The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was the highly anticipated sequel to the highly regarded The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Upon arrival Majora’s Mask received backlash from fans instead of praise.  People hated the use of masks, lack of temples, the use of young Link instead of adult Link, lack of tri-force and Ganon etc.  Majora’s Mask is the black sheep of the Zelda series as many of it’s changes are original and exclusive to the game unlike other Zelda traits, it didn’t even have the Master Sword or much use for its titular Zelda who got one flashback appearance.  The game was very different from any in the series as well as being darker and more mature than it’s predecessor.  With time however it has become almost as popular as Ocarina of Time.  I’d like to discuss why I think it is one of the greatest games to come from the Zelda series or Nintendo as a whole.

Yup… That’s creepy.

For those who’ve played Ocarina of Time the basics haven’t changed: items set to the C button, B button is the sword etc. and of course beating temples. The 2 main gameplay changes which in my opinion really make the game more unique, are the masks and the 3 day cycle feature. Every mask has a use and gives Link an ability like running faster, communicating with the undead etc. But there are also 5 transformation masks which give Link exclusive abilities such as: Deku Link gets to hover with certain flowers, Zora Link gets to swim at incredible speeds. These blew my mind and were just endless fun, I always wanted to have the swimming ability of a Zora. Knowledge and use of these abilities is what really made the temples in this game more challenging as well because, instead of just wondering what items to use, you had to know what mask ability was right for the situation as well.  But this is just the masks.

The 3 Day-Cycle is the next topic and this mechanic is still the only game play element exclusive to this game ever. No game ever tried anything like this again as far as I know. The 3 Day-Cycle was implemented because a giant moon that is falling from the sky and will crash into Termina (not Hyrule) in 3 Days, but luckily Link can play the Song of Time a song learned in Ocarina of Time to reset back to 6:00 a.m. Day 1.  The 3 Day cycle is what really gives the game its depth.  With each passing day and night there is something to do and several ways to go about doing it or several ways to get different outcomes.  Do you save the old lady from getting robbed at midnight the 1st night? Or do you let her get robbed to save a wedding? Choices, choices.  Plus everyday the characters for those who talk to NPC’s all get more afraid or stubborn about their impending doom only you can stop.  While sometimes tedious, say you forgot to do something on Day 1 to do something at Day 3 you have to play the Song of Time to go all the way back and start again, but don’t let that discourage you the pros definitely outweigh the cons.  The characters are all programmed to the time so at 10:00 a.m. on the 1st day a character will always do the same thing at that time unless of course you influence something in their daily schedule, which you keep track of with a notebook.  As time is literally of the essence, to make the quests you choose to take easier, you can slow time and speed it up.  Here’s what I think was odd about Ocarina of Time…for a game called Ocarina of Time key word “time” that game barely had anything to do with time minus the 7 year gap between Young Link and Adult Link. It didn’t really have much use of the word “time”. In Majora’s Mask time can literally be bent to your will. Some find the 3 days annoying and limiting, I found it limitless despite the number, you can literally customize your 3 days to your advantage. Try to do as many side quests and main quests as you can.  Which reminds me, unlike all Zelda games where after you finish a temple and beat a boss the only way to do that temple again or beat that boss again is to start the game over, or at the least finish the game once to unlock a “Boss fight only” mode, when you reset time, you can literally just do the temples again and again without having to start the game from the start.
One thing I really want to touch upon is the temples. The one thing I hate about this game is the number of temples.  But I don’t just hate the numbers on principle because the previous game had double.  No.  I hate them because these temples were so well thought out and really creative from any Zelda that I can’t believe there’s only 4.  And I’ve played all Zelda games these were the best! Stone Tower until this day is my favourite Zelda temple.  You turn the whole world up-side down…what about that doesn’t sound exciting? And Nintendo who is notorious for endless recycling…this concept wasn’t?  The bosses however…lack considerably to the original.  While everyone fears and remembers Bongo Bongo, The whack-a-mole Volvagia…the bosses in Majora’s Mask are extremely forgettable as the strategies to defeat them…lack creativity, and are very basic.  Twinmold literally flies around the screen doing nothing…the remake would fix this boss problem but when that came out the damage was done.
While Ocarina of Time was classic Zelda.  Link Vs. Ganon told in a very epic way still done to the best I might add.  Majora’s Mask strays from its roots and tries something new.  Link is searching for Navi who left him in the last game, only to be robbed of his horse and ocarina by a Skull Kid wearing the titular mask.  Chasing down the Skull Kid, Link literally falls down a hole and ends up in the parallel world of Termina. Here the Skull Kid reveals his dark powers given to him by the mask and transforms Link into another species, a Deku.  This beginning is more exciting and already darker than previous Zelda’s. All this also already makes the game feel surreal. Which is one of its many good traits.
Unlike Ocarina of Time that starts in Kokiri Forest which is literally lets face it “Tutorial Land” Majora’s Mask spares no expense of informing you of how to play the game in a set environment.  It only teaches basic Z-Targetting and how to use the Deku Flower in your new form.  No combat training, no tutorial temple just those 2 things.
Back to the story, after being transformed one of the Skull Kid’s fairies, Tatl, (who I hate way more than Navi) joins you because the other fairy who stays with the Skull Kid is her brother and she wants to be reunited with him. She treats Link like crap and ridicules him for existing (great idea Nintendo) and together they both eventually get at the least the Ocarina back, and learn about the town’s doom by the ever creepy Mask Salesman.  Link with sword and shield in hand and new mask abilities journeys to the 4 compass directions from the hub Clock Town and starts his adventure.
Now unlike Ocarina of Time where the main quest is what really draws you into that game with 8 temples, endless items, intense boss fights and old friends lives at stake.  Majora’s Mask’s main quest although very intriguing is quite short. With only 4 temples the main quest can end in a few days real time.  While Ocarina of Time had 2 sidequests: Getting Epona your horse and the Biggoron Sword, Majora’s Mask’s appeal really comes from its many sidequests, that literally change lives of the NPC’s.  Saving marriages, saving a ranch from an alien invasion, saving an old lady from getting robbed, and the list goes on. Failing these quests doesn’t lock out the quest. Say you fail to stop the alien invasion, the girl from the ranch will get abducted as well as the cows and this than effects the main story. In Ocarina of Time it’s just black and white good vs. evil.  Ganon is bad that’s why you fight.  The NPC’s say things like “Rescue my cuckoos”, totally unaware that their world is in danger.  Whereas in Majora’s Mask as stated before they know and are very afraid. In Majora’s Mask when you do the quests to help the NPC’s you really feel more obligated to complete the main quest and save Termina because the sense of doom and dread is thick in the game and you know lives depend on you.  You made promises in these quests.

