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A look to the past, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

A look to the past, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

In honor of one of my favorite games being named the 00s era game of the decade by (if by a slim margin) I will be taking a look back at a game that was, once, one of the most underrated Legend of Zelda games, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

It's so angry!

Released in the year 2000 for N64, and rereleased in mid-2009 for the Wii Virtual Console (only 1000 points ~ 10 dollars), Majora’s mask takes place immediately following the events of Ocarina of Time(OOT), a rare bit of continuity for the Zelda series. In fact, Majora’s Mask is radically different from most other Zelda games (Wind Fish not included). Skip ahead to avoid a few spoilers, but besides Link and the Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask lacks the common features of most Zelda games. There’s no princess to save, Link is in Termina, not Hyrule, and the evil overlord isn’t even Gannon, instead the role falls to some unnamed child who stole a mask. There aren’t even eight proper dungeons to defeat, only four (Though there are four other kinda dungeons…never mind). This drastic uniqueness, despite its criticisms, is what makes Majora’s Mask one of the most fun Zelda games I have played.

By our powers combined!

I suppose only having 4 dungeons is warranted since Link only has 3 days to save the world before the angry moon crashes into Clock Town, destroying pretty much everything, by summoning the four giants trapped by the evil magic of the evil Majora’s Mask. Yes, he has the magical Ocarina of Time that lets him go back to the beginning of the 72 hours, but that’s beside the point. At its heart, Majora’s Mask is still very much a Zelda game, taking many of the enemy models straight from OOT. You swing your sword, shoot arrows, and generally kill things, at least when you are in human form. Thanks to the Happy Mask Salesman and the Skull Kid (the evil guy who wants to crash the moon into the world), Link gains three form changing masks that morph his body into one of the three prevalent races of Termina, Zora, Goron, and Deku. Each racial form gives Link different powers and weaknesses, like hopping on water and drowning that he will need to face the dungeons looming in the future. And the mask theme continues on as Link must collect masks that, while a couple are very useful, don’t amount to more than a few heart pieces or another mask. But if he collects them all then you get the overpowered Fierce Deity mask for the final battle. It is totally worth it.

The guy at the top looks kinda familiar...

Over the course of the game, you are constantly reminded of the three day time limit as a large clock at the bottom of the screen quickly counts down the hours until ultimate destruction. While the gameplay is mostly standard Zelda faire, the clock allows Majora’s Mask to have an unprecedented storytelling instrument that has not been seen in a game since. Before someone claims that Dead Rising did it too, it didn’t. Dead Rising (DR) is pedestrian at best compared to Majora’s Mask. DR gives you hours to complete generic task that are otherwise static and unchanging within the timespan. Majora’s Mask, on the other hand, features and entirely scripted world in sync with the movement of the hands of the clock. You can know exactly where the Postman is, down to the square of tile, based on the time of day. There is one quest line in the game (The missing son Kafei) that has a few very specific timed events that must be completed to successfully finish the quest in its entirety. Miss one or do too much and you have to start over. The rest of the people and Clock Town also change from day to day, reflecting on and discussing the growing moon in the sky. Without any interference from Link these people would continue the same paths until the end of time, which is, coincidentally, a few days away.

Any one else remember "green"?

Graphics wise, Majora’s Mask was pretty sweet back in the day.  That was top of the line for the N64, you even had to buy upgrades for your console to even play it, a price well paid for a few Assassin’s Creed-esque landscapes the game had in store.  Back in the day when a $20 add-on was a big deal, before the plastic instrument of Guitar Hero took off.  Granted there wasn’t bloom lighting back then to hide the polygons, but those were better days when there were more colors than brown and gunmetal gray.  Majora’s Mask was state of the art when it came out and, despite the elitist standards of today, looked and still looks pretty dang good.

If you have never played The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and own an N64 or a Wii, now would be the perfect time to pick up a copy and spend a few days away from the princess, especially in the after Christmas lull of new video games. You will not be disappointed.

Some things never change.


Metroid Other M: Old, new, but nothing borrowed.

Posted on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 12:28am
Similar to the proposed cover for the sequel.

From the people that brought you Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball (Team Ninja) comes the latest installment in Nintendo’s classic Metroid series, aptly titled Metroid: Other M.  The game takes place after Samus Aran’s second encounter with the Metroid (In Super Metroid for SNES) and claims to tell the “Cinematic story of Samus Aran’s past.”  Very much a throwback to both classic and more recent games in the series, Other M strives to provide an experience that young and old gamers can enjoy, with all the plasma shooting, morph ball rolling, and item collecting expected from a Metroid game.

No nunchuck required!

To achieve this mixture of the archaic and new, Wii style, Other M introduces a new and “innovative” way to use the Wii-mote to control Samus.  The game switches between a third person view with automatic aiming that allows the player to (somewhat) awkwardly control Samus’ movements with the D-Pad and a stationary first person view with full gun control firmly in the hands of the player, all depending on the orientation of the Wii-mote.  Holding the controller sideways moves the camera to the third person view, often forcing Samus and enemies out of frame, while pointing it at the screen shifts to first person and allows the player to look everywhere along with the capacity to shoot missiles.  While at first this sounds cool, the Wii-mote’s sketchy motion sensor can be easily confused when the player attempts to switch between these frames of reference, which does present a problem if the player happens to be in the middle of combat.  This issue is somewhat alleviated as you become used to the control set, but can still be a problem even for an experienced player.

