Retro Review: Majora’s Mask (N64)
It goes without saying that Ocarina of Time is by far one of the greatest titles to grace not only the Zelda franchise, but the N64 as well. Fans of the game know each section by heart and the mere sound of the words “Water” and “Temple” can send us into rage mode.
Ocarina of Time stands on its own, as one of the most memorable Zelda games to date. Not only was it the first 3D Zelda game, but for me, it was the first Zelda game I completed. After beating it, I felt unstoppable. It was my goal to defeat all the other Legend of Zelda’s before it! After going on my Zelda completion gauntlet, I over heard that Nintendo teased a sequel to Ocarina of Time entitled, “Zelda Gaiden”. My young eager gamer heart would not be satisfied until I got my hands on this title and finished it inside and out.
When I finally got this game, I noticed two things. It was now called “Majora’s Mask” and it came with something called the “Expansion Pack”. While this title was different from “Gaiden” (in my defense at the time, I didn’t know that games were given beta test names) the cartridge was gold and it had a cool holographic image of Link slashing his sword! The expansion pack, as I deduced as a child, was a magical little box that made N64 games better! Well I wasn’t too far from the truth. What it did was increase the RAM memory from 4 MB to 8 MB, but hey, if it can let me play Majora’s Mask, Donkey Kong 64 and Perfect Dark, I’m sold!
With excitement in hand, I popped in the cartridge and prepared for another fun filled Zelda adventure! Little did I know, that I would be stumbling onto one of the darkest Zelda games to date.
A Quest Begins:
Our journey starts off with the Hero of Time Link wandering through a dense forest in search of his old friend Navi. Why he wants to be pestered with constant “HEY HEY” “LISTEN HEY” “WATCH OUT. LOOK!” is beyond me, in her defense she did help find enemies weaknesses in Ocarina of Time, but I digress.
As he treks through the forest, his horse Epona is startled by two fairies, causing Link to fall off unconscious. Then enters the Skull Kid with his infamous laugh that to this day haunts me. The Skull Kid then searches through Links belongings until he stumbles upon the Ocarina of Time. As the Skull Kid is playing and giggling like an idiot, our hero awakens with a most annoyed look on his face. While attempting to grab the thief, his horse is then hijacked causing Link to give chase on foot.
After running inside a hollow tree in hot pursuit, Link falls an incredible height, transporting him to the land of Termina. Before him, floating in a very relaxed manner is the Skull Kid. He proceeds to tell you that he has disposed of Epona due to her lack of obedience. Soon after, he casts a spell on Link changing him into a Deku Scrub. Confident in his decision, the Skull Kid takes off leaving. In doing so, one of the fairies Tatl is left behind. So not only has Link lost his horse, been transformed into a Deku Scrub, and is now told that he will remain like that forever?! What a rough day to be on an adventure. Must be Monday.
The fairy Tatl pleads with you to get her back to the Skull Kid and her brother Tale. I use “pleads with you” in the lightest sense seeing as though she invites her self along. But hey, adventuring is more fun with a companion anyway. As you continue on, you enter what looks like the inside of some tower. You are then greeted by the happy mask salesman who has and I quote “been following you for quite sometime…”. Yeah I was creeped out at this point too. He states that he knows how to lift the Skull Kids curse to get your old body back. All you need to do is get back the Ocarina of Time and the rest is cake.
But there’s a catch. Turns out that the Skull Kid has stolen a very important mask from him and he needs it back within three days time. Hmm I wonder what mask he could be talking about!? (He says out loud as he reads the title of the game to himself). Seems like a fair compromise. You scratch my back, I turn you back to your old self, at least that’s how I think the saying goes.
So you have only three days to find the Skull Kid, get your Ocarina back and the Majora’s Mask. Easy right?
Eventually, you make it to the top of the clock tower at midnight of the third day and the Skull Kid is determined to destroy the world via the gigantic moon. After retrieving the Ocarina of Time and performing the Song of Time, you return to dawn of the first day. The moon is back high in the sky, the townsfolk completely oblivious to the fact that time has gone back three days.
After meeting up with the mask salesman again, he returns you to your original body with the Song of Healing, which I swear, I could listen to for hours on end. Seeing as though you failed to retrieve the Majora’s Mask, a very and I do mean very angry, mask salesman stresses to you the shear importance that you get this mask back. This is where the real adventure begins for Link, as it is up to you to explore the four corners of Termina and awaken the giants and save the world…again.
Truly a Dark World:
The game play is very similar, if not exactly the same, as Ocarina of Time. Your B button is your sword, A is the action button, Z is for targeting foes and objects while the C buttons are your selected items. All things considered, not much has changed in that aspect.
