The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

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The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
A heart-shaped mask with yellow eyes and spikes around the edges stands behind the title of the game.
North American box art
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Eiji Aonuma
Yoshiaki Koizumi
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Artist(s) Yusuke Nakano
Takaya Imamura
Writer(s) Mitsuhiro Takano
Shigeru Miyamoto[1]
Yoshiaki Koizumi[2][3]
Composer(s) Koji Kondo
Toru Minegishi
Series The Legend of Zelda
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, Wii (Virtual Console)
Release date(s) Nintendo 64
  • JP April 27, 2000
  • NA October 26, 2000
  • PAL November 17, 2000
Virtual Console
  • PAL April 3, 2009
  • JP April 7, 2009
  • NA May 18, 2009
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (ゼルダの伝説 ムジュラの仮面 Zeruda no Densetsu: Mujura no Kamen?) is an action-adventure video game developed by Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis and Development division for the Nintendo 64. It was released in Japan on April 27, 2000, North America on October 26, 2000, and Europe on November 17, 2000.[4] The game sold approximately 314,000 copies during its first week in Japan,[5] and has sold three million copies worldwide.[6] The game was rereleased for the Nintendo GameCube as part of The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition, and the Wii's Virtual Console service in the PAL region on April 3, 2009, Japan on April 7, 2009, and North America on May 18, 2009.[7]

Majora's Mask is the sixth installment in The Legend of Zelda series and the second using 3D graphics, the first being The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the game's predecessor. Considered by critics to be "darker" among the Zelda games franchise, Majora's Mask is set in Termina, an alternate version of the usual series setting of Hyrule, where the Skull Kid has stolen Majora's Mask, a powerful ancient artifact. Under its influence, the Skull Kid causes the land's moon to slowly fall towards Termina, where it crashes after three days. The main protagonist Link repeatedly travels back in time to the beginning of the three days to find a way to stop the moon from destroying the world.

The gameplay is centered on the perpetually repeating three-day cycle and the use of various masks, some of which allow Link to transform into different beings. Link learns to play several melodies on his ocarina, which have a variety of effects like controlling the flow of time or opening passages to four temples, which house challenges Link must overcome. Unlike Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask requires the Expansion Pak, which provides additional memory for enhanced graphics and more on-screen characters. Majora's Mask was acclaimed by critics, who praised the graphics and complex story.

Gameplay[edit]

The gameplay of Majora's Mask expands on that of Ocarina of Time; it retains the concept of dungeon puzzles and ocarina songs, and introduces character transformations and the restriction of a three-day cycle. As in previous installments, Link can perform basic actions such as walking, running and limited jumping, and must use items to battle enemies and solve puzzles. Link's main weapon is the sword, which can be upgraded throughout the game. Other weapons and items are available—Link can block or reflect attacks with a shield, stun enemies by throwing Deku Nuts, attack from a distance with a bow and arrows, destroy obstacles and damage enemies with bombs. He can also latch onto objects or paralyze enemies with the Hookshot. Magic power allows attacks such as magical arrows or spin attacks, and the use of special items.

Masks and transformations[edit]

A fish-like humanoid faces an oyster-like monster, which is surrounded by a crosshair. Around the image are icons representing time passed, the player's health, magic, money, items and possible actions.
Link in his Zora form

While the masks in Ocarina of Time are limited to an optional side-quest, they play a central role in Majora's Mask, which has twenty-four masks in total.[8]

Link can transform at will into different creatures: the Deku Mask transforms Link into a Deku Scrub, the Goron Mask into a Goron, and the Zora Mask into a Zora.[9] Each form features unique abilities: Deku Link can perform a spin attack, shoot bubbles from his mouth, skip on water, and fly for a short time by launching from Deku Flowers; Goron Link can roll at high speeds (and grow spikes at higher speeds), punch with deadly force, stomp the ground with his massive, rock-like body, walk in lava without taking damage, and weigh down heavy switches; Zora Link can swim rapidly, throw boomerang-like fins from his arms, generate a force field, and walk on the bottoms of bodies of water. Many areas can be accessed only by use of these abilities.

Link and his three transformations receive different reactions from non-player characters.[10] For instance, the Goron and Zora are allowed to exit Clock Town at will, whereas the Deku Scrub is not permitted to leave by reason of his childlike resemblance. Animals also interact differently with the four forms of Link. For example, Link's normal form receives an indifferent response from dogs, Deku Link is attacked by them, Goron Link frightens them, and Zora Link makes them chase him happily.

