My video game beginnings were humble. I didn't get off to the most "hardcore" start. My foray into the gaming world began not with Duke Nukem 3D or Final Fantasy VI, but with Pocahontas for the Sega Genesis.
When the game came out in 1996, I had something of an obsession with the Native American Disney princess. I'd watch the movie whenever I was being babysat, owned a Pocahontas costume and I even had a little plastic Pocahontas-themed tent. Much to everyone's dismay, I recall I'd even beat on little drums to what my untrained ears perceived as "the tune of the song" while the movie was playing. Maybe my parents figured I'd be less inclined to drum on things and run around the house like a Powhatan if I had my hands full with a Sega Genesis controller. In any case, at some point the game came into my possession.
I was enthralled. As with most of the games I played from childhood well into adolescence, I'd sit in front of that glowing rectangle with a funny look on my face and repeatedly make Pocahontas slam into things in a futile effort to progress the storyline. With a little help from my dad, though, I'd always manage to solve the puzzle, acquire the next animal spirit power and move on.
...that is, until I got to the part where Pocahontas has to sneak past a couple of colonist guards in order to get into their camp and see John Smith. If you fail, Pocahontas gets shot, and that just did not sit well with me. Sneak past the guards and risk an innocent 16-bit character's life? I froze up and had some sort of five-year-old existential crisis over the whole ordeal. It took me a long time to beat the game, but when I finally did and a text-box popped up over the final scene to congratulate me for preventing the war, I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment. I may have even shed a tiny, manly tear... or y'know, bawled like the baby I legitimately was.
Remembering all of that, this week I decided to go back and replay Pocahontas for the Sega Genesis. I've found it's often best to leave fond memories of older video games alone, as things that were awesome when I was five generally aren't awesome anymore. In this case, I was a little pleasantly surprised. Pocahontas is still a beautiful game with the sort of flowing animations you'd expect from Disney. It's very short and the plot clearly isn't the main focus, but I still had a lot of fun completing levels and finding secret items (even if I'm not sure exactly what they do). Often overlooked by kids who remember playing The Lion King and Aladdin, Pocahontas was pretty great. Sometimes five-year-old me is right about things.
Destructoid, what was your first gaming experience? Do you still consider it a good game? What sort of games do you play now? I like to play more open-world RPGs and shooters than Disney adventure games these days, but once in awhile I like to go back to my roots. Duke Nukem might be good at smacking bitches up, but can he paint with all the colors of the wind?
In video games, particularly of the role-playing genre, monsters seem to lurk outside the bounds of every village. With few exceptions, every corner of the world map is populated by everything from mutated animals to mischievous goblins, to enormous fire-breathing dragons. It's a scary world! How's your Average Joe expected to survive in such a place? How are things like trade, farming for resources, colonization, or even long-distance communication supposed to thrive when the average person isn't even experienced or armed enough to leave their homes?
On occasion, the game gives a brief explanation as to how the world came to be so overwhelmingly inhabited by bad guys. In Final Fantasy IX for example, it was blamed on the Mist coming out of the Iifa tree. From this, you could infer that the monsters were a recent occurence and that many of them would disappear once your part in the story was over. But if that's the case, why isn't everyone flipping the fuck out over it?! You know that if this sort of thing happened in the real world, it'd be a really really big deal. The government would declare a State of Emergency and you'd begin to hear news stories about it every single night, until people genuinely complained that they were sick of hearing about it. We'd have religious fanatics in the streets preaching about Armageddon and the next coming of Jesus (as if we don't get enough of that already). Many people, fearing invasion, would be stocking up on survival essentials and weapons, stampeding over each other in Stop&Shops and Wal-Marts the world over which, in itself, would result in several gruesome deaths. The more desperate, panicked citizens would go so far as to raid grocery stores and even other homes, hurting others in the process. If it can happen during hurricane warnings and Black Friday Sales, it would certainly happen with the sudden threat of monsters.
But let's imagine for a moment that the threat wasn't sudden. More often than not, games don't bother explaining the presence of evil beasties in their world. So are we meant to believe they've always been around? Surely that'd be less detrimental to society. People would be used to it, right? Life would go on as normal.
Except it wouldn't. With your average citizen unable to leave their neighborhood without being attacked, settlements would be largely isolated from each other. You'd need trained and well-armed soldiers to protect merchant caravans trading goods from city to city. It'd get costly to do a whole lot of travelling, so trading would be fairly scarce. Traveling for research or for anything would be a large and frightening ordeal, so even trading of knowledge might be kind of rare. This means that technology would advance much more slowly without a convenient way for great minds to share new information. Everyone might actually be more stupid, if you can imagine it. Branching out to be able to learn more might not be worth the risk!