If anything, the biggest difference is the masks. Masks are your secret weapons that can help change the outcome of a fight, or give you access to certain areas. For example: The bunny hood gives you the ability to run at a faster pace, while the Romani’s mask gives you access to the milk bar which is out of reach without said mask.
There are three specific masks that you find as the game progresses that can change your regular Hylian. The Deku Scrub mask allows you to become a Deku allowing you to use flower pods to fly for a short period of time. The Goron mask gives you the form of a Goron warrior which allows you to throw mighty punches, drop devastating ground pounds and the ability to roll at intense speeds to mow down your enemies. By far of my favorites is the Zoras mask. With this equipped, not only can you swim at incredible speeds, but you can use your fins as boomerangs and protect yourself in a magical barrier. There are two other masks that can change your form, but I wont spoil the surprise. All I’ll say, is that one of them you are required to get in a dungeon and as for the other, lets just say it would be in your best interest to get all the masks before you get to the final boss.
Earlier I mentioned that this game is very dark. It’s not dark in a gory way by any means. In fact, if there’s one thing I love about Nintendo games, is that they understand that a game doesn’t need blood, intense violence and what not, to be considered dark.
Now when I was just a kid playing this game, I never really put a lot of thought into most things. All I did was follow the linear path and called it a game. Re-playing Majora’s Mask now, with a slightly more mature mindset, made me realize just how depressing and compelling this game can be.
Looking up at the sky on the first day, you are greeted by the creepiest smiling moon possible. It’s stare is blank, cold, emotionless and I know I’ve already said this, down right creepy! Out of all the video games I’ve played, this is by far the most foreboding image I have ever seen. It constantly stares at you as a reminder that in three days, the world ends.
The effects of this lingering moon also have an influence on the citizens of Termina. In clock town, there seems to be a mixture of two factions. One side demands that the town evacuates while they still can, while the other side believes that the moon falling is preposterous.
These two opposing sides are visible throughout the townsfolk throughout the three day’s. In day one, not many people are paying mind to the slowly descending moon. Occasionally you may here mention of it, but its not overly projected.
Enter the second day. There is a rainstorm that is perfectly accompanied by appropriate music giving even more atmosphere to the overall mood. It seems like on the second day, citizens are growing a little more concerned about the moon. Some continue to talk about evacuating while others concentrate about the soon to be festival. Again not much, but there’s at least more awareness amongst the people.
By the third day, things within the town get bad. Some citizens have up and left the town in some hopes of surviving. I went to the inn on the third day and found no one other than the innkeeper Anju, who refuses to leave as she is confident that her fiance will come to her. Love makes people do crazy things. Citizens who did stay behind are usually in some corner panicking and praying to whatever deity in hopes that a miracle will save them.
Did I mention that this game is full of constant reminders of what you are trying to prevent? Specifically on the third day, the screen would begin to shake indicating that the moon is drawing ever closer. Even deep within dungeons, the world still shook with great force. Not only do you have the moon as a reminder, but at the beginning of each new day, the screen goes black followed by white text telling you what day you are on and how many hours you have left. Seeing the words “DAWN OF THE FINAL DAY 24 HOURS REMAINING” always sent chills down my spine. Even as a kid when I first played this game, those words were very intimidating as a I knew I was running out of time and if I wasn’t quick enough, all of these people were going to die. This provided an immersive experience as I played from beginning to end. Time was short and every second mattered.
If you’ve played Majora’s Mask, I know what you’re thinking. “But Tristan! If you play the Song of Time you’ll just go back to the first day! Why worry about time!”. Ok, I’ll give you that. Playing the Song of Time does provide a good handicap when racing against the clock to complete the game. But think about this. In the three days that you spend in Termina, think of all the good you’ve done. You’ve gone to the Swamp, defeated the temple and brought peace between the monkeys and the Deku’s. Or perhaps you did the long side quest to get Anju and Kafei back together. The second you play that song and go back to the first day, all of the good that you have done bringing peace and happiness fades away with time. As far as everyone is aware, none of it happened. This really gives a deep and slightly empty feeling as none of the people in the land recollect who you are or what you’ve done. If you did get a mask from completing said task, you’ll always have that as a memento of the trials you went through. And perhaps that’s what those masks are. A symbol of your hard work.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a fantastic game. It is definitely up there with Ocarina of Time in terms of one of the great N64 and Zelda titles. If you have not played this game, I highly recommend going to the virtual console and downloading a copy for yourself. What can you accomplish with only three days to spare?
For those who have completed the game. What was your most memorable experience? Let us know in the comments section below!
photo credit in order of appearance:
skull kid mask: