The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask review
Abstract Gaming at its Finest
-Abstract Approach to The Legend of Zelda Series
-Beautiful musical pieces that stay true to the franchise
-Unique plot and story line
-Extra missions and side quests to enhance replay value
-More emotional ties to all characters involved
-Time "constraints" may cause frustration for some
-Mask quests can become tedious
The Avant-garde genre is constantly pushing the envelope within music and movies by striving artists looking to make a mark through experimental productions, rather than travel down the same path as so many others have done before. Rarely do we see this type of abstract innovation in the gaming industry, let alone from one as well established as The Legend of Zelda Series. However, Majora's Mask caused waves among gamers instantly for its unique approach found in nearly every aspect of the game. Labeled as a "sequel" to the critically acclaimed Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask is literally nothing like its predecessor. While others praised it for a near flawless effort at experimentation, others criticized the game with a passion, citing the time restraint as a highly annoying feature that does not work well with the stereotypical Zelda concept of "time". This game represents the ideal "love-hate" relationship. The features that some will praise make this Zelda game one of their favorite, while others can't stand the idea of Termina and facing off against... a mask? A twisted formula certainly capable of failure, if not construed correctly. But one thing cannot be ignored, and that's the incredibly immense depth of this game. Characters are brought to life in this game, instead of serving as "filler" citizens merely there to take up space. Make no mistake about it, this is a quality Zelda game with the same control schemes and enough consistencies to not demand too much from those familiar with the series. Controls and game mechanics are about the only thing that bears even the slightest resemblance to previous Zelda games, and that's what makes it the ideal "off the wall" sequel. You'll ask a ton of questions, your mind will wander and ask "is this really happening?" That it is, and that's what makes this game an instant classic in the Zelda series. Its unique approach requires an open mind and ability to see passed the features that the common gamer may describe as frustrating.
Plot: Uniqueness in plot is something difficult to achieve, especially in a series such as Zelda where the formula has been working for years. Majora’s Mask challenges norms in gaming and flips them over on its side. The story begins in an unknown forest just after Link saves Hyrule from complete destruction. Suddenly, a Skull Kid shows up and steals Link’s treasured horse Epona right from under his feet. Distraught from getting knocked over, Link follows the skull kid into a dark sanctuary completely void of human life. Right from the start, the dark atmosphere of this game is set. Link is eventually cursed by the Skull Kid and transformed into a feeble Deku plant. The much weaker version of Link now arrives in Clock Town, a brand new area that’s comprised of both excitement and fear. The Happy Mask Salesman, once a subordinate shop keeper in Ocarina of Time, now plays a direct role in returning Link back to his former self. He tells Link of an ancient mask that’s capable of producing mass destruction and possessing any figure naive enough to wear the mask out of curiosity. While it’s unclear of how a simple salesman got such a rare mask in the first place, Link has no choice but to set out in his Deku form and retrieve not only his mask, but the Ocarina that aided him all along his previous quest. Due to misunderstanding, Link is returned to his true form by simply acquiring his Ocarina, much to the dismay of the Happy Mask Salesman. This is where the real adventure begins to unfold, and the chaos seen throughout the town becomes quite obvious. Right above Link is the moon, which is a tad bit too close for comfort in the eyes of the Clock Town residents. Link will have to travel across Termina to an array of remote locations, ranging from a village covered in ice on the brink of starvation to an abandoned canyon where the dead refuse to rest easily. Along the way, Link will have to acquire masks that alter his shape, something we’ve never seen before in the Zelda series. The plot is a large reason as to why this game is so excellent. It offers something different, while still staying true to the standard Zelda formula we loved in past games. Characters that were once secondary fillers in the Ocarina of Time are now important pieces of the game, some in which Link will need the help of if he plans to get any further in his quest. There is no mention of Ganandorf and Zelda in this game, which provides a breath of fresh air for those looking for a new villain, and a terrain with far more activity than Hyrule. These brand new components do take some getting used to in order to fully appreciate the game, but it will instantly leave you hooked as the plot progresses. Despite Link’s adventure occurring right after his departure from Hyrule, the two stories stand their own ground, providing a unique twist to a series in need of something new. Rather than relying solely on sages and other Royal Family figures, Link will need the aid of even the most unsuspecting characters throughout the game. Items are virtually the same as the ones seen in past games, specifically the use of the Ocarina. The instrument is just as important as ever, sometimes becoming the catalyst for characters whose suffering never ends even after death. A morbid and gloomy atmosphere are constant themes within the game. In one way or another, nearly everyone in the game is suffering . Bloodshed, possession, and evil are key terms that you will constantly hear throughout the game. While such a dark game can sometimes backfire for “trying too hard”, Majora’s Mask manages to find the ideal balance between hope and hopelessness, good and evil, light and darkness. The plot of this game is certainly different, but executed to flawless levels.
Deku Link: An unlikely transformation that sets the tone for this unique adventure
Clock Town is one of the major factors that make Majora’s Mask such an interesting game to play. The citizens of Clock Town are full of live, capable of showing emotion and sharing stories not seen in previous Zelda games. Mixed feelings and an array of conflicts plague the small community. Approaching the legendary festival, the townsfolk must choose between fleeing to escape the looming destruction of the moon, or sacrifice their life for the sake of tradition. This matter of life and death has the once peaceful down in a state of turbulent emotions. The Mayor of the town is constantly badgered by the minds behind the festival, while the town’s soldiers are more focused on the safety of their citizens than anything else. Anectodal stories of the townsfolk are what creates the charm of such a thriving area. Something is always going on, and the ability to intervene depends entirely on the person playing the game. Link has the ability to thwart robberies, or let them go in order to propel yet another side quest. The possibilities are virtually endless, which allows for many extra hours of playing time and a solid replay value not found in typical Zelda games. For once, the intriguing plot is not the only factor that contributes to such an immersive game such as Majora’s Mask. Gamers of all different playing styles will find something to do within the game. While some side quests can be tedious and incredibly frustrating, the overall charm of Clock Town and its citizens solidify this game as one of incredible depth.
A Time Feature..? The time feature found within Majora’s Mask is a primary source of either disgust or praise within most gamers. To put it simply; Link has three days to save the world and rid Clock Town of the ominous moon caused by Majora’s Mask. This is not in real time, but in a formulated game time in which a “Day” can last anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours in real time. The positive thing about the concept in Majora’s Mask is that it can be manipulated through Link’s Ocarina. Playing the song of time backwards results in “The Inverted Song of Time”, which can reduce the cycles of day and night to a crawl. The “Song of Double Time” speeds up the process in which Link can jump to the next half cycle. (For example, playing the Song of Double Time on the Second Night will propel Link to dawn of the third day.) This shaping of time can prove to be a very useful piece especially for those who find the normal flow of time to be far too fast to complete anything significant. Time is a factor that must be given constant attention regardless of the player’s progression in the game. Side quests can happen not only at a specific day, but at an exact hour in which if Link is not present, the action is automatically nullified regardless of what goes on several minutes later. Many town activities set off a domino effect, in which one action on a certain day will activate another event on the next day. While this certainly sounds complex, it merely takes some getting used to in order to become familiar with the Majora’s Mask concept of time. Unlike other aspects of the game, the time feature is constantly debated and at times questioned for its effectiveness. While some praise it for its dive into new territory, others cannot stand the thought of constantly being limited to three days. There’s only one real way to find out: Play the game yourself!
