How do you make a sequel better than its predecessor? That question can generate tons of arguments and debates from all kinds of gamers. Do you add new game mechanics, or do you give players just more of the same, but refined and improved? Both options can lead to great sequels, but developers must ask themselves these questions every time they set out to make a sequel. Just recently Nintendo had to make that choice when they made Super Mario Galaxy 2. They cut a few power-ups, and tossed in some new, but the game felt more like Galaxy 1.5 than 2. The game was great, but everything seemed like it came right out of the first title. It’s a tough choice, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Look at Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. It was largely more of the same, and Naughty Dog only had 10 and a half months to complete it, and yet it is the best Crash Bandicoot game by far. But this article isn’t about Crash Bandicoot, so that will have to wait for a later time. Nintendo went a different direction, with a certain 2000 sequel. Instead of making this new Zelda game exactly like Ocarina of Time, they decided to change the way Zelda would be played.
Majora’s Mask broke away from the formula that every other Zelda game had followed. For the first time, a Zelda game would have nothing to do with Ganon. For the first time, a Zelda game on a home console would not be taking place in Hyrule. But Majora’s Mask had many more firsts, and many more changes. In deciding to change their formula, Nintendo created one of the best sequels of all time, and the best Zelda game to date. The argument about whether MM is better than Ocarina of Time rages on, but I will do my best to convince you that MM is superior to OoT in every way possible.
Before I get into the details, here’s the story at the beginning of the game. MM begins with Link searching for an old friend in the lost woods, when he is jumped by the Skull Kid wearing a strange mask. Link chases the Skull Kid through the woods to the new land of Termina with a new threat: the moon is falling out of the sky, and it will impact with the world in 3 days. If only you could control time…
Funny thing about OoT is that the “Ocarina of Time” actually had very little to (nothing) do with time. It is the Master Sword that sends Link forwards or backwards through time. Playing the Song of Time also has no influence on time, as it only changes the location of special blue blocks. Being completely honest, there are more reasons why MM should be called “Ocarina of Time” than there are for Oot being called what it is, with the reason being time.
Unlike in OoT, Link doesn’t have an endless supply of time that he can waste by fishing and riding Epona. He only has 3 days before the moon comes crashing down on Clock Town, destroying everything. As it would turn out, the Ocarina of Time finally and actually can control time. It can speed time up with the Song of Double Time, or slow it down with the Inverted Song of Time. Not only that, but it can send Link back to his first day in Termina at any point in his adventure through the original Song of Time. MM arguably has more of a focus on time than any other game prior or since. Some events in the game could only be completed at a certain time of day, on a certain day. As time flows, the moon looms closer and closer, while the townspeople can’t decide whether to stay or go. However, unlike in every other Zelda game to date, there is actually character development, which means you actually care what happens to them. Through 20 sidequests, you grow to sympathize with the characters, and want to know what they are thinking.
II. SIDEQUESTS AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
All of the information for your sidequests is kept in a special notebook called the Bomber’s Notebook, which is an item that you receive early in the game. Every sidequest revolves around certain characters, and can have multiple parts. The most notable sidequest is the one involving the lovers Anju and Kafei. Under the control of Majora’s Mask, the Skull Kid turns Kafei into a kid again. The two lovers are engaged, but Kafei is afraid to show his face to Anju, so he dons a mask and runs away. If you don’t do anything, Anju will wait til the very end for Kafei to show up, in defiance of the certain death that the moon will bring her. Throughout the days, you can talk to Anju, and she will confess to you how worried she really is about him. Anju’s grandmother reveals that she believes Kafei loved another girl, Cremia, so it is up to you to set things straight. Through a series of adventures that take up multiple days, Kafei and Anju are reunited in the doomed city, ready to be together til the bitter end. Another emotional quest is late in the game, when you need to help a girl’s father that’s been turned into a gibdo. She doesn’t know what to do, and gibdos are circling her house. She’s terrified, and Link is the only one that can give the girl father back. After Link returns him to normal, the girl cries, and runs up to embrace her father. While this is going on, the emotional Song of Healing plays in the background, tugging on your soul.
