Breath of The Wild is still fresh in gamers’ minds, and for good reason. Nintendo once again managed to revitalize one of their iconic characters and place them into an adventure that’s worthy of the hall of fame.
But this isn’t the first time that Nintendo managed to create a unique adventure out of the Zelda series by transforming the game completely in certain aspects, but still sticking to the heart of what makes Link and his adventures great. Exactly two decades ago, Nintendo managed to do the same with Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
Nearly six years had passed since one of Link’s greatest adventures – A Link To The Past – hit shelves. And when The Ocarina of Time finally brought the world of Hyrule into glorious 3D, it was a smashing success. Expectations were high for the follow-up which was rumored to have a whole new sprawling world and locations to explore. Majora’s Mask proved to be a worthy successor and looked fantastic because of the 4MB expansion pak.
The setting of this game is truly one of Link’s most meaningful and personal adventures in the series. Picking up after the events of The Ocarina of Time, meet a Link who has fulfilled his destiny, become a legend, but still feels lonely and is looking for companionship. On his way, he wanders into a land called Termina, a strange land which is in dire straits because the moon is going to crash into it in a matter of days and destroy everything. Things start to happen and eventually Link finds himself with just 72 hours to stop the doomsday march of the moon and save Termina.
Just like the Ocarina of Time, the opening cinematic for Majora’s Mask sets things up beautifully and really immerses you into the story. You don’t necessarily need to be a Zelda veteran to play this game either, although it helps. The creativity displayed in this storyline is a testament to the team behind Majora’s Mask.
The gameplay has two central mechanics – masks and time. The owner of the Happy Mask shop endows upon you the ability to embody different powers once you wear a specific mask. You’ll find several different masks (a total of 24) that transform you into various creatures and give you different powers that are crucial for completing your mission.
The central area of Termina is called Clock Town and adjoining it are four separate areas – beaches, deserts, swamps, mountains. At the center of each of these areas are the four temples that have been cursed by the main villain. Each of these temples is protected by a boss who has also been cursed. As Link, you must rid these creatures of their suffering and thereby remove whatever plagues that land. An area might have poisoned water for example and beating the boss will restore the cleanliness of the water.
If you think four temples and four boss fights sounds like a short day at the office, fear not. The best part of Majora’s Mask is the sheer number of side-quests and mask-related missions that you can undertake. If you’re a completist, you can easily get over 50 hours of gameplay from the campaign. You can’t just walk into a temple and start whacking things. You need to have certain masks to access certain areas. For example, the Deku Scrub mask allows you to hop over water and glide through the air, which you’ll need to do to get through certain parts of the first temple. In another temple, you’ll have to put on the Goron mask which lets you roll up into a wrecking ball Sonic-style and smash through things. Later, you’ll have to combine the masks to finish certain tasks.
The time aspect of the game is also crucial. You have three days to save the world, and each day is about 18 minutes in game time. How does this work? Well, you have the ability to warp back to the start of the first day and save your progress (you will have to give up most of the money and items you get). You do get to keep the masks you collect though, and important items like a sword. You’ll quickly realize that the way to go about this is to get into a temple and clear it within three days. You also have the in-game ability to alter the time to help you along. It’s all very cleverly executed, and should really be experienced by playing the game first hand.
4MB expansion pak gives Majora’s Mask a huge graphical upgrade. Draw distances are huge, textures and characters look crisp and the animation is smooth. You really get a sense of the vast expanse of the world you are questing through. Some new effects like motion blur are noteworthy. The game manages to maintain a smooth framerate for the most part, except for some scenes where too much action brings the FPS down to 10 or 15. The sound is great too, with the notable return of the Overworld theme.
Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a testament to the great gameplay that Nintendo franchises are known for. As soon as the first cinematic hits, you’ll be drawn into this adventure head first. There are a ton of subtle touches, memorable characters and great writing that underscore the sometimes unsettling nature of this tale. The masks and time mechanic make things much more interesting and challenging, and finding all of the masks and experiencing what they’re capable of is one of the best parts of this game. If you’re an N64 owner, you absolutely owe it to yourself to get this game – it’s one of the very best ever released on the console.