Review by Tenshi No Shi

"Link takes yet another bizarre journey."

Few game series are so reverently held in a gamer's heart that the mere whisper of its name can send a chill down one's spine and evoke warm memories of a completely immersive world. Ask anyone who considers themselves a hardcore gamer what the best collection of sequels are and you're likely to hear any one of a dozen answers- Street Fighter, Mega Man, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior… all games with a rich, multi-platform history that have earned the respect of video game fanatics world-wide. There is one series that stands out above the rest; its name held in awe like the word of God. The next Legend of Zelda is here and a new journey awaits all ready adventurers.

The Legend of Zelda- Majora's Mask is quite the radical departure from previous Zelda games, which may shock long-time fans, as the story does not involve Gannon, the Triforce or Princess Zelda. In fact, Majora's Mask shares a certain kinship with Link's Awakening on the Gameboy in that the plot centers around Link traveling outside of Hyrule and fate forcing him into the all-too familiar role of hero. While on a journey to visit and un-named old friend, the young, green-clad warrior is accosted by a Skull Kid wearing a strange mask and two fairies. The Skull Kid steals Epona (Link's horse from his previous tale) and his ocarina (a parting gift from Zelda). To add insult to injury, the Skull Kid works some evil voodoo on Link, transforming him into a near worthless Deku Scrub. Of course pursuit is given and, much like Alice and the White Rabbit, our hero finds himself in a strange land with familiar faces (think Sliders). Of course things are not as simple as Link retrieving his stolen property or former body- he quickly discovers the Skull Kid has wrecked much havoc in the land of Termina. I dare not say much more if the story at this point for experiencing it is much more fun than reading about it…

Graphically, Majora's Mask is identical to Ocarina of Time as Nintendo recycled the previous game's engine. Sure the required Expansion Pak pushed back the draw-in distance and adds more enemies on screen at once with nary a hint of slowdown, but is it really all that impressive? Um…hell yeah it is! Sure Nintendo could have wasted the extra power on a hi-rez mode, but I'm sure they remember as much as we do the unimpressive impact that Turok 2: Seeds of Evil had. Certainly the coders did their job in creating a colorful and detailed environment filled with interesting people and well-animated enemies, all within the limitations of the aging Nintendo 64 console. Overall, a small step up from Ocarina of Time, but all things considered, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Hark! What is that I hear? Could it be? Yes! The infamous Zelda over world theme returns for Link's latest adventure after a surprising absence in the last Nintendo 64 outing. Trust me, it gets better. Aside from the incredible score of dramatic music that adds a much more serious tone to the game, the sound effects are a marked improvement over Ocarina of Time, especially where Link's fairy companion is concerned. Remember how nerve-wrackingly annoying Navi was as she followed Link around on his last adventure, calling attention to things you'd already figured out or discovered on your own in that worse-than-Baby-Mario-crying voice? Well, in Majora's Mask it's gone, replaced by a Tinkerbell-like ring. At least now we know Nintendo listens to our complaints.

If you've played Ocarina of Time (and shame on you if you haven't), then skip this section and continue reading with the next paragraph as Majora's Mask controls identically to the previous game. You're still reading? I'll assume you're one of those unpatriotic Communists who didn't buy one of Nintendo's greatest masterpieces. Basically, you've got the smoothest, most intuitive controller scheme ever crafted on the controller that Super Mario 64 built. The three things that really set Zelda's control apart from every other title on the market today are: One- The Z-Locking system (often imitated, never duplicated) which allows you to always keep Link facing the way you need him; Two- The innovative use of the 'C' buttons, three of which can be programmed to use any one of over forty items and/or masks, thus preparing you for almost any situation; and Three- The auto-jump. God bless this feature. Every 3D game should have this as an option. Having trouble with that tricky ledge? No problem! Just press forward and let Link do the rest. You're sure to find any one of a dozen or so more reasons to love the controls, but does it matter? This game is just too damn fun not to play.

Design-wise Majora's Mask strays a bit from Ocarina despite the use of the same engine. The first thing you'll notice is Link's new world is much more populated that Hyrule, which almost gives it the illusion that it's smaller than the previous game due to the proximity of everything. Where Ocarina of Time had a vast open plain that branched of into several smaller areas, Majora's Mask has five large areas that branch of into a few smaller areas. One such 'smaller' area is the size of the field from the first game! Gone are the Master Sword and the ability to travel through time by years, replaced by an innovative mask system that imbues Link with the ability to do anything from entering bars to transforming into other species. The passage of time is much more prominent in this game as well. In the previous game it seemed like a novelty (a way to show Link grown up), this time (no pun intended) you must keep careful watch on your clock as you have exactly 72 hours to solve whatever puzzle you are working on before you have to travel back to the first day and start all over. Characters in the game also follow a set schedule that plays out by the hour and day, so you must keep track of who you need to talk to and when to do it. I could go on and on about other nifty little design aspects of Majora's Mask, but I think I'll let the game speak for itself at this point.

Majora's Mask is, without a doubt, every bit as good as Ocarina of Time and then some. It brings enough new elements to the table that it stands alone as a wholly separate entity in the Legend of Zelda franchise without re-treading too much familiar ground. When I originally posted this review on my now defunct game review site, this game was both fresh and fun. Now that I've played it a few more times over the years, I still stand by my review, only adding that Majora's Mask has now become a classic in my collection. Thankfully, Nintendo has wisely made this game available on both the GameCube as part of a promotional collection and the Wii as a Virtual Console download, so tracking down a copy shouldn't be all that difficult.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/10/09

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

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