Super Adventures is teetering on the precipice of becoming four years old, and it's become a tradition for me to use each anniversary as an opportunity to look back at five or six of the games I played back in the earliest days of the site and give them another try. Traditions are boring though, so this year I'm only replaying a single game, the latest one, and I'm putting it up on the wrong day.
You could argue that I didn't really give Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask a fair chance last time, but I wouldn't bother because I'd only end up agreeing with you. I mean what could I say in my defence, that quitting before I'd even encountered the defining mechanic of the game was justified because I was bored?
It's a game about fighting through dungeons, earning masks, and rewinding time, and I didn't get far enough on my first try to do any of that. I played hide and seek and lost, and then a moon fell on me, the end. But I figured it'd be thematically appropriate to give it a second look, in the hope that we can both do better this time around. I was actually thinking of scheduling this for three days ago as well, but then that would've just been confusing.
Majora's Mask is the sequel to Ocarina of Time, and there's been some refinements made to the gameplay, such as the removal of the in-menu save game option. There's no way to permanently save the game without rewinding time and throwing most of my progress away, and no way to do that without my ocarina. I'm not sure yet how this can possibly be an improvement, but I am willing to be open minded here.
There ain't no way I'm willing to replay this a third time though, so the second I hit anything that even slows me down I'm opening up a walkthrough.
I know exactly where to find this thing this time though, so I can grab it and race to the fountain without a moment's delay.
I know I can’t use your weird Deku flower launch pad, you told me that the first time around! Which I guess is the only time around seeing as I haven’t found a way to rewind time yet, but whatever! I still shouldn’t be forced to sit through unskippable cutscenes in a game about replaying the same day. Blah blah, you're not going to move until I give you a thing, yes I know all this already.
And why is the pace of this game so slow in Clock Town anyway? Every time I travel through an area transition and visit a new part of town the game takes the opportunity to show off a nice slow panning shot of it. The presentation is saying ‘chill out, take it all in’ when I’m actually in a real hurry here.
Why I want to go to the observatory I've no idea. It's possible someone told me to go there, but I honestly don't remember. It's the only place I can go though, so I'm going there.
Achieving this goal triggered a rock to fall from the eye of the moon and land next to the observatory, and the old man who runs the place told me to go check it out. I suppose I might as well, seeing as I've pretty much hit a dead end here. Skull Kid clearly jumped off from his perch, and even if he's still hanging around near the top of the tower just out of sight, I can't climb up there to face him!
ONE TRIP OUTSIDE TO GRAB A MOON ROCK LATER.
Oh damn, I've just figured this out. The guy who interrupted me earlier with the unskippable cutscene wanted a Moon's Tear before he'd get off the Deku flower, and that's what I've just picked up! I should've figured this out earlier, but I was pissed off that he locked me into a cutscene I'd already seen and tried to skip past his text boxes as quickly as possible.
Anyway the Deku flower he's sitting on is the key that'll get me inside the clock tower, as I can use it to fire myself in to the air like a cannon, and then simply hover over to the door!
The day/night cycle only lasts around 10 minutes, but that's still 20 minutes of waiting.
It’s unskippable by the way, and I had to watch it four times before I reached midnight. Fortunately it's impossible to watch him dance too long and let the moon drop on all our heads, as the scarecrow eventually notices how screwed they are and makes a run for it. Somehow.
Now I just have to Deku flower myself back over to the clock tower door and wait until midnight.
LATER, AT MIDNIGHT.
Well I suppose I could shoot him with a bubble, but that’s not really likely to sway the battle in my favour.
Well she hasn't really shown up, as this is actually just a flashback to when she taught Link the Song of Time. Which is handy seeing as there’s less than five minutes now until the moon comes crashing down on top of us and Link's powerless to do anything to the Skull Kid in his current transformed state besides spit on him some more.
I play the notes shown on screen, and Link is sucked into a time vortex.
Anyway, the mask salesmen teaches him a new song which transforms him back and seals the power to become a Deku tree creature into a mask, so that he can change back and forth at will from now on. Then he asks him to return the Skull Kid's mask as well, as promised.
