|The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask|
|Series||The Legend of Zelda|
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask[a] is a 2000 action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. It was the second The Legend of Zelda game to use 3D graphics, following Ocarina of Time (1998). Designed by a creative team led by Eiji Aonuma, Yoshiaki Koizumi, and Shigeru Miyamoto, Majora's Mask was completed in less than two years. It featured enhanced graphics and several gameplay changes, but reused a number of elements and character models, which the game's creators called a creative decision made necessary by time constraints.
The story takes place two months after Ocarina of Time. It follows Link, who reaches a parallel kingdom, Termina, and becomes embroiled in a quest to prevent the moon from falling into the world in three days' time. The game introduced several novel concepts, revolving around the perpetually repeating three-day cycle and the use of various masks that can transform Link into different beings. As the player progresses through the game, Link also learns to play numerous melodies on his Ocarina, which allow him to control the flow of time or open passages to four temple dungeons. Characteristic of the Zelda series, completion of the game involves successfully traversing through several dungeons, each of which contain a number of complex puzzles and enemies. On the Nintendo 64, Majora's Mask—unlike Ocarina of Time—required the Expansion Pak, which provided additional memory for more refined graphics and greater flexibility in generating on-screen characters.
Majora's Mask earned widespread acclaim from critics and is widely considered one of the best video games ever made. It received praise for its level design, story, and surrealist art direction, and has been noted for its darker tone and themes compared to the other Nintendo titles. While the game only sold about half as many copies as its predecessor, it generated a substantial cult following. The game was rereleased as part of The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition for the GameCube in 2003, for the Wii's Virtual Console service in 2009, for the Wii U's Virtual Console service in 2016, and for the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack in 2022. An enhanced remake for the Nintendo 3DS, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, was released in 2015.
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 new elements including character transformations and a three-day cycle. As in previous titles, Link can perform basic actions such as walking, running, and context-based jumping, and must use items to battle enemies and solve puzzles. In addition to wielding a sword, Link can block or reflect attacks with a shield, stun enemies by throwing Deku Nuts, attack from a distance with a bow and arrow, and use bombs to destroy obstacles and damage enemies. He can also latch onto objects or paralyze enemies with the Hookshot. Similar to other games in the series, the player must progress through a variety of dungeons, which include numerous puzzles that the player needs to solve. Dungeons also contain optional puzzles that award collectible fairies, which grant the player additional abilities when all are gathered.: 37
Masks and transformations
Whereas 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. Using the three primary masks, Link can transform himself at will into different creatures: a Deku Scrub, a Goron, and a Zora.: 24–27 Each form features unique abilities: Deku Link can perform a spin attack, shoot bubbles, skip on water, and fly for a short time by launching from Deku Flowers; Goron Link can roll at high speeds, punch with deadly force, pound the ground with his massive, rock-like body, and walk in lava without taking damage; Zora Link can swim faster, throw boomerang-like fins from his arms, generate an electric force field, and walk on the bottoms of bodies of water. Some areas can only be accessed by use of these abilities.: 24–27 Link and his three transformations receive different reactions from other characters which is key to solving certain puzzles.: 24 For instance, Goron and Zora Link can exit Clock Town at will, but town guards do not permit Deku Link to leave due to his childlike appearance.
Other masks provide situational benefits without transforming Link. For example, the Great Fairy's Mask helps retrieve stray fairies in the four temples, the Bunny Hood increases Link's movement speed, and the Stone Mask renders Link invisible to most enemies. Certain masks are involved only in side-quests or specialized situations. Examples include the Postman's Hat, which grants Link access to items in mailboxes, and Kafei's Mask, which initiates a long side-quest to locate a missing person.
Majora's Mask revolves around a repeatable three-day cycle: 10 (about 54 minutes in real time), in which characters and events follow a predictable schedule. An on-screen clock tracks the day and time. Players may save their game and return to 6:00 am of the first day by playing the Song of Time. Players must use knowledge accumulated from previous cycles to solve puzzles, complete quests, and unlock dungeons related to the main story. Although returning to the first day resets most quests and character interactions, Link retains weapons, equipment, masks, learned songs, and proof of dungeon completion.: 10–11 Link may slow down time or skip to the next morning or evening by playing the Inverted Song of Time or the Song of Double Time, respectively. Owl statues scattered across major areas of the world allow players to temporarily save their progress after activation and also provide warp points to quickly navigate the world using the Song of Soaring.: 13, 40
Other uses for music include manipulating the weather, calling Link's horse, and unlocking the four dungeons. Each transformation mask uses a different instrument: Deku Link plays the multi-horned "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".
