I keep forgetting how weird this game is, and how much I love it.
There’s an enormous castle beyond Ikana Valley that’s completely deserted except for crows, giant spiders, and animated corpses called ReDeads. If you walk in wearing the skeletal Captain’s Mask (which I did because I always wear the Captain’s Mask, why would you ever not), the ReDeads don’t attack you but instead dance in place. The ReDeads have mastered five dance moves ranging from pirouettes to a sort of Cossack dance, and they are all bizarrely well animated.
In my experience, the fight with the King of Ikana is one of the hardest in the series. He moves so quickly that, if you Z-target him, he (or his disembodied skull) will get behind you and drain a substantial portion of your health. The player therefore has to play the fight almost completely by ear, listening for where he is in the room and hoping that, when Link spins around to smite him, he’ll actually be there.
I’ve died any number of times in this fight, which is grueling even with sufficient preparation, but the cut scene afterwards is worth it. The king’s two guards bicker with each other over who is at fault for their defeat before he silences them, saying that his kingdom was ruined because of its lack of mercy. The king then teaches Link the “Elegy of Emptiness,” which creates a grotesque shell of Link’s form that he can leave behind standing in his place in order to solve puzzles. The statues are super creepy, and the process of making them looks extremely uncomfortable.
The mummy-infested underground tunnels that Link uses to access Ikana Castle are where he acquires this game’s version of the Mirror Shield, which is stained with a pattern representing a screaming face. What this means is that, when Link runs forward away from the screen, the pained face on the shield strapped to his back is turned toward the player. It’s more than a little upsetting.
Perhaps the major guiding theme of Majora’s Mask is regret. Aside from the Skull Kid, who has been possessed by the eponymous mask, none of the NPCs in Termina has done anything particularly regrettable, so I’m guessing that the regret in question is Link’s.
If I were to take this theory one step farther, I might say that the whole of Termina is a projection of Link’s anxiety concerning his experiences in Ocarina of Time in much the same way that the monsters on Koholint Island are a projection of the trauma Link experiences because of the events in A Link to the Past.
I guess the moral of the story is that ten-year-olds can become psychologically scarred when they’re sent out on murder missions, go figure.
( Header image from Game Art HQ )