Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64)

Developer:Nintendo|Release Date:2000|Systems:N64

Today on Super Adventures it’s the very last and final game of my year long alphabetical gimmick event: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask! I couldn't finish off the alphabet without the biggest 'Z' in gaming; the entirety of the ‘Majora’s Mask’ text is taking up about 1.3% of the pixels in that title screen, while the ‘Z’ on its own covers a massive 3.4%! Anyway after this game I’ll be free to play whatever I feel like and I never have to worry about titles again... until I come up with some other dumb idea.

I don't really like talking about these Zelda games to be honest, as I always feel like I'm wrong about them. I've criticised critically acclaimed games before, I'll point out flaws when I see them, but if reviewers were able to measure a game's entertainment value using a universally recognised SI unit, they'd be using kiloZeldas. This series sets the standard that other games are judged against, and if any professional reviewer were to give them a low grade, people would likely consider them to be at fault. I say likely, because I can't even find one single truly negative review for a 3D era Zelda on metacritic.

But I’ve put a few hours into Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time now and I walked away from each of them unimpressed. I’m not going to say they’re bad games, and I’m definitely not about to start throwing about words like ‘overrated’, but either I’m immune to their charms or they sure take their time getting to the good bit. So I’m coming into Majora’s Mask with zero nostalgia and a little bit of apprehension. I’ll give it an hour or so to win me over, I’m here to learn, not to hate, but there’s a fair chance this is going to end in tears and you should adjust your own expectations accordingly.

The game begins with Link, the Hero of Time and saviour of Hyrule, sitting on a wall.

And now he's sitting on a bench, watching the camera slide on by.

In fact he's finding places to sit all over this town he's in, and I'm starting to get the impression that he's waiting on me to press Start.

Oh man, that is not what you want to see when you look up at night

Now I’m wondering if they etched that face with lasers, or whether they sent up some astro-fairies in a tiny spaceship to carve it out with bombs and teeny little pickaxes of the course of several months. It was probably just done with magic wasn’t it? How dull.

Well that was a minute or so well spent watching Link sitting on things, but I should really start this up now.

In the land of Hyrule, there echoes a legend. A legend held dearly by the Royal Family that tells of a boy…
A boy who, after battling evil and saving Hyrule, crept away from the land that had made him a legend…
A hero who ended up getting surprised by a pair of asshole fairies in the woods and thrown from his horse, hitting the ground with enough force to be knocked out cold. And now they're rummaging through his stuff.

The fairies are hanging around with this colourful masked thief who wastes no time helping himself to Link’s magic ocarina from the last game. Hey, that means this is a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time! I honestly didn’t know that.

And this guy doesn’t know that the Hero of Time just woke up and now he’s standing behind him, looking pissed. It’s on now.

Or not, as the cheeky bastard just scurried off and stole Link’s horse as well!

Link runs over and grabs hold of the guy's leg, getting dragged through the trees for a while until he’s eventually flung aside.

Well at least he left me with my sword and shield. And my green hat of course, that’s important.

The game’s given me control now and they seem to be the same controls as Ocarina of Time. The left stick moves me around and the right stick… well, it doesn’t use a right stick, it’s a Nintendo 64 game, so the camera is at the mercy of capricious whims of fate for the most part. Those circles on the top right are basically the face buttons of an N64 controller, showing what item I have assigned to each, which isn’t a whole lot right now but I’m sure that’ll change soon enough.

They’ve taken my mini-map from the last game away, but it seems fairly obvious which way to go here, seeing as there’s only one exit in front of me.

He does mid-air flips when he jumps now, that's awesome. Or maybe he always did this, I can’t remember. One thing that’s definitely stayed the same is that there’s no jump button. I can only get him airborne if I walk off the edge of a ledge, which sends him leaping off. It's a pretty smart way of handling it I reckon, seeing as it removes the risk of accidentally slipping off or jumping too soon; though I’d appreciate it a lot more if I had better control of which way he’s facing.

Hang on, something’s just occurred to me: how did the thief in the mask get my horse all the way up these steps? Did the fairies air-lift it?

I've caught up to him already! I was expecting to have to fight through a dungeon to catch up, but the three of them were just floating around near the entrance. Wait, three of them? Where’s the horse?

Holy shit, he killed Epona? What a bastard! I didn’t play far enough to get the horse in Ocarina of Time, and now I don’t get to ride it in this either.

So what’s next, tutorial boss fight?

Oh, he’s using the untold magical energies of the mask to summon a dungeon’s worth of enemies for Link to face. Everything goes blurry as the room is filled with plant monsters, who surround Link and force him to run.

Then the nightmarish haze clears to reveal…

…that he’s turned Link into a creepy sad-faced puppet man!

The kid in the mask has had his fun now, and disappears off through the door behind him with his fairy henchmen. One of them anyway, as the other, Tatl, finds herself accidentally trapped on the other side with a very pissed off wooden Link. Well this is awkward.