During the three-day cycle, many non-player characters follow fixed schedules that Link tracks using the Bombers' Notebook.: 35 The notebook lists twenty characters in need of aid,: 35 such as a soldier who needs medicine and an affianced couple estranged by Skull Kid's mischief. 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.: 35
Setting and characters
Majora's Mask is set in Termina, an "alternate version" of Hyrule, the main setting of most Zelda games. Termina is depicted as a darker, more unsettling version of Hyrule, in which landmarks are familiar and side characters who previously appeared in Ocarina of Time are presented with individual stories of misfortune. In the skies above Termina, a grimacing moon threatens to crash and obliterate all life. It is predicted to impact on the eve of the Carnival of Time, an annual harvest festival that begins three days hence. Despite the looming threat, the various peoples of Termina are preoccupied by their own respective troubles. In the center of Termina, the people of Clock Town endlessly debate evacuating the city or continuing to prepare for the festival, the failure of which would be devastating to the economy.
Majora's Mask begins several months after Ocarina of Time. Link seeks his fairy, Navi, who departed after the events of the previous game. During his search, he is ambushed by Skull Kid wearing a mysterious mask and his two fairy companions, siblings Tatl and Tael. They steal both his horse, Epona, and the Ocarina of Time. Link pursues them and falls into a trap; Skull Kid curses Link, transforming him into a Deku Scrub, but inadvertently leaves Tatl behind. With no other choice, Tatl guides Link to Clock Town. They meet the Happy Mask Salesman, who pressures Link into recovering the mask that Skull Kid stole, promising to break the curse if he succeeds. After three days, Link manages to locate Skull Kid and retrieve the Ocarina of Time but fails to get the mask. As the moon nears impact, Tael instructs Link to awaken Termina's four guardian deities. Link plays the Song of Time and returns to the day he first set foot in Termina.
Mistakenly believing that Link recovered the mask, the Happy Mask Salesman breaks Link's curse. He soon discovers that Link failed, flying into a rage. He explains that Skull Kid's mask is the eponymous Majora's Mask, which contains a powerful evil that can bring about the end of days. After he collects himself, the Happy Mask Salesman then sends Link to properly retrieve Majora's Mask. Link embarks on his quest by going to the regions that Tael mentioned: Woodfall, Snowhead, the Great Bay, and Ikana Canyon. Link learns that the four locations are cursed by Skull Kid's use of the mask. In Woodfall, the swamp is poisoned and the Deku princess was kidnapped. Snowhead has been plagued with an eternal winter, leaving the Gorons to starvation. Great Bay's ocean has been contaminated, turning its creatures into monsters. In Ikana, inhabitants are terrorized by a curse that brings the dead back to life. Through his travels, Link learns that Skull Kid cursed the land as revenge for feeling abandoned by his Giant friends when they became Termina's guardians. Tatl and Tael befriended and accompanied him in his mischief that would eventually lead to the theft of the mask, which has been corrupting him ever since. Under the mask's influence, Skull Kid forced the moon onto a collision course with Termina.
Link liberates the Giants one by one and summons them on the eve of the Carnival. They manage to halt the moon's descent but Majora's Mask comes alive and possesses the moon itself, abandoning Skull Kid. Link confronts Majora's Mask inside the moon and defeats it. Link, the fairies, and the Giants all make amends with Skull Kid, while the Happy Mask Salesman recovers the now powerless Majora's Mask. The Carnival of Time begins with celebrations based on Link's accomplishments. In a nearby forest, Skull Kid draws himself with Link and his friends on a tree trunk.
Following the release of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening in 1993, fans waited five years for Ocarina of Time, the active development of which took four years. By reusing the game engine and graphics from Ocarina of Time, a smaller team required only one year to finish Majora's Mask, with development having started in January 1999. The game was developed by a team led by Eiji Aonuma, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Yoshiaki Koizumi. According to 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".The idea of the "three-day system" came from Miyamoto and Koizumi. Early in development, this three-day system originally rewound a week, though this was adjusted as seven days would have been too much for players. According to Aonuma, the concept of time repeatedly looping was inspired by the 1998 film Run Lola Run. Miyamoto and Koizumi came up with the story that served as the basis for the script written by Mitsuhiro Takano. The art director, Takaya Imamura, said that the game's title was a portmanteau of his name and "jura", due to him being a fan of the film Jurassic Park. The development team's main goal was to make a refined, compact successor to Ocarina of Time that would allow players to have a different experience each time they played it.
