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 gamefaqs.com (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.