Hey Internet, how are you doing? Good, I presume? That's great to hear. I'm not very good with small talk, so let me just cut to the chase: I've been a fan of the Legend of Zelda series for a very long time, with my first game being The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was a change of pace from the usual platformers that I usually played at the time, and while I didn't initally get the hang of it at first, once it clicked for me, I was hooked for life. From then on, I made it a point to play every main game in the series, with a couple of them (specifically Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker) being some of my all time favorite games, alongside the likes of Half-Life 2 and the original Super Mario Galaxy.
But my experince with certain games in the Zelda series hasn't always been pleasant. While there are some games in the series that I absolutely adore (the aformentioned Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker), there have been some games that I've been a bit lukewarm on. Which is pretty common when you have a franchise as big as Zelda, since not everyone is going to like the same thing. But there's one game in the series that I could never get into despite trying numerous times. It's a game that had a bit of a cult following when it first came out, but has since grown in popularity, with many people considering it to be their favorite game in the series. And so Internet, with an enhanced port coming out soon, I come now to confess something that many of you will not agree with.
Internet, my name is GoofierBrute. And I don't like the The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
The face I'm sure many of you are making right now.
Before I go any further down this rabbit hole, I suppose I should probably get something out of the way right now. Despite not liking it, I don't think Majora's Mask is a terrible game. I know that sounds a little contradictory to what I've already said and what I'm about to say, but that's the honest truth. Hell, I wouldn't even call it the worse Zelda game, since that honor belongs to Phantom Hourglass as far as I'm concerned. I'd even go so far as to say that there are some things in Majora's Mask that I actually enjoy quite a bit.
For instance, as much as I love Ocarina of Time for it's story, combat, music, and dungeon designs, I'll be the first to admit the game feels a bit lifeless at times. Don't get me wrong, there are some cool interesting areas like Lon Lon Ranch and the Gerudo Valley, but for the most part the land of Hyrule feels empty and not very interesting, with areas like Hyrule Town feeling like nothing more but window dressing. The denizens of Hyrule don't fare much better, as many of the characters that aren't part of the main story or various side quests come off as forgetable and don't have much in the way of personality. Neither of these problems hurt the overall experince of Ocarina, but they most certainly didn't help. You could chalk this up as being the problem with the Nintendo 64 being not as powerful of system to render such things, and I would agree with you....if it wasn't for the fact that Majora's Mask proved that notion wrong a little more than a year later.
Sure, a lot of the assets of Majora were ripped straight from Ocarina, but that worked in the game's favor, since the team didn't have to spend too much time creating new enviroments and character models, they could take the exisiting ones and give them more detail. Clock Town and the land of Termina were diverse and vibrant, with each area feeling unique and interesting to explore. NPCs who were once forgetable now had names and acted like real people with routines and unique traits. They had likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, and dreams. Some people were close friends with one another, while others were bitter rivals. Getting to know the denizens of Termina and helping them out went a long way to helping you feel immeresed in the game's world.
It's no Morrowind in terms of immersion, but it's pretty damn close.
The story was another aspect of Majora's Mask that impressed me quite a bit. While Ocarina of Time's narrative dealt with themes like growing up, friendship, and finding one's place in an unfamilar world, Majora's Mask's themes focused more on regret, sorrow, mortality, the inevitablity of death and how we as indviduals react when we know the end is coming, in this case the moon falling from the sky and destroying all of Termina. Some characters like Anju (a.k.a. the Cucco Lady from Ocarina who I'm not ashamed to admit was my first gaming crush) accept their fate willingly, while others like the Postman want nothing more than to flee but can't due to various reasons. Watching characters who were once steadfast and heroic on the first day only to turn into broken hysterical messes as the last day was coming to a close was genuinely heartbreaking, and I'd be lying if I didn't say a few of the characters made me get a little teary-eyed, especially when I realized early on that there was no way to save them outside of going back in time to the first day, thus leaving them to their fate. Simply put: Majora's Mask's story and world are absolutely amazing, and for that Majora's Mask should be commended.