Man, this is such a better opening than Ocarina of Time. I’ve only been playing it for five minutes and already I have a motivation to get through this dungeon, a proper arch-nemesis and a question I want answered (is Epona really dead?), and even though this fairy has been an active antagonist up to this point, she’s still far less annoying than Navi so far. And I don’t even have to cut up bushes looking for 40 rupees before they’ll let me continue this time around!

Tatl and Link decide that they’ll have a better chance of finding the mask guy if they stick together (well Tatl decides, Link can’t actually talk) and by pure coincidence it turns out that being turned into a strange tree creature has given Link the exact ability he needs to escape this cave! By standing on a certain type of plant and holding a button I can catapult him into the air, twirling two flowers like helicopter rotor blades to hover between platforms! I’m missing proper camera controls even more now though, as it’s kind of awkward trying to get him facing the right way before take-off.

You've met with a terrible fate haven't you?
The plot thickens. It turns out that the Skull Kid with the mask actually stole it from the proprietor of the Happy Mask Shop, who’s been following Link for whatever reason. He’s bloody good at it too, seeing as he’s carrying half his shop inventory on his back right now and still managed to not only keep up with a guy on horseback, but also get ahead of him.

Bizarre ‘between the legs’ shot there.

The mask trader knows how to turn Link back to human, but first he needs both Link’s stolen ocarina and his stolen mask. Or maybe he’s actually referring to Link’s horse here, it’s a bit vague. The catch is that I need to get it done fast, as he’s going to be leaving in a few days. In fact I have exactly 72 hours to get it done, with the timer starting the moment we’re done talking.

Well that’s ominous.

Wow, I was not expecting those caves to lead straight into the centre of town. This is a proper 3D location too, not a few doors along a pre-rendered background like Hyrule Castle Town was in Ocarina of Time.

One of these people must have seen where the man in the Majora’s Mask went, but sadly Link is a silent protagonist so I can’t ask any of them. Fortunately Tatl knows about a Great Fairy who lives in the shrine near the North Gate and can surely help us find the Skull Kid. There’s just one small problem with that plan though: I have no idea which way north is.

I’ve got a world map, but all that tells me is that’s misty outside and I knew that already. Seems that I’m going to have to just keep walking the streets until I stumble across this shrine.


I've reached North Clock Town! The text just popped up on screen as I entered this area. It’s not a huge level, barely bigger that what you’re seeing here, so now I just have to try every exit until I run into this fairy.

This... isn’t what I want to hear. The Great Fairy was supposed to help me with the masked Skull Kid, not ask me for help! Also is that really what the fairies look like close up? Damn, no wonder they choose to appear as glowing balls of light.

The Great Fairy can only reform when she’s back in one piece, but part of her has strayed off into town and gotten lost and now I have to find her! So my first quest in town is to search the streets for a stray fairy? Seriously? But… why? How is this any fun at all?

With my three day timer very much on my mind, I raced out of the fairy shrine and immediately ran into this guy outside selling maps. Fortunately I attacked a few bushes along the way out of habit so I actually have the cash to pay him! You know, I’m not sure the game actually ever makes it clear that you get money from attacking bushes, so it's lucky for me I've already played some of the other games.

I didn’t really know much about Majora’s Mask before today, but Tingle I’ve heard of. He’s not the most well liked Zelda character in the West, and I think it might be something to do with the fact that he’s a creepy 35 year old man wearing tights who thinks he’s a forest fairy and yells “Tingle, Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah!” when he’s done talking. He’s totally right though: he basically is the same as Link. If our hero ever recovers from his current creepy tree creature condition you can bet he’ll still be wearing that green Kokiri forest folk tunic well past his thirties.


No fairy in this shop, onto the next… wait, this isn’t a shop. I think I might have wandered into the Clock Town town hall. Oh good, that means even more doors to search.

No fairy inside the Mayor’s office either, just a few Carnival Committee muppets flapping their jaws about not wanting to cancel the carnival just because the moon’s falling.

Hang on, the moon’s falling? That seems like kind of a big deal, how come I’m only learning about this now? Well now I’m even more motivated to get this fairy back together so I can get the fuck out of here!


What’s the code? F U C K Y O U, that’s my code! I’ve searched every bloody building in this town looking for a fairy and if it turns out that these kids have her, then I’m going to… look for the person who has the code I guess.


Aww, I thought these plants were the kind that dropped rupees when I spin-attacked them, so I just pirouetted for nothing. Man it’s getting dark now, I must be running out of day one and I haven’t even reconstituted the Great Fairy yet.

WAIT! There in the background! I can see the stray fairy, it’s right there in the corner on the other side of the water.

Uh? I’ve searched this whole corner of the map now and there’s nothing here. No fairy, no anything; just a locked door, and a guy playing a song from Ocarina of Time. Was it just the fire in the corner that I saw earlier? I’m not sure, but there definitely isn’t a stray fairy here.

That’s a third of my time gone now, and I’m still hunting for a fairy. I’ll tell you one thing this game does well: it’s really good at making me feel like an idiot.

By the way, hours in this are lasting about 30 seconds, so I haven't really been searching town for a full 24 hours. More like 10 minutes.