So pret–IT BURNS!

While flailing about with the Wii-mote, be sure to take in the world around Samus.  The Wii takes every chance it can to show that it can be as gorgeous as other next-gen consoles.  Cinematic cut scenes are filled with fantastic visuals of flowing Nebulas and wonderfully detailed interiors of space ships, along with a few shameless sweeps of Samus’ unsuited figure.  Other M does, however, noticeably lower those standards when the player takes control.  While still better looking than something you might find on Wii Sports, this does create an awkward impression as the game attempts to transition between game and cinematic, giving the same feeling as someone splicing handy-cam shots into a high-budget Hollywood movie.  It flows, but gives a slight bump to remind they player that they are, in fact, playing a video game.

Sadly, the in game graphics are not the only lacking element of Other M.  While the out of game backstory is fantastic, the in game story is noticeably worse.  The game gets credit for being the first in the Metroid line to attempt to include plot somewhere besides the instruction manual, the writing will need to improve if Nintendo tries again.  The two story lines to have one connecting factor that should be removed completely:  Samus’ voice actor.  I’m unsure if she was intentional or not, but The woman voicing Samus speaks in a monotone staccato that sounds like she is struggling to read and speak the words at the same time.  (I know Samus is blonde, but not that blonde.)

oooo, shiny…

Combine that with the fact that her voice is just plain annoying and you may find it better to turn on subtitles and mute the TV rather than listen to her deliver the majority of the dialogue.

One other thing of note are, what I have dubbed, look puzzles.  After you experience a few of these, you will know instantly by the accompanying sense of terror of what you have encountered.  The first thing that happens in these “Puzzles” is that you are locked into first person view and forbidden from continuing away from it until you convince Samus to lock onto whatever thing the game wants you to see.  At first, they’re simple things.  An obviously out of place emblem on a space ship, a weird shaking thing, but they get worse.  Eventually, you are wasting 10-20 minutes playing detective trying to lock-on to the particular green stain that will advance the game.  They serve no purpose but to waste time and could be easily cut entirely without anyone missing them.

Do you see what we’re looking for?

Despite a few mild annoyances, Other M is like any traditional Metroid game.  There’s plenty of 2-d platforming and morph ball rolling through questionably placed shafts for any diehard fan.  It is, overall, too easy, compared with other Metroid games, especially when auto-aim does all the hard work for you.  This does allow anyone, regardless of skill, to breeze through the game and experience the wonderful journey into the Metroid universe.  This is a game for anyone, old fan or new to the series, and should provide at least a few hours of entertainment.

100% completion.

Megaman 10: GUAHHHHH!

Oh MegaMan box art…

Recently released for download on the Wii’s virtual console and for PS3 (360 owners will have to wait until the end of the month), MegaMan 10 is a veritable blast from the past. Like something ripped straight from an old NES cartridge, this sidescrolling platformer stays true to its classic roots.

MegaMan 10 looks and works very much the same as the originals (after the first) did. The story is negligible, something about Roboenza, but is otherwise the same.

How do robots even get sick?

You are still the Blue Bomber with your trusty arm gun ready to fight your way to the eight robot masters and give them what for, after which you viciously rip off and cannibalize their weaponry for your own use.

Traversing the levels in 10 is, by far, the most difficult part. The difficulty curve, like many MegaMan games, is incredibly varied. Some levels are incredibly easy to travers while a select few (notably Strike Man’s) will leavy you screaming at the TV for hours on end. Unlike its predecessor from 2009, MegaMan 9, the game is doable and offers some chance of seeing the end credits.

Also of note is the reintroduction of Protoman, MegaMan’s longtime counterpart, as a playable character something unheard of in the previous installation. Playing as the mysterious android leaves something to be desired though. Protoman is exactly like Mega Man, except that he is red, wears a scarf, and brandishes a shield in addition to his arm cannon. The shield allows Protoman to block projectiles while jumping but at the cost of a slightly slower fire rate and a high pitched whilstling that you get to hear every time you die, which will happen.

Since the advent of full 3d game environments, the classic 2-d sidescrolling platformers fell to the wayside, with development studios preferring to make their games with a more realistic tone. After that the almost primitive 2-d games were tossed aside for their more valued upgrades. Recently, though, downloadable gaming has enabled 2-d games to flourish amongst the 3-d behemoths. Games like MegaMan 9 and 10, the nostalgic return to the Final Fantasy universe FFIV: The After years, and the incredibly artistic Braid, each of which are only available via online download, have tapped the growing generations of gamers childhood memories and continued to make something worth buying that anyone can enjoy. Hopefully, this reestablishment of 2-d gaming will continue on for many years to come.

Protip: Beat Pump Man first.
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