"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?" the enigmatic Happy Mask Salesman says. His immortal words mark the true beginning of one of Link's most bizarre adventures; one that arguably took the series' portrayal of love, fear, death and despair to new — and so far unsurpassed — levels. Though the ever so sinister The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is often overshadowed by its older, more righteous sibling — Ocarina of Time — it certainly has its fair share of dedicated fans. Rightly so, because what it lacks in dungeons and convenient saving systems, it more than makes up for with storytelling and atmosphere.
The game's flagship feature — wearable masks that granted Link both extraordinary and not-so-extraordinary abilities — is one that has always left a lasting impression in our minds. We'll always remember the thrill of reacquainting ourselves with the Bunny Hood (first seen in OoT) and zipping around Termina at a comically fast speed, being awed as we took on Twinmold at a gargantuan size thanks to the Giant's Mask, and the sheer horror of the cutscenes that played after using one of the four transformation masks. It was such an odd concept to base a game around but it came together so beautifully. Yet — in our experience — whenever we suggest that the masks should return for a future Zelda instalment, we're met with a negative response more often than not.
Why is this? The chief reason is a lot of people tend to see the Zelda series as a vehicle of innovation, so recoil in horror at the idea of repeating something that's already been done. "No", some say, "I'd prefer it if Nintendo tried something new with the next Zelda title" or "just make a Majora's Mask remake instead". Understandable, but odd responses as the Zelda series is certainly no stranger to reusing gameplay mechanics in new titles. As alluded to previously, masks themselves first appeared in Ocarina of Time, albeit in a minor role. Transformation into another being — something that a limited selection of masks provide — has also reappeared both before and after Majora's Mask, in the Oracle games and Twilight Princess. There's also the recurring element of magical instruments, and don't even get us started on time travel. If you're confused as to why people would reject the return of masks on this basis, welcome to the club. Strange as it may seem, it happens.
It's possible that some people might mistakenly assume that the return of masks will turn a potential new Zelda game into something of a Majora's Mask 2.0. No doubt some would rejoice at the very idea, but it may generate concern in others who'd prefer a fresher experience. Though what we mustn't forget is that Majora's Mask had a lot of other things going on at the same time, namely the 3-day cycle and the 'real-time' events that came hand in hand with it. It's proof that a Zelda game can maintain wildly different mechanics within a single title. Should the mask mechanic return in the future, it could be paired with another mechanic our mortal minds can't possibly comprehend at this time, going on to create a combination so overwhelmingly perfect and fresh that we'd later wonder how we ever lived without it.
Of course, it'd be very foolish to rally so hard for the return of masks for these reasons alone. Right now, it seems as though we're arguing for Link to go sauntering around like he's an extra in the Phantom of the Opera just for the sake of it. However, the key reason we'd love to see masks return to a Zelda game once more is — quite simply — there's so much potential it hurts. Majora's Mask featured 24 masks with all sorts of weird and wonderful powers: one helped you locate fairies, one made you invisible, one turned your face into a pig so you could sniff out items, one allowed you speak to Gibdos, one let you check post boxes and one even let you emit explosions from your face.
That's just a small sample and doesn't even take into account all the different abilities granted from the four transformation masks (Deku, Goron, Zora and Fierce Deity). There was just so much diversity among each mask and each one could be used in a variety of different scenarios beyond their primary function. A particular favourite of ours was the fact wearing certain undead-themed masks would cause the nightmarish Re-dead enemies to dance flamboyantly; it's truly a beautiful sight to behold. Elsewhere, wearing a mask and speaking to an NPC would yield a reaction that changed depending on which one you wore. There are just layers and layers to the concept.
Majora's Mask was released in western waters in late 2000, nearly 14 years ago. That's a fairly long time ago, so we'd actually love to see what kinds of masks Nintendo could create that reflects how the Zelda series has evolved since then, or adapts to a brand new Zelda world with new accompanying mechanics, or just for fun. How about a Cucco mask? Link can sort of fly if he jumps off a ledge...and also unleashes a Hulk-like rage if he's attacked too much while wearing it. The possibilities are really quite endless.
We're counting on a Zelda-related announcement at the impending E3 digital event. While a 3DS remake of Majora's Mask would be welcomed with open arms, a small part of us wants to see the masks return in the upcoming Zelda Wii U title. Old and new can be merged together to create a fresh experience, and Nintendo has proved time and time again that it has staff with enough creativity to do Link's second masquerade ball justice.
Would you like to see masks return in a future Zelda title? or would you prefer them to only see the light of day in a Majora's Mask remake?