Invariably, every post I write circles back to the music experienced in the game itself. It’s a huge selling factor for me, as it is for almost all gamers, I assume. There are a handful of games that, although I love them for their story and gameplay quite a bit, hearing the soundtrack in its natural state is the driving force for me to revisit it.
At one time, that might have been something I said about The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, but not anymore. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely LOVE this soundtrack (more of that to come in a minute). But if I can jump into a brief aside – The Legend of Zelda is probably my favorite video game franchise (quite the unique statement, I know). I’ve played through just about all of them multiple times, minus a few Game Boy titles here and there, and although I don’t come equipped with many fresh and groundbreaking opinions (my hottest take might be that I honestly think Skyward Sword is far and away the worst of the entire series), the last few years have found me aligned with the growing cult opinion that Majora’s Mask is a true gem, and one of the best of the series.
I had to restrain myself from pursuing about 10 different trains-of-thought there, so I’m going to tell myself I’ll write about everything I specifically love about MM at a later date and get back to the point of this entry – the music.
Each piece somehow sets a new tone while still paralleling the beautiful aesthetic of this game. In all of its facets, Majora’s Mask, to me, walks this tight balance of “celebration on the brink of dread”, or, “peaceful tranquility despite looming doom”. Obviously, this is the idea; Termina goes about its day-to-day life, all while a leering Moon grows closer and closer to complete decimation. In this sense, the visuals are an easier means to achieve this ambiance – it’s the music that should be harder to capture it with, but it does so with ease.
And so, onto the main point – if you have any passing memory of enjoying this soundtrack, or want to check it out, I highly recommend giving The Majora’s Mask Piano Album a listen (you can find it on Spotify, among other places). Although titled pretty blandly (the same goes for the artist: Video Games Live), I discovered this album while browsing for decent video game covers. I found it while at work one day, and it is now one of my favorite albums to listen to when working, writing, or even doing yardwork.
The opening track, “A Personal Journey”, opens up quietly and secretly, immediately invoking the imagery of the first scene, when Link and Epona find themselves far from Hyrule, in a new and mysterious land. The seamless segues into the Legend of Zelda theme during this song sneak up on you, and give chills. “Memories” beautifully depicts Link’s initial conversation with the mask salesman; one filled with mystery, familiarity, sympathy, and the just the perfect bit of impending terror. “Aha! An Intruder!” is another favorite of mine. Lost and confused as a Deku Scrub, at the beginning of the game when the sense of disorientation and confusion is still extremely palpable, only to be exacerbated by a hostile kingdom of Deku Scrubs amidst their own crisis, the track spanning this phase of the game is balanced by the back and forth of the “merry-go-round gone crazy” feel and the growing despair and speed of the main theme.
If I have one complaint, there is a track with vocals called “I Never Thought”. By and large, I don’t care for vocals in any of the video game covers I listen to regularly, and this one particularly always catches me off guard. I think the lack of audible dialogue in the game itself doesn’t do this track any favors – it always yanks me right out of the experience. I can see it gelling for many others, but it’s not for me.
I’ll end highlighting my personal favorite; an easy choice, it’s “Welcome to Clocktown”. This was the first track I heard, off of a playlist, and it’s the one that made me stop and think much harder about my thoughts on this game, and its music. The buildup is so cool; the early flicking of the piano keys immediately instills the image of the sun rising over Termina . It paints the picture of a happy town, complete with all of its weird and unique and wonderful citizens, bustling about their usual day (oblivious to the fact that only 72 HOURS REMAIN). The tempo increases ever so slightly as the song proceeds, eventually hitting a bright crescendo that feels like life in Termina just couldn’t be better… except for that little twinge of concern that we’re all just managing to ignore.