The Many Faces Of Link. A Review Of The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
This past Monday, Nintendo released their 300th game for the Wii Virtual Console and to mark they occasion they chose the Nintendo 64 classic, The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. When it was originally released back in 2000 it was critically acclaimed and quickly earned the title of one of the system’s best game, but in this modern era of high definition graphics, huge polygon counts and perfected gameplay will this gem stand on its own or will it be lost to the flow of time?
As the story opens Link and his horse Epona are wandering through a dark forest, supposedly searching for Navi, who left Link at the end of Ocarina Of Time. While on their journey they are ambushed by the Skull Kid and his two fairies Tatl and Tael (clever) who knock Link out, steal the Ocarina Of Time and take off with Epona. When Link comes to he sets off after the thieves and chases them into a cave. When he finally catches up with them, the Skull Kid puts a curse on Link turning him into a helpless little Deku Scrub. However when the Skull Kid makes his escape he leaves behind Tatl who begrudgingly decides to team up with Link. The duo then pass into the world of Termina, a land that is parallel to Hyrule. Once they arrive they meet the Happy Mask Salesman who informs them that the Skull Kid is being possessed by an ancient artifact called Majora’s Mask, which is not only influencing the Skull Kid’s actions but is also bringing the moon itself down onto Termina. The salesman gives Deku Link and Tatl three days to find the Ocarina Of Time and Majora’s Mask and end the threat to Termina. At the last minute of this three day cycle the team catches up to the Skull Kid and Link manages to get the Ocarina back, which floods him with memories of Princess Zelda and the Song Of Time, which (luckily enough) can send Link and Tatl back in time by three days. The salesman then teaches Link the Song Of Healing, which restores him to his original shape, but without Majora’s Mask the world is still in grave danger. The moon will impact in only three days, and the only way to stop it is to wake the four guardian giants who protect Termina. With the Ocarina Of Time however, Link and Tatl can relive the same three days over and over, giving them plenty of time to stop the Skull Kid and the power of Majora’s Mask.
The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is often regarded as being the darkest and saddest game in the series. The impending doom of the moon constantly falling from the sky, the clock that never stops ticking and the overall doom and gloom of the citizens of Termina all combine to give Majora’s Mask a unique feel. A huge addition to the storytelling is the Bomber’s Notebook, which keeps track of people and their schedules. By doing the sidequests presented by the notebook, players can follow the characters daily routines and discover that these people have virtual lives that can be influenced and changed. As far as the story is concerned, Majora’s Mask sticks out from the other games in the series. It’s not a standard save the princess tale, but a much more human story of a struggle against impossible odds that still holds up against modern games.
If you have played Ocarina Of Time you will right at home controlling Majora’s Mask as they literally use the same control scheme. On the N64 the control stick controls Link, ‘B’ swings the sword and ‘A’ is the action button. Three of the ‘C’ buttons (< v >) can have items assigned, like the hookshot or bow. The top ‘C’ button ( ^ ) is used to talk to Tatl. Finally the ‘Z’ trigger is used to either center the camera behind Link or to lock onto an enemy or object. When playing the game on the Virtual Console you can choose between using either a Gamecube controller or the Classic Controller. We recommend the Gamecube controller, as the controls are similar to Wind Waker and Twilight Princess and feel much more natural. The only major changes are that the 4 ‘C’ buttons are replaced by the ‘C’ stick. If this feels uncomfortable you can use the ‘Y’, ‘X’ and ‘Z’ buttons instead. Finally the ‘L’ button is used to replace the ‘Z’ trigger for lock-ons and to center the camera.
The obvious gameplay change is the three day cycle that you will be living over and over again. Once your 72 hours (about 54 min in real time) are up, you will have to play the Song Of Time and return to day one or you will get a game over. You can however play the Song Of Time backwards, which will slow the clock down and double your time. Once you play the Song Of Time and return to day one, all your rupees and items (bombs, arrows, Deku nuts/sticks, etc.) are reset to zero, however you can save your rupees in the local bank. It is disappointing that they did not include a sort of safe house so the same can be done for Link’s inventory. Unlike Ocarina it is impossible to save whenever you want, in fact the only way to save the game is to return to day one. Thankfully their is an option to ‘suspend save’ the game at the owl statues scattered throughout Termina.
The other major change is in the form of masks that can change Link’s form. The aforementioned Deku mask transforms Link into a small Deku Scrub who can spit bubbles and briefly hop on water. The Goron mask allows Link to throw powerful punches and roll at high speeds but any contact with deep water means instant death. Finally the Zora mask lets Link swim at high speeds and attack with boomerang like fins. Their are also twenty other masks that do everything from making Link invisible, to unable to sleep and turn his face into a bomb. If a player manages to collect all masks, they are rewarded with a special… well I won’t spoil it for you. 😉
Like the story, the addition of the three day cycle and form changing mask do an excellent job of making Majora’s Mask feel fresh and different. This is especially important because the game shares its graphics with Ocarina Of Time and could have easily been seen as a similar experience, which it most certainly is not.
Majora’s Mask is one of only two games that require the Nintendo 64 expansion pak to run (the other being Donkey Kong 64), and the extra 4MB of RAM goes a long way in making the game one of the best looking on the console. Gone is the fog effect from Ocarina Of Time that was used to hide distant objects, also the textures look leagues sharper and clearer then those found in Ocarina. The extra RAM is also used to allow the game to show more characters on screen, which makes locals like Clock Town and the Deku Palace feel alive with activity. The music is mostly composed of eerie tunes that capture the overall feel of the game perfectly. Songs like the Song Of Healing and Call To Order are among the high points of the soundtrack and help all the artistic elements tie in perfectly with the designers vision.
On the surface Majora’s Mask may seem rather short. With only 4 main dungeons, the game definitely isn’t as long as it’s predecessor. However the amount of sidequests are simply second to none. With some of the more intricate ones lasting all of the three day cycle to accomplish. Despite it’s seemingly short main quest, the game manages to throw enough at you in between dungeons that you are still getting about 15-20 hours worth of gameplay, which for 1000 Wii points is a steal. Like most Zelda games, Majora’s Mask suffers from a lack of replayability. Sure you can come back and collect the items and masks you missed on your first playthrough but other then that their isn’t much else to do. This was an issue way back in 2000 and still is today, with the newer games in the series not offering many reasons to pick it up once you beat the last boss. However the game is a step up difficulty wise when compared to Ocarina which does make it a satisfying experience, so you will never feel ripped off.
Some call it a dark horse. Some say it doesn’t fit in very well in the Zelda mythos, others will tell you it’s a side story that doesn’t stand up against other games in the series. But it’s the fact that Majora’s Mask is different that make is great. The story, gameplay, interactivity, music and atmosphere are all top notch, and separate this game from the other Zelda games and in many ways elevate it above them. It may not be as long as Ocarina Of Time or as epic but I have no problem calling The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask one of my favourite games and one of the greatest to not only grace the Nintendo 64 and Wii Virtual Console but one of the best games of all time.
PS – I would also like to add that if you are trying to find the Nintendo 64 version of the game that it requires the expansion pak to play, also if you are playing it on the Gamecube via the Collector’s Edition disk that the game is very buggy, but by disabling the rumble feature most of the errors can be avoided.