Okay, what am I doing now? Well Tatl (my helpful fairy) suggests that now that I have my sword back I should leave town and go south to the first dungeon, but I remember both the Great Fairy and the Bomber kids mentioning that I should go speak to them again when I'm human to get some extra stuff from them.
Oh shit, that means I have to go play hide and seek again because everything I've done has been reset! At least this time I have the ocarina with me, so I can play the Song of Time backwards to slow down the passage of time and delay the moon's arrival. Days are slower after the first cycle anyway, giving me about an hour 'til the moon falls, but the inverted Song of Time increases that deadline to three hours. Weirdly it only slows the day/night cycle and the descent of the moon, while the rest of reality keeps on going like normal.
ONE RETURNED FAIRY FRAGMENT LATER.
Wait... there's MORE of these things I need to find? Welcome to the Donkey Kong 64 era of game design I guess. Well I hope the others are optional, as I am done playing hide and seek in this now.
Oh shit, no I'm not, I still have to find those five Bomber kids again!
10 MINUTES OF DESPAIR LATER.
I decided to check the walkthrough to see if it's possible to get the journal without playing hide and seek again and yeah it actually is. If you give them the code you got from the first time through, then they're impressed and hand the notebook over without any messing around. Which would've been nice to know 10 minutes ago.
Okay, whatever, I'm done with all these people now. I'm heading south to the swamp, and adventure!
PART TWO: THE SWAMP AND ADVENTURE.
Zelda music out here (youtube link)! That's the classic Zelda 1 overworld music I think, and it's really nice to hear it. Mostly because it reminds me of Super Smash Bros.
The game really has been putting me in a miserable mood so far, but getting out here has cheered me up a bit, even if it's just a tiny field leading to a swamp.
Oh, I ran into Tingle again just after this, but of course he’s never met me so I had to sit through the same dialogue as last time. I eventually got him to had over a map of the next area for my hard-scavenged rupees and left him to carry on doing whatever it is he does. Cartography I imagine.
I like this system of switching between masks to access different sets of abilites, but I kinda feel bad when I do it because of all the screaming.
I haven't shown any screenshots of enemies so far, as they haven't been anything more than a occasional distraction to me, but there's some annoying spinning turtle things here in the maze... that I'm just walking around. There's no point going out of my way to attack enemies as beside from the occasional health restoring heart pick up I gain nothing from it. There's no XP in this, no skills to train, no crafting materials to harvest. One of them might have dropped a rupee earlier, but I'm not exactly hurting for them.
I left the maze via the convenient exit and found a nearby hag shop that offers potions, but now I gotta do the monkey maze again now. A reasonable game would've opened up a shortcut after the first run through!
Actually I think I'll use the time reset song to save, and then take a break as I'm getting sick of this again and I don't want to play it while I'm frustrated.
WAIT, NO, FUCK! Resetting time only saves some of the things I've collected, not the state of the world, and it puts me back in Clock Town! Why couldn't I have remembered that 2 seconds earlier? See, this is why I shouldn't play games when I'm frustrated! Well at least I get to keep the fairy mask and the Bombers notebook (though I forgot to bank the rupees).
Off to the monkey maze again then.
SEVERAL MINUTES AND A COUPLE OF EVENTS LATER.
Actually this Deku Palace infiltration isn’t so bad I suppose, though it’s not so great either. The enemies are too small for me to be able make out which way they’re facing so I’m stuck judging the direction of their cone of vision by the path they're patrolling. But it's working out so far.
At the end of the route I found a hole leading down to an underground cavern with a guy selling magic beans, which isn't exactly what I came to the Deku Palace for, but whatever. Magic beans have never led to anything bad in a fantasy story, so I didn't see the harm in taking a few. And now I'm in a cave at the far end of a stealth level, waiting for Tatl to tell me what to do next. Actually fuck that, I'm checking the walkthrough.
The walkthrough told me to go back through the base, get outside, and then make my way around the palace wall to the right until I found a square of soft soil to plant my magic bean in. I added a drop of spring water I'd brought in my potion bottle, and watched as my very own moving platform grew up before my eyes! Man, plants are creepy.
