Review by nastynate3118

"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine."

Introduction

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is a 2000 action adventure RPG on the Nintendo 64. Having grown up with this game I can safely say that over the years I have come to love it more and more and ultimately it stands as one of the finest N64 games I have ever played. I clearly remember the foreboding and ominous TV ads featuring a person playing this game implying that the world would soon end; this powerful advertising immediately let us know this game was darker and more intense than its predecessor The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. On the surface, they may appear to be the same game due to similar graphics and gameplay and I think as a result people had similar expectations and thought they would play exactly the same when in reality they are quite different. Many at first were turned off by the tedious time travel but over the years this game has experienced redemption in its reputation and was voted on this website as the finest game of the 2000's. I think a large part of it is the fantastic atmosphere and plot and if it were not hampered down by lackluster interface this could have been considered the greatest Zelda game ever.

Gameplay – 8.25/10

Majora's Mask allows the player to control Link in a third person perspective as he explores the land of Termina fighting monsters and exploring dungeons. Link's primary objective is to prevent the moon from crashing into the planet and the game gives you three days to accomplish this task (roughly 1 hour in real time although you can slow time down if needed). This unique premise creates a sense of urgency and tension while playing and invests you more into the story and gameplay. You are also allowed to manipulate time to go back and forth in order to complete dungeons and side quests.

Time travel is an essential part of the quest but also is a very tedious aspect of the gameplay. When Link travels back in time, all quests are reset as if you never completed them and you lose all items that have an “amount” such as bombs, arrows, etc. The only things that carry over are the bosses you defeated and main items and masks. This aspect of the game is very frustrating because you constantly have to deposit and withdraw rupees to purchase items you lost. It also is nonsensical considering Link keeps all of his other items, but I digress.

Masks are thematic and play a central role to how the game is played. They grant Link different transformations and abilities and add a ton of variety and complexity to the gameplay. The only downside to this is that many of these masks are useless or will only be used once, but at the same time you develop an over-reliance on only 4-5 of them (out of 24). This lack of balance is frustrating but I still appreciate the inclusion of these masks.

Dungeons contain a variety of puzzles to be solved and items to be collected. Link has the option to rescue fairies in each dungeon that grant him new abilities and upgrades, adding replay value. There are tons of heart pieces and treasures to collect that will keep you playing for days. The only complaint I have with this comes with the fact that many of these collectables force you to play mini-games that are poorly designed/tedious/challenging and leads to a lot of unnecessary anger. Still, the staggering amount of optional content gives this game a “grand” adventure feel and makes it one for the ages.

The last aspect of the gameplay I want to hit on is the combat. Overall, the controls and Z-targeting lock on system are vastly improved over Ocarina of Time and fighting feels much more fluent. Link can use many abilities to defeat his opponents and I like the strategy that is required for defeating many foes, taking this game to a level beyond your average “hack and slash” type.


Interface- 7/10

Majora's Mask suffers from only average interface. The biggest issue is described above when Link travels back in time and loses all of his rupees and items. This needless annoyance really eats up a lot of time spent reclaiming these items and dropping rupees off in the bank. The other big problem comes with the save system. Ocarina of Time and earlier games of the series allows the player to save and quit whenever they want and come back to the game from a simple menu prompt. This game gets rid of that and forces you to either travel back in time or save at an “owl statue” placed around Termina. I saw nothing wrong with the old system and missed the convenience of the previous game. The only other gripe I have comes with the extremely cryptic nature of many of the optional quests. The game does a so-so job describing how to get certain heart pieces and masks and I swear there is some stuff you would never find without a guide.

On the same token, this game makes many improvements in its interface. It is nice for Link to be able to hold 3 items at once and I liked that certain conversations will allow you to open the menu and switch items. The menu and status screens are all organized well and do a nice job storing the Ocarina songs you have mastered.


