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    Majora's Mask: The villain problem
    • Hello ZU. Adding to the recent trend of threads that complain about certain story aspects in Zelda games, I'm here to talk to you about something that grieves me about Majora's Mask. I touched upon this briefly in a separate discussion elsewhere on the forum, and it got me into thinking about what my problem actually was and how I should best articulate it. So here goes.


      For those who either haven't played the game (what are you doing here) or haven't played it in a long while, let me set the stage for you; the game features an interesting and relatively complex villain in the form of Skull Kid, who appears at the very start of the game as a playful yet mischievous child, donning a creepy-looking mask and being accompanied by two fairies. It does not take long before we begin to discover that there is something more sinister at work here, as the Skull Kid uses his creepy mask to transform you into a Deku Scrub and departs for Termina, cackling at your misery all the while.

      From there on, the game's story provides additional depth to the Skull Kid as a character in gradual steps. When you next meet him, it is at the top of the Clock Tower, and we come to learn that the mask he wears is not just capable of turning innocent Hylian boys into Deku Scrubs; it can also make the fucking moon fall on the earth. By now we have already been told about the evil power of Majora's Mask by the Happy Mask Salesman, and we see the Skull Kid make use of that power to make his wish come true - to see Termina be destroyed. At least, that is what we are led to believe is happening.

      By the time the main story has played out, a lot has been learned about Skull Kid. He wasn't always so callous and cruel. He was a playful and friendly sort, still mischievous to a point but also wanting to keep to his friends, as we can see from Tatl's memories of him. We come to learn that he had a similar kind of friendship with Termina's four giants, but that he felt betrayed by their departure. This feeling of betrayal and loneliness fuels the negative influence of Majora's Mask, and turns the Skull Kid into a powerful and twisted version of himself. This is the villain that the game builds towards from the moment you boot up the game, until you return to the Clock Tower with all four giants ready to aid you in stopping the moon.


      Now that everyone's caught up, here's my grievance; Majora's Mask gives us this compelling villain in the form of Skull Kid and goes through a lot of effort to provide depth to his character, but at almost literally the eleventh hour (or the seventy-second hour, to be more precise) the story drops the Skull Kid as a villain entirely and substitutes him with the mask he was wearing. This is a "Hijacked by Ganon" plotline on steroids, where the hijacking is done so suddenly that it becomes even more of a detriment to the story because of how jarring it is to switch gears in this manner.

      Don't get me wrong; the game is very clear about the nature of the mask. The narrative uses every opportunity it gets to remind you that the mask is evil, that it can twist and corrupt minds, that it is cursed, and so forth. But this is more akin to how, say, the One Ring is described in Tolkien's Middle-Earth; an object that is evil, almost with a mind of its own, but not really acting as a villain in the story and CERTAINLY not taking the place of the main antagonist.

      The problem arises in how we go from a firmly established antagonist to a barely established one at pretty much the WORST time in the story (i.e. right before you're heading off to fight the fucker), and it's an issue I frankly don't see mentioned nearly as often with regards to Majora's Mask as I see when talking about other games in the series (namely ones where Ganon hijacks the plot, like ALttP, TP and FSA). It could be argued that the issue isn't as prevalent in MM as in other games (though I would argue that MM is the most egregious example of them all), but what cannot be argued is that this is what we're dealing with; a villainous bait and switch.

      But I didn't come here just to point out that Majora's Mask's ending was kinda messy with how it handled its antagonists; no, I want to also put forth an idea of what the ending could have looked like if the game had stuck with the Skull Kid as its main antagonist and incorporated him into the final stretch of the game, instead of ditching him right before the finish line. I think there's some really good potential here that would not only eliminate the problem of the villain switcheroo, but even potentially add some further depth to the game's final moments.

