"Just pretend Ocarina doesn't exist for a moment. Majora's Mask deserves some credit, too."

A few years ago, Nintendo released a smash hit to their fans known as Ocarina of Time. It was far and away the most popular Zelda title. Never one to let a good opportunity go, Nintendo released another Zelda title for the Nintendo 64, Majora's Mask.

Right off the bat, it's very noticeable that Majora's Mask improves on a lot of the gameplay from its predecessor. The action is right in front of Link at all times, and there are no worries about having to walk across vast areas of nothingness. The main field is small and easy to navigate. The beginning of the game is somewhat slow, but it picks up once the first temple opens up. From there on in, Majora's Mask turns out to be an amazing standalone title without having to rest on the laurels of games past.

The one flaw is this game is far too short. More specifically, the game only has four dungeons in it. This makes a game that would have been legendary seem like there was something missing in the end. Had this game's system had more levels to explore, it could have been one of the elite games of the series. But as it stands, it would most likely be in the middle of the pack. Aside from not having enough dungeons, there are a couple of gameplay flaws to look at as well. The idea behind Majora's Mask is that Link must collect and don multiple masks to complete his quest. Link is also able to take multiple forms on top of getting various abilities, which makes for a very entertaining game to play. The issue here comes with spending far too much time in the menu screen, but Ocarina also had that same issue at times. Here we have a game in which the action is all around Link at all times, yet a very large amount of time is devoted to surfing through the menu screen. It gets very interruptive by the end.

As for the game's other problem, the storyline makes no sense. Majora's Mask has no Zelda, no Ganon, no Ganondorf, and no Triforce. The game doesn't even have a Hyrule, if you can believe that. The entire game takes place in a sort of alternate universe known as Termina, yet a lot of characters from Hyrule magically exist here. Nintendo was trying to do something new with the series, which I suppose is alright. But it made no sense at times. The entire games takes place in an alternate world, yet an absolute load of characters and items from Hyrule still managed to carry over? Here we have a game that keeps around a bunch of things that no one cares about, yet they leave out everything needed to make a Zelda game into a Zelda game. It made no sense.

In the beginning, Link is riding through a forest on Epona. He gets ambushed by the Skull Kid from Ocarina of Time before finally being drawn into Termina for the adventure of Majora's Mask. Soon afterwards, Link comes across the Mask Man, another character who just so happened to be in Termina instead of Hyrule, who introduces Link to the story behind Majora's Mask. The Mask Man encountered Majora's Mask in his travels, but it was stolen from him after the Skull Kid ambushed him. This is when Link's story begins. He is thrust into Termina and is left to find a way to take down the skull kid, restore Majora's Mask, and save Termina from destruction at the hands of the Skull Kid in the form of a giant moon slowly bearing down to crash into Termina, meteor style. This sets up an interesting story, but not necessarily a good one in my eyes.

The strength of the game comes from the dungeons themselves. Of all the Zelda titles, the dungeons in Majora's Mask are among the absolute best in gaming. The four dungeons create a nice lineup in which you must incorporate all the skills and abilities taught in the past, and they are all pretty difficult in their own way. The bosses are also nothing to laugh at, especially if you don't know what you're doing. It's a shame that more time wasn't put in to the actual gameplay to make more dungeons. Instead, you are left with a mess of a story that winds up causing you to not appreciate the good parts of the game nearly as much as you should. Stone Tower Temple is, in my opinion, the single best dungeon ever seen in a Zelda title. It comes complete with perfect difficulty, music, and a solid boss. It's a really nice highlight to a solid dungeon lineup, with the obvious issue being we needed more of them.

Overall, Majora's Mask is a very good game with problems that have a way of jumping off the screen. But if you can look past them, you'll find a great game to play.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/21/04, Updated 06/11/10

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

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