Original Release Date: 2000
Majora’s Mask is a game that’s had a rather unusually reception over the years. At the time of its initial release it was well received, but largely overshadowed by its predecessor, Ocarina of Time. Over the years it has grown a large cult following, and now it ironically almost overshadows Ocarina of Time.
My opinion of the game hasn’t changed much over the years. I greatly enjoyed it when it was still a relatively obscure title, and I still greatly enjoy it now that its popularity has exploded. It’s a game that easily lives up to the high standards set by other Zelda games, and while I’ll admit that Ocarina of Time is still my personal favorite, Majora’s Mask was and is the best Zelda game released to date.
One thing that stands out about Majora’s Mask is how unique it is. Coming off the success of Ocarina of Time, it would have been incredibly easy to churn out a copy and paste sequel that was essentially more of the same. Instead, Majora’s Mask takes the basic outline and gameplay of Ocarina of Time and does something completely different with it.
The setting, story, and structure of the game are markedly different from the traditional Zelda formula. Instead of Hyrule, the game takes place in a land called Termina. The goal of the game isn’t to save the princess or stop Ganon, but to prevent a moon from destroying the world. You only have three days to accomplish this, so you have to constantly travel back in time and go through each area of the game in order to prevent armageddon.
One thing that Majora’s Mask does very well is tying the story and gameplay together. Ocarina of Time was already very good at this, but Majora’s Mask executes it almost perfectly. Wherever you are in the game’s world, the moon is always in the sky above, reminding you of what’s at stake. In addition, while all of the characters you meet have their own goals and individual stories, all of them ultimately tie back into the main plot, and you can visibly see how the world and characters change as time ticks down toward doomsday.
Honestly, Majora’s Mask does so many things right, and most of what I could say about it has already been said. So, much like my review of Super Metroid, I’m going to take some time to go over the handful of things it does wrong.
The first issue isn’t really a flaw, it’s just something to keep in mind. As I mentioned in my Ocarina of Time review, Ocarina is a game that has a very lengthy and substantial main quest, but is rather lacking when it comes to exploration and side activities. Majora’s Mask is the exact opposite. The main quest is not bad by any means, it is actually quite good. But it’s very short when compared with most Zelda games, and the bulk of the gameplay comes from the various side quests. For players who enjoy exploring and finding all of the little secrets and side stories in a game, Majora’s Mask will certainly deliver. But if you’re like me, and prefer to focus more on completing the main campaign, Majora’s Mask can feel a little bit underwhelming.
Another problem is the three day cycle. While a well thought out and well implemented mechanic, it does have its annoyances. It serves the story and gameplay well, but ultimately it puts a time limit on the game. Take too long on an area, or miss an important time marker, and you have to start all over again from scratch. Most Zelda games have a save system that allows the player to easily stop and jump right back in if they make a mistake, where Majora’s Mask doesn’t, which can make some parts of the game rather tedious.
Probably the biggest flaw with the game is the mask collecting system. Some of the masks you can obtain are actively and consistently useful, but there are others that are not. Many of the masks only have a one time use, and afterwards are functionally useless.
This isn’t helped by the fact that there’s often little to no correlation between how hard a mask is to obtain and how useful it is. Some useful masks, such as the bomb mask or the bunny hood, are relatively easy to get. Conversely, the couple’s mask, the hardest normal mask to get in the game, is arguably the most useless mask in the entire game. It doesn’t give the player any new abilities, it’s only good for a one time use, and it doesn’t even look that interesting. It doesn’t even have any eye holes, so one wonders how Link can see out of it.
But while Majora’s Mask does have its flaws, it ultimately more than makes up for them. It’s overworld is detailed and well thought out, and manages to perfect the idea of having areas that are all memorable, but no bigger than they need to be. It’s story and characters are among the best in the series, the gameplay is excellent, and it’s earned the right to stand alongside other classic Nintendo games. It’s a great game, and if you haven’t played it already, you really should.
How well it holds up 3/4
Personal Enjoyment 5/5
Overall quality 10/10
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