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.