Review by peach_zelda
The Darkest and Most Mature Zelda game is well worth your Wii Points
The first time I played Majora's Mask was on the Gamecube Collector's Disk. I was so turned off by how insanely frazzled I was after nearly getting a gameover within the first hour. By that point, I decided Ocarina of Time was obviously the superior Zelda game since it seemed to have the same graphics and gameplay without the frustration. I didn't pick the game up again for a few years till it was released on Virtual Console. And after playing through it, I finally see what a gem of a game I almost passed up. Truly is this the darkest and most mature Zelda game ever released. Once I got past working around the time limit, I found one of the most profound story and NPCs in any video I've ever played.
Majora's Mask is easily the darkest game in the series. Skull Kid's friends ditched him to do their godly duties, so he picked up a demented mask that made him send the moon crashing into Termina, causing the apocalypse. Okay, so the main story is pretty stupid. But where this game's storytelling truly shines is in its use of the three-day time loop combined with its brilliant NPCs. You have three game days before the moon falls. You do whatever you can to prevent this within your three-day limit. To give yourself more time to find the solution to stopping the moon, you'll have to play the song of time and reset the three-day cycle. It's hard not to imagine Link going insane reliving the last three days before the apocalypse over and over. On top of this, you'll be interacting with various NPCs, many of whom know the moon is crashing down and are afraid they're going to die. These are the most in-depth NPCs in the entire Zelda series, each with their own schedule of what they do in their last three days before the doomsday.
Many of these NPC subplots are considerable tearjerkers on their own. It's easy to ignore their individual plights and focus on the main quest, but since helping these NPCs is the only way to collect most of the masks and heart pieces, you'll be bound to solve their sidequests. But even if you do try to help them, the ironic part is that the moon will still crash and kill them, and ultimately you'll have to reset time again to prevent that. Good news is when you do reset time, you'll keep your masks/heart pieces/bottles. But because of the time warp, they'll have no recollection of your good deeds and simply go back to suffering and waiting for the moon to fall. It's almost impossible to play through the game without caring about the NPCs and feeling connected with their plight and fear of death. You'll even start getting philosphical about the meaning of helping someone, and the meaning of life and human nature itself.
The main premise of the game, while dark, would have been laughably weak on its own. Seriously, an imp with a mask causing the apocalypse? But the believable NPCs truly flesh out the story and turn Termina into a living, breathing world. Amazing job here Nintendo.
While you can say Nintendo was lazy for reusing the same graphics from Ocarina, I appreciate the improvements they made. For a game that originally an on only 8 MB of memory, this is technically impressive. Frame rate is a lot smoother than in Ocarina. They've slightly improved the polygon count in the character models and the textures don't look as blurry. Draw distance is exceptional by N64 standards and has been significantly improved since Ocarina. Bottles actually look like bottles instead of those crystal shard-like containers from Ocarina. The blur effects were beautiful. And rooms actually render in real time with 3D objects instead of those ugly pre-rendered backdrops from Ocarina. That shadows are much more realistic in this game. And the graphics only look more beautiful bathed under the different lighting effects that come with the extensive day-night system. This is one of the prettiest 3D games available on Virtual Console. Nice work Nintendo.
Very few of the themes are taken from previous Zelda titles, so the music helps the game develop its own personality. The music of Clock Town changes every day, starting out slow, speeding up on the second day, and adding some creepy synth pads on the third day. It was enough to give you a sense of urgency that told you to keep your eyes on the time limit. The Deku Palace was nice and catchy. The music in the Stone Tower was creepy enough to get me frazzled and scared by the time I'd gone only half-way through the temple. During the final 6 hours, an eerie theme plays to remind you that you have only minutes left to finish what you're doing before you have to reset time or cause the end of the world. And since it plays no matter where you are, you get this feeling that you can never escape the apocalyptic fate of Termina. This game is all about despair and hopelessness and the music really gives way to that.
Link has four fighting modes in this game. He can do a spin attack and shoot bubbles as a Deku. He can punch, roll, and smash things as a Goron. As a Zora, you'll be able to shoot fin blade projectiles, punch, and generate and electric barrier shield. And of course you have Link's normal sword slashes and spin attacks with stronger swords you can upgrade to. Nintendo was creative with mixing all four forms up for added variety. But outside the three transformed forms' respective temples, you're most likely going to be using Link's normal mode with the bunny hood slapped on for added speed.
Sadly, there are only four dungeons in this game, but a high amount of sidequests makes up for that. That said, the few dungeons we're given are nothing short of excellent. I liked how the dungeons forced you to make use of almost every item in your inventory plus quite a few masks. You're given three game days to finish a dungeon. Nothing in your inventory feels wasted. While some might find the time limit annoying, I like how it added to my feeling of suspense. It gave me that sort of survival horror feel while wondering if I was going to save at least one region of Termina before doomsday arrived. There's a song to slow down time and make the dungeon a little easier, but I don't like using it too much because I lose that adrenaline rush. Each dungeon also comes with a fetchquest of fairies with power-up rewards. They're all completely optional, but the power-ups help immensely.
Minigames and Sidequests 10/10
This game gives you a day planner to keep track of sidequests. If that's any indication of how many sidequests there are in this game, take note that this little planner still doesn't cover ALL the sidequests this game has to offer. There's are hundreds of things to do outside the four main dungeons. You have a whopping six bottles to collect, 52 heart pieces to find, 2 mini dungeons filled with skulltulas, and so much more. Collecting all 20 masks unlocks a really cool secret mask at the end, so there's some incentive for you. Plus, there are tons of minigames. As for the sidequests, they're all varied and well thought out. some will take a minute of your time to complete, others will span the entire three-day cycle. While it may seem contradictory with the time limit, this game is all about exploration. Go out there and poke in every nook and cranny of Termina. You're bound to find something sidequest related. Excellent work here Nintendo.
Has anybody actually used the horse during the main game outside the parts where you were required to use her? The horse controls were so clunky and painful to use that I ran as much of the game as possible on foot. Thankfully, one of the masks you can acquire speeds running time, but I was hoping Nintendo would have improved the horse controls from Ocarina. That said, everything else controls smoothly for the most part. All of Link's attacks play out smoothly no matter what form he's in. But I have to admit Z-targeting did feel broken at times.
Replay Value 8/10
For once, we have a Zelda game that rewards completionists. Collecting all 20 regular masks unlocks a special mask at the end. So if you missed a mask during your first playthrough, you'll definitely want to go back again just to catch them all. Aside from that, this game already has replay value within itself. Like a time warp should do, everything resets when you go back three days in time. Meaning you can go back and repeat a sidequest you really enjoyed just for kicks. And if you feel like rebattling a boss with upgrades you get later in the game, you have the option to do that too thanks to the time warp reset. If you feel insane and want to challenge yourself, try doing the whole main quest in one three day cycle.
I wonder why on earth this game was only rated E. While the game did lack blood or heavily violent/sexual themes, death and loss were everywhere. And the fact that you're constantly reliving the last three days before the end of the world almost feels like subtle psychological torture. I'm almost shocked this game was marketed to children almost a decade ago. For a game series famous for its generic and child-friendly "save-the-princess" storylines, this trek into a demented and twisted world shows a mature side of Zelda franchise. Even Twilight Princess with its T rating fails to come anywhere near close to this. The heavy themes of Majora's Mask are enough to make you wonder how you'd spend the last three days of your life if you knew the apocalypse was on its way. If you ever wished for a horror Zelda game, this is it. It's well worth every one of your 10,000 Wii Points. Go download it and play it now.
Final Score: 9.25/10
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (US, 05/18/09)
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