Game Play As far as game play goes, the game does indeed resemble that of its much more familiar ancestors. You'll acquire items, boss keys, and run into monsters that will resonate clearly in the minds of anyone even slightly familiar with the series. Contrary to the Ocarina of Time, Link will be a child throughout the whole game. The only drastic change in actual game play is the save feature. Known as one of the least favorable aspects of Majora's Mask, saving throughout the game does take some getting used to Using the "Song of Time" will send you right back to Day 1. Sounds great, right? Not quite, as reverting back to dawn of the first day will cause all minor items to be removed and your place in a temple completely erased. Actions you may have set off in a temple are now placed back into their default spot. Rupees are also gone if not placed in the Clock Town bank, which holds your money permanently regardless of how often you shift time. Owl statues are few and far between, only appearing on major landmarks and other places of importance. They also serve as easy traveling points to and from major landmarks of Termina. By using the Song of Soaring, Link can conveniently fly from place to place without much of a hindrance. It should be noted however, that a saved owl file is merely temporary. Meaning if you load a file saved through an owl, it will not hold if you decide to quit without saving. The Song of Time is the only permanent way to save, which does take some getting used to. Objectivally, the save feature is highly aggravating for anyone not used to the game quite yet. Losing significant ground from forgetting to permanently save can become a constant occurrence if not paid attention. Conciousness to not only detail, but the mechanical aspects of the game are necessary to fully enjoy The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. While not technically a flaw of the game, this is another subjective piece that is tough to “review” without bias. Regardless of the issues caused by saving, it is an acquired taste that does not diminish the overall quality of the game.
The Owl statue will become not only a source of convenience when flying, but a source of headaches when saving.
Visuals: Speaking in terms of N64 graphics, the game does not offer anything groundbreaking from the system. Visually, it looks exactly like the Ocarina of Time, which is common middle ground for N64 visuals. Despite this graphical mediocrity, the atmosphere and landscape of Majora’s Mask parallels the dark nature of the plot perfectly, specifically as Link travels to areas outside of Clock Town. Woodfall is flooded in poison, which reflects the overall state of the toxic and irrational environment of the Deku King and his subjects. Ikana Valley is a desolate waste land, and the landscape reflects this atmosphere perfectly. The ground is barren and dead, which reflects the human life within the area as seemingly nonexistent. When order is restored to these areas, the landscape reflects Link’s accomplishments. The once dangerous water in Woodfall is now crystal clear and immersed in life. The murky water is cleared up as Link eliminates the evil aura surrounding one strangely shaped island. Landscape wise, the design of Termina is convenient and exceptional, providing just enough room to explore without becoming a vast waste of time. While the graphics are nothing to cheer over, especially when you look at the drastic progression of the more modern games, the landscape and its parallel to the game’s themes are unbeatable and intriguing to the eye.
Audio: Zelda games have always been known for their classical and dramatic musical pieces, and Majora’s Mask is no different. Once again, Koji Kondo shows his music prowess by creating powerful instrumental scores that are similar in nature, but directly reflect the land/temple in which Link is currently at. Specifically, the music is nothing short of haunting, once again this game is not the most optimistic of the series. The music of the entire Ikana region is just plain scary with its melodic chanting and menacing tone. Even the most tranquil of places have an ill-fated presence about them, reflecting the very chaos ensuing over the Termina region. As anyone familiar with the Zelda series will say, music is a large part of atmosphere, and these chilling segments will force the player to travel throughout the areas with caution. Pace is the key in the audio of Majora’s Mask. As Link’s begins to run out of time, the pace of the Clock Town theme becomes more erratic and faster paced day by day. Suffering after death is a reoccurring theme in Konjo’s works in this game, and that becomes increasingly obvious in the music found within the various villages of Termina. As Link meets his match in Majora itself, the music becomes frantic and disorientated, totally void of the structure found in the more concrete world of Clock Town. The music in throughout the entire game is flawless, and directly reflects the doom and conflict plaguing these unknown regions.
Flaws: While scarce in numbers, there are several flaws found in Majora's mask that can become more frustrating than anything. Side quests require perfect execution, timing, and attention to detail. One wrong mistake can turn several hours of patience and running from point A to B totally worthless. While the masks are indeed valuable, (the item you obtain by collecting all of them makes the final boss simple) the casual gamer may see these tasks as tedious, daunting, and lacking any real person in the short term of the game. As stated before, the time constraint can be a flaw or positive depending on the opinion of the person playing the game. For some, it simply does not work.
Despite some getting used to, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is a must have for any Zelda fan, or anything looking for a unique adventure game. Its plot and side quests will provide hours of suspense, along with some drama along the way. While your days are numbered, the possibilities are not. An open mind is crucial in enjoying this excellent, yet ominous masterpiece. Just as any abstract work of art, one must take time and dedication to truly appreciate Majora's Mask.
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