Review: The Legend of Zelda – Majora’s Mask

It’s been a long time coming, but my review of Majora’s Mask is finally here! I last reviewed a Zelda game back in February of this year, when I played through Ocarina of Time. This review also marks an important turning point in my history, as this is my very first playthrough of Majora’s Mask. That’s right, I’ve actually never played this title before! Which is a shame as this game ranks right up there with Ocarina of Time in terms of being a classic N64 title.

Just like with Ocarina of Time, gamers who want to experience this title today essentially have two options. They can either play the original version on the Wii U Virtual Console or they can opt for the slightly modernized 3DS version. For the sake of this playthrough, I spent a little time with both versions and again, I found the new Majora’s Mask 3D to make the most sense. I feel safe in declaring this to be the current Definitive Version of Majora’s Mask. Aside from improved graphics, and some minor button assignments/playcontrol tweaks, the games are virtually identical. The biggest changes between the two versions are a number of revamps to boss fights and some minor changes to item locations, etc. But in most cases, I found these changes to actually be a true improvement on the original game.

Also, I once again find the 3DS version to offer vastly improved playcontrol over the N64 version.  I’ve always had issue with camera control on most Nintendo 64 games, and while Majora’s Mask doesn’t suffer from these problems as bad as Ocarina of Time, the camera controls on the N64 version still feel janky and choppy to me. This is not an issue on the 3DS version.

(Original N64 version – emulated)

Majora’s Mask is a very strange entry in the Zelda franchise. Technically, it’s a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, but it’s much darker that any other entry in the series. Plus, it seemingly takes place in a whole other world; Termina. Yet, this new world is populated with characters that will be familiar to players of the previous games. These inconsistencies have led to several fan theories over the years. Some of which suggest that the events in this game are a dream or perhaps even take place in the afterworld after Link has suffered some untimely demise. However, new games in the franchise have cleared up a lot of the obscurity regarding Termina in recent years. But that’s a story for another day.

The game starts shortly after the events of Ocarina of Time. Link is on a quest to find his missing fairy friend Navi, when he encounters a strange mask-wearing entity in a dark forest. This person, known as Skull Kid, attacks Link and curses him, turning him into a creature known as a Deku Scrub. Link chases the Skull Kid through a cave and into the strange world of Termina. Here, Link runs into an old “friend”, the Happy Mask Salesman. He explains that Skull Kid has stolen a powerful mask that gives him unusual and dangerous powers. The Skull Kid is using this power to bring the moon down from the sky. If he succeeds, the moon with crash to the world killing everyone. All of this will happen within three days. Link must embark on a quest to wake up four powerful giants. The giants together will be able to prevent the moon from making landfall. Only then, will Link be able to confront and defeat the Skull Kid.  Of course, it will likely take much longer than three days to accomplish everything that needs to be done. So, the Happy Mask Salesman teaches Link the ability to manipulate the flow of time.

In a number of ways, Majora’s Mask is very similar to it’s predecessor. The game controls are nearly identical, and the overall style of play is largely unchanged. The biggest change in Majora’s Mask, and what sets it apart of every other game in the franchise is the “three-day” mechanic. As you play the game, time passes in Termina. The game is split over three different days. If the clock runs out on the third day, the moon crashes to the world and the game is over. Link can save himself by playing a special song on his Ocarina and warping back in time to the morning of the first day. However, doing so will cause him to lose some items he’s collected and will reset some in-game events.  Normally, I’m not a fan of these “race against the clock” mechanics. But it’s actually very well done in this game. Plus, as you play you’ll eventually learn new abilities that allow you to both slow and speed-up the clock to your advantage. So, in the end it’s not really a big hindrance.

(3DS version)

As the title suggests, a big part of the game revolves around collecting and using different masks. When Link dons a mask, he gains special abilities or sometimes even transforms into a different person/creature. These mask are key to unlocking new areas and progressing through the game.  The mask system and the “three day mechanic” are the two things that set this title apart from other entries in the Zelda series. Aside from these two mechanics, the gameplay will be very familiar to fans. The core game involves exploring areas, entering dungeons, solving puzzles and defeating bosses. It’s the classic Zelda formula with a new twist. These changes actually manage to make Majora’s Mask a very fresh and unique addition to the series.

