RETRO REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Friday, February 13th, 2015

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There is another area where Majora’s Mask really sets itself apart from Ocarina of Time, aside from the three-day time cycle and the darker tone. There are several transformation masks in the game that transform Link into new forms. These include the Deku Mask, Goron Mask and the Zora Mask. Each form gives Link special abilities that he will need to use to traverse the many environments throughout Termina.

Deku Link can dive into flowers and launch out of them to fly short distances to otherwise unreachable areas. Goron Link can roll around at high speed, destroying some objects and flying off jumps (though this uses magic to sustain Goron Link’s protruding spikes as he rolls). Zora Link can swim much faster than normal Link and has a magic shield he can use while swimming (he can also attack with his fins, which act like boomerangs). These abilities add a lot to the game, but are not always required. Often there is more than one way to accomplish any given task.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask | Deku Link

Deku Link

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask | Goron Link

Goron Link

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask | Zora Link

Zora Link

Majora’s Mask may only have four main dungeons, but there are several mini-dungeons, as well. These include the Skulltula houses, as well as Ikana Castle. The game also makes up for the lack of dungeons by having plenty of masks to find, and more hidden heart pieces to obtain than Ocarina of Time. You’ll also find some humorous things hidden in Majora’s Mask in spite of its dark tone. Dampé, the grave keeper, will get scared if you talk to him wearing a certain mask. In fact, many characters react differently to you depending on what form you’re in or what mask you’re wearing. Another example is the fact that the aliens that attack Romani Ranch are strangely weak to such a low-tech weapon as arrows!

The gameplay does have some minor flaws. It is true that Majora’s Mask is not as accessible as Ocarina of Time. Majora’s Mask is simply just harder than Ocarina of Time in general. The player is a bit more likely to get stuck in Majora’s Mask than in Ocarina of Time, which can be annoying, but it is not a big problem. One small example of this happens in Ikana Canyon when you battle a giant Stalchild behind the graveyard. The player will naturally focus on chasing him down at first, but this is futile. You need to keep hitting him with arrows in the process to slow him down. Simply killing the small baddies to lower the flame fields blocking your path and then running to the next one won’t work. This battle is very easy once you know that you need to slow him down, though.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask | Giant Stalchild Battle

Link must kill the small baddies while periodically shooting the giant Stalchild with arrows to catch him and finish him off with sword slashes.

Majora’s Mask is more puzzle-heavy than Ocarina of Time, and, sometimes, it’s not so obvious what you should do. This is also the case with timed events, which the player must first find out (you can’t go after something you don’t know about!). Sometimes, the game doesn’t tell you exactly when and where someone will be. This can be annoying if it’s your first playthrough of the game. Most of the time, you will already know where to find someone, but not always.

One other minor gameplay flaw is that some items are so well hidden that most players will never find them without looking them up. An example would be the second heart piece you can get from Anju’s Grandmother at the inn. To get it, you need the All-Night Mask to listen to all of her second story. At the end, you must answer “I Don’t Know” rather than choosing the correct answer to her question, which is, of course, not very intuitive. Another example is the heart piece you can get from the Indigo-Go’s by reading Mikau’s diary to learn some notes and then having a jam session with the band member, Japas. After that, you have to go play the completed song to the band leader to get a heart piece. Of course, not everything is supposed to be easy to find, either.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask | Anju's Grandmother

Anju’s Grandmother, who mistakes you for someone named Tortus, has two heart pieces for Link to get.

As far as graphics go, the game improved quite a bit on the visuals when compared to those of Ocarina of Time. The game looks noticeably better than its predecessor. Of course, it’s not astronomically better than Ocarina of Time, but you wouldn’t expect it to be. Both games run on the same system, after all! The visuals were quite good for its time, but one area where they fall a bit short is with the jarring transitions between the Mask Salesman’s animations.

The music in the game consists of some reused music from Ocarina of Time, as well as some new tracks. The new tracks are darker and more sinister to really help convey the atmosphere that is being portrayed in the game, and put a chill down your back. Many sound effects are also reused from Ocarina of Time, but, again, there are also new ones. The sound effects do their job well and add to the scene, rather than disrupting it.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask | Swamp Tourist Center

The Swamp Tourist Center. Do you really get many tourists in the Swamp?

I must say, I greatly enjoyed my time with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. It took me five or so days to beat the game (with many hours spent playing each day), and that includes getting all of the items, masks and heart pieces. If you haven’t played it yet, you should definitely do so, but maybe get a copy of the new 3DS remake and experience it that way! Majora’s Mask stands out from Ocarina of Time in a big way, while, at the same time, being a very good game. Changing things up as much as this game did is a risky business, but Nintendo did it successfully. The three-day time cycle adds tension, as does the great music, and the new abilities from the transformation masks add a lot to the game, as well. Majora’s Mask is harder than Ocarina of Time, but that doesn’t make it a bad game by any means. You’re a bit more likely to get stuck in this one, which can be annoying. However, you can always consult guides if need be, there’s no shame in that! You’ll probably need to if you want to find all of the hidden stuff in the game. The Majora’s Mask’s biggest claim to fame, however, is its much darker tone from the rest of the series. This caused it to become the basis for the famous Ben Drowned creepypasta. So, overall, I would highly recommend it, as it is a must-play entry in the Zelda series. There is no other Zelda game quite like Majora’s Mask.

Review Score

Review copy supplied by author, and is based on the original N64 version

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About Michael Fontanini

Michael is a veteran gamer in his late 30s, who grew up around video games, with fond memories of the oldies like the NES, SNES, and N64 among others. He loves Nintendo, but also plays a lot of games on his PC. Michael also enjoys going for walks/bike rides, loves animals, and enjoys thunderstorms (and science in general).

Michael is also a computer programmer. This started with a toy he got as a kid called Pre-Computer 1000 that was made by V-Tech. It had a simple programming mode (a bare-bones version of BASIC) which is what started him down the road of being a programmer! Michael can program in BASIC, Visual Basic, C++, C#, and is familiar with Java and Lua Script.

Putting programming and gaming together, Michael became a hobbyist game developer, which may give him some good insights on game development! Most recently, he has been playing with the Unity 3D game engine (a powerful and easy-to-use engine) and learning 3D modelling in Blender.

I love Nintendo but I also play a lot of game's on PC, many of which are on steam. My favorite Nintendo game's include Zelda, Metroid, and Smash Bros to name a few. On PC I love the Half-Life games, as well as most all of the Source Engine games just to name a few.

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