This is not a particularly well-known event in in the grand scope of video games, perhaps because it isn’t built upon death or sadness, but instead around a rather understated warmth that has always resonated with me. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask enters the darkest territory of any Zelda game released to date by not just having its story unfold in a world that will be destroyed in three days, but also by taking a deeper look at the human — as well as Goron, Zora, and Deku — relationships that are falling apart at the seams. Amidst the complex web of character-related side quests in the Bomber’s Notebook, there are a number of secrets waiting to be discovered. One of these secrets is an unexpected hug from a red-haired cattle rancher.
Majora’s Mask’s Termina setting was geographically smaller than Ocarina of Time’s land of Hyrule, but its array of key locations and important characters were much more fleshed out. Regardless of where you traveled, the world was chock full of secrets, characters with a story to tell, and side quests aplenty. A few of the Majora’s Mask’s most bizarre occurrences unfold at Romani Ranch, and are among the game’s most interesting in terms of atmosphere and gameplay. Of paramount interest here is the one event that has you on dusk-to-dawn duty protecting a barn full of cows from invading paranormal creatures. Ranch owner Cremia’s daughter, Romani, recalls the invasion of the past year and is pleased to have you there with her for the night.
If you’re successful in defending the livestock, another side quest is unlocked the following day that is otherwise unavailable. As ranch owner Cremia is making a delivery to the Clock Town Milk bar in the morning, she is set upon by the ill-willed Gorman brothers. A high-speed horse and cart chase ensues, and you need to protect Cremia’s milk with the Hero’s Bow.
So, who are these thieves, exactly? The Gorman brothers own the Gorman Track just off Milk Road. Their brother is making an honest living in Clock Town as the leader of a theatre group, but they certainly aren’t diamonds of the same cut. In fact, they’re pretty shoddy people to be honest. They claim to produce their own delicious brand of milk, but it seems suspiciously diluted and tastes vaguely familiar. Almost as if it was stolen from Romani Ranch and watered down. Hmm. As it turns out, the brothers not only enjoy a day at the race track but occasionally indulge in the debacle of high-speed milk thievery as well.
The delivery along Milk Road goes well until a carefully placed barricade forces Cremia to take a detour along the Gorman Track. It’s here that two masked riders roar out of the shadows and begin to give chase, taking aim at the caravan as if to destroy it. You’ve got to bring these suckers down with your bow and arrow or they will ruin the shipment. If you’re able to drive the attackers away, Cremia is so grateful that she gives you a Romani Mask, which grants entry to the Milk Bar. Can you imagine if you had to put on a weird cow mask every time you wanted to have a drink at the pub?
Because the game takes place during a three-day cycle that repeats over and over, there are opportunities to complete the same quest again. The Romani Mask, like all other masks in the game, will stay with you as you pass back through time, so you can’t get two of them. Instead, subsequent completions of the side quest are rewarded with a bottle of Chateau Romani, a golden rupee, or my favourite: the elusive hug.
In the context of Majora’s dark narrative, as Termina’s characters knowingly march toward their end, this fleeting moment of affection made me smile. I’d been through so much with Cremia and her daughter Romani as we staved off aliens and made a desperate dash to Clock Town while under fire from bandits. It had been a bit exhausting to be honest. Little did they know, I’d been through it with them more than once. I’d even failed to protect them more than once and traveled back through time a few times to set things right. They had no idea that I’d come from the future, but I must wonder if Cremia ever questioned where her Romani Mask went as she stood outside the caravan that morning, paused, then extended her arms to give me a big hug.
Last week’s reflection was tinted with feelings of sadness and loss, but this week’s reflection is just the opposite. Whereas my role in Koholint’s destruction left me questioning my own actions, Cremia’s hug warmly asserted that I was doing things right in Termina. It was a beautiful moment hidden in a comparatively dark narrative — discrete but touching. And, well, it looks like Link got something a little extra with his hug. He must have been smiling, too.