The final mask to be gained in the game is the Fierce Deity's Mask. Although the use of this mask is strictly limited to boss battles only, it is possible to wear it anywhere using a glitch. Upon donning this mask, Link grows to nearly two-and-a-half times his normal height. His clothes turn white and his face appears with a type of war paint on it. The sword that Fierce Deity Link carries is a helix shape that uses magic power to blast fire at enemies.

Other masks provide situational benefits. For example, the Great Fairy's Mask helps retrieve stray fairies scattered throughout the four temples, the Bunny Hood allows Link to run faster, and the Stone Mask renders Link invisible to most non-playable characters and enemies. Less valuable masks are usually involved only in optional side-quests or specialized situations. Examples include the Postman's Hat, which grants Link access to items in mailboxes,[11] and Kafei's Mask, which initiates a long side-quest to receive the Couple's Mask.[12]

Three-day cycle and songs[edit]

Link playing the Deku Pipes.

Majora's Mask imposes a time limit of three days (72 hours) game-time,[13] which is about 54 minutes in real time.[4] An on-screen clock tracks the day and time. Link can return to 6:00 am on the first day by playing the "Song of Time" on the Ocarina of Time. If he does not, then the moon will destroy Clock Town, including all the surrounding regions of Termina and Link will lose everything he accomplished.[13] However, returning to the first day saves the player's progress and major accomplishments permanently, such as the acquisition of maps, masks, songs, and weapons.[14] Cleared puzzles, keys, and minor items will be lost, as well as any rupees not in the bank, and almost all characters will have no recollection of meeting Link.[15] Link can slow down time or warp to the next morning or evening by playing two variations of the Song of Time. Owl statues scattered across certain major areas of the world allow the player to temporarily save their progress once they have been activated, and also provide warp points to quickly move around the world.

Other uses for songs include manipulating the weather, teleporting between owl statues spread throughout Termina, and unlocking the four temples. Each transformation mask uses a different instrument: Deku Link plays a multi-horn instrument called the "Deku Pipes", Goron Link plays a set of bongo drums tied around his waist, and Zora Link plays a guitar made from a large fish skeleton. Jackson Guitars created a limited edition 7-string replica of this guitar that was the grand prize in a contest in Nintendo Power, known as the "Jackson Zoraxe".[16] The game reuses three of Ocarina of Time's ocarina songs: the "Song of Time"; the "Song of Storms", for aforementioned weather manipulation; and "Epona's Song", which again summons Link's horse.

During the three-day cycle, many non-player characters follow fixed schedules that Link can track using the Bomber's Notebook.[17] The notebook tracks the twenty characters in need of help,[17] such as a soldier to whom Link delivers medicine, and an engaged couple whom Link reunites. Blue bars on the notebook's timeline indicate when characters are available for interaction, and icons indicate that Link has received items, such as masks, from the characters.[17]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting and characters[edit]

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is set in Termina, a land parallel to Hyrule,[18][19] the latter being the main setting of most games in the series. According to legend, Termina was split into four areas by four magical giants that live in four regions of the land. At the center of Termina lies Clock Town, which features a large clock tower that counts down the days before the Carnival of Time—a major festival where the people of Termina pray for good luck and harvests. Termina Field surrounds Clock Town; beyond lie a swamp, mountain range, bay, and canyon in each of the four cardinal directions. The Southern Swamp contains the Deku palace and the Woodfall Temple, an ancient shrine containing monsters and a giant masked jungle warrior, Odolwa, who has been poisoning the swamp. The Snowhead mountain range, north of Clock Town, is the site of the Goron village. Normally a lush pine forest region most of the year, the area has been experiencing an unusually long winter caused by a giant masked mechanical monster named Goht in Snowhead Temple. The western area of Termina, the Great Bay, is the site of the Zora and Gerudo civilizations. A gargantuan masked fish, Gyorg, is generating storms and contaminating the water surrounding the Great Bay Temple. The desolate Ikana Canyon, to the east of Clock Town, is the site of a former kingdom. It is inhabited mainly by the undead, except for a ghost researcher and his daughter, as well as a thief. A pair of giant masked insectoid serpents known as Twinmold from their nest in Stone Tower Temple are casting a dark aura over the land, causing the dead bodies of former citizens and soldiers to come back to life as undead monsters. At the end of the game, Link is transported to the moon which is portrayed as a green field with a single, large tree in the centre; with masked children playing underneath it.

