What if you had to repeat the same day over and over again ad-infinitum, stuck in an endless time loop, seemingly there without reason or purpose?  You’d probably be Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.  Luckily for gamers, countless futile attempts of suicide won’t be necessary; the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask incorporates a similar time loop to a very original – and incredibly fun effect.

1996’s The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time was a monumental release in video game history – and THE reason to buy an N64.  The gameplay was phenomenal, the visuals were the best at the time, and the story captivated gamers for the nearly 40 hours it took to experience the whole adventure.  Fast forward two years and Nintendo released the next installment of the LOZ series, Majora’s Mask.  Using much of the resources created for Ocarina of Time helped cut development time considerably. That is not to say that the game was very similar to its predecessor. Quite the contrary – Majora’s Mask is a standout title in the series, both compared to its predecessors and the games that followed.

The premise of Majora’s Mask revolved around link arriving at a new land after his adventures in Hyrule.  Termina is a land quite literally on the brink of destruction, not by the usual antagonist Ganondorf, but by an evil mask wielding imp called the Skull Kid.  Link sets out to retrieve the Majora’s Mask from the imp but must do so before the moon crashes into Termina at the end of the third day, bringing everyone’s complete and utter demise.  Each day in Termina passes in about 30 minutes of our real world time, forcing players to accomplish their goals in about an hour and a half.   The stakes are high in Majora’s Mask, and such dire time constrains could have left little enjoyment for the little things gamers love about the Zelda series – namely exploration.  Luckily the mechanics are well done for the most part and although a sort of time limit is in place, it is by no means final.  This is where the three day time loop comes into play.

Using his trusty ocarina, Link can travel back in time to the first day of the three day cycle.  Only certain key items may be brought back in time and money must be deposited in the bank to be saved.  This may sound extremely tedious – and in some cases it can be – it usually is not.  Completing certain quests and tasks can earn you an entry in your quest notebook, the ‘bomber’s notebook’, dubbed after a ‘gang’ of young rascals dedicated to helping others.  Ultimately the rewards can include new weapons and masks – which have a much more prominent role in Majora’s Mask than they had in Ocarina of Time.

To compensate for link remaining 10 years old for the entirety of the adventure, you can collect a multitude of masks – 24 in total – to enhance your abilities and even transform into other creatures.  Minor masks such as the bomb mask and bunny ears can be attained through completing quests for the minor characters.  Major masks, which transform link, are given to link by key people, and are needed to complete one of the four main dungeons.  Link can obtain masks to transform himself into a Deku Shrub, a Goron, and a Zora – each with its own powers and abilities.

The four main dungeons featured are certainly less material than the eight major dungeons found in Ocarina, which is a bit unfortunate. The dungeons themselves are well done and as with the rest of the game require link to finish them in the set time limit of three in-game days. Link traverses the dungeons in order to awaken four giants to save Termina by stopping the descending moon from obliterating the planet.  The emphasis is set more on side quests and helping others solve problems than on dungeon crawling; hence the lower number of dungeons becomes more of a game-playdecision that sets Majora’s Mask apart from its predecessor rather than a shortcoming.

Although using many of the character models and enemies created for and used in Ocarina, Majora’s Mask expands the graphics for the most part; the titles one issue is that it keeps the somewhat below par frame rate of its predecessor.  The requirement to have an expansion pack allows for greater draw distances and more stuff on screen at any one time. Animations have also been added, including new animations for Link.  All in all, Majora’s Mask is one of the most graphically impressive games on the N64.

Many of the songs featured in previous Zelda games have been remixed and many other completely new added to Majora’s Mask.  One noticeable track is the theme from the main hub, Clocktown.  The theme changes its feel and tempo based on the day in the three day cycle, speeding up and becoming more dissonant as the time comes closer to the end of the world.  These little details make soundtrack outstanding and amongst the best in the series – although not better than Ocarina of Time.

Out of all the Zelda games, Majora’s Mask is without a doubt the darkest and most morose.  It’s a wonderful adventure that can at once move both adult and child sensibilities – it’s certainly a more mature outing by Nintendo than their usual save the princes mantra.  Unfortunately because of the release of the PS2 and the close release of the Gamecube, the game never got the attention it deserved.  It has a few very minor and mostly subjective flaws, namely the lack of more dungeons and the occasional tediousness of repeating quests in the three day cycle; although none of them should stand as issues to most Zelda fans.  The game is available as a download on the Nintendo Wii, as part of the Legend of Zelda collector’s disk for the Nintendo Gamecube, and of course on the Nintendo 64.

Final scores

Gameplay- 9.5/10

Graphics- 9.5/1-

Sound- 10/10

Overall – 9.5/10

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