It's funny how the launch of the PS2 puts Nintendo's game development philosophy in perspective. I would trade all of the PS2 launch titles for one copy of Majora's mask. Period.
Zelda is gaming perfection.
By the way, I will preface this review by stating that my experience with Zelda doesn't go beyond Ocarina of Time. I was a Genesis fan, folks. Yet what a baptism, eh? Ocarina of Time as my first Zelda game!
One aspect of this title that truly fascinates me is the game's play on TIME. This game is truly a sequel because of its unique spin on the concept of TIME. Ocarina of Time had a day and night system and an adult vs. young link dichotomy that encouraged long days and even weeks of exploration throughout the world of OoT; Majora works time much differently. In Majora's Mask, you're trying to save a town while caught in a loop of three days that repeat over and over. This repetition is anything but boring. What it allows you to do is really investigate the world of Termina and Clock Town to the fullest!
The truly perverted thing is that Majora's unique play on TIME makes it a true sequel to Ocarina. Both titles are similar in ways but also incredibly different, mostly because of the play on TIME. Why is this perverted? Because I've never played a sequel that made me realize how great the original was, while exerting itself as an incredible title in its own right. Let me put it this way: Majora enthralled me to such an extent that I started a new file in Ocarina and began playing the two games side by side.
I don't care what genre of gaming you enjoy, you should get Majora's Mask. It's fast paced, with a stack of other outstanding elements that make it a champion, much like its predecessor.
The environments are incredible. Much like the first time I looked over the world in OoT, I was blown away at the distances you can see in this title. Each area of the world that you go to has a unique visual feel. Great work.
Z-targeting makes a return and demonstrates once again why it is such a vital element of 3D gaming. The one complaint that I have with it, though, is that sometimes you get stuck behind a wall and you can't see the darned action. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.
The menus will look familiar to you and so will some of the environments, but the cutscenes for events like playing the Song of Soaring or when you put a mask on is very well done! There are some cool motion blur effects and other goodies working in these visual highlights that are definitely a treat.
Working from the basis of the excellent OoT graphics engine, Majora isn't a vast departure, but there are some nice subtle additions here that really spruce up the game. BTW, OoT looked incredible as it was, so emulating it isn't such a bad thing!
The one element that perhaps suffers a little is the midi scoring of the game. If youíve ever listened to the soundtrack CD of OoT youíd know what I mean. The music is a little bland in its arrangement. Of course, the score isnít meant to overload the game, but a bit richer sounding instrumentation would have been great here.
Aside from the sound of the music, the cool thing about the soundtrack is that it is interactive, as with many other N64 gems. For instance, when you approach danger, the patented danger score with what sounds like a clarinet warns you of your trouble. Very nice. Also, the familiar overworld theme makes its return in this game.
As if the integration of music into the theme of OoT wasnít brilliant enough, the interaction via the different instrumentation in Majora is brilliant. Music and audio isnít just about sound effects and background music in this game. Music is part of the game!
Typical heroic fair right? Wrong. As I mentioned in the introduction of this review, you are destined to repeat three days leading up to the Clock Town festival (and lunar crash) over and over until you get it right! Donít expect this concept to be incredibly repetitive and boring. Just the opposite. Because you work within this frame, you learn to keep track of characterís schedules, events and general mastery of certain dungeons much more fully than in OoT. You see, with OoT there was a free form exploration that featured a day/night young/adult play on time. Yet with Majora, time IS the theme of the game as you race against the clock and work within the frame of three days. Itís brilliant, really, and it keeps the action much more focused, direct and to the point.
There are a bunch of side tasks to tackle, 24 masks to acquire, dungeons to conquer, people to meet, beasts to slay, problems to solve, cattle to save, trees to chop down... hey, this is a Zelda game. Itís bad ass alright.
If you played OoT, youíll be right at home here with the return of Z-Targeting and several weapons including, your trusty bow, Lens of Truth, and more. Some of the real innovation in gameplay comes from donning the masks and characteristics of other beings within the world youíre in. For instance, the Zora hits mach speed underwater, as Deku Link you shoot snot bubble at enemies, and so on. This really extends the gameplay by allowing you to try out all of your different transformations in different situations to see if the results change.
One of the cooler things about the game is getting your schedule book and trying to solve the problems of twenty different people. Remember that Zelda titles arenít about linear gameplay. They are about exploration and journey, so get involved in the side tasks and revel in their challenges.
Great game. Great Gameplay.
Don't be concerned about the repetition of the three days. You won't get bored. In fact, you'll be motivated to master the time frame and investigate it for all its worth. This game may look, sound, and even smell like OoT, but they are two different titles altogether. I know this sounds like more of a clichť than saying "it's great" but I have to say it... donít miss this title!
If youíre wondering why I didnít give Majora an 10 like I gave OoT, it's akin to the same reasoning that IGN64.com used. Innovation. While the tweaks on the gameplay, instruments, and time are all incredibly unique, the game is still based on the masterwork-- Ocarina of Time, which didnít just break new ground but shattered it. Besides, there's nothing wrong with being perfect, is there?