The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
  • Genre:
    • Action Adventure
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 04/27/2000
    • US 10/26/2000
    • UK 11/17/2000
Score: 85%

This review was published on 07/24/2013.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is a 3-D action adventure game originally released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000. It's the direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which came out a few years earlier on the N64. Majora's Mask is the second 3-D Zelda game and the fifth Zelda game released on home consoles. Ocarina of Time was one of the most heavily hyped games of all time, and quickly became one of the highest rated games of all time when it finally came out. As such, Majora's Mask had some big shoes to fill. The shoes were a little too big to fill, as the game was nowhere near the success of its predecessor. That was never really in the cards, though. Majora's Mask was developed in a much shorter period of time than Ocarina of Time, and it also re-used a lot of the same assets from that game. In that respect, Majora's Mask feels more like an expansion pack than its own original game. Speaking of expansion packs, Majora's Mask requires the N64 Expansion Pak to function. This device provides the N64 with additional memory, and there were a few games that could make use of it to provide enhanced graphics. Not too many games required it, but Majora's Mask is one of the few. While Majora's Mask does remix a lot of content from Ocarina of Time, this is by no means a safe sequel. It experimented with a lot of crazy ideas that alienated some fans at the time. Love it or hate it, Majora's Mask is one of the more interesting games in the Zelda series.

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Several months after the events of Ocarina of Time, Link is riding his trusty stead, Epona, into a mysterious forest in search of a mysterious friend. After wondering around for a mysterious amount of time, Link is ambushed by a mysterious kid. This kid is the Skull Kid, and he was joined by two fairies. The Skull Kid and his fairy accomplices make off with Link's horse and, more importantly, the Ocarina of Time, a legendary artifact that has the power facilitate time travel. Link does what any young boy would do and chases after the thief. Things don't go well, as the Skull Kid leads Link into a pitfall trap. The Skull Kid then casts a terrible curse on Link, turning him into something called a Deku Scrub. Deku Scrubs are the little tree folk from Ocarina of Time. As a Deku Scrub, Link lacks the capabilities of his human form, and this just won't do. He continues chasing after the Skull Kid and eventually ends up in a town known as Clock Town. There Link meets a mysterious masks salesman that agrees to help break the curse and return Link back to his human form. The catch is that he needs to get back the Ocarina of Time. It seems that the Skull Kid is being controlled by an evil mask known as the Majora's Mask, so it is up to Link to retrieve the mask. Link confronts the Skull Kid once again, but realizes that the Skull Kid's endgame is to end the game, by making the moon fall into the Earth, totally annihilating all life. Matters are worsened by the fact that Link is unable to fight the Skull Kid in his Deku Scrub form, and there isn't much time before the moon comes crashing down. Luckily, Link manages to get back his ocarina, which he uses to travel back in time exactly three days earlier. Now Link must return to his human form and stop the Skull Kid from destroying the world in only three days. This is definitely one of the more complex plots in the Zelda series, and one of the darkest. It's very interesting, to say the least.

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There are a number of newly introduced mechanics that are central to this game, but the three day thing is the most important one. You only have three days to avert the crisis that is the destruction of the world. Those aren't real days, mind you, but the in game time does progress in real time. A single in game hour is 45 seconds real time, one in game day is 18 minutes real time, and therefore, three in game days is 54 minutes in real time. The game's time stops during menu screens, cutscenes, and dialogue, but for the most part, you have approximately 54 minutes to beat the game. That's kind of a tall order, because the game will probably take you closer to 20 or 30 hours to complete, especially on your first time through. So how do we get around this tricky situation? Why, the Ocarina of Time, of course. In the game's unusual intro, you learn a mystical song that, when played on the Ocarina of Time, will time travel exactly three days back in time every time. This isn't just for story purposes; it actually has an impact on the game play. The only way for you to permanently save your progress is to reverse time, and it's this process that lets you cheat the end of the world. It's sort of like Groundhog Day, because you keep reliving the same three days over and over until you save the world. All events will reset whenever you go back in time, but that doesn't mean you lose all of your progress. You keep most of your important items, not to mention the knowledge you gleaned from the future. This is kind of the love it or hate it part of the game, as some people will tout this as an awesome and original concept, whereas others will absolutely abhor it. There's no doubt that this is unique, but it does bring with it some annoyances. The fact that the story and any townsfolk's reactions toward you continues to reset on an endless loop can get annoying fast, because you're forced to repeat certain menial tasks over and over. It's definitely one of the most innovative mechanics in a Zelda game, but it's not without its faults.