As the guys over at damnlag will tell you, MM has the best soundtrack out of all the Zelda titles. Earlier this year, they revealed their top 15 Zelda songs, with the top song arguably being the most touching song ever in a Zelda game. “The team that assembled this list agreed completely on only two things going into its formation: 1) Majora’s Mask had the best soundtrack in the Zelda franchise 2) the Song of Healing had to be number one on our list. In a game that emotionally drains the gamer, the Song of Healing is the perfect remedy.” The Oath to Order is another one of the game’s more touching songs. It’s slightly depressing, and gives you the idea of how small you really are in the world, with giants towering above you in the mystical world. MM also features one of the best boss themes since A Link to the Past, with the dungeon boss theme being quick, upbeat and giving you the sense of danger that you were in. The Deku Palace theme is also one of the more memorable tunes from the game. Once you hear it, it will repeat forever in your mind.
To date, only one game has ever made me want to cry, and MM is it. The depressing moments and music come together to create an emotional punch the likes of which hadn’t been seen before. Whether it’s Darmani being welcomed by all of his friends, or Mikau playing with his band one last time, there is always something tugging at your heart in this game. In OoT, you never got to know the characters so you didn’t care what happened to them. You didn’t care that Castle Town had been destroyed and that Kakariko Village was the last city left. All that you wanted to do was defeat Ganon because you knew that he was bad, but didn’t care what he had done. In MM, you wanted to punish Majora for all of the pain that was inflicted upon the denizens of Termina. You were out for revenge. To aid in your revenge, the mask system from OoT had been upgraded and overhauled. Now, they actually could turn you into a Zora, Goron, or Deku kid.
V. MASK SYSTEM OVERHAUL
In OoT, it was possible to wear different masks, but it wasn’t necessary and really didn’t get you anywhere. In MM you put on masks and literally transformed. You could turn into a Goron and trample enemies, a Zora to swim amazingly fast, or a Deku kid to fly. Each transformation had its own moveset and magic abilities. Blowing bubbles, growing spikes, or creating a protective shield were all possible for Link this time around. He could also transform into a giant, make copies of himself, or turn into the Fierce Deity to crush Majora’s Mask with no effort at all. These new options allowed Link to travel faster over the larger Termina landscape with ease, and without the need for Epona. Certain masks were also needed to aid you in sidequests for the Bomber’s Notebook.
VI A NEW, MORE EVIL VILLAIN
I have nothing against Ganon. He is part of the Triforce, and one of the most badass villains Nintendo’s ever made. That being said, I believe Ganon is overused. MM is the only home console Zelda game that had nothing to do with Ganon. Not only that, but really, how evil is Ganon? I don’t think he’s too evil at all. In both ALttP and OoT he allowed people to continue to live in Kakariko Village after he had taken control of the land. Had Ganon truly been the King of Evil, he would have ruthlessly hunted down and killed every last citizen. But that’s not how Ganon is. He wants to rule, and he needs subjects to be the ruler of. Majora’s Mask (the entity) is different. Majora’s Mask is pure evil, and only cares about killing people and inflicting pain. Not only is Majora’s Mask more evil than Ganon, but it is also arguably more powerful. It had the power to pull the moon from orbit, and send it crashing into Termina, which would have killed every living thing.
All of the points mentioned above are valid reasons for the superiority of MM, though the story and improved graphics help too. If you are an OoT fanboy, at least listen to my argument and see what I have to say. I have nothing against Oot, it was a great Zelda game, but every home Zelda since has been better. Someday, hopefully we will see a sequel. One that will have the Fierce Deity as the main character, so it can have its own share of firsts, as MM did. So what game is better and why? And would you be up for a Zelda game where Link wasn’t the main character? Let me know in the comments.