Plot[edit]

Majora's Mask takes place several months after Ocarina of Time[20] and begins with Link searching for his departed fairy, Navi.[21] While riding through a forest in Hyrule on his horse Epona, the masked Skull Kid and his fairy accomplices Tatl and Tael ambush Link and steal both Epona and his musical instrument, the Ocarina of Time, from him. Link follows them down a dark cave, where he confronts the Skull Kid who curses him by turning him into a Deku Scrub. Tatl stops Link from going after the Skull Kid as the latter escapes with Tael through a door, but is then separated from them when the door closes behind them. Realizing she needs Link's help to find them, Tatl insists that they work together. Link follows the Skull Kid through the cave into the inside of the Clock Tower in the land of Termina. There, he meets the Happy Mask Salesman, who seemed to have been following him. The salesman offers to help Link heal his curse, in exchange of which he must retrieve both the Ocarina of Time and the Majora's Mask from the Skull Kid, as the mask conceals an evil, apocalyptic power once used by an ancient tribe in hexing rituals. The Skull Kid, having stolen the Majora's Mask from the salesman, was possessed by its overwhelming power, becoming an uncontrollable fiend who inflicts certain misfortune on others. The worst of which is an impending apocalypse: the moon is now set to collide with the world in approximately three days time.

From a gate inside Clock Tower, Link and Tatl enter Clock Town while its population prepares for the town's annual Carnival of Time also scheduled to take place in three days. Together they learn that the Skull Kid is waiting at the top of the tower, which is only accessible during the eve of the carnival. After conditions are met, Link and Tatl arrive at the top of the Clock Tower to witness Tael hurriedly speak a riddle to them: "Swamp. Mountain. Ocean. Canyon... hurry, the four who are there... bring them here!" Link is unable to fight the Skull Kid, nor does he have any means to take the mask from him, but manages to get the Ocarina of Time back from his hands. After playing the "Song of Time" on the ocarina, Link and Tatl are brought backwards through time three days earlier — with the ocarina still in his possession and with both him and Tatl having complete memory of all that happened. Meeting with the Happy Mask Salesman again, he sees Link has retrieved his ocarina, and hence teaches him the "Song of Healing", which breaks the curse, returns Link to his human form and seals his Deku Scrub form into a mask which has the power to turn him back into a Deku Scrub if needed. Link must then travel between the four cardinal regions of Termina: Woodfall, Snowhead, the Great Bay, and Ikana Canyon, for each region conceals one of the Four Giants who will be able, once reunited, to halt the moon's crashing. At the same time, each region has been struck with a terrible curse by the Skull Kid which plagues its inhabitants and seals away its giant. Link must hence enter a dungeon in each of the four regions to defeat its boss, lift its curse and obtain the power to summon each of the Four Giants.

With all four curses lifted, Link climbs on top of the Clock Tower at midnight on the third day to confront the Skull Kid again. There and then, he summons the Four Giants, who halt the moon's descent toward Termina by holding it up with their arms. Now seeing the Skull Kid as a useless puppet, Majora's Mask drops his grip on him and flies up to possess the moon instead. With Tatl at his side, Link follows the Majora's Mask inside the moon and defeats him once and for all, returning the moon to its proper place in the sky.[22] The Four Giants return to their sleep. Tatl and Tael reunite with the newly liberated Skull Kid. The Happy Mask Salesman takes Majora's Mask, stating it has been purified of its evil power. Link rides away on Epona while the people of Termina celebrate the Carnival of Time and the dawn of a new day.

The game ends with a post-credits scene depicting Link and Epona back in the mysterious forest, resuming Link's search for his friend, as they ride off towards a mysterious light breaking through the thick forest. A drawing on a tree stump of Link, Tatl, Tael, the Skull Kid, and the Four Giants is shown after.

Development[edit]

Following the release of Link's Awakening in 1993, fans waited five years for Ocarina of Time, the active development of which took four years. By re-using the game engine and graphics from Ocarina of Time, a smaller team required only one year to finish Majora's Mask.[23] According to director Eiji Aonuma, they were "faced with the very difficult question of just what kind of game could follow Ocarina of Time and its worldwide sales of seven million units", and as a solution, came up with the three-day system to "make the game data more compact while still providing deep gameplay".[24] Shigeru Miyamoto and Yoshiaki Koizumi came up with the story that served as the basis for the script written by Mitsuhiro Takano.[1][2][3] The idea of the "Three-Day System" came from Miyamoto and Koizumi.[25]

