Reviews: The Legendof Zelda Majoras Mask
A Great Game Let Down by its Own Conceit
The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask is in many ways superior to its immediate predecessor, the revered Ocarina of Time. The mechanics are more refined, the mask transformations allow for more diverse gameplay, the story is much, much better than Ocarina's, and the side-quests are the best of any Zelda game before or since. The problem comes with the three-day time-limit, specifically the cycle aspect. Majora's Mask avoids the pitfalls of other games which featured a 'groundhog day-like' mechanic and become tedious and repetitive as you repeat the same tasks over and over, yet the diversity of things to do leads to its own problems. Majora's Mask is a game which focuses on the side-quests to help various side-characters. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself. As I have already stated, these are the best side-quests in Zelda history. The problem is that most of the time you help a character, when you reset the time that character returns to his/her unhelped state. My motivation to do the side-quests evaporated as I realized that no matter how many times I repeated the same quest (like restoring the great fairy) the rules of the game required that I undo all of the aid I had given to the side-characters. For many people this won't be a problem. But for me losing the motivation to do the side-quests leaves me with just the 4 temples to go through, and those are weaker than the typical 3d Zelda dungeon because the time restraints limit how elaborate they can be. If Majora's Mask could have sustained the motivation to do the side-quests it would have easily surpassed Ocarina of Time, but it can't overcome its weaknesses in the core campaign when its greatest strength has such a big handicap.
Majora\'s Mask 3D: Daunting, Obtuse, Enraging, Heartrending
Like the second-half of Full Metal Jacket I don't remember that much about Ocarina of Time (3DS). It was a ground-breaking move to take the A Link to the Past formula and make a solid game of it in 3D (and not die on its arse like Sonic). However I can't muster replaying it when I remember the bland overworld, the sluggish fast-travel, that verbose owl, and that fucking water-temple which drove me to tears. Majora's Mask 3D has a different set of flaws. It's very easy to follow a quest only to hit a dead-end because you lack a certain tool or item, like in the Pirate Fortess or the Gibdo Maze. I strongly recommend first-timers have a guide on hand if they want to master the game, as the mini-games can be gruelling, and some quests hinge on you being psychic like the fairy-collectathon. When in doubt, use a guide. Thankfully the game keeps both a quest-log and a completion tracker which most Zelda games could benefit from. The setting is Bizarro-Hyrule, where zombies perform That Russian Squat Dance and the moon is eager to Moe-Lester you in 72 hours. Like Bill Murray in the movie Stripes, you spend the game in a time-loop. Love-it or shove-it, I favour the game for sticking to it's core premise and going the distance. You relive the same three days over and over again until come you up with a permanent solution, and until then every little victory is taken away from you. There are only four dungeons this time around, which is great as dungeons are the most formulaic aspect of Zelda. You can wring only so many stories out of the Eight-McGuffin-Setup, so Majora is refreshing in that the meat of the game is the non-linear side-quests and the dynamic characters you encounter. Unlike Ocarina I cared about the cast because their situations are so sadly resonant. There's the little girl who's losing her father to an illness, the man with his missing-or-dead son, the hero who died before he could he could save his people, and the groom who can't bear to face his loved-one empty-handed. This is a far cry from the usual "save the dull-as-dishwater princess" plot like so many Zelda. I give points to Majora/Skull Kid over Ganon as a villain because he's a one-off character, he's not pre-destined or some shit, and his actions shape both the mood and the core-mechanic of the game. The only outright-terrible piece of the game is the Twinmold fight. You can whale on this thing for 15 minutes without making progress as the window of opportunity to beat it is so low. Mercifully you only have to fight it once. The real challenge of the game is getting 100%, so I hope you like swimming. I have to admit, I never would have bothered with the original on the N64, but it's a perfect fit on handheld. The graphics and sound are stellar and they took the effort of adding many quality-of-life features. Majora is the best Zelda game I've experienced based on how un-Zelda it is, so it's better played in comparison with the rest of the series.
Its novelities no longer hold up for me.
Innovation is a subjective term, but one that is thrown around beyond freely in video games. This is no less prevalent than with what I consider not only the worst of the 3D Zeldas, but another entry in my pick for the most consistent negative aspect of the series: direct sequels that downplay or weaken what established not only their predecessors' renown, but highlight those of the series, all in favor of emphasizing their poor novelties of attempts at deviation. Over world design is cluttered and mechanical, with progress being just as linear as any other game with the oft spoken issue of overly scripted paths within the narrative of 3D Zeldas, if not pioneering it. The game's implementation of sidequests do nothing to hide this, and they suffer just as much through this design choice, effectively proving wrong the fans' claims of a more open-ended story or world. Dungeons are few and composed of increasingly self-playing navigation or shoddy platforming over substantial puzzle-solving, and the build up to some are more prone to coming off as rehashed from OOT instead of expanded from it. Bosses are the absolute worst and most shallow the series has ever had. Gone are noteworthy phases in strategy or utilization of each dungeons' tool, and even the one boss that does use the latter does it wrong, lacking anything close to dynamic AI, ergo Twin Mold. These are static endurance tests that put little emphasis on anything but whichever mask pertains most to the dungeon, yet in a manner that serves to accentuate the bosses' one-note behavior. I make the one exception of this complaint to the final boss, who I even give credit for being arguably one of the best final bosses the series has had on a gameplay and presentation standpoint, ironically enough by utilizing the outline of each previous boss' strategy, and applying it more subtly. If the intention was to introduce four heinously shallow boss fights just to combine them in to one great one, mission accomplished, but that was a double edged sword from the start, and the finer edge doesn't cut through the rest of my problems with the game. What was once a game I gave a pass to simply for having Legend of Zelda in the title, has proven to me today to be one of the biggest offenders of not living up to, or even focusing much on the very elements that make me love Zelda to begin with.
