There is a line from an old song: “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” I find it nonsensical personally, despite it being a classic in pop culture. I don’t want to be hit in the eye by pizza, let alone the moon, but in Majora’s Mask, it’s a real possibility. The celestial body lingers over you with a terrifying grimace in this game, an ever-present reminder of the task at hand: stop this strange apocalypse before the land of Termina is hit with a whole lot of amore, if we’re going by what the song says.

Majora’s Mask was a game I played through once after it came out, then I didn’t touch it again for years until I played it on a livestream. At this point, I’d forgotten much of the gameplay, but there were a few things that remained ingrained in my psyche: the story was amazing, the water temple was confusing, and the timer was ruthless.

I re-learned the last two points the hard way.

Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!

When it came time to visit Great Bay and the Zoras, I prepared myself for the emotional experience of receiving the Zora Mask, for finding Mikau’s spirit and seeing Lulu’s grief, but I didn’t prepare myself entirely for the dungeon and the time it required. I knew the temple was vast, with endless waterways and confusing paths, but I figured so long as I slowed down time using the Inverted Song of Time, I’d be okay. I just had to time my entrance carefully, make sure I was well equipped, and it would be a piece of cake — or a slice of pizza pie if you will.  

At first, my assumption wasn’t wrong. Once inside, I progressed as normal, battling my way through currents and beasts to find chests, switches, pipes, and eventually the first mini-boss. This was where I ran into my first bit of trouble. I was playing this game emulated on my Wii U and only had the GamePad as a controller. My fingers and hands remembered the N64 controller and its ease, but they had trouble getting the right setup on the Wii U GamePad. This was also a game without gyro controls, and having played Breath of the Wild, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword recently, I was very used to a gyroscope mechanism. No such thing here — it was all analog.

Whether it was issues with controls, my own ineptitude, or a combination of the two, the eye-covered mini-boss Wart took two attempts to get through, bringing me to the dawn of the second day. I shook this off; surely the rest would be easier. I still had 48 hours, after all. I had time.

This mantra sustained me throughout the next section of the temple until I found Gekko who, despite Tatl’s flippancy, was a bigger problem than I ever expected he would be. It dragged on and on, forcing me to use up the three fairies I had, and in the middle of the fight, I heard the dreaded bell chimes and watched as the screen faded completely to black.

Needless to say, my frustration at this point was about as large as the moon in the sky, but I pressed on despite that warning. Part of me wanted to reset time; go back and restart the temple completely. I had experience behind me now; I knew the waterways better and knew how to handle the mini-bosses. But even with that experience, I’d have to fight those mini-bosses again, and that alone was enough of a deterrent. Aside from this, I was so close to the end of the temple, and surely the final boss couldn’t be that difficult. All I would have to do is manage my health and magic, and I’d be fine. I could beat the boss, return to Clock Town to drop off my rupees, and all would be good.

I continued, racing through the rest of the temple and toward Gyorg. Time was waning. The moon was close and the ground under my feet was shaking. When I finally made it to the final boss, I had but minutes left, and the fight was not as simplistic as I’d hoped. The beast would lunge at me, and I wouldn’t dodge in time. I would try to find it with my bow and arrow only to misfire at the last second. The bells were chiming; it felt as though I could feel the timer ticking away.

Then it happened.

Link wasn’t moving, but it wasn’t because he was dead. I couldn’t hit pause, I couldn’t move, all I could do was watch as Gyorg dragged Link to the depths again and again. I looked down at the GamePad in my hands in horror and realized the power cord for the device was left unplugged. My
GamePad was dead, and if I had received any warning, it had gone unnoticed.

I raced across the room to grab the charger, then shoved it into the port while simultaneously scrambling to find an empty plug-in on my power strip. My chat was silent, everyone watching seemingly horrified as I was. The unit turned on just in time for me to manage to haul myself onto the platform in the center of the room, only to be attacked by Gyorg a second later and watch helplessly as Link slumped to the floor. Link was dead, and I was returned to the front of the temple to begin anew.

There was no time left. The clock was ticking, and the moon had taken over the entire sky. I needed to get to a save statue and fast. A friend in chat told me we may be able to take advantage of a secret 4th day glitch to quickly return and finish the fight, but we had to return to Clock Town immediately. So that’s where I went, and with my bunny hood in place, I raced towards the observatory.

Except I turned the wrong way in Clock Town, having not memorized the map in its entirety yet. This led me on a long path, and as I ran down that path the timer dwindled to nothing. The last few seconds faded away, and I watched in horror as the moon above came crashing down on Termina. There was no pizza pie, there was no amore, there was only the fiery destruction of the world around me.

Moon, Majora's Mask

I sat in stunned silence for a few moments, thinking about all the progress I’d lost and how close I’d been to finishing. My chat was quiet, save for a few consoling words coming across my screen. All that work, the frustration of the mini-bosses, the strange puzzles of Great Bay Temple — they would all have to be completed again. When I reloaded the game, Termina was as it was on the first day of the cycle, but my confidence was left in shambles.

It would be a month before I returned to the game to finish it, and in that time I watched numerous examples of both the boss fight but also of the two mini-bosses to make sure I could finish them, and the temple, in a timely manner. On that round, I finished the temple, and the game eventually, but my controller dying and the moon crash while I was playing live are forever etched in my memory.

Majora’s Mask is a fantastic game. The story is amazing, and it’s got some of the most unique and special characters in the Zelda canon. But it can be as unforgiving as time itself, which I suppose was intentional. There’s no other game that gives me such a sense of urgency and can bring with it such crushing disappointment. When I play Majora’s Mask again, I’ll make sure to give it the proper time, respect, and amore that it deserves.