Mask transformation is a bad time…

As well to get the transformation masks I mentioned, you learn a song called the Song of Healing, and heal dead spirits into peace and you gain their mask.  The theme of death is a constant in this Zelda game which is why it has a darker tone, this theme really sets the game’s mood.  You don the healed spirits face’s and finish their unfinished business which gives an underlying beauty to the game’s context.

Another theme is friendship.  Like Ocarina of Time, after you beat a temple you save someone.  In Ocarina of Time it was the 6 sages and 3 Spiritual Stones.  In this game it’s the 4 Giants, who seem to have a connection to the Skull Kid.  The Skull Kid has transformed these Giants into the bosses you fight.  When a Giant is saved, they say things like “Forgive your friend” it is later discovered the Giants he imprisoned where once his friends, and after when he felt abandoned and found the mask, this was his act of revenge.  Unlike Ganondorf who again is just Evil for evil’s sake, the Skull Kid can be seen as a tragic villain.
The game also has a twist ending, spoiler alert the mask did it.  It fed on the Skull Kid’s dark wishes and granted them, but when Link and Tatl undo it’s evil, it reveals itself.  And the final epic battle that takes place in the feared moon begins.  Link wins and heads home ending another great Zelda adventure.
Another major criticism about this game I share are the 90% re-used NPC models.  The guards look the same, the people look the same but with either the same or different jobs.  With very few new NPC additions like Kafei and the Deku Tribe…characters sort of lacked in being new.  And don’t get me started on Tatl.  Just the most annoying and useless fairy ever.  Navi may have been annoying but she did her job. Tatl says things like “Use your sword”…thanks.  Navi would say “Stun him, then use your sword” but oh well, for people who played Ocarina of Time just try and use that knowledge from the other game because Tatl just yells at you for being dumb instead of actually helping.
The Creepy Mask Salesman even returns with a slightly bigger role, while he adds to the game’s creepiness he also doesn’t do much except vaguely tell you about how evil the mask is.  I like the mystery but some people love their exposition.
Characters in this game maybe have only one role to play in side-quests or the main quest but helping them in the game really gives Link more relationships that are personal and built, unlike Ocarina of Time where some things are like sudden.  You saved Ruto…ok you’re married now.  Not like in Majora’s Mask where you help the little ranch girl, and save her ranch and she gives you a milk bottle.
As a whole the characters are more involved in this game and the relationship they have with Link feels very real which makes you again feel more concerned to save them all.

Back in my day this was cutting edge graphics!

I feel this worth talking about a little since today we have PS4 with 1080p graphics, but when the N64 came out graphics were still working towards that. Those N64 experts know that this game used the red expansion pack which allowed more memory for longer games with better graphics.  Majora’s Mask is one of the few games that required the expansion pack to even be played, and I feel it is worth it!  The graphics are much improved, with better lighting and detail on Link, the characters and environments.  Even the draw distance is further than Ocarina’s ever was.  Plus Majora’s Mask is pure 3D graphics whereas Ocarina of Time cheaped out with pre-rendered environments.  I get they had to, for many reasons but still it’s things I notice.  Those pre-rendered environments were so blurry you couldn’t not notice.   The extra memory also allowed more effects such as motion blur.  All a big deal back in 2000.

Majora’s Masks graphics were definitely a step up.  I’d even say some of the best N64 had to offer.
While most Zelda games go for an epic adventure soundtrack Majora’s Mask’s music seems to be more thought out than simple background.  Even the music you learn in-game for your ocarina seem to have more purpose than Ocarina of time’s where 50% of those songs are just to warp. In Majora’s Mask there’s one song for that!
But for the in-game music the music here has so much range.  The Final Hours, is a hauntingly beautiful track that captures the fear of the end of the world in just a few hours.  The Song of Healing, has such sorrow with bittersweet happiness in its track despite the fact this is used to heal a dying spirit.  The Deku Palace is an upbeat music that gets in your head and will stay there for a few days. The soundtrack for this game is unique to this game as well with very few tracks re-used.
In all, I truly believe this game is the best Zelda.  It is my personal favorite, and these are all my reasons.
What do you all think about this hidden gem?
(Editors Note. As one of the people who hated this sequel when it first dropped. I can’t speak from experience because I never got far enough in this game to actually look at it in the objective way Nephew presents it. Frankly it took a lot to even post this article. Honestly kid Link… No master sword… why even bother. But I guess it works for some people – G)
Written by- Nephew