The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Review by discoinferno84
"If I could turn back time..."
Let's take a trip back in time. Let's go to a faraway place called the past, when the Nintendo 64 was essentially on its last leg, a defeated but prideful gaming system. Seeing the state of the video game market back in those days, Nintendo was left with little options for its faithful N64. With the competition clearly dominating the market and Nintendo's focus on the development of the Gamecube. It was a dark and confusing time for many Nintendo fans indeed. In a last hurrah for the terminally ill console, Nintendo released one more game for one its most popular franchises. Thus the next much-anticipated installment of the Legend of Zelda series was released in late 2000, one of the last great games on the battered system. And although Major's mask never really quite lived up to the standards set by Ocarina of Time, it was still a wonderfully delicious treat for the starving fans.
It's been a while since Link has graced Nintendo's failing console with his presence. In his last epic quest, the elf with the green tunic managed to save Hyrule from the clutches of Ganondorf, one of the darkest evils to walk the face of the Earth. Using nothing but a fine display of courage and a vast array of weaponry, the Hero of Time had slain the evil Gerudo and saved his people. But even heroes like Link need a break. Thus Link ditches Princess Zelda and Hyrule and goes on a little road trip with Epona. But after wandering for a little while, Link suddenly finds himself in the land of Termina, a mysterious and dark realm. Suddenly, an unseen villain attacks our hero! Epona gets stolen along with the Ocarina of Time and Link is magically turned into a Deku Scrub! Looks like the Hero of Time got careless. In any case, he's got to find some way to get his body, horse and ocarina back. He meets up with a mask salesman, that offers to rid him of the cursed mask if he completes a certain objective. The man's directions were clear: Reclaim what was taken from you. We don't know why exactly this strange little man is so intent on Link reclaiming the Ocarina of Time, but we can't argue with his logic. Sp Link embarks into the strange new realm of Termina, seeking out the thief who did him wrong.
However, things in Termina aren't always as they seem. Unbeknownst to the villagers of this massive community, the very moon above their heads is slowly descending upon them, an Armageddon of the worst kind. According to the rumors, it'll take exactly three days before the moon crashes down on Termina, and everyone will die. But what's Link supposed to do? How is he going to do anything now that he's stuck in that pathetic little body? He's going to have to think fast, as the minutes slowly tick away at the impending doom. He'll have to explore every inch of this realm and figure out all the intricacies if he hopes to accomplish anything. Link will have to talk to various people, explore plenty of dungeons and go through all sorts of trials and tribulations before he can finally save the world of Termina from the apocalypse.
But the problem is, you've only got three days to figure everything out. And Termina's time isn't measured by the same clock as our. Instead, for every minute that passes in our time, a whole hour passes in their world. When you do the math, you have just over one hour to save the world. How can you possibly do that? Ah, but Link will eventually get one important tool back in his possession: the Ocarina of Time. Using his favorite instrument, Link can travel back in time whenever he feels like it if he somehow screws up and doesn't complete a dungeon or get an item before the moon hits the ground. However, there is one catch though. Even though Link can travel back in time, everything in the game is automatically reset to the first day. All the characters in the game are a strict schedule of programming. Milk shipments arrive on a certain day at a certain hour. The local inn is only open so many hours. Certain places and events are only available to be experienced during specific hours of the day, some of which will be needed for you to complete your quest. Also, this strict adherence to schedule opens up tons of hidden side quests and mini games for you to try. Thus you have to redo everything quite a few times in order to gain an idea of how the events and characters correspond with the time.
Once you've regained the ability to control time, you'll have to spend countless sessions playing through the game until the third day, then play the Ocarina and start afresh. You'll end up having to do different things each time you reset. One session you'll have to tackle a certain dungeon, destroy a boss, claim whatever item you were looking for, and warp back in time before that dark hour hits. You'll find yourself watching the minutes roll by as you traverse through the landscape, trying to rush in case you get stuck and run out of time. It's this constant awareness of time that can add so much focus and concentration to the gaming experience. But besides the clock ticking away at your doom, the basic Ocarina of Time gameplay concept has not changed very much. There's still the standard Z-Targeting attack system and another fairy giving you advice every now and then. And of course, you still have to go to various dungeons and acquire certain items necessary to the game's progression. And since Termina bears a striking resemblance to Hyrule, chances are that fans will feel right at home.
There is one highly important addition to Link's latest quest. There are over twenty different masks that are hidden all over Termina, each with their own unique abilities. Some masks make people reveal specific information to you, while others represent the success of a certain side quest. But the majority of these masks are negligible, leaving only a few masks that are truly essential to your success. Aside from the default Deku Scrub mask, Link will come across two other masks that give him unusual powers. When he finds the Goron Mask, he can curl up into a ball and roll around Termina at some impressive speeds, thus cutting travel time into fractions. Also, the Zora mask lets Link soar through the water with ease and lets him use some pretty cool Kung Fu moves. But while they have some impressive powers, they also have their limitations. The Deku Scrub will get fried if it gets hit with fire. The Goron can't swim, and both fire and ice can fillet the Zora. It's up to you to use all of these masks interchangeably and learn how they can be used effectively both in and out of battle.
And even though you'll be watching the clock through most of the quest, you can't forget to take a step back and recognize just how beautiful he presentation of this game truly is. For all of those fans that were in love with the graphical transition of the Ocarina of Time, you will be astounded with the graphical progress that this game has been made. Everything in Termina is presented with wonderful slash colors, adding depth and realism to this fantasy world. All of the buildings in Clock Town are vibrant with colors and bristling with character activity. Woodfall is lush with green jungle vegetation and dank river ways. Even Ikana Valley looks and feels cold and desolate, just like the tomb it's supposed to portray. When you factor in an amazing soundtrack of instrumental music and some very pronounced character voices and sound effects, you have the makings of truly engaging presentation. It's a sad irony that such a lively game was one of the last on a dying system.
And as we say sayonara to the Nintendo 64, one trusty hero is still right by our side. As he's been for years, Link will still continue to be one of the great video game heroes for us all. Be it him saving a kingdom from an evil man, be it saving complete strangers from an impending armageddon, or be it whatever Nintendo dream up next, Link will still rise to the challenge and succeed. It's not so much the franchise that makes the appeal of this hero. It's that courage, that determination that makes him a winner for us all. And even though he ultimately couldn't save the Nintendo 64 from its horrible fate, Link still continues to charm us with his daring approach to adventure and his epic quests that span over the generations of consoles. And with that last hurrah, Link saves the day again, hopefully to be seen again.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/04
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