Basically, video games like to place you in worlds with evil creatures that are, for some reason or another, determined to mutilate or eat you. Even the plants are out to get you, and somehow you're expected to survive long enough to save the world. I mean, shit...you're just some guy. Who do they think you are-- Bear Grylls? And the scariest part is, nobody else in the world seems to care that there are giant chimeras outside the city gates. They just want to play cards with you and make vague Star Trek references. This isn't to say that RPGs should be changed, or that this particular aspect of them is unrealistic and stupid-- not at all! I like them exactly the way they are. Just observing that perhaps the societies portrayed in video games are much more well-equipped to handle sudden monster invasions than we are. If such creatures existed en masse in reality the way they do in the RPGs we know and love, you might find the world would be a much less laid back place.
This looks like a massive TL;DR. Trust me, the pictures make it look way longer.
I'll start off by saying that I love Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. I love the music, the less-than-perfect N64 graphics, and the characters. I even love the tedious 72-hour system.
This was originally going to be my Love/Hate musing, but I just couldn't find enough things to complain about. Now, it's a big heaping pile of "OHMYGODILOVEMAJORA'SMASK fapfapfap". Hopefully someone still cares.
Oh, and THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.
I was already a fan of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time when Majora's Mask came out in 2000. Albeit, a nine-year-old fan who had never quite made it past the Great Deku Tree sequence (and rented used cartridges of the game at Blockbuster to play much further into the game), but a fan nonetheless. I loved Link. I loved Navi, for all of her vast knowledge on the wonders of Z-targeting. I adored the little green tunics and pointy elf hats of the Kokiri tribe.
But Majora's Mask was something different to me altogether. From the start, it seemed much darker than the (very beginning of) Ocarina of Time that I'd become so familiar with. Even the opening title theme made me slightly uncomfortable when the calm, somewhat cheerful Clock Town music turned into the menacing theme of the Skull Kid. Scenes with happy townspeople and construction workers going about their business were replaced with the Skull Kid, and the Moon looking down at the Clock Tower. Clearly, he's got his ANGRYFACE on.
But what really gave me chills, and cemented the idea that "Hey, this game is different from the Zelda I know," was the eerie, introductory line of the Happy Mask Salesman.
"...You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"
From that one moment, that ONE short, somewhat "thank-you-Captain-Obvious" line of dialogue (terrible fate? I've been turned into a TREE, motherfucker!), I was sold on the game, and completely fascinated with the mysterious Mask Salesman.
I think I've made clear by now that in my underdeveloped nine-year-old girlbrain, Ocarina of Time equaled rainbows and sunshine and Majora's Mask was filled with bad, bad men and scary masks and evil things. Let's move on.
Never in my life have I been as moved by a simple sidequest in a video game. To put it in perspective-- I laughed at the end of Titanic, when Leonardo diCaprio died. I got choked up when I completed the Anju and Kafei sidequest, and the scene pictured above played out. The story isn't too complicated or detailed, but I think that's why it continues to be one of my favorite parts of any game. Simple, yet effective.
Speaking of sympathetic characters, the Bomber Notebook is another part of Majora's Mask that's worth mentioning. A mere quest log on the surface, this notebook shows the player that every character in the world of Termina is a legitimate one with their own lives and problems, and everyone is connected somehow. There aren't any NPCs standing around with nothing to say. Everyone's got a purpose; even the decomposing hand that comes out of the toilet in the Stock Pot Inn.
Helping everyone wasn't a chore, either. I found myself genuinely wanting to help all of the characters and learn more about them. I think Majora's Mask is one of few games I've played where that's been the case. Every character in this game was legitimately interesting.
Just a few more points to make before I shut the fuck up. First, Odolwa was a badass motherfucker, and for me, one of the best (and first) boss fight experiences OF ALL TIME. I may be alone in this, but when I finally reached the end of Woodfall Temple and he showed up and started dancing around and yelling at me, I think I may have peed a little.
The boss fight had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, as did the haunting music in the cutscene that followed. You learn that the BAMF you've just defeated was nothing more than a gentle giant under the spell of an evil mask, similar to Majora's, and there are three similar creatures in Termina that you have to free from the same fate.
And all those giants you've freed? You need all of them in order to keep the moon from falling. If you try to summon the giants without having freed them all, you're met with one of the most heartbreaking cutscenes ever. Ever, I say. If you have freed them all, it's still quite an amazing cutscene. Those giants may very well be the coolest thing about this game (visually, at least), which is saying a lot.
In short-- for nine-year-old me, this game was both thought-provoking and slightly traumatizing. Some of the masks may have given me nightmares, but I think I can honestly attribute some of who I am today to saving cows from aliens and giving my Deku flower land deed to the dude who got stuck in the toilet.