accompanying performances are extremely competent. They manage to embody the themes and tone of the original game and songs perfectly. Each song captures the game’s deep-set sense of dread and ever-present pall of death without being overbearing. And opera’s naturally dramatic, larger-than-life tone fits the epic story perfectly.
Most strikingly, the project is able to capture the feel, story, characters and general aesthetic of Majora’s Mask — the game’s strongest facets — without the need for actual gameplay. In fact, Majora removes the game’s protagonist Link altogether. Instead, it focuses on a side character named Kafei who was cursed by antagonist Skull Kid, turning into a child just days before his wedding.
This choice, and the project as a whole, seems to respond to my fundamental issue with Majora’s Mask. Because despite the game’s spectacular and unique aesthetic trappings and narrative, the game at its center is frankly lackluster.
The Strength of Media Shifting
Majora’s Mask strayed from Zelda tradition in a number of ways. It shifted gameplay focus away from exploring a number of dungeons—Majora’s Mask features only half the number of its predecessor—and an open world. Instead it zeroes in on a huge number of character and time-based side quests. It even provides the player with a detailed itinerary to keep track of the whereabouts of the world’s denizens. Along with the game’s three-day in-game cycle—around 54 minutes in real time, 156 with a certain time-slowing magic song—this makes for a stressful experience that seems to punish exploration and lack of careful planning.
So Majora the opera provides the perfect solution to my grievances. It incorporates all of the best bits of Majora’s Mask elegantly. Furthermore it conveys them in a medium better suited to the game’s marvelous core concept. All the joys of the original without the stress of impending moonfall.
Thumbnail Image from Youtube.
Is “Majora’s Mask” better suited as a game or an opera?