When I first started playing this title, I felt a bit overwhelmed. It was certainly Zelda, but it felt tainted… The whole vibe of the game seemed off at first. I can imagine that some players might feel a bit turned off when picking up this game for the first time. The overall mood of the game does not match what most players would expect from a Zelda title. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there… However, after a few hours in, things do start to come together and make a bit more sense.

All in all, Majora’s Mask is another fantastic entry in the Legend of Zelda series. In some ways, I feel like it ended up being a bit of playground for the game developers. A place where they could try new ideas or concepts. It feels very experimental to me. But, that’s actually a good thing. It takes the winning formula that is Legend of Zelda and pumps just enough “funky mess” into it to keep fans from feeling bored.

Difficulty: Medium –  As typical with Zelda games, Majora’s Mask has a one-size-fits-all difficulty level. The game starts off relatively easy and progresses in difficulty as it goes. Most of the challenge in the game comes in the form of various boss fights or solving dungeon puzzles. For a first time player, several of these encounters can be very frustrating at first. But as typical with most games of this type, each battle has certain mechanics. Once learned, these battles become much easier. The new time mechanic adds a little extra layer of difficulty and frustration to this title, but again there are ways to soften the blow that the clock can bring. Players willing to take the time to explore and complete the optional side quests will also have a much easier time.

Story: The storyline here is a big departure from anything seen in the Zelda series thus far. But if you’re willing to really follow the breadcrumbs of lore found in the game, it’s actually quite an in-depth and interesting story. The Skull Kid and his world of Termina are very psychological. There’s a lot of subtle things going on. This game features a storyline that rewards you as richly as you are willing to invest yourself into it.

Originality: This title features the gated/progression style that players familiar with the series are already accustomed to. It also piggybacks off the the 3D elements introduced in Ocarina of Time. What sets this game apart from other titles is the certainly the mood and time limitation mechanics. These two simple things really make Majora’s Mask seem fresh and new, despite building off the foundation laid by Ocarina of Time.

Soundtrack: As is typical with a Zelda title, the music in this game is very well done. There’s familiar themes and melodies found in Majora’s Mask, but also a number of new tunes. The overall score has a more somber and mysterious tone than other games in the series. As one would expect, the game soundtrack is very well done, but in my opinion, it’s far from the best in the series.

Fun: Once you’re able to get your head around the mechanics of the game, Majora’s Mask is an excellent title. Even as a veteran player, it took me a bit of time to grasp and understand what exactly was going on. At first, I was not all that impressed. But as time went on, I found myself stopping and sitting in awe at just how fantastic the game actually was.

Graphics: At the time of its original release, the 3D graphics were state of the art. Majora’s Mask actually required the N64 Expansion Pack so the graphical textures are somewhat improved from that of Ocarina of Time. However, like many games from that era, the 3D graphics found here have not aged well. Playing the original game on the Wii or Wii U virtual console does give it a bit of a visual boost than playing it on the original hardware. For most players, I do recommend the 3Ds version. The graphics on this new version are not only sharper and less jaggy, but many of the textures have also been improved.  – I should also note that when playing 3DS games, I typically don’t play with the 3-D turned on. But like with Ocarina of Time 3D, the 3-D effects in this game were so stunning that I actually spent the majority of my time playing in full 3-D mode. (I played this on the New 3DS which features improved 3-D effects, so your mileage may vary)

Playcontrol: The original N64 version still seems to have some annoying playcontrol issues for me. Playing the original game on the Wii or Wii U Virtual Console nearly requires a Classic Controller, in my opinion. But even then, the game feels very “off”. The controls for the 3DS version are overall well thought-out and intuitive.  Having played this title on every available system, I have to declare that the 3DS offers the best playcontrol of the lot.

Downloadable Content:  N/A

Mature Content: Cartoon violence, dark imagery

Value:  This title is available on the Wii U virtual console for $10. The 3DS version still sells for a premium price of $40. But, even at full price, the game is worth it for fans of the series.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – This game is nearly as perfect as it’s predecessor… but not quite. The best aspect of the game is also, oddly enough, it’s worst. The time-gated content and the funky vibe the game offers may actually put-off some players. Especially at first. I suppose my biggest caveat to this game is that it’s not a good Zelda title for first time players. But fans of the series should never pass up a chance to experience this title. It’s a valuable entry in the franchise. The game itself is right on par with Ocarina of Time as far as craftsmanship. It’s just… odd.

