Review by Mariner
"Here's one Zelda fanatic who was not disappointed at all"
First of all, I would like to apologize for the length of this review. I am a very large Zelda fan, and so there is a lot that I feel I can talk about. Also, with a game like this, there is a ton of depth, and so requires a ton of depth in the review. Sound fair? Also, just for the record, OoT stands for Ocarina of Time. Now, on with the show!
Ah, Majora’s Mask. Some love it, many hate it. Many, many hate it. The 72 hour system isn’t enough time. It’s too much time. It’s too different from the rest of the Zeldas. It’s not different enough from OoT. The masks are stupid. The plot is stupid. It’s too short. It’s too long. Yadda yadda yadda. Personally, I think Nintendo just loves making controversial games, but that’s not the point. I got this game and loved every minute of it. There were some bad points, true, but it is mostly perfect. But, more importantly, it was a Zelda game in spirit and style, and thus created many hours of pure bliss for me.
Story - 10 - Surprise! What many consider to be the weak spot of the game, I find is the strongest. Long after the events of OoT, Link goes searching for a friend on his horse, Epona. However, a skull kid wearing a strange mask and accompanied by two fairies knocks him down, steals the Ocarina of Time, and rides off on Epona. Link follows him, gets turned into a Deku by Skull Kid, and ends up in a strange world. In three days, the Moon will fall, destroying everything. Get your Ocarina back, heal your Dekuness, and stop the kid wearing the mysterious Majora’s Mask. Got it? No, it certainly isn’t traditional, which I like. Despite significant differences, the traditional Zelda storyline is beginning to age. I personally think Ganon needs to go before he gets too old, and I am very happy to not see him here. The plot may not be RPG caliber, but it holds up as well as one might expect from a Zelda game. Skull Kid is a very believable villain, and the Mask is even better (sort of like a simplified One Ring, a concept I quite enjoy).
However, there are two excellent points that make this story a perfect 10. The game seems to focus a lot on Link’s character. Tatl (the fairy) in particular does an excellent job commentating, and was much more interesting than Navi. The notebook system also lets us see the more human (or Hylian, as the case may be) side of Link. It may not have been the intention, but my impression was that Link truly cared for these people. A wonderful addition. The second point is the atmosphere. Simply put, this game is incredibly atmospheric, and you can simply feel the moody and bizarre tone of the game. Everything about it points to this in a subtle way, from the changes in the music to the colors to the ever nearing moon. It’s as near to perfect as one can make it. If you want more of the same Link beats Ganon, saves Zelda, then I’m sorry for you. Open your mind and accept one of the finest pieces of writing and especially directing I’ve seen in videogames.
Graphics - 10 - This should be a very quick category. The graphics are nearly identical to OoT. By this, I mean that it’s about the best you can get on the N64. Fortunately, there are also some excellent additions. A fair amount of motion blur is used in this game, and done quite well I might add. There’s also some very noticeable and excellent usage of real time lighting, particularly carrying a torch throughout a completely darkened path in the Deku Palace. Finally, there are moments where dozens of enemies appear at once with very little slowdown. To see a swarm of keese (bats) attack you is a true sight of beauty. And, of course, the atmosphere is perfect. Perfect use of colors, lighting, and effects. This is the best looking Zelda game to date, and will probably remain the best for a long period to come.
Sound - 9 - Let me say one thing first. The final six hours music is absolutely incredible. Perfectly fitting the situation, this is easily one of my favorite pieces of Zelda music (coming from me, that says a lot). If I were to know the final hours of the world, this is what I would listen to at that time. But back to the review. The classic overworld theme returns; it’s not quite as good as the Link to the Past version, but it suffices. Other noteworthy songs are the Clock Town theme, Transformation Theme, Observatory Theme, and the Giants Theme. All of these fit the game and contribute a ton to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, many of the others did not live up to par. The dungeon themes, for instance, simply do not compare to their OoT counterparts, and some of the ocarina songs seemed a bit rushed. Still, with several excellent songs, we can overlook these. Sound effects were almost perfect. The ability to play the drums, guitar, and horn is immense fun, and was worth the price of admission alone. Much of the rest of the sound effects are similar or slightly improved from OoT. The major exception happens to be some of the townspeople, who just sound, well, way off the mark. So there are exceptions, but for the most part the sound aspect excels, and even surpasses its successor at times.
