so the loooong game that was taking me forever to finish was the much-discussed the legend of zelda: majora’s mask. in a complete coincidence i finished the game after some marathon sessions shortly after the game was released this week to commemorate the 300th release on the virtual console.
due to the game’s re-release there’s been tons of discussion about it online these days. despite its reuse of much of the design of ocarina of time, the game is as much a black sheep of the zelda series as zelda II: the adventure of link was. the game is noted for being darker in tone than the rest of the series, with the disaster of the moon crashing into the earth always looming literally overhead. the central game mechanic, in which you replay the same three days over and over again, a la the classic movie groundhog day, is amazingly innovative, even almost 9 years later. the game hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves, perhaps partly because of its unusual mechanics, but also perhaps it was a bit ahead of its time. hopefully now it will reach a broader audience who can appreciate what a great game it is.
and what a great game it is! i’ve been enjoying my progression through the zelda series, but after i finished ocarina, zelda fatigue was threatening to set in. luckily this game provided a real breath of fresh air and in fact it’s joined my list of “favorite games of all time”. this isn’t to say it’s without its flaws, though. one of the main complaints people have about it is that the time limit sometimes makes you repeat extended sequences of actions, which can be frustrating to say the least. and even outside of the time limit there are some places where the game sets you up so that it’s highly likely that you’ll have to repeat a section because you didn’t complete it on the right day. in my case the problem with the repetitions was compounded by the fact that either my N64 or my expansion pak is buggy, because when i zipped through areas the way i usually do the game would freeze. once i got used to slowing down and letting the camera catch up with me i was usually fine, though, although there were still way too many occasions where i’d have to redo whole sections even beyond what a normal playthrough of the game would entail. extremely frustrating, but the game was definitely worth slogging through that issue and any other quibbles i might have with the game.
in addition to the completely absorbing and fresh central game mechanic, there’s also a more complex story than usual that unfolds well. it seems that the game’s designers made a conscious effort to make the characters come alive. in this interview from nintendo power tezuka, one of the supervisors of the game says:
- There were a number of characters in Ocarina of Time that we wanted to describe more fully. We didn’t have the means to do it in Ocarina, but in Majora’s Mask we do because players have the opportunity to meet every character in the game and learn more about them.
in response to the question “Is there anything you weren’t able to accomplish in Ocarina of Time that you have included in Majora’s Mask?” miyamoto adds:
- Yes. In fact, that is why we’ve decided to base the game on the three-day intervals. This allows gamers to see characters as they go through their daily routines in more detail. Depending on which time of day you visit a particular character, he or she will be doing different things.
one of the things i really appreciated about the game was how well the side quests are integrated into the game. a lot of the side quests involve the characters you’re constantly running into in the town, which serves as the home base. so while you’re preparing for the next part of the main quest, it’s almost impossible not to become curious about what’s going on with these other characters, and before you know it you’re deeply involved in trying to help them with their problems. also, because of the time mechanic there are many times where you’re forced to wait around for a particular time of day, so in those cases the side quests and the mini-games, like the shooting gallery, become ideal ways to pass the time (assuming that you don’t get sucked into them and lose track of time as i repeatedly did). in fact, because of the game’s design i ended up doing way more sidequests than i usually do. also, the sidequests where you have to find and collect useless tokens (in this game, as in ocarina, they’re golden skulltulas) are contained in two skulltula houses instead of scattered all over the game map, and i completed both of those as well.
well, not much else to say without getting into the details of the game and spoiling some of the surprises. but let it suffice to say that there hasn’t been a game that has sucked me in so completely in quite a while, as my significant other will attest. a flawed masterpiece, but one that i highly recommend every gamer should experience. (oh, and in case you were wondering, when you beat the game, the game automatically saves so that you keep anything you accomplished in the last 3-day time period you played.)
– if you’re looking for additional basic info about the game here’s a good review at vc.nintendolife.com.
– there are tons of great zelda sites that have tons of info about the game. zeldadungeon.net is a good one and has tons of screenshots.
– the official site has a good bare-bones FAQ if you get stuck and want to minimize spoilers. if you’re looking for an in-depth walkthrough this one on gamefaqs is pretty good.
– text dump at zeldalegends.net
– video of some cool easter eggs on youtube. and here’s a cool reference to star fox in the game that someone noticed that may or may not have been intentional. also, zeldainformer.com has a pretty good succinct list of easter eggs.
– funny majora-related comic at brawl in the family
– just for fun, here’s a zelda 64 caramelldansen video featuring characters from ocarina and majora
– some majora wallpapers at zeldauniverse.net
– majora seems to inspire a fair amount of discussion and debate. zeldainformer.com has some interesting essays, including “The Tribe That Vanished from Legend” that speculates on the identity of the happy mask salesman, and “The Message of Majora’s Mask” that explores many aspects of the game that you may not have pondered very closely.
– this company first4figures.com was selling collectible figures of the skull kid and fierce deity link, but it looks like they’ve sold out (unsurprisingly).
– entry at wikipedia