I can use the Deku flowers growing on the floating platfoms to fire myself up into the air and then hover for a bit using these hand-held flower petal rotor blades, so I'm trying to make my way from Deku flower to Deku flower without falling down into the stealth level below, while nasty Deku things shoot at me the whole way. Fortunately I can use my mask to turn into nasty Deku thing myself and shoot back. I just hope I have enough magic spit to spit them all to death, as they’re sitting on the Deku flowers I need to continue hovering across the stage.
But of course I'm still me, so after making it through the entire palace I messed up my landing on one of the very last flowers and slipped down to the floor. So I had to walk back and try it again from the start. THEN I MESSED UP IN THE EXACT SAME PLACE ON MY NEXT ATTEMPT. It was at this point that I muted the music and put a podcast on.
Doing things all over again is basically the theme of this game, and there's no way to just quit and walk away for a bit because saving would require a time reset that erases all my progress. Eventually though I did make it through to the end of the Deku Palace for real and learned the Song of Awakening! Then they kicked me out.
Anyway I'm off to the first dungeon now! I've received a mission from a monkey held captive in the Deku Palace to go purify the water and save the captured Deku Princess. I couldn't even rescue the monkey though, so I don't know how much use I'm going to be against a real enemy.
save point, but to use it I have to quit playing as well, and reloading deletes the save. Why can I only make a temporary save at these ultra-rare owl statues? I gain zero advantage in gameplay from being able to save and turn the game off whenever I feel like, so it just seems like they're being awkward for the sake of it. Still I suppose it could've been worse: the Japanese version doesn't let you make temporary saves at all.
The owl statues do have another, more sensible use though: if I play the song of eternal space/time friendship I can teleport directly to any statue I've activated. So if I rewind time now and save, I can return here instantly without doing all that hag healing/Deku flower crap! It's tempting, just to get the spectre of possible crashes off my back, but I'll keep going. After all, I'm finally up to the entrance to the first dungeon... if it crashes in the next 10 minutes I can say I've seen enough and happily walk away!
PART THREE: BEYOND THE FARTHEST OWL
It seems I'm up to the bit where I can collect more stray fairy fragments now, but there’s 15 of the things in here so I’m really hoping it’s optional.
Oh hang on, these Deku flowers launch me into the air like a cannon… so if a spinning turtle just happens to be on top of the flower when I hit the fire button, they’re the ones who are going to come off worse from the collision! You know, the game is starting to grow on me now, now that I'm engaging in a bit more of the ol' traditional Zelda dungeon crawling. I guess some traditions aren't so bad after all.
I don't want to sound like I'm whining about the having to hover between platforms, because I'm not. I'm actually whining about having to walk back and do it again every time I inevitably screw it up. The hovering isn't the hard bit, it's getting the landing right, as I only get a small square to drop down onto and I'm finding it hard to tell if I'm above it. It's so frustrating to lower myself down, only to disappear behind the flower platform because I misjudged the depth.
I'm a little concerned to be honest, as I'm terrible at boss fights in general, and even worse when I can't turn the camera.
I was expecting to have to master the timing and figure out his patterns, but this fight was over with in seconds after I charged at him and hacked away at him with my sword. Now I’ve got myself a hero bow to assign to one of my C buttons! This room's a dead end, so the bow must be the key to get me further into the dungeon, but I don't recall seeing anything along the way that obviously needed an arrow in it. I'm going to have to backtrack and keep my eyes open.
Also thank fuck, I’ve activated some ladders so if I fall down now I won’t have to replay all of that again.
And look, there's a convenient Deku flower right next to him... I think I may know what to do here.
Now that he's been thrown from his ride he's scurrying around on the ceiling, so with a bit of luck I should be able to switch back to regular Link and shoot him off with an arrow!
Man I'm starting to think that 27 arrows aren't going to be enough for this job. The boss drops new arrows every time I fire myself up from a Deku flower and hit him, but with Link's aim I don't think infinite arrows are going to be enough either (and without a crosshair my manual aiming is even worse).
You know what's most annoying about this though? Having to switch between Deku Link and Link Classic every time he gets back on his turtle and I knock him off again. Mask goes on, mask comes off, mask goes on, mask comes off.
100,000 ARROWS LATER.