JIM, I know that name! The kid guarding that doorway mentioned that I’d have to speak to Jim if I wanted the code to get in. I was too busy fairy hunting at the time, but seeing as I’ve ran into him accidentally and I’ve got no other ideas, I might as well see where this path takes me.

Crap, the kid won’t give me the code until I can pop a balloon, which I can’t do yet because I don’t have a blowpipe, bow, or anything else that can fire anything else. The shops around here won’t sell me anything, but there’s one place I haven’t tried yet… the shooting range! Maybe there’s some contest there I can win to get myself a weapon.

Damn, I guess not.

Okay, okay… what would a 10 year old do right now? I’m sure half the people who finished this game played it when they were a pre-teen, so what is my dumb adult brain missing here? I’ve got a finite amount of town here, with a handful of NPCs in it, and all I need to do is find one single glowing fairy.

Alright I know what I’m going to try next. I’m going to search everywhere all over again, and make sure I didn’t miss anything obvious.


The bloody thing WAS in that bottom left corner of the map next to the water, right where I thought I saw it! Hang on, I just need to slam my head down onto my desk a few times.

Hold on a bit longer.

Okay I think I'm done now. Back to the fairy fountain then.

I’ve restored the Great Fairy at last! Now with her incredible power I can catch up with the Skull Kid and get the mask and ocarina off him!

Except no, all that she can offer me is the power to blow bubbles. She tells me to drop by when I get my original form back for another reward, but with the power of bubbles at my command, what else could I possibly need?

Wait, I can use a bubble blast to burst Jim’s balloon and get the code! I’ve no idea how this will benefit me (I admit I may have skipped a line or two of dialogue at some point in frustration), but it’s the best and only plan that I have.


What the fuck Jim? I mean what the FUCK? I shot his balloon but now I have to run around town playing hide and seek with his friends too. So it’s just like the stray fairy quest, except this time I’ve got until dawn to find FIVE things.

And it’s just turned night time.

Come here you lil’ bastard. Get into my sack!

The town isn’t all that big at all, but there’s plenty of corners for people to hide behind, and these guys really don’t want to stand still and be caught. They've got this awkward habit of running down into the area transitions, so when I try to pin them there I accidentally disappear off somewhere else instead.


No, I was too slow! I only had one left to find as well. Now I have to go chat to Jim and start again from the beginning. I’d better hurry too, as I’ve got just 24 hours to get the code, find the Skull Kid, recover my gear, and then get back to the Happy Mask guy… and it took me a day and a half just to find a stray fairy.


Oh shit, how long as that thing been hanging above me? I figured I’d catch sight of it in the sky every now and again, but I actually had to look straight up before I could see it, and man it's kinda hard to miss now.

Still, you think it's bad for the townsfolk, spare some sympathy for the poor moon. He's not going to come away from a direct collision all that happy either and he's got people staring up his nostrils all the way down.

I’ve found four of Jim's friends now, but like last time I’ve still got one left and I’m really running out of time now. The last place I can think to look is this hole in the ground, so I’m going in. I doubt he’s actually in there, but it’s become plainly obvious by now that all my assumptions are wrong, so I’ll just carry on eliminating all the possibilities.

We interrupt this gameplay to show that fireworks are going on outside! Hey, I recognise this tower, this where the caves at the start led to. It was my entrance into the town in the first place.

The cutscene continues to show a second door opening on the floor above the ground entrance, so I know where I’m going next. The town’s plainly doomed with that huge moon coming down on top of it, but if I know anything about sci-fi, this is where I’ll find the time machine that’ll send me 3 days into the past to stop it!

Of course I won't be able to prevent the disaster on my first attempt, it’ll probably take a couple of dozen cycles to sort out, but eventually I’ll learn all I need to know to avert the catastrophe and save the townsfolk in a timely manner, and I can’t do that if Link dies during it.


Oh shit, there's no stairs leading up to the door and Link can’t jump! I don’t have a jump button! C’mon Link, the door’s right there, just climb up! The rumbling’s getting loud now, the ground is really starting to shake, and I’d very much like to be elsewhere if at all possible.

Too late.

Hey, the big evil head is actually tiny! I thought it was a proper moon-sized rock, but no it’s only as wide as Clock Town. Well that’s disappointing. It still obliterates the landscape pretty thoroughly though, and Link along with it. Game over.


Well I can’t even begin to judge Majora’s Mask as a game after that, but do feel quite comfortable saying that the first hour or so was crap.

You might be wondering why I wasted so many screenshots on the town instead of showing what it’s like when you get outside town and have adventures. Well, it definitely wasn’t my original plan, but after an hour or so of play this is all it’s given me to show! The game started with an interesting hook and I was all ready to see where the story led, but then it followed it up with a string of quests I couldn’t be less engaged with, that I can’t imagine anyone being interested in, and then it dropped a moon on me.

I’m bored out of my skull here folks, seriously. The game had its chance, and it blew it.

You've met with a terrible fate haven't you Majora's Mask? But this doesn't have to be the end.

Click here if you want me to turn back time and give the game a replay.

Semi-Random Game Box