Review by TripleJump
"One of the best Zelda games ever."
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is not an easy game to review. Mainly because it has the responsibility of living up to its predecessor (Zelda: Ocarina of Time) and that is a pretty daunting task. Nevertheless, it does pretty well for itself. While it sold a lot less originally than Ocarina did, that was probably due to its late release in the N64's life rather than poorer quality. To be honest, it's not quite as good as Ocarina of Time (which is, in my opinion, the greatest game ever made) but it is definitely up there as one of the best. Now it has been re-released on the Virtual Console for us to enjoy again, if you didn't get it the first time.
To compare it at a single glance to Ocarina- whatever was slightly weaker with Ocarina, Majora did much better in. Whatever Ocarina did extremely well in, Majora did slightly weaker. You may find a lot of comparisons to it in this review, but it's largely because they are very similar games and were released at the same time period and it seems fitting to do so.
For a Zelda game, this is probably as good as it gets. Those who have played other Zelda games will be seriously surprised when the game departs from the generic Get Master Sword Save Princess type of game we've played both before and after Majora's Masks' original release. In this game, child Link is in search of a friend (presumably Navi from Ocarina of Time) and is mugged while wandering through a strange area. His ocarina and horse Epona are taken from him and he is transformed into a Deku Scrub. His mugger is Skull Kid, who has stolen an ancient mask of great evil from the Happy Mask Salesman and is bent on destroying Termina- by making the moon crash into the Earth.
Link has three days to defeat Skull Kid, prevent the moon from crashing and return the Mask to the salesman. The main point here is that the story has moved from generic and overused to dark, mysterious and twisted. A great touch!
Majora's Mask is largely similar to Ocarina of Time in that it uses the same game engine, but there are a plethora of actions and other new things that were not in the game before. The biggest and perhaps most important change is the Masks system. Throughout the game, Link will collect masks that perform a variety of functions. Some might make an explosion in the absence of bombs, while others might make some enemies not attack you. This mask system is extremely well done and it really helps in many situations. The best part about the masks however is that in addition to regular Link, there are four masks that you can collect that will transform you into a different race- a Scrub, a Goron, a Zora and even a God. These will give you different abilities- for example: the Goron can push very heavy things but cannot go in water. The Zora can walk in water and the Scrub can fly using flowers to launch himself in the air. These barely outline the multitudes of things each character can do. Overall the system is very well put together and doesn't feel gimmicky at all.
The second biggest change from the entire Zelda series is the time system. Link has three days before the moon will crash into Earth. In order to gain more time, you will have to go back in time via a song and restart from the first day. It certainly adds to the gameplay, although not always in a positive way. For example, while it makes some Side Quests unique because you may have to go through them several times to explore all possibilities, it can be very annoying to spend most of your time on a specific quest and find out you made a mistake and have to restart all the way from the beginning. It works very well for some quests- for example, one quest can only be accessed on the First Day, but you can only get to the area originally on the Third Day. It's your job to find out how to get in.
A plus side for the new system is that because there is now a time system in place, characters now have schedules. They will move to certain areas at certain times whether it is day or night and you can track where they will be with your handy Bombers notebook. It adds more depth to the game and makes you feel like a part of a bigger world. There are a lot of recycled characters from Ocarina of Time you may recognize, but they have different roles and it can be amusing to see them as such.
All of your rupees and items will be lost when you go back in time as well, unless you deposit the rupees in the Bank in Clock Town. While it's not a huge problem, it can be very annoying to have a full set of rupees and want to stop playing but have to travel all the way back to simply drop off a few hundred rupees. The items are a bit more of an issue- if you have plans on using a certain item for something (ie. The Bow) you will have to find or buy arrows before you can use it, as you lose anything with a quantity on it. However, if you don't let it bother you, it shouldn't do much damage to your experience.
The Dungeons are inferior to those of the past games; they feel a lot longer and tedious than the previous games. In addition, there are only four main dungeons while there were ten (not including Ganon's Castle) in Ocarina of Time. The time limit can sometimes pose a problem as well, because if you really want to tackle a dungeon, you will have to restart to day one before taking it on, because if the time limit expires while you are in there you have to do it all again. On the plus side, you can ALWAYS come back and fight any boss without having to go through it again.
The Overworld, while smaller than Ocarina's, feels more relevant. Ocarina's mainly served as scenery to watch as you moved from location to location. In Termina, it almost always feels like you have a purpose for going through the paths. There are enemies on it, as well as a lot of bushes to break and places to explore. While it sacrifices the large epic scale of past, it gives a more concentrated action.
Other than that, the Gameplay feel s pretty similar to Ocarina of Time. The sword fighting, controls and targeting system are the exact same and you should feel right at home.
For its time, Majora's Mask has held up reasonably well. The frame rate is nice and smooth and it doesn't look particularly blurry. The game has a charming retro feel to it and while it doesn't look spectacular it does everything right and should be enough to please everyone. Besides, who doesn't love old graphics? They can be fun to laugh at as you bask in the glory years. To be honest, it's difficult to review this section when the game is almost 10 years old!
The MIDI sound is not quite the highest quality that was available during the day but I personally see no problem with it. The main reason this section only received an eight was because there wasn't quite enough new music for my liking. While there were about one or two amazing songs it doesn't quite stand up to Ocarina's amazing soundtrack. In fact, the best songs in the game were probably the recycled ones. However, the nice thing about Majora's Mask is that the four races each have a different instrument (pipes, drums, guitar and ocarina) so you can play around with them and make your own songs or hear the regular ones in different ways.
On the plus side, the classic Zelda theme returns for the overworld.
The sound effects of the game are a step above Ocarina's. It may not be because of actual superiority, but because you change your race so many times the screams of Link will be changed and sound a lot less annoying. Your new fairy also seems to stop shouting at you like Navi did in Ocarina of Time.
While it would probably be better on an N64 controller, it feels pretty decent (except for the C buttons) on the GameCube controller. Personally, I do not own a Classic Controller so I cannot tell you how well that feels. It won't detract enough from the game to significantly bother you, especially if it's your first experience with Majora's Mask or Ocarina of Time.
Being that it's a lot shorter in the main story and more of a collect things game; it's not quite the perfect one for replaying. That being said, it's a long game for its time and you will probably want to experience it for a second time to relive the special moments. Some Heart Pieces and other items can be genuinely challenging to get and if you couple this with the ability to beat any boss as many times as you desire and you have a long lasting game.
While not as good as Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask is without a doubt a fine game that I highly recommend you download on the Virtual Console now that it is being re-released and you have a chance to. It's one of the better Zelda titles available to this day and is worth every penny you spend on it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/28/09
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (EU, 04/03/09)
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