So yeah, from a story perspective, Majora's Mask impresses me, and for that I tip my hat to Eiji Aonuma and his team. However, at the same I have to wag my finger at them, since the game has a lot of mechanics and design choices that drive me up the wall. Some of them I've gotten use to over the years, like using the Deku, Goron, and Zora masks to access certain points or a stealth section later on in the game. But there's one part of the game that I've never gotten use and I sincerely doubt I ever will. It's the part of the game that is key to the entire game, and without it, Majora's Mask wouldn't be the same.
I am of course referring to the three day cycle and the manipulation of time.
You guys are making that face again.
At this point, I'm sure a lot of you are skipping to the comments and telling me that I'm wrong while listing all the things that I can do to make it easier, and to you I say: yes, I know. Yes, I know that you can play the Song of Time backwards to slow down time, or play the Song of Double Time to speed things up. Yes, I know that there's a bank to store my Rupees so I don't lose them when I go back to the first day. Yes I know it's really easy to get bombs and arrows on the first day, and that I keep all my key items. Yes I know the Bomber's Notebook keeps a rough schedule of where important NPCs are and what time of day they go about their lives. I get all of that: but you know what? That still doesn't excuse the fact that this mechanic is limiting and goes against the spirit of what the Zelda series is all about.
Let me tell you what I mean; since it's early days on the NES, The Legend of Zelda series biggest gaming hook has always been the idea of exploring a wide world, with some games (like Wind Waker for instance) suceeding at this better than others. At first, Majora's Mask is one of those games that looks like it's going to suceed. And as I said earlier, interacting with the various denizens of Clock Town and exploring Termina is great in and of itself...at first. Before long however, it felt like the game didn't want me to explore the world, instead making it painfully obvious that in order to get far, I'd have to do the various sidequests to get far and obtain new masks. This quickly became a problem when I realized that many of the side quests were timed and that if you missed even one part of it, the entire side quest had to be started from the beginning, meaning going back to the first day and replaying major portions of it again.
Before long, my various playhtroughs went from "oh boy, I can't wait to explore Termina" to "okay this character shows up here at 7 AM, so if I use the Goron Mask's roll ability I should get there with a few minutes to spare", and to me, that's not what Zelda games are all about. When I play a Zelda game, I want to explore the world: play a few mini-games, find treasure, ride around an open field (or sail around in the case of Wind Waker), maybe even attack some Cuccos to see how long I can survive before they kill me (spoiler alert: not very long); in other words, goofing around while the villian does a bad thing. Majora's Mask lets you do stuff like that, but the game isn't designed to be played like, which I know that for a lot of people is fine, but for me it feels like the game is rushing me, and I don't like it when that happens. It doesn't help either that the game can be pretty cryptic at times with what you can do and where you have to go, so unless you know what you're doing or have a walkthrough handy, it's very easy to get lost playing. All of this culminated in various playthroughs where I would fall in love with the game's world, story, music (oh that music), and characters in the beginning of the game before going through a few dungeons, attempting to complete a few sidequests, trying to complete those sidequests AGAIN because I missed an event or did something wrong, before throwing my hands up and thinking "screw this, I'm playing Wind Waker again".
The one thing that stayed consistent with my various attempts to beat Majora's Mask was how creepy the moon is. Because having pleasent dreams is overrated anyway.
And honestly, that's the what frustrates me the most about Majora's Mask. I WANT to love this game, and put it in my top ten games of all time, since there are elements that I absolutely adore. But much like Charlie Brown and the infamous football, just when I'm confident that the game is really good, Majora's Mask pulls it away at the last minute. And that's more frustrating to me than playing a truly terrible game like Sonic '06 as a terrible game I can justify me not liking it because it's just poorly made. Games like Majora's Mask on the other hand make me genuinely question if it's the game that's flawed or if I'm doing something wrong, and let me tell you; that's not a good felling to have.
I know a lot of you are going to read this and disagree wth me or even be mad at me. And I don't blame you for feeling that way; after all, I just dedicated a c-blog talking about how much I don't like what was an important game for a lot of you, and I did it a few days before a highly anticpated remake of said game is set to release. But know that I didn't write this in anger or spite, or to prove a point, but rather out of dissapointment. I get why a lot of you like Majora's Mask and sing it's praises, and I imagine that in some alternate reality I'm having a blast with it aboard my yacht. But as it stands now, I just can't find myself getting into as much as the rest of you, and I'm starting to wonder if I ever will, even with the remake coming out this week.
I guess you could say I've met with a terrible fate, haven't I?