Majora's Mask first appeared in the media in May 1999, when Famitsu stated that a long-planned Zelda expansion for the 64DD was underway in Japan. This project was tentatively titled "Ura Zelda" ("ura" translates roughly to "hidden" or "behind"). This expansion would take Ocarina of Time and alter the level designs, similar to how the "master quest" expanded upon the original Legend of Zelda.[26] In June, Nintendo announced that "Zelda: Gaiden", which roughly translates to "Zelda: Side Story", would appear as a playable demo at the Nintendo Space World exhibition on August 27, 1999.[27][28] The media assumed that Zelda: Gaiden was the new working title for Ura Zelda.[27]

Screenshots of Zelda: Gaiden released in August 1999 show unmistakable elements of the final version of Majora's Mask, such as the large clock that dominates the center of Clock Town, the timer at the bottom of the screen, and the Goron Mask.[29][30] Story and gameplay details revealed later that month show that the story concept as well as the use of transformation masks were already in place.[30][31]

That same month, Miyamoto confirmed that Ura Zelda and Zelda: Gaiden were separate projects.[32][33] It was unclear if Zelda: Gaiden was an offshoot of Ura Zelda or if the two were always separate. Ura Zelda became Ocarina of Time Master Quest outside Japan, and was released on a bonus disc for the GameCube given to those who pre-ordered The Wind Waker in the US[34] and bundled with the GameCube game in Europe.[35]

In November, Nintendo announced a "Holiday 2000" release date for Zelda: Gaiden.[36] By March 2000, what ultimately became the final titles were announced: Zelda no Densetsu Mujura no Kamen in Japan and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask elsewhere.[37]

Technical differences from Ocarina of Time[edit]

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask runs on an upgraded version of the engine used in Ocarina of Time and requires the use of the 4 MB Expansion Pak.[4] IGN theorizes this requirement is due to Majora's Mask's possible origin as a Nintendo 64DD game, which would necessitate an extra 4 MB of RAM.[4] The use of the Expansion Pak allows for greater draw distances, more accurate dynamic lighting, more detailed texture mapping and animation, complex framebuffer effects such as motion blur, and more characters displayed on-screen.[4] This expanded draw distance allows the player to see much farther and eliminates the need for the fog effect and "cardboard panorama" seen in Ocarina of Time, which were used to obscure distant areas.[4] IGN considered the texture design to be one of the best created for the Nintendo 64, saying that although some textures have a low resolution, they are "colorful and diverse", which gives each area "its own unique look".[4] Lastly, building interiors are rendered in real-time, unlike the fixed 3D display featured in Ocarina of Time.

Music[edit]

The music was composed by Koji Kondo and Toru Minegishi,[38] and largely consists of reworked music from Ocarina of Time, complemented with other traditional Zelda music such as the "Overworld Theme" and new material.[4][39] Kondo describes the music as having "an exotic Chinese-opera sound".[40] As the three-day cycle progresses, the theme song of Clock Town changes between three variations, one for each day.[41] IGN relates the shift in music to a shift in the game's atmosphere, saying that the quickened tempo of the Clock Town music on the second day conveys a sense of time passing quickly.[4] The soundtrack was released on June 23, 2000,[42] featuring 112 tracks from the game over two compact discs. All music was composed by Kondo except three battles tracks, which were written by Minegishi.

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 91.92% (30 reviews)[43]
Metacritic 95 / 100 (27 reviews)[44]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 9 / 10[48]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 10 / 10[45]
Famitsu 37 / 40[46][47]
Game Informer 9.75 / 10[49]
GamesMaster 96%[50]
GameSpot 8.3 / 10[39]
GameZone 9.9 / 10[50]
IGN 9.9 / 10[4]
NGC Magazine 96 / 100[51]
Nintendo Power 9.4 / 10[41]
Awards
Publication Award
Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Action Game of the Year (2000)
GameFAQs Game of the Decade (2000–2009)[53]

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask sold approximately 314,000 copies during its first week on sale in Japan,[5] ultimately selling 3.36 million copies worldwide.[54]