Boss Key? You mean… that boss wasn’t the boss? He definitely felt like he could've been.
Okay, so now I just have to remember where I've seen a golden lock on a door, and then I can get this dungeon finished off. Or get Link finished off. Either way I'll be finished with this soon enough.
On the other hand, I kind of want to drag this ordeal out longer because there's a door with a gold lock up there, and I'm hesitant to find out what's waiting for me on the other side of it. Those that don't see dungeons through to the end are doomed to repeat them though, so let's get this over with.
I'm supposed to be taking part in an epic struggle against Masked Jungle Warrior ODOLWA… but to be honest all I see are moths. Every time I stop to fire an arrow at the boss, I’m interrupted by moths. Every time I try to charge up a spin attack to swipe the moths away, I’m interrupted by moths!
Fortunately the other enemies spawned by the boss are dropping hearts, so I’m at least keeping my tiny health gauge topped up here.
A message helpfully popped up mid-fight to tell me that I have 36 game hours remaining, which is good because it means I still have half my time left, but bad because if anyone can take 36 hours to kill a boss, it's me. It also means that if I hadn't used that song to slow down time earlier, I would've been hit by the moon 30 real life minutes ago and gotten another game over. And 29 minutes ago I would've begun digging a hole to Australia through my desk using only my forehead.
I'm getting into a routine now of shooting him with an arrow, and then getting a few hits in with the sword while he's stunned. There's Deku flowers and throwable bombs scattered around the room so it seems I have other options here, but I don't see the point in over-complicating things now that he's gotten bored with blocking everything. If I give him an inch he'll just send more moths out at me.
Oh plus I purified the poisoned swamp water and saved the Deku Princess, but that really makes no difference in the long run as there is no long run. Unless this guy stays dead in all timelines... I dunno, I might have to check that.
Well I could figure this out myself, but I can’t be bothered, so I’m checking a walkthrough.
And the walkthrough says… USE AN EMPTY BOTTLE? Are you fucking kidding me? Use a potion bottle to contain a woman as big as Link is, that's the actual solution? I guess I really couldn’t have figured this out myself. Though I’m sure Tatl would’ve suggested it eventually.
Fortunately it was only a short journey to deliver her back home to the Deku Palace after this and they gave me a new mask as a reward! Well they gave me an opportunity to race a guy to receive the mask anyway, which I'm going leave for now. Will it still be there after I reset time? Who knows, but I'm turning this off after it's saved so I don't care much either way.
Shit, I forgot to bank my 99 rupees before turning back time to save!
My theory was correct: Majora's Mask IS a better game when you get up to the bit where the gameplay happens! I got sick of hovering between flowers pretty quickly, which was a bit of a shame considering how much of it you have to do, but when I reached the dungeon I found I was playing it more because I wanted to than because I felt I had to. I was going through completing rooms and collecting gear, instead of skipping through dialogue boxes and then having no idea where to go next, and it turns out that makes a lot of difference..
I still haven't really gotten into helping folks out and completing side-quests yet, but I can tell already that Majora's Mask cares about its characters and wants players to care too, which isn't a bad thing at all... except for when I want them to shut up and let me get on with stuff! Like, I'd rewound time, escaped certain death, made it out of town and reached the overworld at last; the classic Zelda music was playing, I had the freedom to go anywhere, and the game almost immediately put the brakes on that to show me a flashback about how the fairies became friends with Skull Kid! I'm sure this insight into the character will pay off later, but I was in no mood to hear it at that point.
Also I hated having to get so much of the game done before I could unlock the option to save at owl statues! Being able to teleport to them was a nice feature to have though, when I finally got the option. In fact there's been quite a few times where the game was nicer to me than I expected, especially times when I fell in the water and found myself teleported back to the shore. Dead enemies often left behind healing hearts and ammo, I didn't feel like I had to grind for money, and the deadline became a lot more bearable when I was able to slow time down to a third.
So guess my final opinion on Majora's Mask, is that it was way more bearable when I had a guide to follow and I didn't have to figure out things like where to plant the magic beans or what to carry the princess in. But I'm happy enough to stop playing it now.
Next time: Super Adventures Year Five kicks off with a month of... you'll find out.