Whimsical and Heartwarming
I know many Ocarina Of Time fans are going to beat me to a pulp, but I always preferred "Majora's Mask" over it. As much as the series itself is enjoyable, it really does amount to the same Save The Princess and the world from Big Bad Ganon(dorf). Though Majora's Mask's plot is yet another variation of the latter plot, its unique presentation keeps it fresh and entertaining. The new time system takes great advantage of the three days you have. You have to truly think and use it wisely to get the best result or you'll end up starting over. Luckily the game is kind to input in certain songs and save points to lessen the frustration. The graphics are detailed and despite the N64's fuzziness, was nothing short of unique eye candy. The overall gameplay may have been smaller then "Ocarina Of Time", but the sidequests expanded and that there lies the heart of this game. Each character, big or small, have their own little stories. Most of whom you'll be helping. Outside of making you warm and fuzzy inside for helping them, the game does a marvelous job working their lives 'round the clock. You feel for these people, you want to risk life and limb to help them, and if you fail, you feel like a failure; a punch-in-the-gut failure. Why I love MM is that these characters have characters. They're ridiculously charming and their reactions to their lives and the impending moon slowly colliding to Earth is one big Tear Jerker moment. It's just like Nintendo to create charismatic characters that you give a damn about. It is highly appropriate that the theme of this game is friendship. The overall story is big on this and the tale of Skull Kid and his actions mark clear of the good Samaritan you do throughout the game. By the time you get all 24 masks and complete the game in whole, the sense of achievement is no less satisfying. You made these people happy.
The Weakest 3D Zelda Game
Like most of you, I can appreciate the huge leap that Nintendo took in creating this game. In the end, what they got was something that's pretty darned good. I like to call it "The Watchmen of Video Games" because it showcases what this particular narrative medium can do that the others can't; Imagine Majoras Mask as a book, for instance. It'd be thousands and thousands of pages long. As a film, it'd go on and on forever. Only a video game could have told this story the way it's been told. I really like that. Unfortunately, to do so, it had to violate a great deal of elements that have always served as tentpoles for The Legend Of Zelda series. The time limit is one of them. You can slow down time and speed it up, of course, and do all sorts of wacky things to make life easier, but in the end, playing Majora's Mask amounts to a rush. There's no room for free exploration, and even less for lollygagging, something all of its peers in the series excel at. Then there's the case of Termina's design; it's much, much too small. Perhaps I don't mean this area-wise, but there's hardly any place anywhere on it you won't arbitrarily need to visit at some point or another, whether you want to or not. Unlike Hyrule field and all its provinces in the far superior Ocarina Of Time, Termina isn't loaded with little challenges littered about the place that result in gaining additional tools and items. Majora's Mask is brimming full of sidequests and mini-games, of course, but not nearly enough of them are optional; most of them must be completed to progress in the game. And the ones that aren't are not even hidden. Nearly every secret lies in plain sight. Now, let's talk about dungeons. Ocarina Of Time had eleven. Majoras Mask has four. Four. That's only one more than three, for the mathematically challenged. And the dungeons it does have are so inaccessible, obtuse, and hellaciously designed that it's near-impossible to enjoy them at all. I'm by no means opposed to a challenging game, but the challenges here are nearly malicious in their trickery. It's not real difficulty if a considerable part of traversing the dungeon depends entirely on guesswork. It's not a bad game, but the other three are much better.
Alice in Wonderland Gone High-Octane Nightmare Fuel
Majora's Mask is one of the most unusual and unique games I've played - it's Zelda, obviously, but with enough change in gameplay and focus that it doesn't feel like a rehash the way, say, Twilight Princess did. As a sidequest hog, having less dungeons but more freedom to explore (and repeat certain quests) was actually a bonus. hat's interesting with Majora's Mask for me is how it's such a contradiction of itself - the scenery is mostly bright and colorful with the added childlike touch here and there that makes it seem dreamlike (nightmares or good dreams being entirely dependent on which area you're actually in) and yet, well, you're in a place that's essentially facing Armageddon. The people are quirky and have plenty of personality, but most of them are really facing some kind of serious crisis, if not dealing with the death (or potential death) of someone close to them. The game doesn't shy away from darkness, especially the psychological side (pick a scene. think about it for a day. FREAK OUT) but it's never to a point of straight-up desperation. Unless you let the three days run out... Of all the Zelda games, I'd say Majora's Mask has the strongest story, and perhaps the most to offer on replays. Ironically I was MORE impressed - and terrified, and moved - playing it ten years later. Just keep the lights on.