Available on: Wii and Wii U virtual console,  Nintendo 3DS

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: The Legend of Zelda – Link’s Awakening

563277_28963_front-5B1-5D

Next up we have the first portable Zelda title, Link’s Awakening. Originally released on the Game Boy and then re-released (with improved graphics) for the Game Boy Color, this is a game that spent a lot of time with when I was younger.

For this title, we play another version of Link as he explores the mysterious island of Koholint. This makes the game unique as it is the first Zelda game to take place outside of the Kingdom of Hyrule.  In many ways, this game looks and plays very similarly to a Link to the Past, but also features several unique features. One of the most obvious changes is Link’s ability to jump. This is something that is a first for an overhead Zelda game.

thCAP55L9Ascreenshot-gameboy-color-legend-of-zelda-the-links-awakening-dx-3-5B1-5D
   Comparison of original and DX version

 

One of the biggest drawbacks of the original title is the graphics. In many ways, the game features excellent art for a classic Game Boy game, but many players felt that the screen was too “busy” and lacked fine details and definition, and the game suffered as a result. Thankfully, the re-release fixes many of these complaints. The use of color made obstacles and environmental details much clearer.

Another feature of the DX version is a new dungeon that does not appear in the original game. Naturally, this dungeon takes advantage of the GBC new color feature to present the player with color-based puzzles.

To me, the game is very enjoyable but occasionally doesn’t feel much like a Zelda game. I think this is mainly due to the introduction of new monsters and the foreign style environment. Overlooking these oddities, Link’s Awakening is a solid game and a great way to experience classic Zelda on the go.

69120-Legend_of_Zelda-_The_-_Link-s_Awakening_-USA-_Europe-6-5B1-5D

Difficulty: Medium  –  Another very well balanced Zelda title. The game is very playable by most even if it does feature some pretty tough dungeons at some point. The key here is patience and repetition.

Story: Surprisingly, this title features a very in-depth story, even if it is mostly isolated from the rest of series. The introduction of a new locale and new characters and creatures make for a really good time. There’s a cute little twist at the end of the game that I’ve never really been sure if I liked or not. You’ll see what I mean if you complete this title.

Originality: I think the goal of this game was to create a portable “Link to the Past” experience. In many ways, this is exactly what Link’s Awakening is. But there’s enough new and original idea’s present to let this title shine all on it’s own.

Soundtrack: The music composed for this game is nothing short of wonderful. One of my favorite memories from this game is the ever popular “Ballad of the Wind Fish”. Classic chiptunes.

Fun: What’s not to love? Portable Zelda and its done right. Great fun to be found in this title.

Graphics: As I mentioned in the main review, the original version suffered a bit. The artists filled the screen with lots to see, and the pixel art is not bad per se, but in a black and white environment, things got really confusing at times. The DX version of the game was a much needed improvement and is the only way to go if playing the game on modern hardware.

Playcontrol: Overall no complaints. The controls are very precise and accurate. However, playing with only two buttons get’s a little annoying with all the menu switching.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 –  Again, another four-star Zelda game and a must-have for any fans of the series. Link’s Awakening is classic Nintendo and one of those games every Game Boy owner should have.

Currently available on: 3DS eShop (DX version)

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past

588436_40267_front-5B1-5D

I have spent the last week continuing my retro playthrough with two excellent Zelda titles. This first review is for the SNES classic, A Link to the Past. This was the game that finally brought the story of Zelda and Link to the 16bit era. But not without ruffling a few feathers and causing some mass confusion among fans.

In this game, we again play as the heroic youth Link on his journey to uncover the secrets of Hyrule and rescue the captive Princess Zelda… but it quickly becomes apparent that the storyline presented to the player does not quite match that of the first two games. With no explanation, players soon realized they were enjoying a prequel of sorts, but with seemingly a different “Link”.  It was many years until Nintendo finally explained the mysterious timeline of the Zelda series. But that is another post for another time.

In a Link to Past, Nintendo took a step back from the side-scrolling experiment that was Zelda II, and we are once again given a great top-down adventure game. The mechanics are very similar to that of the original Legend of Zelda, but the game itself offers a much richer environment and storyline.

34385-Legend_of_Zelda-_The_-_A_Link_to_the_Past_-USA-16-5B1-5D

In this game players are able to explore the Kingdom of Hyrule in two separate dimensions, Light World and Dark World. Often switching between the two phases to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. Ultimately, Link must locate and rescue seven sages whose combined power will allow him to invade Ganon’s tower and rescue the princess.