Like its predecessor, the game garnered universal acclaim. Game Informer called the three-day cycle "one of the most inventive premises in all of gaming," and also stated that "[w]ithout question, Majora's Mask is the finest adventure the Nintendo 64 has to offer."[49] It is often regarded as the darkest and most original game in The Legend of Zelda series. Edge magazine referred to Majora's Mask as "the oddest, darkest and saddest of all Zelda games."[55] Opinions were favorable regarding how the game compares with predecessor Ocarina of Time, often cited as one of greatest video games of all time.[56] N64 Magazine ended their review by saying, "it was told that Majora's Mask should cower in the shadow of Ocarina of Time. Instead, it shines just as brightly," awarding the game 96%.[51] GameSpot said the game was much more difficult than its predecessor.[39] IGN described Majora's Mask as "The Empire Strikes Back of Nintendo 64...it's the same franchise, but it's more intelligent, darker, and tells a much better storyline."[4] GamePro characterized the story as "surreal and spooky, deep, and intriguing"[57] and the game as "living proof that the N64 still has its magic."[57] It has been ranked the seventh-greatest game by Electronic Gaming Monthly, whereas Ocarina of Time was ranked eighth.[58] Majora's Mask placed 68th on Game Informer's "Top 100 Games of All Time" in 2001[59] and 63rd on their "Top 200 Games of All Time" in 2009.[60] Nintendo Power rated it the fifteenth-best game on a Nintendo console.[61] The game placed 45th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 100 greatest Nintendo games of all time.[62] GameFAQs users ranked Majora's Mask 47th in a list of 100 best games of all-time in 2005.[63]

A common criticism of Majora's Mask is that it's not as accessible as Ocarina of Time. GameSpot, which awarded Ocarina of Time a 10/10, gave Majora's Mask an 8.3/10, writing that some might "find the focus on minigames and side quests tedious and slightly out of place."[39] Game Revolution wrote that it "takes a little longer to get into this Zelda", but also that "there are moments when the game really hits you with all its intricacies and mysteries, and that makes it all worthwhile."[64]

On December 24, 2010, Majora's Mask was voted as the Game of the Decade (2000–2009) by GameFaqs, beating out Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which had beaten The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess two rounds prior.[65]

On May 19, 2011, in a tournament style competition hosted by IGN, Majora's Mask was voted the second best Zelda game of all time, behind only Ocarina of Time. It beat Four Swords Adventures in Round 1, A Link to the Past in Round 2, and Twilight Princess in Round 3 before losing to Ocarina of Time in the final round.[66]

Legacy[edit]

In 2003, Nintendo rereleased Majora's Mask on the Nintendo GameCube as part of The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition, a special promotional disc which also contained three other The Legend of Zelda games and a twenty-minute demo of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.[67] This disc came bundled with a GameCube console, as part of a subscription offer to Nintendo Power magazine, or through Nintendo's official website.[68] The offer expired in early 2004.

Similar to other GameCube rereleases, the games are emulations of the originals by the GameCube hardware.[67] The only differences are minor adjustments to button icons to conform to the GameCube's controller. Majora's Mask also boots with a disclaimer that some of the original sounds from the game may cause problems due to their emulation.[67] Aside from these deliberate changes, GameSpot's Ricardo Torres found that the frame rate "appears choppier" and notes inconstant audio.[69] The GameCube version also features a slightly higher native resolution than its Nintendo 64 counterpart, as well as progressive scan.[67]

Majora's Mask was released on the Wii's Virtual Console service in Europe and Australia on April 3, 2009,[70] and Japan on April 7, 2009.[71] It was later released in North America on May 18, 2009, and commemorated as the 300th Virtual Console game available for purchase in the region.[7] During January 2012, Club Nintendo members could download Majora's Mask onto the Wii Console for 150 coins.[72]

After the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on Nintendo 3DS, director Eiji Aonuma suggested that a Majora's Mask remake was "not an impossibility", depending on interest and demand.[73] Following this news, a fan campaign called "Operation Moonfall" was launched to promote the remake of Majora's Mask on the 3DS.[74] The campaign name is a reference to a similar fan-based movement, Operation Rainfall, set up to persuade Nintendo of America to release a trio of role-playing video games for the Wii.[74] The petition reached 10,000 signatures within five days.[75] In response to the feedback, Nintendo of America released a statement: "At the risk of dampening the excitement you feel, I must be clear that no official announcements have been made regarding a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask for the Nintendo 3DS. However, we like hearing what our consumers find important.".[76] In an interview with GamesRadar in November 2011, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma acknowledged Operation Moonfall and told fans that he hopes to respond to their request sometime in the future.[77] At E3 2012, Miyamoto stated that a 3D remake was still under consideration.[78] Once again, shortly after E3 2013, Miyamoto commented that the fans supporting a Majora's Mask 3D remake were "still in his memory".[79]

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