Review by 007Ganondorf
"We have all the time in the world. Or not."
Majora's Mask is the sixth installment in The Legend of Zelda series, and the second on the Nintendo 64. As in previous games, you play as a courageous young boy named Link. Dressed in a green tunic, and equipped with a sword, shield, and a host of other items, you must defeat monsters and solve puzzles in order to eventually save the realm from certain doom. However this is where the similarities end, because Majora's Mask brings many unique twists to the formula. Being a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, which is widely considered to be the best game ever, to say that Majora's Mask had a lot to live up to would be an understatement.
Majora's Mask will feel very familiar to veteran players of Ocarina of Time. The control scheme remains untouched, and it works very well, with all of the character's movements feeling fluid and natural. As in previous games in the series, Link must make his way through temples, defeating the boss in order to progress through the main story. Perhaps my only complaint is that the dungeons get exceedingly complex, and the third and fourth ones in particular can be pretty damn confusing. The main premise of this game, the big catch, if you will, is that the whole world must be saved from certain destruction in three days. Indeed, the game has its own clock that is always on screen, and the countdown begins at six A.M. on the first day, and lasts for seventy-two hours.(Game time, not real time) The ocarina makes a return in this game, and playing a certain song with it will restart time to the beginning of the first day. When time is restarted, the player's major accomplishments are saved, such as beating a boss, learning a new song or acquiring a new item. Minor things such as rupees, arrows and bombs are lost. The player can restart time whenever and as often as they want, so the world never really has to end. That same song played in reverse will slow the flow of time, which is necessary to complete the dungeons, which have to be done in one go. If any of this sounds confusing, it's not, and you'll quickly get used to the idea of having time within the game. Infusing some RPG (role playing game) elements into the series, Majora's Mask has certain events involving certain characters at certain places at certain times. Again, if this sounds confusing, it's actually not, as the player receives a handy notebook early on in the game, with the times of important events for each character listed neatly.
The other major gameplay mechanic is that Link can use three magical masks to greatly alter his appearance and abilities, becoming a Deku, Goron or Zora. The Deku mask allows Link to shoot bubbles and use special flowers as a sort of launching pad to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. The Goron mask gives him powerful rolling and punching attacks, but he is far from nimble while in this form. Lastly, the Zora mask makes him a fast and agile swimmer, especially underwater. These three masks are integral to the completion of the game, but there are many other masks, twenty-four in total, making for interesting sidequests to obtain them.
Which brings me to a very large part of the game: sidequests. This game has a lot of them. I'm not going to pull out any official percentages here, but it seems to me that at least half of the game is comprised of sidequests, with the other half being relegated to the main story. Fortunately, they are fun and varied, and most of them weave into the plot of the main game quite nicely.
The story sees the hero wandering through a forest with his trusty steed Epona, when he is suddenly attacked by a strange looking kid wearing a mysterious mask. He steals his horse and his ocarina, and Link gives chase. He ends up in an alternate dimension called Termina, where he meets a traveling mask salesman, who tells him the mask the kid has is actually majora's mask, which is, of course, infused with evil. Link also finds out that the moon is going to crash into Termina in three days, and that's how much time he has to stop it. This is by far the darkest of the Zelda games in terms of story, as almost every character Link meets is in despair over the end of the world. (Understandably)
Considering it is a 2000 N64 game, Majora's Mask looks fantastic, due to its use of the expansion pak, which is required to play the game. It has the same graphical style as Ocarina of Time, but sports cleaner textures and a bigger variety in locations, ranging from swamps to beaches to snow covered mountains and the lively Clock Town, every area has its own fresh look. This is one of the best looking N64 games, without a doubt.
Perhaps the best aspect of Majora's Mask is the soundtrack, which covers a broad scope of emotions throughout the game. Some tunes are upbeat and cheerful, while others are the exact opposite, beautifully portraying themes of sadness, despair and death. Even the songs played on the ocarina deliver a strong resonance. One point in particular is the background music for the city. On the first day the music projects happiness and is seemingly oblivious to the impending doom. On the second day the music is still lively, but if you listen closely, there is a somewhat ominous tone to it. By the third day the ominous tone has taken over, and it really gives the impression that the world is going to end. It is also worthwhile to note that the classic Zelda theme makes a triumphant return in Majora's Mask, after being suspiciously absent from Ocarina of Time.
Although there isn't much incentive to start the game over again, Majora's Mask will keep you busy long after you finish the main storyline. There are twenty-four masks to obtain, (and getting them all will make the final boss a lot easier), fifty-two pieces of heart, upgrades for your wallet, sword, quiver and bomb bag, as well as fifteen fairies to find in each of the four temples. If you're a completionist, you'll want to acquire everything, and even if you're not, most of the sidequests are very fun and interesting, and always rewarding.
Majora's Mask was doomed from the start to live in its predecessor's shadow. It runs on the same engine, and features a lot of the same classic gameplay fans have come to expect from the series. It showcases how interactions with NPC's (non-playable characters) can be taken to the next level in game development, and for this reason alone it receives a high recommendation. Whether you're a Zelda fan who has overlooked this one, or if you just enjoy action-adventure games, Majora's Mask is worth your time to at least try. Granted, it's not for everyone, as the attention span required might be a little longer than some people can manage. However, it is this writer's hope that the launch of Majora's Mask on the Wii's Virtual Console market will re-invigorate appreciation for this under-rated and often overlooked title. To me, Majora's Mask represents everything a sequel should be. Building on the fundamentals of Ocarina of Time, with improved graphics, an interesting story and a powerful soundtrack, it delivers many new gameplay mechanics with great success.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/08/09, Updated 04/26/10
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Collector's Edition) (US, 10/25/00)
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