Much like the other games in the series, Link must explore and uncover hidden treasures and powerups that will assist him on his journey. As mentioned earlier, the ability to switch to the Dark World adds a whole new dimension of exploration and gameplay not seen in the series so far, but one that becomes a staple of the series.

This is one of those classic games that sucks you in and won’t let you quit until you’ve explored every nook and cranny.

a-link-to-the-past-5B1-5D

Difficulty: Medium  –  The difficulty of this title seems to be quite balanced. While still a little tougher than many of today’s games, it’s not very frustrating and fairly easy to complete for most gamers

Story: The self-contained story is very well done especially for this type of game. Lore-hungry players will find a lot to keep them satisfied in this title. As far as connecting the events of this game with the previous Zelda titles, that’s where things get a little tricky. This game is a prequel to Zelda and Zelda II, and actually features a different “Link” than the hero of the original games. While very confusing, this does become a little clearer as the series progresses.

Originality: While keeping many aspects of the original game, there’s a lot of new concepts and ideas presented in A Link to the Past. The Dark and Light world makes for a really interesting experience, and was something unheard of at the time.

Soundtrack: Excellent stuff here. The soundtrack is one of the stand out features of the game. Several new pieces are included along with classic theme song. 16bit sound at it’s finest.

Fun: If you like fantasy or puzzle games, you can’t go wrong with this title. Players that enjoyed the original Legend of Zelda will feel right at home with this title.

Graphics: The art work for this game is colorful and somewhat cartoonish, but it suits the game well. This game is another example of Nintendo doing what they do best; creating beautiful visual worlds.

Playcontrol: Excellent play control. Overhead titles like this don’t usually suffer in this area. Everything feels natural and the controls are precise and spot-on.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 –  This is one of the greatest games in the Zelda series and one of the best action fantasy games of all time. This is one of those Super Nintendo titles that should not be missed.

Currently available on: Wii Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: Zelda II – The Adventure of Link

91635285-5B1-5D

As one would suspect, after the smashing success of The Legend of Zelda, a sequel was not too far behind. For the follow-up, Nintendo made the bold move to creating an entirely different game. Unlike it’s predecessor, Zelda II is not presented entirely in a top-down, bird’s-eye view. The game consists of two different modes: travel mode and action mode. Travel mode resembles the familiar top-down view from the previous game. This is what you see as Link makes his way across the vast world map. However, when he encounters monsters, enters a town, or enters a palace, the game switches to a side scrolling action mode.

Zelda_II-The_Adventures_of_Link-5B1-5D

Link earns experience points from enemy kills that allows him to get stronger as your progress through the game. Link can also learn magics spells and combat techniques from various NPCs hidden throughout the game.

Zelda II begins not long after the end of the first title. On link’s 16th birthday a mysterious crest resembling the triforce appears on his hand. Link visits the royal palace to inquire about it’s meaning. It there that he learns not long after his victory against Ganon, princess Zelda was cursed by a sleeping spell. The only cure is the recovery of the third piece of the Triforce, the Triforce of Courage. This artifact is kept locked away in a great palace. To gain entry, Link must venture to the six lesser palaces, defeat their guardians and place a magic crystal into a hidden statue.

LZ2_palace1_04-5B1-5D

Difficulty: Difficult –  In my opinion, this title is a bit harder than the original. The side scrolling battles can be a bit awkward and clunky. Some of the bosses are pretty tough without a specific strategy in mind.This game is extremely frustrating for my 8 year old son.

Story: I’m impressed by the fact that this is not simply a “Ganon has returned from the dead!” scenario. It seems that Nintendo put a lot of thought into creating something different. When considering the Zelda series as a whole, you can really see that a rich storyline is beginning to develop for the world of Hyrule.

Originality: Nintendo definitely gets marks for trying something new with this title. Unfortunately, I feel that their efforts fell a little flat. The sidescrolling play didn’t seem to fit in well, in my opinion. But other than that, it is pretty refreshing to see a game company not afraid to try some new things.

Soundtrack: The music is quirky and catchy, but it doesn’t hold the same aura of mystique and epicness that original game did.

Fun: This game has it’s moments but overall it’s definitely not a favorite of mine. Some of the last dungeons are pretty brutal and the game has a very repetitive feel after awhile. I feel that the game overall had a lot of potential, but I think it would have benefited with a little more time and tweaking before release. Despite these criticisms, playing the game today, I find it quite enjoyable mainly for nostalgic reasons. So, I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Graphics: This is weird one. The sidescrolling parts of the game a fairly well done, but still not as good as many other games that were released at the time. The overworld map, however, looks dismal. The graphics actually feel like a step backwards. Ugh.

