The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

A young Link rides his horse, Epona, through the Lost Woods after his time-traveling adventures in Hyrule thanks to Princess Zelda’s Ocarina of Time, in search of an old friend. There, he encounters the Skull Kid and his fairy comrades, Tatl and Tael, who steal both Epona and the Ocarina, with the Skull Kid himself turning Link to a Deku Scrub. He ultimately finds himself in Clock Town in the land of Termina, where the moon will crash in three days, thanks to the power of Majora’s Mask, which the Skull Kid stole from the Happy Mask Salesman. Thus, Link embarks on another quest to save Termina and retrieve the powerful Mask. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, inheriting its predecessor’s gameplay and graphical engines while featuring many unique twists.

The biggest change from Ocarina is the time system, where Link has three days and nights to stop the moon from crashing into Termina. Early in the game, Link obtains a journal that shows whether or not NPCs are doing anything special during specific periods in the three-day intervention, and during which Link can perform a special task to receive a reward, in which case his journal indicates such. Link can play certain songs on his Ocarina to move to the beginning of the next day or night, speed up or slow down time, or move back to day one, with an opportunity to save the game, in which case all held Rupees (though a bank that transcends time can prevent Rupee loss) and consumable tools such as bombs, arrows, and bottle contents, are lost, and quests Link is in the middle of are reset.

The core gameplay of Ocarina returns in its direct sequel, with Link having a sword and a shield along with dozens of tools, many returning from the prequel such as a bow and arrows, bombs, bottles that can hold different things like bugs, fairies, and potions, and so forth. The Z-targeting system returns, as well, allowing link to focus the camera and his attacks upon nearby enemies, not to mention get occasional advice from his new fairy companion. The most notable change, however, is the addition of the mask system, with dozens of masks, when Link wears them, imparting certain effects such as increased speed, although some change his form entirely, giving him different abilities, some necessary to advance the game.

Once again, Link has a heart meter dictating his health, and a magic meter whose points certain mask form abilities and elemental arrows consume. Pieces of heart are scattered across Termina, and collecting four lengthens Link’s health gauge, as can defeating a dungeon’s boss. Many bosses again require some kind of strategy to defeat, and can actually be fun at times, though the awkward camera and control, which can vary among Link’s different mask forms, can make things needlessly difficult at times. Filling bottles with fairies or healing potion can give some room for error against said bosses, though some of the mini-games necessary for acquiring additional bottles can be somewhat difficult. Ultimately, the battle system has its fun moments, but awkward control, and to a lesser extent the time system, can ruin the fun at times.

The aforementioned time system, perhaps the chief driving factor of Majora’s Mask, is a nice idea albeit somewhat poorly implemented, as it can account for plenty of repetition if the player doesn’t complete certain dungeons and quests in time. Many parts of the game are also drawn-out like in Ocarina of Time, such as a certain quest where Link has to sneak past guards without getting caught while collecting eggs, which can be very annoying and needlessly difficult if Link doesn’t have at least four bottles. Being able to fast-forward to specific times other than the beginning of the next day or night would have been welcome, as well.

Moreover, there is often a terrible sense of direction on how to advance the game, and dungeons again feel drawn-out, with some vague puzzles and the annoying auto-jump system that can screw things up if Link accidentally runs towards an edge while braving narrow platforms. The save system is also of concern since performing permanent saves with Link’s Ocarina takes him back to day one, although there are owl statues where the player can save and quit the game, sort of a poorly-implemented quick-delete-save. Granted, there are some positive aspects of control, such as an easy menu system and the ability to instantly warp to said owl statues, but the degree of repetition many players will endure can certainly become infuriating.

Though Majora’s Mask bequeaths many elements from its predecessor like its gameplay and graphics engines, not to mention traditional Zelda elements, it does feature plenty of unique elements like the mask and time systems to make it feel sufficiently fresh.

While many have praised the plot of Majora’s Mask for being “dark” compared to other entries of the series, there is in actuality very little story throughout the game, with Link’s search for his “old friend” never seeming terribly urgent, or ever being resolved, for that matter, and the quest to halt Termina’s apocalypse drawn out thinly, with minimal plot or character development, and even less addition to the Zelda mythos. The lousy direction on where to go next doesn’t help, either, and ultimately, the story, always a nadir of the franchise, is hardly a reason to play.

The game’s aurals, however, are somewhat better, with decent sounds and voice clips, and many nice musical tracks such as the Clock Town theme and the traditional Zelda overworld theme. The musical presentation, however, often falters, given the lack of music at night and reliance of dungeons upon ambience, although the sound is still one of the stronger aspects of the game.

The visuals, despite looking virtually identical to those in Ocarina of Time, are probably the strongest aspect of its direct sequel, given its vast environs, nice coloring and effects, decent character models, and so forth. Said character models are slightly blocky, but the graphics were still among the best on the Nintendo 64.

Finally, the sequel is, like its predecessor, longer than average for a Zelda game, with playing time, if the player doesn’t use a guide, possibly taking somewhere over thirty hours, though using a walkthrough can somewhat shorten playtime. In the end, whether or not gamers will enjoy Majora’s Mask largely depends upon whether or not they enjoyed Ocarina of Time, though the direct sequel does contain many off-putting elements like the time system, potential for plenty of repetition, and unengaging plot. Those turned off by this installment and its immediate predecessor will likely find more enjoyment in other entries of the series.

The Good:
+Good graphics.
+Some bosses are okay.

The Bad:
-Awful camera returns.
-Time system is terribly implemented.
-Tons of repetition.
-Paper-thin plot
-Music is too ambivalent.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 64
Game Mechanics: 5/10
Controls: 4/10
Story: 3/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 2/10
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 4/10

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