      First of all, let's just get this out of the way; the way the Skull Kid just kinda collapses to the ground when the four giants are summoned, is lame as hell. He doesn't even try to put up a fight or anything, he just falls to the ground like a wimp. So obviously, if we're gonna keep him as the antagonist then that can't happen. In my version, the Skull Kid wouldn't collapse at all but would rather become increasingly infuriated at the giants' intervention (his twisted mind seeing this as yet another betrayal on their part) and would lash out with the mask's power, in an attempt to force the moon down upon Termina. This prompts a boss fight where you (Link) fight him in order to subdue him. How the fight would work isn't something I'll get into here, but it would feel much more significant as a first clash with the final boss than fighting an enlarged version of Majora's Mask in a weird, square-shaped room. This means that, yes, the fighting starts outside of the moon, not within it. It makes sense that the fight for Termina's future should at least partly take place in Termina, right?

      Moving on, the Skull Kid's defeat does nothing to help restore his increasingly fractured psyche, and the mask continues to feed on his increasingly negative emotions. As a final measure to try and force the moon down into Clock Town, he allows himself to be absorbed into the moon (like the mask does in the actual game) and we see the same scene play out as in the actual game, with Link deciding to follow his enemy rather than take the safe route by playing the Song of Time, and Tatl staying by his side.

      I think at this point, having the Skull Kid still in the picture as the villain would add a significant layer to the sight that greets you within the moon; a serene and peaceful sight, almost nostalgic in a way.

      This is obviously meant to reflect something to us, the players, about the nature of what we're up against. But here's the thing; with Skull Kid as the final boss, this scene has so much more meaning. Especially seeing four kids run around and play with each other while a fifth one sits by himself, clearly lonely. The four children wear the masks of the different bosses you've fought in order to free the giants, while the lonely child wears Majora's Mask. This scene loses a lot of significance with Skull Kid cut out of the picture, I feel, because we have no idea how it would relate to Majora's Mask as an entity. And the mask describes Skull Kid as nothing more than a puppet, so it's highly unlikely that the Skull Kid had much of an influence on the mask. Keep the Skull Kid in, and the implication of what we see here becomes much clearer. As does the significance of what comes next.

      If you decide to give up (nearly) all the masks you've collected in Termina to the four children, by completing their trials, you're given the opportunity to wield the Fierce Deity's Mask by the child that wears Majora's Mask. In the actual game, this is framed as you being granted a power that is potentially as evil as Majora itself, but we never see this come to fruition in any meanginful way whatsoever. Moreover, the mask is literally handing you the most overpowered item in the entire game, the mask that is most effective at killing Majora and ending the threat. Having Majora's Mask hand you this powerful object which you then use to utterly demolish Majora's Mask with, makes no sense and is just a baffling headscratcher to contemplate. At best, the mask expected Link to get corrupted which just didn't come to pass, which is still really goddamn stupid. It'd be like Ganondorf being the one to give you the Light Arrows in Ocarina of Time.

      But suppose we're still dealing with Skull Kid. Suddenly there might be reasons beyond sheer stupidity that you're given such a powerful mask by the villain right before the final battle. It could be the evil of Majora's Mask daring you to use the power of the Fierce Deity to kill the Skull Kid (in which case you really would be the bad guy). It could be the Skull Kid, in a moment of sanity, providing you with the best means to stop himself before he destroys Termina. I wouldn't mind leaving it up in the air, I just think this approach would be much, much clearer in terms of what the stakes of the final battle would be (you know, beyond saving Termina) and what the significance of the Fierce Deity's Mask actually is.

      The final battle itself could still play out much as it does in the game itself, just with the Skull Kid playing a role this time around. The mask transforming around him as it grows more powerful and takes on a more beastly form, culminating in Majora's Wrath. The fight ends with Majora destroyed and the Skull Kid freed.