Gameplay - 9.5 - There’s tons to talk about here. First of all, this is the exact same engine as OoT, so the control and so forth is every bit as good as OoT. Now, let’s tackle each scenario. First off is masks. The transformation masks created an entirely new dimension to the game. Each of the three races you become gives you completely unique powers, and are useful not only as gimmicky puzzle solvers but throughout the game as well. Sometimes it’s easiest to be a Zora and fire your double boomerangs (awesome concept, btw), or perhaps you prefer being a Deku and spinning into enemies. How many other games actually make multiple styles of play more than just gimmicks? The other masks are gimmicks for the most part, but they were merely extras. No one claimed they were anything more (although the blast mask was fun).
Then, there’s the time system. People complaining about it are seriously overreacting. You may lose all your arrows, bombs, rupees, etc each time you go back, but they are replenished easily. There’s 200 rupees in Clock Town each time that take five minutes to get. With the Inverted Song of Time, you get over two hours to complete your task. No problem whatsoever. Personally, I enjoyed the system. It gave a much broader sense of freedom. You could decide to continue your quest one period, spend the day exploring Clock Town the next, and then spend a third period catching up on your notebook. A time management system focused me more than OoT did, which paradoxically gave me more freedom. See for yourself, and you should realize the time travel is not a problem.
Of course, there are other aspects of the game, but there are too many to list. Yes, there are only four dungeons. No, they are not as well designed as the Forest or Spirit Temples. Yes, they are still fun. They feel more similar to the original labyrinths on the NES than OoT ever did, though, which was certainly a good thing. Some of the mini games were fun (Goron racing!!!), some were not (the postman’s “game”), and I sorely miss the Gerudo archery range. There are tons of heart containers, forcing you to explore even more (which is great). The puzzles were, for the most part, ingenious. And all of the side quests were interesting. All Zelda games should contain a notebook system from now on. I decree it. I will name one flaw, and that is that many of the mini quests were rehashes of OoT games. Stuff like the Deku race or infiltrating the Gerudo just should not have occurred. But this is a very minor complaint, and I would say this game is every bit as fun as OoT.
Challenge - 10 - Many people complained about OoT’s lack of challenge. This game takes care of that aspect. Each of the four bosses are fairly difficult and provide a lot more fun than fighting an amoeba. Unfortunately, the final boss is not that hard, but only if you use the spectacular Fierce Deity Mask. The dungeons themselves are large, complex, and very challenging. Some might find it frustrating, but I enjoy them (remember level 9 of the original game? It’s no more complex than that). But the true challenge lies in the subquests. Getting every heart container without a guide is next to impossible, and it will take you a while to figure out how to finish your notebook or collect every mask. The best part is, this is all optional, making the challenge depend on you. That is the way it should be. Enemies seem a bit harder as well. For instance, Lizardfos was upgraded to a meaner and nastier version. This is the hardest Zelda game since Zelda II, and it raises the game a notch.
Replay - 9 - For me, all Zelda games have an immense replay factor. I’ve probably played through the original at least 100 times. This one is no different. The sheer unlinearity of the game improves this factor a lot. There will undoubtedly be many things you missed the first time around, and so you may want to come back and find them. Some of the mini games are enjoyable enough in their own right, as are many of the aspects of the quest. And there is simply so much you can do that you should not rush your way through this game. Termina is a wonderful place to visit, and I wish I could play it more often. Besides, you have to allow the world to end at least once.
Overall - 9.7 - Perhaps I’m just blind, but I cannot see any major problems in this game. Oh, there are some minor complaints, and it doesn’t seem as polished as the big three Zelda games (1, 3, 5), but they did not detract from the game as a whole. People need to see this game for what it is, not for what they expected out of it. It’s a side story. It was meant to tide us over and give us more of the good stuff. It was not meant to be as epic as OoT. Nor was it meant to be a simple rehash of the game. Instead, we got a side story, a brief look into the more bizarre side of Zelda. People expecting something amazing and wonderful, or more of the same, were probably disappointed. Me, I was only expecting the Zelda experience. I was expecting the bliss of playing the newest chapter of my favorite franchise. And I got it.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/10/02, Updated 03/10/02
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