At this exact second I am waist deep in Ocarina of Time 3D and while playing it, my favorite game of all time remade into a game I’m still thrilled about, something very odd happened: I thought of how good Majora’s Mask was. In fact, the more I play Ocarina’s remake, the more I hope that Majora’s Mask gets the same 3DS treatment. So while I’ve mentioned ever-so-briefly Majora’s Mask in the past, I believe it’s time to give it the proper respect and devote an entire article to exactly why it’s such a good game, and, despite my love of Ocarina of Time, I will freely claim that Majora’s Mask is the Best Zelda Game Ever. Bold statement, I know. Let’s get into why Majora’s Mask is a Game You Should Have Played.
I don’t feel I’m spoiling anything by giving away Ocarina of Time’s ending, so I’ll just go ahead and do that. Once Link successfully seals Ganon away in the Sacred Realm with Zelda’s help, he’s teleported back to the past before everything even happens in the first place. Upon arriving in the past, Navi, his companion for the entire game, says nothing and mysteriously flies out of the Temple of Time’s window (side note, this means that the Spiritual Stones wouldn’t really be needed to gain access to the Master Sword/Sacred Realm as you could just, I don’t know, go through the open window?). Finally, Link meets up with Zelda again, just as before, but no one says anything as the screen freezes and says “The End.”
Majora’s Mask picks up essentially right where Ocarina leaves off. The game mentions that Link is in search of an old friend, and while the friend is never explicitly named, it’s implied that he’s looking for Navi. Also, he’s a kid again, which just adds to the strangeness. And beyond that, he’s riding Epona, something that’s truly baffling seeing as how he couldn’t ride her in Ocarina of Time while he was a kid.
His search for Navi is halted by the Skull Kid, and thus begins the first reason why Majora’s Mask is so great: It is able to appropriate characters from Ocarina and flesh them out far more than they were originally portrayed. This is the main reason that, looking back, I’m just amazed at what Majora tried to pull off. The characters from Ocarina were wonderfully detailed and full of personality, but so few of them were ever used for anything more than just little NPC’s in towns to make them feel a bit fuller. Shopkeepers are simply shopkeepers with no story or history to them whatsoever. But story is where Majora takes over and shows the entire series how it’s done.
Just about every character has a story that Link can discover. Character models from Ocarina of Time appear in Majora’s Mask with actual motivation and, at times, tragic stories to tell. Anju, merely a character present to ask you to collect her chickens in order to earn a bottle during Ocarina, now has a story that lasts the entirety of Majora where her fiancé has gone missing and her life is spiraling into depression as a result. You can almost tell that Ocarina’s development team liked this batch of characters so much that they decided to set MM in an alternate dimension just so that the characters could be used again in a game that let them breathe.
However, we can’t talk about Majora’s Mask without mentioning the aspect that a lot of people can’t get past: The whole game is on a time limit. The Skull Kid, being in possession of Majora’s Mask, is causing the moon to slowly fall. That gives you three days to stop it from crushing Clock Town and destroying the land of Termina completely. During gameplay you can see a little clock at the bottom of the screen alerting you to how much time you have left, though it is possible to control time a little bit using the Ocarina of Time, which Zelda has given to you since you left Hyrule. You can play the Song of Time to go back to the beginning of the first day, play the Song of Double-Time to jump ahead 12 hours, and the Song of Reverse Time to slow the clock down to a crawl.
As a result of the clock being ever diligent, the game feels that much harder, plus, you can’t just save wherever you want, another aspect that adds to the difficulty. A certain amount of planning must be taken to accomplish anything in the game, especially side quests, a Zelda mainstay. Instead of just deciding to go exploring, you have to be aware of the time to ensure that you won’t have your adventuring cut short unexpectedly. Hunting for Rupees is great, but if you don’t have enough time to get back to the bank and deposit your money before teleporting back to dawn of the first day, then you’ve just wasted your efforts (item quantities and story-specific items are stripped from you whenever you go back in time).
Thankfully, the game gives you a handy journal that lists 20 different people around the land that are in need of your help, along with time-specific plot points mapped out so that you know when and where to be. Some of these are rather simple, such as just being in the right spot at the right time in order to meet someone and get a new mask. Others, like Anju and Kafei’s plot, require the entirety of the three days to resolve.
Oddly, while one of Majora’s strength is taking aspects of Ocarina and going further with them, another one of its strengths is doing away with Ocarina’s conventions entirely. Actually, a lot of Zelda conventions get thrown out the window with the main game consisting of just four dedicated dungeons rather than the standard eight or Ocarina’s nine (counting Ganon’s Tower). This means a lot of time is spent in between the dungeons learning more about the world and the characters involved. Also, neither Zelda nor Ganondorf play important roles at all, with Ganon being entirely absent. And despite this smaller number of dungeons, it still takes me longer to play through Majora’s Mask than Ocarina of Time.
The truly quirky thing about MM is how all of the wonderful things I’m saying would probably be false had OoT not preceded it. Majora built upon everything Ocarina started. They’re really just a continuation of one another, but the saddest part is how the core of the story- Link searching for Navi- is never resolved. In fact, The Wind Waker goes so far as to say that Link never returned to Hyrule, suggesting Link failed in his task.
Everything about Majora’s Mask is steeped in darkness, but not the kind of darkness that feels spooky for the sake of spooky. Nope, Majora’s Mask has the ability to be just a bit “off” to the point that the subtle creepy things are that much more powerful. Also, FREAKING GHOST CARTRIDGES!
There are a number of ways to play Majora’s Mask at this very moment. It originally came out on the N64, but it was ported to the GameCube in the Legend of Zelda Collections’ Edition disc and is also on the Wii’s Virtual Console. I’m still hoping for a 3DS remake, but I’ll get into that more once my full review of Ocarina of Time’s remake is completed.
And there you have it; I’m all done with Majora’s Mask. Have you played this one? And if so, did you like it or not? Leave a comment and let me know. Otherwise, without friends, someone might go a little crazy and try to crash the moon into a city, and we all know that someone is me.