Review by Gbness

"Beauty within the face of misunderstood darkness"

Start from the classic Ocarina of Time, as it stands. Begin with it as what it is, and then start removing elements. Eight dungeons -- cut that in half, reduce it to four, I say. But ah, quality over quantity, yes? To hell with numbers, spice the quality up! Take out a bit of the overall theme, as well as Zelda, Ganon, the Triforce, Hyrule, etc. Enter the world of Termina, which is doomed to be crushed under a moon in a mere three days, on the night of a carnival. By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes... only it's not this game, of course. Add some new features, and you've got something new and innovative.

Welcome to Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

From the very beginning you can tell it's something different. Done with rescuing Hyrule and saving Zelda for the millionth time or so, the elven warrior goes through the woods on his steed, only to be attacked by a Skull Kid wearing an unusual mask, two fairies alongside him. With that, the hero of time, Link, is only to lose his horse and his sanity as he turns into a Deku and is forced into Termina, a melancholy world with the fate of being crushed under a moon. It is a Zelda game and not a thing other than that, with its story satisfying it. While many would consider Majora's Mask's story to be very thumbs-down, it's a great change from the previous formula that's almost always used in Zelda games.

As previously stated, Hyrule is gone and we're in a new world -- Termina. Most everything about this world strikes me as more of a fancy, ranging from the landscape to the overall feeling. Termina is a beautiful world, ranging from the swampy reaches of the Woodfall Temple and Deku Palace, to the mountain range of Snowhead Temple, reaching out to the seaside scope of Great Bay, and the seemingly entirely new world from within Ikana Canyon and its Stone Tower Temple. The field of Termina is a great place, and a far more entertaining world to roam through than the Hyrule Field of Ocarina of Time. It IS, however, rather small, as we're gifted with four total dungeons and large areas. It's a touch upon quality over quantity, but I'll just say that it's a smaller world than Hyrule, without a doubt.

What most would look on Majora's Mask unfavorably is its time system. You're given three days to do things, with one hour of game time going by one in one minute of real time. Once you reach that three day mark, you'll have to play the infamous Song of Time to return to the first day, with things such as the collected rupees, bombs, arrows, and such lost, as well as things that have happened, except for within your inner moral, obviously. As such, most would feel the need to go back and do things over several times, and would overexaggerate on how rushed this made the game feel. Quite on the contrary, I felt this gave the game an entirely better feel. Playing the Inverted Song of Time, you can give yourself a bit more than two hours to do things before going back in time.

Obviously, we in real life are haunted by the clutches of our siblings, so we pause the game, then they turn it on for whatever reason and then it's all over for you. But I'm a person unlike the majority, so that's irrelevant.

Two hours is really enough time to do things, even if it's a tad bit of annoyance in the long run. You can really get past this barrier, and find behind it an extremely enjoyable game. As previously stated, Majora's Mask implemented some features which can later be seen as part of what seems to be a cliche in the modern video game world: start a game with fresh, original gameplay, then start adding lots of new stuff until it turns into pure crap. This isn't how Majora's Mask runs. Instead, we're treated to the ability to change into a Deku, Goron, or Zora to suit our needs, and it's not immensely painful like most similar changes are. You've got new features within these, be they the ability to shoot bubbles and hop against water as a Deku, roam as a giant and use your utter brute force as a Goron, or gain enhanced swimming ability as a Zora. It was put together extremely well.

And that's not all. Besides the transformations, you're gifted to lots of masks that you can put on for features. Some exist merely to allow you to gain little items and make you look stupid, but there's an example in the Bunny Hood which allows you to run much faster, or the Blast Mask, which can blow a bomb off as a last resort. Majora's Mask brings back something that Ocarina of Time lacked, in an exploration factor. You've got a vast world to explore, full of side quests to get these masks. The side quests, for the most part, are extremely fun, and at least it's beyond going to get a little heart piece. And at the end, in the final dungeon against the final boss, you can trade in all the masks thus collected to turn Link into Fierce Deity Link. The divine warrior -- more than capable of standing up, whereas it's a hard fight otherwise.

Dungeons are done in Majora's Mask better than ever before. While the dungeons in Ocarina of Time usually bored me somewhat (especially the ones at the beginning), Majora's Mask brings out what I feel to be the best dungeons in the entire series. With the possible exception of the first one, Woodfall Temple, each dungeon has the perfect balance of everything. You've got the perfect length for them (Woodfall Temple felt slightly long to me but was the only one), the perfect enemies suited for them, the perfect music suited for them (Stone Tower Temple comes to mind), and the perfect overall feeling. Perhaps some of them didn't feel as epic as the Forest Temple, Spirit Temple, or Shadow Temple from Ocarina, but I really enjoyed these dungeons. Stone Tower Temple remains to this day to be my favorite Zelda dungeon of all time.

Without a doubt, though, Majora's Mask is one of the most difficult Zeldas to date. None of the Zelda were ever that difficult, besides perhaps the original, but this is probably the hardest one besides that and Adventure of Link. Nothing's really TOO hard, but it's got quite a good balance. The bosses are the perfect difficulty, and there's the perfect range of them. From the Wart we can all remember from Link to the Past, to the giant horse Goht, to the enormous Twin-Mold, you have a collection of fantastic bosses and enemies. Plus there's the excellent final boss, even if he can be made a lot easier by collecting all the masks. Majora's Mask simply sweats a good balance of difficulty.

Visually, Majora's Mask is really equal to its brother Ocarina of Time. I couldn't really tell much difference between the two, as they're both vivid, colorful, and have well designed characters. Sure, the backgrounds are very occasionally somewhat blurry, but that's not alone within this game. I would even go as far as to call the graphics of Majora's Mask (as well as Ocarina of Time) better than Wind Waker's, although that's really due to style alone. Everything from the true difference of fire and ice within the Snowhead Temple, to the vast blue ocean seen from within Great Bay... it's all excellent, and until the release of Twilight Princess, this is the best that a Zelda game has yet looked.

As far as audio goes, Majora's Mask doesn't appoint. Wander past the rather annoying, cheery dance in Clock Town, and you can proceed to the dungeons themselves. While Woodfall Temple's music doesn't appeal to me, quite obviously, all the other temples are definitely worth humming to. Especially Stone Tower Temple, formerly mentioned. The Termina Field is fresh with the essence of a classic -- that being the quite famous Zelda theme. Getting past the chime from Clock Town, which still isn't bad in its own right, you've got a fresh collection of new and enjoyable tunes that bring a new and wonderful life to the series.

I see Majora's Mask bashed quite often and referred to as a shame to the series. Perhaps you can call it a weakness in my judgment, but I see nothing wrong with the game. If you play it right, you'll never even notice the time limit. It's got the perfect balance of difficulty, fantastic dungeons, the best graphics and music that the series has yet to look upon, and it even tops Ocarina of Time in my book. Hell, it even stands up to my absolute favorite Zelda of all time, that being Link to the Past. It's shorter than the majority of Zeldas, but other things such as the Deku Palace and Gerudo Fortress that aren't directly dungeon and puzzle related exist to serve you in that time, and it's an overall fantastic game with flaws that can be overlooked.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/01/05

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