Zelda: Majora's Mask Review
It may be that some have played only as far back in the franchise as A Link to the Past, but there are those among us who found Majora's Mask to be one of the most enjoyable Zelda titles to date. Inversely, many have criticized it for its not being "a true Zelda game," but this seems an unfair statement. At its core, Majora's Mask is a true Zelda title, sporting all the familiar elements: a multitude of items, challenging dungeons, impressive visuals and gameplay elements like its boss battles. More accurately, it's a break from the traditional storyline of squaring off against the evil wizard Ganon[dorf], and an expansion upon the typical elements used in Zelda games.
The story begins as a direct follow-up to Ocarina of Time. Link, separated from his dear companion Navi, sets out on a quest to find her. Very shortly after this, however, things go awry and he finds himself stranded in an unfamiliar land called Termina and furthermore trapped in an unfamiliar body-as a Deku Scrub. Even worse, instead of Navi, Link is paired up with the unlikely companion Tatl, a wise-cracking fairy with attitude and little patience. Link and Tatl set out to find Tatl's brother Tael and the mischievous Skull Kid, who's stolen a powerful item known as Majora's Mask. They eventually meet up with none other than the Happy Mask Salesman from Hyrule Castle Town, who wants his precious mask back. He agrees to help Link return to his original form if Link will bring back his stolen mask in exchange. To cut a long story short, Link fails on his end, but the Saleseman upholds his end and teaches Link a song that restores his form to him and grants him a mask that allows him to change to and from Deku Scrub form at will. Link and Tatl then set out to track down the Skull Kid and reclaim Majora's Mask before an ominous moon can crash into Termina. The problem is, they have only three days to do it.
The flow of time is a large part of Majora's Mask, arguably even larger than it was in Ocarina of Time. Link has only three days; that's 72 hours, which actually becomes 72 minutes by the game's clock. As there's not a lot to be done with 72 minutes, there's a song that slows down the flow of time to half speed, allowing you a little more leeway. Additionally, if you're in a hurry to get the clock to a certain time, there is a song that will speed you along to the dusk or dawn of the next or current day. Finally, if you're running low on time, you have the familiar Song of Time and your trusty Ocarina of Time to return you to the dawn of the first day.
Time also plays a role in that certain events happen at certain times throughout each day. Some areas may be easier to do at night or day, for example, and some enemies may only appear during the night (such as Bubbles on Termina Field). Some of the most important side quests in the game are integral with the game's clock and can only be triggered by taking part in certain events at certain times. Many of these quests are for Heart Pieces or special items, masks, that grant you special abilities for more side quests still.
As you can probably tell, the mask items are very important to the game, both to its many optional quests and to the storyline. In total, there are 24 masks with a myriad of unique abilities. Four of them transform you into other forms, one makes you into a giant for a certain boss battle, one increases your running speed, another makes you invisible to almost all detection, and yet another will help you reunite a young couple separated by evil magic. The transformation masks are unique in that they actually affect how you interact with other characters, most noticeably in the shops' prices and sales-though this also plays a role in the storyline, as there are also times you need to talk to a certain character while in a given form, and there are also certain tasks in dungeons and otherwise that you'll be completely unable to accomplish without the use of your Goron, Zora, or Deku forms.
In what is perhaps the largest scale side quest in the entire game, there is the 24th hidden mask that you can only obtain by getting all of the optional masks along with the three transformation masks. Once you have it, you'll be able to trade the other twenty in for the ultra-cool Fierce Deity's Mask, which turns you into a hulking warrior wielding a massive sword that fires discs of energy at enemies. If you can manage to obtain it, the final boss-and indeed all others-becomes a joke. The disappointing part is that the Fierce Deity's Mask can only normally be used in boss situations, unless you make use of a glitch in one of the later areas.
One other unique feature to Majora's Mask is the inclusion of the Great Fairies, who'll grant you special powers or items if you can reunite their 15 scattered pieces in their respective dungeons with the groups in the fountains. This gains you abilities from the powered-up Spin Attack to the defense increase that reduces damage you take from enemies-even bosses-by half. Another interesting thing this grants you is the Great Fairy's Sword, a secondary two-handed C-button weapon that's more powerful than any of your other weapons. While not necessary to the game, the sword is a nice addition to your already expansive arsenal of items. With so many new and interesting features, apart from the wealth of optional items, it's a wonder many fans of the series were so discontent with Majora's Mask.
Visually, the game is one of the best on the Nintendo 64. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Majora's Mask is the hands-down best-looking either. To play the game, a special expansion pack for the console is required for it to look its best. The character models, while still a little on the polygonal side, are much more detailed and colorful than those in Ocarina of Time, and even those looked great for their time. The dungeons and areas in general are more richly detailed and expansive, and there's a lot more going on at a given time in each than there was in Majora's Mask's predecessor.
The sound effects didn't change all that much from Ocarina of Time, but one thing of interest is that many of the characters now have little vocal reactions when you speak to them or show them items. Some will declare "Yay!" or give a surprised gasp when you present them with an item. There are laughs and sighs thrown into conversations with the characters in the various towns, and some characters will murmur a greeting when you address them. You'll occasionally hear an irritated mumble or a grunt of annoyance when you approach someone. It isn't a huge step in the right direction for the series, but it's a step nonetheless, and it certainly provided an extra bit of depth to Link's interaction with others.
The soundtrack, while varied and interesting, wasn't very memorable in comparison with Ocarina of Time-the boss themes sound considerably less epic, while the sub-boss theme sounds oddly more frantic and urgent than the actual boss music. Although some of the Ocarina of Time songs have returned, they're featured only as "cameo" appearances to gain some extra rupees. One thing that was a shame to see removed was the scores that played after playing each of the teleportation songs in Ocarina of Time. Instead, the song you play is now simply repeated to you to indicate that it's been successfully played.
Perhaps the highlight of the soundtrack is the remixed and remastered overworld theme used on Termina Field, and many of the other locations once they've been rid of the dungeon boss. Perhaps a downgrade from the previous field theme used in Hyrule was that the music isn't "interactive." For example, when you neared an enemy in Ocarina of Time, the music changed pace and tempo, becoming more erratic and foreboding. In Majora's Mask, the music fades out, and the normal battle music replaces it altogether. It wasn't a huge detraction from the experience, but it was somewhat disheartening to see the "interactivity" of the field music go.
With a greater emphasis on interaction and implementation of the masks and three-days system, Majora's Mask was a worthy addition to the already enthralling Legend of Zelda series. Moreover, its breaking from tradition and presenting a new villain altogether brought an interesting chapter to the series. Unfortunately, Majora's Mask was looked upon as a black sheep by many fans, and that brings into question whether or not we'll see another installment of its kind again.