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The FEAR: I'm Afraid of the Moon

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[Editor's note: Charles Sharam talks about Majora's Mask's evil Moon for his Monthly Musing piece. Also, be sure to watch the videos Charles included. I never saw them before and they are extremely creepy. -- CTZ]

What if, when we glanced up at the night sky, the moon grimaced back at us, and the darkened sockets of its eyes burned fear into our conscience?

Hair-raising chills would creep down our backs and crawl up our spines. And I very much doubt that folks would be keen to go star gazing any more. Even though this looming terror is not an affliction of our earth, it's a component of everyday life for the inhabitants of Termina. They cower in the shadows of a terrible moon on a crash-course with their world, and they are doomed unless a brave individual ascends to save them (which makes one wonder why the world's inhabitants aren't all that concerned with securing their own salvation, but whatever).

Yes, I'm talking about The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

Before we dig into the meat of moon-fear, I have a declaration to make that steely-eyed Ocarina of Time zealots will probably find perverse and ultimately get stiff about. If you're not already clenching up your ass cheeks and preparing to submerge my inbox in "oot roolz ur stoopid" subject lines, read this: Majora's Mask is my favourite Zelda game. I'm fascinated with it. The offbeat atmosphere is perfectly realized and the overarching sadness and dark themes set it apart from the rest of the franchise. Although Ocarina of Time featured a grand adventure sprawled across a massive Hyrule, Majora's Mask (still featuring an epic quest) placed a much greater emphasis on fleshing out the characters, locations, and plot lines within its new vista, Termina. And I really like that. We can save the praise for another day, though. For now let's answer this question: what does Majora's Mask succeed at best of all? In short, it truly succeeds at instilling players with a fear of the moon. What moon? This moon:



Yeah, this moon is pretty damn scary and will make the majority of players uneasy for a number or reasons. Firstly, dig out your thesaurus and thumb for the word "malicious". Majora's moon can be described with this word and all of its synonyms (except perhaps "poisonous", a poisonous moon would be too frightening even for virtual reality). It's evil, it's obsessed with consuming everything, and it's out to take a moon-shit on Clock Town's fireworks festival. Secondly, it is the symbolic center-point of stress and pandemonium in the game. Set to collide with the world in three days, it lays down a fierce time restriction that ramps up the player's adrenaline with every passing minute. Thirdly, the tumult surrounding the moon is built up to extremity not only by in-game factors but by Nintendo itself in a apocalyptic marketing campaign. Here, take a look at this for starters:


Grim military officers, throngs of concerned onlookers, tattoo-drenched Yakuzas -- even the dogs are losing their minds in this commercial. I remember walking past the entrance to my living room when this originally aired across television networks back in 2000 and stopping in my tracks to stare onward as the bizarre promotion crept out of my aging CRT set. The ad captured a sense of disconcerting paranoia similar to what people may have felt after reading news coverage on controversial UFO reports a la Roswell and the Kenneth Arnold sighting in our dearly departed 20th century. That is to say that it's a wee bit unnerving. This tense atmosphere soon reverberates into one of fear and panic as the crimson moon descends upon earth in the last twenty seconds or so of the commercial.

Paranoia and panic are a quirky blend for a video game commercial, wouldn't you say? The moon-fear is just beginning. Check this out:


What you just watched is a compilation of two parts from an extension of Nintendo's viral marketing campaign for Majora's Mask, posted on zeldaradio.com (site is now closed, you will be redirected to Nintendo.com). ZeldaRadio was depicted as an underground news company following the exploits of a Majora's Mask player known as "The One", who would supposedly stop the moon from plummeting into Earth if he completed the game in time. I guess he did, seeing as our vaporized limbs are not floating in space. All in all, the site's work succeeded in establishing an eery, pre-apocalyptic atmosphere for the game. There's bound to be at least a couple non-gamers who've stumbled upon these videos by accident and freaked out, no doubt heading to their basements to reinforce their bomb-shelter and prepare to spend the next thirty-five years underground.

Fright-focused marketing campaign aside, what makes Majora's moon a realistic source of fear to me is that it actually does pose a serious threat to gameplay. So much so that the player's actions are wholly dictated by its impending touchdown. Let's be blunt: you are the moon's bitch up until the end of the game. Every time the three-day countdown to destruction approaches its end you must play the Song of Time to rewind to the beginning of the seventy-two hour cycle. It's that or witness the end of the world and see Link burnt up in a shock wave of flame and ruin.

This considered, a few disconcerting points are struck into being. You can't escape the moon. You can't fight the moon. You can't hurt the moon's feelings. You can't devastate the moon with light arrows. You can't beat the moon at anything. Your only way to progress through the game is to travel back in time repeatedly, gradually attaining the means to put an end to its catastrophic descent. All the while, players must withstanding the moon's menacing stare and languish in the anxiety of approaching destruction. The paranoia of losing a few hours of game data in addition to suffering the presence of an adversary that can't even be seriously confronted is scary indeed.


 

It turns out that some big naked guys are the only creatures capable of stopping the moon's descent. Pardon me, four sky scraper sized giants who are fucking awesome looking. However, players spend most of the game under the moon's terrifying gaze and by the time these giants come to the rescue there will have been plenty of moon-fear to go around. All the inhabitants of Termina are afraid of this plummeting red sphere and you will also be afraid as the hour of impact draws near. One youtube commenter, "yamatovergil3", had this to say about the menacing moon:

"I remember the first time I played this game and made link look up. I swear I fucking shit myself when I saw that moon."

And there you have it: this moon will induce shitting. In conclusion, any moon that causes people to take a crap in their own pants is as scary as the blood-soaked spectre of Genghis Kahn screaming into your face from hell. But not as scary as this.

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