Platform – Nintendo 64
Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Eiji Aonuma & Yoshiaki Koizumi
Producer – Shigeru Miyamoto
Considered to be the black sheep of the series, Majora’s Mask offered a very different video gaming experience to that of it’s legendary predecessor, The Ocarina of Time. As well as being a fairly enjoyable game in my opinion, it also excels in story on a level that most games didn’t at the time and even on a level that most games don’t today.
As polished and as conceptually wonderful as it’s predecessor, Majora’s Mask remains to this day one of the best looking video games of all time; certainly one of the best looking on the Nintendo 64. Although there are recycled elements taken from Ocarina of Time, it had even been theorized by many that this could be part of the story itself. But though most of the supporting NPCs aren’t new, the setting and the overall visual style certainly is. They’re exciting, immersing, and at time wonderfully disturbing too. Not only do they work to effectively differentiate it from Ocarina of Time, but they work to effectively differentiate it from any other game in the series, as well as other games in general.
Overall, the game is just as satisfying and exciting to play through as the first, with plenty of intense combat to engage in and intricate puzzles to solve. The added feature of using various different masks granting Link many different abilities also offers a fun twist to the overall Legend of Zelda gameplay formula, offering variety in a very different way than in other games in the series. However, the one thing that personally inconvenienced me about this game was the time limit that it implemented. The player gets 3 in-game days to undertake each quest at a time until the world is destroyed and the game is reset; cancelling out everything that had been done prior to the start of the 3 days. Even though it was suggested by Shigeru Miyamoto and put in to heighten the game’s sense of challenge (as well as being a possible dark allegory of how all human endeavour is ultimately pointless), to me, it severely hindered what should be in my opinion, a game without elements like that. I think that even taking into account the infamous 4th day glitch (a well-known glitch, which can be implemented to add an additional day to the time limit), that element shouldn’t be present at all. I think leaving that would have given players more time to enjoy the game in a more positively fluent manner, since if players find themselves repeating the same task over and over again, they can in theory convey a level frustration unlike in any other game.
In the Great Bay Temple, Link is required to wear the Zora mask to get around, which allows him to swim deeper and faster underwater. The problem with this is that the controls for these sections of the game are pretty unrefined and it is easy to find plenty of obstruction throughout. Other than that however, the control scheme remains largely the same as that of Ocarina of Time, and having now said this, the other masks do provide a fairly decent twist on the first game’s controls.
Although Major’s Mask doesn’t last as long s it’s predecessor, there is still a fair amount to do within the game that overall, will warrant for about 25-30 hours, which isn’t bad at all. Aside from the main story quest, there are a good few side quests to undertake throughout, which also add greatly to the game’s atmosphere and subtly convey many of the varied and rich story elements found throughout. Though players may assume that it would have been easier to make a Zelda game that lasted just as long as Ocarina of Time, since the gaming engine and various elements in the second game already existed prior to the start of development, the fact of the matter is that the development process was a bit more convoluted than people may have realized, since it was originally planed for release on the ill-fated Nintendo 64DD, and several other projects were in the works at the time.
The best thing about Majora’s Mask for me is undoubtedly the story. Following on as a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, Link is on a quest to find his former companion Navi the Fairy, when he is ambushed by a mysterious character called Skull Kid, who steals from Link both the Ocarina of Time and his horse Epona. Giving chase, Link subsequently finds himself in a foreign land called Termina, which is under threat by Skull Kid, who plans to use a powerful weapon called Majora’s Mask to crash the moon into Termina and thus destroying the world. It is up to Link to recover Majora’s Mask and stop the looming apocalypse. However, my short synopsis does not do this game justice. As well as incorporating a number of dark situations and subject matters, the game also deals with a large amount of mature topics and themes on a level which was rarely seen in Nintendo games at the time, and is still so to this day. There is also a widely popular theory about Majora’s Mask that has been circulating the internet for a long time now, drawing connections between the game’s story and the Kübler-Ross model of grief, which could make for a whole other series of articles in itself. As I said, Majora’s Mask is considered the black sheep of the Legend of Zelda series, and after having played it, it’s not hard to see why.
Though gameplay remains largely in lieu of Legend of Zelda tradition, the magnitude of the game’s story, as well as both the decent amount of in-game variety and visual style helped to keep the franchise insanely unique at the time, and still holds up to this day as one of the most standout games ever made. Consequently, this game has remained adored by the gaming community, and as of next year, it looks like that adoration will reach a new generation of Nintendo fans, since the game is scheduled for re-release on the 3DS.
Overall, although I found the 3-day time limit to severely hinder the quality of the gameplay, the fact of the matter is that Majora’s Mask is a game bigger than itself, and stands out as one of the greatest games of the fifth generation. Though it has split fans of the series firmly down the middle, there should be no argument that Nintendo were not scared to try something completely different when attempting to follow up the most critically acclaimed game of all time; and I think they accomplished that with this game flawlessly.