Playcontrol: The sidescrolling combat seems clunky and at times, inaccurate. As usual, it’s even worse on the virtual console. In my opinion, the game suffers in the category.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Make no mistake, this is a classic title. I do recommend it for it’s historical value, but I feel that overall it’s a fairly mediocre game. Which is sad being that is the sequel to one of the Nintendo’s most legendary titles.

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: The Legend of Zelda

the-legend-of-zelda-box-art-5B1-5D

It didn’t matter if you were a fan of “sword and sorcery” games or not. When you saw the shiny gold cartridge that contained The Legend of Zelda, you were intrigued. In fact, the same was true for me. Until Zelda came along, I never gave much thought to things like wizards and dragons. I was all about spaceships and robots. But the lure of the glittering gold enticed me. Yes. The game cartridges for The Legend of Zelda were not grey in color like most others, but instead, they were golden.

The_Legend_of_Zelda_Gold_NES_Cartridge-5B1-5D1

After being lured in by the physical game itself, I was hooked as soon as I pressed the power button. Instantly, I was hypnotised by a haunting lovely melody and the slow pulse of a the glowing title screen. I remember thinking, what an amazing tune.

The Legend of Zelda takes place in the far away land of Hyrule. Recently, princess Zelda of Hyrule was kidnapped by the evil Ganon. Ganon came into possession of an ancient artifact known as the Triforce of Power. Using his new found power, he has taken over the kingdom with his terrible monsters. Our hero’s name is Link. Link must explore the kingdom in search of the eight separate pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. Once the artifact is assembled, he will have the power to challenge Ganon and free princess Zelda.

legend-of-zelda-nes-walkthrough-screenshot-5B1-5D

Link begins the game with nothing in his possession. Almost immediately he is given a wooden sword. Other items drop from defeated enemies. However, most of the important gear needed to progress through the game are hidden away in various dungeons. These dungeons are scattered across the kingdom and link must find them and defeat the monsters that reside in each and collect the Triforce piece in order to progress.

gfs_29025_2_6-5B1-5D

Eventually, link makes his way to the final dungeon at Spectacle Rock. However, be warned, only a hero with the right weapons will be able to deal that final blow to Ganon! Once the game is complete, you can play again with the “2nd Quest” – a whole new challenge.

The Legend of Zelda was the first of it’s kind and it spawned many sequels. It stands as one of Nintendo’s greatest successes – right up there with Mario. These days, you’ll be hard pressed to find many people between the ages of 25-40 that are not familiar with Link and his epic search for the Triforce.

Difficulty: Medium –  For the most part, things are pretty easy going. In the beginning there’s a bit of a challenge until Link gets some decent equipment. However, players who are willing to exercise a little patience, and take the time time to locate many of the hidden power ups won’t have much of a problem until the last few levels. At that point, things get a little tough again.

Story: Originally, the story seemed a bit shallow. However, this was largely due to very poor in-game translation and a thoughtless game manual. Being the first title in the series, this game lays the groundwork for what will eventually become a mythology all it’s own.

Originality: Good marks here. The formula for the game, in a small way, is a bit like Metroid. You have a whole world before you. You can explore it as you wish. However, there are many roadblocks along the way that will become passable as you progress. The overhead view is nice change in a a world that was typically dominated by sidescrolling games. This was one of the first games I remember with a stash of collectible equipment the player could swap out and select as needed.

Soundtrack: Haunting, ambient, and adventurous! Great stuff here. Timeless themes.

Fun: This is classic game with hours of fun. There’s no telling how many times I’ve played through this game from start to finish. It never gets old.

Graphics: The graphics in this game are a little hard to define. I get impression that the art direction in the game is supposed to have a “cartoonish” feel to them. Colorwise- it succeeds. The biggest problem is that with such a wide view, there’s not a lot of detail. Regardless, everything on the screen is clear. There’s really no question what various on-screen objects are supposed to be. For an overhead game, the graphics were good enough.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This applies to both the original release as well as the modern-day ports available. The overhead view of the game, and simple controls lead to an all-around precise experience.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This is classic 8-bit Nintendo at it’s finest. For all the reasons listed above, this is one title that I have to recommend to every player regardless of age.

Available now on: Wii Viritual Console, Nintendo eShop

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild