Review by sneggid
"Taken the less traveled route to paradise"
First: I love Majora's Mask. My absolute favourite Zelda game, and very nearly my absolute favourite game ever. With that note of bias out of the way, comes an attempt to actually fairly review this most unique of Zelda games. Majora's Mask manages to do a lot wrong, yet it somehow does wrong right. The game is shorter, strangely presented and has a time limit. Not even adding the fact that graphically it is nearly identical copy and paste of Ocarina of Time. Yet not once does it ever suffer under all this: it works with everything it has to make it a phenomenal experience. It moves away from its acclaimed brethren to be its own man, and the mark it leaves is like no other Zelda.
Majora begins on a darker note than other Zelda's; a theme continued throughout the (surprisingly deep) plot. Link is mugged, his horse and Ocarina stolen, and turned into a hideous creature. Then told you have to save the world in three days. The game is a lot faster in its introduction than other Zelda's; Twilight Princess being the one in my head which I remember to have the unnecessarily long intro. Here there is no such issue. One thing that is most impressive, especially at the start of the cycle, but also every single 3rd Night, is the ability to give the impending doom real feeling. When it gets to that stage, it actually effects you. The moon gets closer, the music gets faster. Characters react differently. They're afraid, and in a way so are you.
And that is continuously one of the key differences to this game. It just has a lot more effect in the whole connection a player gets to the world. Link's interaction with each character has effect, and it makes a real difference. In a regular game, only the main characters have a visible fear of the threats being faced, because they're the only ones aware. In Majora, this is not the case. The moon, a powerful character in itself moving ever closer, presents a reminder to you, but also to all the characters you meet. Everyone can see it, fear it. It's more than that though. The amount of sidequests create a real attachment to every run of the mill character. Characters are not singular entities, they have connections to others. While Anju and Kafei is the obvious example, they are connected to various other characters. But its not just that. You have Romania and her sister, and her sister connects to the Milk Bar in Clock Town. And a frequent visitor of there is the depressed brother of two redneck criminals. You become a part of the world, and invest into it.
The game creates fantastic connection to a fabulous world, but that is nowhere near its only strength. The gameplay continues exactly where Ocarina left off. Ocarina holds the best game ever title for good reason: flawless gameplay. And that is on full display here. The items are similar to whats found in its predecessor, with no new regular items, and less of them than before. This is fully made up for with the introduction of masks. 24 to be precise, each different and most unique. While some of them have at best limited use (I count about 3 or 4 which are used once for literally one heart piece, and one mask which actually has no point of existence- the Circus Leader's Mask) many of them are useful, clever, and the Transformation masks are genuinely game changing. The fact that none of them are over powered and all varied is testament to variety. And even some of the non transformation masks are continuously useful. Stone mask, bunny hood, a bunch of them manage to find uses within the game, and those are the most memorable ones.
The masks and items are used to great effect through the games dungeons. And while at first 4 dungeons seems tiny and lacking, once you play through the game you realise its not quite true. The dungeons are huge, complex, and are usually accompanied by 1 or more short dungeon-esque areas before each one. The dungeons fit a theme, and manage to incorporate a host of items. With modern Zelda's, a lot of the dungeon will only use the new item, with everything else taking a back seat. Here, nothing is forgotten. A special mention has to go to Stone Tower. One of the most original dungeons in the entire series (which in itself is saying a lot), the entire temple turning upside down is one of the highlights of the game. It also did something that arguably no other temple in the game managed: putting near enough every item in the game to actual use. And what's more, it did it well.
With the dungeon's being so much bigger comes many more opportunities to exploit that. There are more puzzles; they usually take up large portions of the entire dungeon (current flow, flipping temple etc), yet not once is combat drifted to the side against puzzles. The big key and the item each have their own unique mini-bosses (some of them truly brilliant; Garo Master and Gomess come to mind), plus more little mini bosses are littered throughout. Each boss is also nothing like any other in the series, giving a fresh ability to tackle most of them in multiple different ways. All the bosses can be tackled in more than one way, and its very refreshing. In particular Twinmold, with Link having the option to fight giant size, or not if you want.
And the whole ability of choice is, especially for me, a huge pull for the game. It is one of the few games which arguably benefit from multiple playthroughs, as you then gain the knowledge of where you can go at what time, with the ability to fit yourself around whatever you want to do at certain times as you will. Its also the only Zelda game which is possibly funner trying to 100% than complete just regularly. It's an acquired taste: some people will despise the use of a semi-time limit. Its not an actual time limit, but restricting what you can do at what time is not something everyone will like. But the game manages to give a huge sense of satisfaction when you manage to fit things in, and its actual incredibly fun thinking through what you want to do and just doing it, all the while having to prepare yourself for what to do next.
One more thing to be mentioned here is the games soundtrack. Which is hands down, the best soundtrack in the entire series, at least for me. So many brilliant songs, and each of them really add to the mood. Song of Healing, Deku Palace, Stone Tower, and the most memorable being Clock Town. The theme changes every day, and not once is it bad. Always fun, and by the end its just fantastic. Also mentioning Clock Town. Best town in the entire series. Bursting with life, character, things to do, everything. Just beautiful.
Which really I should just use to describe the game. It is an example of beauty in game design. Sure, its not quite as perfectly paced as Ocarina of Time. The difficulty can be uneven, and it still only has 4 dungeons, which is the least in the entire series. And yet, it is still awesome. There's just something truly satisfying about playing it.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/14/11
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (EU, 11/17/00)
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