Review by Msterchief

"Another Zelda game lives up to Zelda standards..."

Wow. Really, that was the first and only thing that came to my mind after every time I gave up for the night, right up until I finally beat the game after two and a half years of on and off playing. This game is without a doubt the most complex as well as intriguing game I have ever played, which goes hand in hand with being a very difficult game to analyzed in a review. Nonetheless, here goes:

This game begins like many Zelda games, and almost all games for that matter; with a cutscene that attempts to lay out some kind of purpose, or reason for the player to play the game. You see a boy, Link, riding through the forest on his horse, Epona. He is ambushed by two fairies, whom we find out are with the Skull Kid. The player is almost immediately sympathetic towards Link, who, in the rest of the "Prologue", if you will, is turned in to a "Deku Scrub", a short creature that can fly temporarily under the right circumstances, Link's horse Epona is taken away, and most importantly, (with an even bigger sense of sympathy from players of the game's prequel, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), Link's ocarina is stolen. Throughout the prologue, the skull kid is wearing a mask featured on the cover of the box, which we later find out is known only as Majora's Mask, hence the title.

During the prologue, you begin to play as Link, in a third-person manner very similar, if not identical to The Ocarina of Time. After following the Skull Kid in the midst of various cutscenes and dialogue, you make it to the inside of the tall Clock Tower, which becomes the geographical center of the entire game. Inside the tower you meet a mask salesman, who explains that he has been following you and wants your help to get the Majora's Mask back. In exchange, once Link can get his Ocarina back, the salesman says he can turn you back to human.

After this, a number of things happen. You learn your way around Clock Town, get to know people and their habits for the first three days. Then, at midnight on the third night, the Carnival of Time begins. Throughout the three days that you patrol Clock Town, and prepare to execute a plan to get your ocarina back, the moon above the city grows larger every day, and people talk about the moon falling on the city. You find out that this is the Skull Kid's doing, under the influence of the Majora's Mask. When the Carnival of Time begins, you go up to the top of the clock tower, and upon picking up the ocarina which the Skull Kid drops, are brought back memories of when you left Princess Zelda long ago, and a song she taught you that, when played, requested aid from the Goddess of Time. You play this song and, after being brought through a cutscene-ish movie, appear in front of the door to the clock tower, three days previous, right after meeting with the mask salesman.

So, you meet with the salesman, learn the song of healing, and become human once more. In addition, you get the Deku mask, that when put on, returns you to Deku form. This is ultimately the real beginning for the game, as it is now that you begin your adventure. When Link was on top of the clock tower with the Skull Kid, the Skull Kid's fairy gives Link a clue; to bring the "one's" from the Swamp, Mountain, Ocean, and Canyon to the Clock Tower.

The goal of the game, however confusing it was before, is now much more obvious: you must go to a hidden temple in the North, South, East, and West, battle through the temples, and free the imprisoned souls that were under the influence of a terrible mask. Throughout the game, you find two other masks that change your form from human: the Goron mask, and the Zora mask. Also, throughout the game you will come across twenty-one other masks, some of which affect gameplay, others that you are required to get to pass an area, and some that have a purely ornamental value.

The story of this game is well above average. There are many flaws, such as the annoyance with going back in time to the beginning of the three day session many many times, (the first time I beat the game I must have used the Song of Time 100 times, at least), or how when the Song of Time is used to go backwards in time, you lose all items, (nothing like your bow or masks or sword, but rather arrows, bombs, potions, fairies, etc.) The game however gave a wonderful sense of fulfillment upon completion, having helped so many people with their lives throughout the game, and how emotional the game could make the player, knowing full well, that if you didn't return time to the beginning, everyone would die. This game also is very motivating, one of the key factors in having a good story.

In this game you were Link. You didn't play as him, you WERE him. And you could feel it too when you played the game. The controls for the game were a lot like Halo, or Super Mario, not in a technical sense, but in the sense that it took very little time to get used to the controls before they were no longer controls, they were a part of the player themselves. The "Z-Target" system especially worked very well, to enable the player to lock on to enemies, giving the player even more moving capabilities, including strafing, performing backflips to evade enemies, and doing advanced sword maneuvers.

During the game, the player finds it startlingly obvious how easy it is to complete tasks with the controller, whether they are playing the Sonata of Awakening on the Deku Pipes, or using the bunny hood to jump that extra foot, in order to get to a treasure chest. The gameplay is smooth, and easy to understand, with a single fault: the annoyance of the three day time limit. But even this fault is easy enough to ignore.

During the cutscenes of most games today, you are given a small sense of surprise often, at how real the characters, as well as their surroundings, look. And, while during the actual gameplay you still got a very real character, it wasn't as real in a comparative sense. In Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, it was quite the opposite. During cutscenes, you could see glitches in the environment, little pieces of code not working, so that perhaps there was a tree that hadn't entirely loaded. But while the game is being played, the depiction of the three-dimensional world that we live in is truly unmatchable, especially considering how long ago it came out. While it may not have been very long in our world, in a technological sense, it is way ahead of its time.

Throughout the years, I have heard of many competitions concerning the speediness of beating this game. I have heard of people beating it in under five hours, or in the game's time, during your second three-day session. But, in a realistic sense, this game contains over forty hours of gameplay, assuming completion of the four temples, finding all the heart pieces, obtaining all twenty-four masks, the four remains' masks, and stopping the Skull Kid. Not only that, but being as some of the items, including masks, are not necessary to obtain in order to complete the game, it is often fun to beat the game once in an effort to simply beat the game, and then go back and play through it a second time, finding every heart piece, solving every person's problems to the best of your abilities, and acquiring every mask.

Of all the problems I have had with this game, one would think the lack of a multiplayer setup would be a high-ranker so to speak. But in fact, when I thought about how they would have done multiplayer had they included it, I am glad the game's creators left it out. The game, putting aside the fact that it is just a game, has a very serious feel to it. You have on your shoulder's the responsibility of protecting the hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives that are slowly being destroyed in a variety of ways. That's right, not only are all of them going to be killed upon the moon's fall, but there are other problems.

In my opinion, the most emotional, (and heartwarming at the same time), of all the side stories, was that of a couple, who swore as kids to each make a mask, the Sun Mask, and the Moon Mask, and to give it to each other on the night of the Carnival of Time, and to marry the next day. When a local thief steals the Sun Mask, and turns its owner into a child with a curse, forcing him into hiding out of shame, you can choose to help him reacquire the Sun Mask, and take him to Anju, his bride-to-be. The first time I played through their part of the game, I failed to rescue this man in time, and I cried. Really, it was that emotional.

It is this emotional sense within the game that takes it to a point where it is no longer a game, it is a reality. This game would be rather foolish to rent, as you could not get very far into the game, but if one wanted just a taste of it, that would be an option. I would however recommend buying the game, and taking the time to beat it in its entirety. This game is wonderful, depressing, and beautiful all at the same time, and a wonderful investment.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/08/05

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