Story- 9.75/10

This plot is hands-down the darkest and saddest of the entire series. Link ends up traveling to the land of Termina, an alternate world comparable to Hyrule in its setting and characters. There he meets the skull kid, a character from Ocarina of Time who seems to be under the influence of the powerful Majora's Mask. While dealing with him, Link must also contend with the moon that is on a crash course to Termina in 72 hours. This premise does a great job straying away from the usual nonsense with Princess Zelda and Ganon and is truly an amazing concept. You can't help but buy into and feel engaged with the panic of seeing the apocalypse nearing. The greatest accomplishment this story has is the depressing atmosphere it creates through the script. These characters all have different personal problems and realize that their lives are about to end. This compels the player to help them and save them all and really gives this story purpose.

I really enjoyed the fact that there is a good and bad ending depending on if you can stop the moon. The fact that the game lets you see what happens if you fail is really astounding and is just one of the many nice details that was done to enhance this game's presentation. The only gripe I have is that there is one loose end that never gets explained in the beginning of the story; it's as if the writers wanted to pursue a subplot but then abandon it for no reason. Aside from this minor flaw I consider this to be my favorite story in a Zelda game and one that has improved over the years every time I play.


Graphics – 10/10

This is the earliest game I can remember that required the N64 expansion pack and I can easily see why. The graphics are simply the greatest ever seen on the N64 and boast a level of smoothness and variety never seen before. The land of Termina is split into several distinct regions that all are designed completely different and offer a ton of environments for Link to explore. This is bolstered with a tremendous amount of color used and an expert application of light and darkness, giving fight scenes and cut scenes a cinematic quality.

I absolutely love the design and animation of Link and his enemies. Link and his different forms all have a lot of detail given to them and boast a lot of great animation, especially Link's jumping animation. This is supplanted with an army of enemies that you have to fight that have tons of actions and abilities. It is also impossible to understate the cinematic quality of the presentation starting with the excellent title screen.


Sound/Music –10/10

I consider the soundtrack to Majora's Mask to be one of the greatest ever in a video game. The music is incredibly depressing and emotional and I have rarely ever been so moved by music in a game. My all-time favorite song is the haunting “Song of Healing,” a track that allows this game to transcend into an artistic masterpiece. It is truly amazing how the music is so powerful in dictating mood and the emotion a scene has to have. The music that plays on the final day is really terrifying and has never left me after playing this game for so many years.

Not all of the music is sad or emotional; there are excellent battle themes that play and add an edge of intensity to the gameplay. This excellent soundtrack combined with clear sound effects and voice samples makes for a diverse canvas of sounds that add to the power atmosphere.


Play Time/Replay Value – 10/10

I completed my play through of Majora's Mask in 24 hours, 56 minutes and 48 seconds. I completed every single quest and collected every item and upgrade one could possibly have in this game, allowing for a pretty flexible time. The replay value in this game is very high due to the collectables, side quests and the fact that different things you do can slightly alter the ending. You can also receive a reward for collecting every mask in the game that encourages more playing. The greatest thing that keeps me coming back to the game is the dark and powerful story that I simply love to be retold again and again.


PROS
+Fluent combat
+Unique time travel element
+Tons of optional content
+Masks add depth and variety
+Easy to trade and switch items
+Clear inventory and status screen
+Dark, sad atmosphere
+Engaging script and characters
+Smooth, detailed graphics
+Variety to character design and animation
+Haunting, emotional soundtrack
+Strong replay value


CONS
-Some masks are useless
-Frustrating mini-games
-Time travel can be tedious
-Inconvenient saving
-Some quests too cryptic

Final Recommendation

I consider this to be one of the greatest N64 games ever made and a fine addition to anyone's collection. I should caution casual players that this game is definitely a tough nut to crack, especially when compared to Ocarina of Time. If one puts in the time and effort to settle in to this game's story and gameplay I promise there is something wonderful waiting in the land of Termina.


Final Score: 9.166666667/10 rounded to 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/15/14

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Collector's Edition) (US, 10/25/00)


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