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Clock Town is where the majority of the game takes place. There are other small towns in the game, but Clock Town is the biggest one, and the one you spend the most time in. It's got a giant clock tower in the center, hence the name. Clock Town is a place you'll be visiting regularly throughout the game, as it acts as the central hub of the game. Time has a very important effect on this town, in that it actually has an effect. There are a bunch of unique townsfolk, each with their own name and personality. What a given townie does differs on the time of day, and even changes depending on what day it is. For example, a lot of the townspeople get pretty frightened around the final hours of the third day, hiding out in their homes and talking of the impending apocalypse. In the first two days, though, everyone is just peachy. Everyone in town adheres to a strict schedule. There are no tricks here; characters don't teleport from different locations or anything like that. If you follow a character throughout the day, you'll see exactly where they go in real time. It's quite remarkable, really. Besides shops opening and closing at different times, there are also many special events that will occur in town at a certain time, like a mugging. At a particular point in time, an old woman will be robbed by some rude man. If you're present when this happens, you can avert the robbery and get a cool prize. The robbery happens even if you're not there, though, which means you can miss it. Naturally, any events you do miss can be revisited by turning back time, so it's not the end of the world. A huge chunk of the game's side quests and optional content revolves around talking to and solving various problems that the denizens of Clock Town are having. You even get a handy notebook to record your side quest progress. Clock Town is one of the best towns out of any Zelda game ever, and perhaps even one of the best towns in a video game period. It's lively, interactive, and has plenty of stuff to do. Clock Town is the best part of Majora's Mask.

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Masks play a major role in Majora's Mask. Every mask in this game imparts a unique ability when worn and there are around 24 in all. The main masks you'll be using the most often are the transformation masks, which transform Link into different forms. You technically start with one of these at the beginning of the game, because the Deku Scrub that Link turns into counts as one of these forms. The other forms are acquired throughout the game's story, as they are required to make progress. Transformation masks alter your abilities more significantly than regular masks, like the Zora mask transforms Link into a Zora, a race of aquatic people that thrive underwater. Having the Zora mask on lets you swim like a dolphin, dive like a deep sea diver, and breathe underwater. The other form is the Goron one, which turns Link into one of the lovable rock folk. This mask is about pure power, being that Link has unparalleled strength as a Goron. Link can also roll around like a rock as a Goron. Rock and roll, baby! All the other masks are far less important, as they don't do nearly as much, but they can still be handy. Most of the non-transformation masks are obtained through side quests, and are either used to solve other side quests, or can help make the main quest easier. A good example of the later is this mask that makes people not notice Link when worn. It doesn't look like it does anything when you wear it, but this mask is a lifesaver during one of the mandatory stealth sections partway through the game. The mask isn't required to beat this stealth section, but having it makes the obligatory stealth segment a complete cakewalk. Optional masks range from incredibly useful to completely useless. Collecting all of them is a massive undertaking, but it can be fun. If you feel like you need more play time, then the masks are there to answer your call.

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Majora's Mask has four dungeons in all. If you've played any other Zelda game before, then you'd know that's not a whole lot. In fact, Majora's Mask has fewer dungeons than any other game in the series. It even has fewer dungeons than the various handheld releases, which is strange. This is somewhat balanced out by how long each dungeon is, as these dungeons are much longer than the average Zelda dungeon, but that ends up causing the problem of each dungeon overstaying its welcome. Dungeons are really convoluted in Majora's Mask, too. If you thought the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time was bad, then you don't want to see this game's Water Temple. Pretty much every dungeon in Majora's Mask is on the same convoluted scale was the infamous Water Temple. That's a little excessive. It also takes a lot longer to reach a dungeon in this game, because you usually have to do a couple of required quests to unlock a particular dungeon. Sometimes the series of tasks you need to do to reach a given dungeon can take several hours on its own. You get to experience a lot of story in the downtime between dungeons, but some of these pre-dungeon tasks feel a bit like padding. The game has a huge emphasis on side quests, so it's obvious that the designers skimped out on content for the main game for the purposes of adding more optional stuff. Is that really a good thing, though? No, not really. Having tons of side stuff to do is fine, but a game like this needs a strong main quest to keep everything together. As for the dungeons themselves, Majora's Mask should have had a larger quantity of dungeons, but keep each one from being too long. Dungeons should be short and sweet.

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The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is one of the most interesting entries in the Zelda series. It flirts with dangerously experimental, risky ideas like the Groundhog Day mechanic, something that will either make or break the game for most people. Clock Town and its wealth of optional content, like the collectible masks, is the game's biggest merit. With the exception of perhaps Wind Waker, Majora's Mask has more optional content jam packed into it than any other Zelda game. And not even Wind Waker has a town in it as well developed and fleshed out as Clock Town. Where Majora's Mask fails is in the dungeons. There are too few dungeons, and while the optional content can more than make up for it, that's only if you can be bothered to actually do it. If you skip all the optional quests and collectibles in this game, then there really isn't much going for it. Majora's Mask could have benefitted from a better balance between its main content and its optional content, rather than going for such a lopsided approach. It's still one of the better Zelda games, but its significant flaws prevent it from surpassing Ocarina of Time.

Word Count: 2,249

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