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The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Nintendo 64)

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4.0
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Written by  :  AkibaTechno (228)
Written on  :  Mar 03, 2011
Platform  :  Nintendo 64
Rating  :  3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars

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Summary

Not quite as fluent or progressive as Ocarina of Time but still enjoyable.

The Good

Majora’s Mask is the follow up to the immensely successful Ocarina of Time and it does a pretty good job picking up where the original left off. In this rendition of the Legend of Zelda our hero Link is riding Epona through the woods when his Ocarina is stolen by a mysterious masked Skullkid. Link is transformed into a deku scrub and from that moment he embarks on a quest to thwart the destruction of Clock Town and stop the insidious Skullkid from doing whatever is he is aiming to do while possessed by the mask he is wearing.

The flow of the game is very different to Ocarina of Time. You’re kind of expected to know what to do at all times, bar the helpful introductory tutorial when you begin the game. There is a three day clock and the way time flows affects the game in many different ways. People’s schedules adhere to the clock, things might appear at certain times and places might only be accessible on certain days. You need to memorize all of these things and work out the patterns to finish side quests are further the primary one. After three days have been exhausted Clock Town is destroyed, however you can rewind time whenever you want to the beginning of the first day and it isn’t as game breaking as you would first assume. It’s very easy to pick up where you left off, bar some particular occasions that I will get to soon. The two quest elements; primary and side quest, kind of bleed into each other occasionally and it’s very easy to lose yourself in the sidequests. On the whole, they’re pretty well designed and quite engrossing. Lots of little stories are playing out in Termina and you’re only a very small part of the grand design, even if you are the protagonist.

In addition to the regular Zelda style questing (solving problems thusly opening a dungeon, identifying the next problem and so on...) there are neat gameplay mechanics that have been introduced to differentiate Majora’s Mask from Ocarina. To begin with the emphasis in MM is on mask collecting. Each mask does something different, imbuing Link with a myriad of different special powers. There are also four transformation masks that turn Link into a Goron, Deku scrub or Zora guitarist. There is also another transformation mask that does something very, very cool. But I won’t tell you what it is. Each form has a set of distinct strengths and weaknesses and even when you’ve moved on from the area that requires the mask you’ll have to keep putting it on to solve other problems as they arise. It’s brilliant and keeps the game really refreshing.

The core gameplay dynamics beyond the mask collection and time system are essentially the same. Majora’s Mask is very samey, with many things recycled from the first game. It’s not essentially a bad thing. Ocarina of Time played like a dream and Majora’s Mask feels a lot smoother thanks to the RAM expansion and refined control scheme. Link feels lighter on his feet and performs some (entirely cosmetic) cool flips when he jumps now.

The good graphical elements of Ocarina of Time have been improved with slightly increased texture resolution (it is noticeable, especially in areas like the spring time Mountain Village and Great Bay), slightly improved polygon counts and a slightly increased level of graphical tricks like motion blur and lens flare. You can tell Majora’s Mask looks better than Ocarina of Time, but it takes a little while to notice the improvements. Probably the most telling improvement in the game is the sheer scale of things. The extra RAM is put to good use to render huge caverns, mountains and expansive bays with very minimal pop-up. It’s very, very impressive. The two most impressive looking parts of the games though have to be the rotating dungeon in Ikana Canyon and the beautiful Moon area. The moon is stunning and rendered beautifully.

The Bad

Majora’s Mask is a good game. However, it has its fair share of foibles.

To begin with, A LOT of elements from Ocarina of Time have been recycled here. Not just sound and textures, basically every single (minor) character model from Ocarina of Time has been magically teleported to Clock Town and given a new vocation. It’s all well and good having nice little references to a prior game but recycling nearly every single supporting player so you don’t have to render new ones is a little lazy. It doesn’t matter what mythology they want to spin to make this move seem less lazy, but from a game design perspective it’s just weak. There are maybe six new characters in Clock Town.

On the topic of recycling Nintendo picked some of the worst moments of Ocarina of Time to put back into Majora’s Mask. The sneaking sections from Gerudo Fortress and Hyrule Castle are in there, as is the “go the wrong way and it’s back to the start” exploration section from the desert. There’s even the Lost Woods with monkeys. Nearly every single enemy from Ocarina of Time is present in Majora’s Mask to the point that it’s actually a surprise to see something new. I mean, to make pirates do you think they rendered people that looked vaguely like pirates?. No, they took the fortress guard character models from Ocarina of Time and called them pirates.

In terms of resources used in the game for every new element there is something that has been recycled and repurposed for use in a different environment. The level of recycling is just silly.

Most of the time Majora’s Mask plays quite well, however I’ve been left scratching my head on several occasions in terms of not knowing what the hell I was supposed to be doing. One particularly frustrating occasion left me having to repeat the same course of action 3 times before I finally figured out I had gone about the entire quest line wrong and I had to go looking for something new. This wasn’t a case of me being ignorant, it was just purposefully vague. It was making me rely on trial and error to progress through the game. In any other Action/Adventure/RPG this wouldn’t have been a problem but because of the way the time system works where everything resets after 3 days it meant I had to constantly repeat the same actions over and over again until I got the sequence right. By that point, tedium and frustration had well and truly set in and I had begun to get sick of the game. Perseverance won the day and I continued, however it should never have gotten to that point. I just don’t appreciate trial and error gameplay. In it, you have to do everything slowly and methodically. In Ocarina of Time each event kind of flowed into the others very elegantly, while there is this constant jarring jump from sequence to sequence in Majora’s Mask as you rigidly adhere to the vague trading sequences.

Also, Goron racing sucks.

The Bottom Line

Majora’s Mask plays well most of the time. It’s a fairly smooth ride with a really interesting time based quest that requires a lot of thinking to progress through in a timely (see what I did there?) manner. The myriad of little story lines at play are really engrossing and the multitude of side quests are real time sinks. The game plays like a really refined Ocarina of Time and design of dungeons and bosses is beyond reproach. I absolutely adore the mask transformation mechanic and collecting all of the other masks is really addictive. In general, Termina is beautiful and rendered very competently. Each compass direction holds its own distinct beauty and mystery with detail crammed into every corner.

It’s just a shame Nintendo spent so much time working out how the time system would work that they forgot to include more new things in the game. Nearly every single NPC model from Ocarina of Time has been repurposed for Majora’s Mask. Nearly every enemy from the original is present in the game, every piece of incidental music, every texture, every item model (bar some noticeable exceptions). Why does Termina have dodongo’s? Why are the pirates dressed identically to the Gerudo Fortress guards from Ocarina of Time?. Even gameplay elements from Ocarina of Time got recycled for use in Majora’s Mask. The game also loses its way now and then, forcing you to constantly refresh the time line to get a simple item collection sequence completed.

With all of my criticism, it makes it seem like a I didn’t like playing Majora’s Mask. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If that was the case, why did I keep turning my Nintendo 64 back on?. As much as I might have liked it to be perfect, this is not a perfect game.

As a sequel to Ocarina of Time though, it doesn’t feel like a sequel. It feels like an extension of the game. It’s just way too samey. Is that a bad thing? Not neccessarily, because you know you’re going to have a good time. That is what is important when playing a game; to have a good time, and that is what you get with Majora’s Mask.