      This doesn't change the actual ending much at all (you still get all the happy endings and all that), but it does work around a big problem I have with how all the development into the Skull Kid as an antagonist doesn't seem to factor into the final battle whatsoever, and it would also mitigate another problem I have in how Majora's Mask being the one to give you the Fierce Deity's Mask makes no sense. By just sticking to the villain role that they'd been cultivating through an entire game - that of a betrayed child lashing out, getting in over his head and being completely ruled by his negative emotions - they could have had something truly, truly special on their hands.

      Instead we got "evil puppetmaster monster". Oy vey, I am not impressed.


      What're your thoughts, ZU? Do you think the ending of Majora's Mask should have been different? Do you think the Skull Kid was a more compelling villain than Majora's Mask? Lemme know.
    • Skull kid acted like a wimp because he was a wimp. It would be one thing if Skull kid was a compelling villain to begin with (like Zant or Ghirahim), but he wasn't. Just an annoying imp. So I can't say that I was disappointed when he was ditched on the Clock Tower. The main difference between "the one ring" and Majora's Mask is that the latter has a damn face that looks pretty unsettling to most people (especially to 10 year olds). And even if the Skull kid didn't was a wimp, I think the point is to show how powerful the mask is and how exhausted Skull kid got by its influence.

      Yeah much stuff is pretty confusing in the moon and all that, but guess why the game is so popular to begin with? Because of all strange, confusing and weird stuff going on. It makes people think, theorize and debate. And I just want to mention that I am fairly certain that it is an error in translation in regards to the Fierce Deity Mask and that it would be evil. Aonuma "suggested" in an interview that the mask contains all the memories of the people of Termina:

      "Whose soul is inside the Fierce Deity Mask?"

      Eiji Aonuma wrote:

      The best I can give you is just a suggestion. The best way to think about it is that the memories of all the people of Termina are inside of the Fierce Deity Mask.…-whose-soul-is-inside-th/

      Yes I know that "oni" means like "devil" or "demon" or whatever, and that is the name of Fierce Deity in Japanese, so I don't f***ing know. Ask Aonuma.

      I think it is way more important to learn to know Majora itself than Skull kid nontheless, even if it wasn't much, or told us that much.

      The post was edited 4 times, last by MVS ().

    • MVS wrote:

      Skull kid acted like a wimp because he was a wimp. It would be one thing if Skull kid was a compelling villain to begin with (like Zant or Ghirahim), but he wasn't. Just an annoying imp.
      The Skull Kid is easily as compelling of a villain as either of those two, given how he enters the story and how he remains relevant throughout. He may start off as an annoying imp, but the whole point of Majora's Mask's intro and the building menace of Skull Kid and his mask is that he's become more than just an annoying imp. That's the whole shtick with the Skull Kid as a character in Majora's Mask. That's the antagonist we're seeing fleshed out through the game's story. What I'm saying is that we'd be much better served by sticking with this antagonist than swapping him out for one that has barely been established, much less developed, right before the final battle.

      MVS wrote:

      The main difference between "the one ring" and Majora's Mask is that the latter has a damn face that looks pretty unsettling to most people (especially to 10 year olds). And even if the Skull kid didn't was a wimp, I think the point is to show how powerful the mask is and how exhausted Skull kid got by its influence.
      That the mask looks like a face does not change the fact that it is characterized as nothing more than an evil object for the majority of the game. In this respect, it is entirely similar to the One Ring.

      MVS wrote:

      Yeah much stuff is pretty confusing in the moon and all that, but guess why the game is so popular to begin with? Because of all strange, confusing and weird stuff going on. It makes people think, theorize and debate.
      I'm not inclined to agree that the strange, confusing and weird stuff going on is the reason why the game is popular (I'm pretty sure the gameplay, story and characters at least contribute, and arguably moreso than the strange stuff), but more importantly, none of this means that the game couldn't have a better ending. I think there'd still be plenty to theorize and debate about in the game, up to and including the revamped ending. A better ending wouldn't make Majora's Mask less weird, but it would enhance the game's villain by avoiding a problem that undermines him.