Different, and really good.
My favorite Zelda game by a big margin, and a strong contender for my favorite game of all time. I understand that some people don't like the 3 days system, but it's what makes the game unique. The characterization of NP Cs via daily schedules and the heavy sense of impending doom rely upon the 3 day system to function, and they set the atmosphere for making you care about saving the world in a way I've never seen anywhere else. The developers do everything they can to avoid forcing you to repeat tasks you've finished, and I don't think the system could have been done any better. The focus is on the side quests, so there are only four dungeons, but they're all quite large, creative, distinctive, and well designed. I love that none of the bosses are 'apply dungeon item, then apply sword to weak point,' which is something I hated about TP. Goht in particular is brilliant. Some players have Guide Dang It experiences regarding the sidequests, but there are many more hints in the game than most people realize. Talking to NP Cs with different masks, using the bombers' notebook and talking to the gossip stones can all be really informative. MM is, like other Zeldas, an exploratory game, but the exploration comes as much or more from the people of the world as it does from the physical environment, which is a welcome variation on what is otherwise a very formulaic series. Zelda games have always been better at characterization than they have at narrative, and MM plays on that strength to create an engaging, fun, and unique experince. Don't pass up an opportunity to play it.
Best. Game. Ever!!
OK, full disclosure here. I didn't start playing Zelda until the Oracle saga. I didn't even own a console until the Gamecube. I didn't even play MM until I was 17, when I got the Collector's Edition for my birthday. I'd already beaten A Link To The Past, The Wind Waker, and the Oracle games before then, and I beat Ocarina Of Time before even starting MM. I'd even rented Twilight Princess before that. And yes, I'll admit to preferring the Darker And Edgier Zelda games to the Lighter And Softer ones: fans of The Wind Waker and its sequels, or nostalgic fans of the 2D games, may not be quite so impressed with Majora's Mask as I was. But yeah, I love Majora's Mask. The mask system, with different masks giving Link different abilities, advantages, disadvantages, was something I'd love to see again. Yes, there were the tunics in Ocarina of Time and in Twilight Princess, and to an extent the Rings in the Oracle games, but the first two were limited and the last was too luck-based, confusing, most of the rings (aside from the Red and Blue rings, and possibly the Green Ring but I never got that) weren't all that useful, et cetera. The Masks were done right. Then there were all the sidequests, providing background on the people in Termina in a way we've only ever gotten for a few characters in other Zelda games. And the time limit system makes you do some work planning out your days, or you'll end up having to reset the time and lose a lot of progress. Then there's the bosses: say what you will about them being a bit gimmicky and less straightforward, but I liked them better than the bosses in most other Zelda games, except maybe some of the better ones in Twilight Princess. For some reason, I always find in Zelda games whatever I need at that moment in time. I sort of "needed" Majora's Mask coming off of my mid-2000s Dork Age. It was the game I needed to get back into games, the game I needed to make me reconsider the wangsty parts of my fist half in high school, to make me realize that no matter how dark it gets, if you keep faith and keep pushing on, you'll eventually see it... The dawn of a new day.
Gotta get that mask
Majora's Mask is a game with quite a lot of polish to it. Majora's Mask has been described as dark and gloomy. I don't have that opinion for I began playing the game when I was still close to 10 years of age. I plain and simple didn't get the dark tones of the game. It was just a good game to me and it still is. The set up of the game was a 3 day loop which gave you just enough time to get whatever you needed done done. I generally liked the loop. The change it brings with each passing day that gets repeated brings with it a sense of familiarity and you begin to remember things. I didn't notice that it rained on the second day of the loop until I did. It's those small details that really bring out the game. Then there are the many masks. Imagine going through the game and attempting to collect each mask without the assistance of gamefaqs or a guide. It's not impossible but you're bound to be stuck along the way. Some masks are just plain worth the effort. Others are more for bragging rights. Then there are the needed ones. I liked most of the masks, some I didn't because they weren't useful. The dungeons are next. It really wouldn't be a Zelda game without a good hearty dungeon. After attempting a number of side quests the dungeons will seem almost restful. It's just a simple task of go in there and kick the monsters butt. That's where the beauty of Majora's Mask comes in. It's a game with such a good balance of difficulty in the optional activities and the mandatory ones. The story to me was a good was really hands off. Most of my play sessions I forgot there was a story until tatl would remind me. A simple story of a guy missing his friends and wanting them back but going about it in the wrong way. The game essentially boils down to you having to stop him from messing up the whole world in his attempt at reunion with his friends. This game was one to remember. I put it on par with the rest of the zeldas. It's got the good gameplay, fitting graphical style and necessary familiarity to it that makes it a Zelda title. I recommend this tittle wholeheartedly.