Majora's Mask first appeared in the media in May 1999, when Famitsu stated that a long-planned Zelda expansion for the 64DD was under development 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. 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. The media assumed that Zelda: Gaiden was the new working title for Ura Zelda.
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. 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.
That same month, Miyamoto confirmed that Ura Zelda and Zelda: Gaiden were separate projects. It was unclear if Zelda: Gaiden was an offshoot of Ura Zelda or if the two were always separate. Ura Zelda might have become 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 and bundled with the GameCube game in Europe.
In November, Nintendo announced a "Holiday 2000" release date for Zelda: Gaiden. 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.
Technical differences from Ocarina of Time
Majora's Mask runs on an upgraded version of the engine used in Ocarina of Time and requires the use of the Nintendo 64's 4 MB Expansion Pak, making it one of the two games that require said peripheral; the other being Donkey Kong 64. IGN theorized 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. 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. 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. 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".
The music was written by longtime series composer Koji Kondo, and Toru Minegishi. The soundtrack largely consists of reworked music from Ocarina of Time, complemented with other traditional Zelda music such as the "Overworld Theme" and new material. Kondo describes the music as having "an exotic Chinese-opera sound". As the three-day cycle progresses, the theme song of Clock Town changes between three variations, one for each day. 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. The two-disc soundtrack was released in Japan on June 23, 2000, and features 112 tracks from the game.
|Electronic Gaming Monthly||10/10|
|Tampa Bay Times||A+|
|Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences||Console Action/Adventure (2001)|
|Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences||Game Design (2001)|
In Japan, 314,044 copies of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask were sold during its first week on sale, eventually selling 601,542 copies by the end of 2000. In the United States, it was the fourth best-selling game of 2000 with 1,206,489 copies sold for $72,000,000 (equivalent to $122,000,000 in 2022). In Europe, it was the eighth highest-grossing game of 2000 with €27,000,000 or $25,000,000 (equivalent to $42,000,000 in 2022) grossed that year. Ultimately, 3.36 million copies were sold worldwide for the Nintendo 64.
Like its predecessor, Majora's Mask received critical acclaim. The game holds a score of 95/100 on review aggregator Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim". Opinions were favorable regarding how the game compared with Ocarina of Time, which is often cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. Tampa Bay Times, who previously called Ocarina of Time "the Gone With the Wind of video gaming", claimed Majora's Mask outdid its predecessor. Reviewers praised its visuals, gameplay, writing, and soundtrack. Greg Orlando reviewed the Nintendo 64 version of the game for Next Generation, rating it four stars out of five, calling it "another beautiful Link in the chain".
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". 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". N64 Magazine ended their review by saying that "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%. 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". GamePro characterized the story as "surreal and spooky, deep, and intriguing" and the game as living proof that the N64 still has its magic. Majora's Mask has also placed highly in publication and fan-voted polls.[c]
However, some critics felt that Majora's Mask was not as accessible as Ocarina of Time. Tampa Bay Times argued it was the hardest game in the Zelda series simply because of its 3-day deadline. GameSpot, which awarded Ocarina of Time 10/10, only gave Majora's Mask 8.3/10, writing that some might find the focus on minigames and side quests tedious and slightly out of place, and that the game was much more difficult than its predecessor. GameRevolution 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".
Majora's Mask was a runner-up for GameSpot's annual "Best Nintendo 64 Game" award, losing to Perfect Dark. It was also nominated for "Best Adventure Game" among console games. The game was ranked 155th in Electronic Gaming Monthly's "The Greatest 200 Video Games of Their Time" in 2006.
During the 4th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, Majora's Mask was honored with the "Console Action/Adventure" and "Game Design" awards; it also received nominations for "Console Game of the Year" and "Game of the Year".
In 2003, Nintendo rereleased Majora's Mask on the 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. This disc came bundled with a GameCube console, as part of a subscription offer to Nintendo Power magazine, or through Nintendo's official website. The Collector's Edition was also available through the Club Nintendo reward program, with a bonus discount offered in 2004 with the purchase of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures during the month long Zelda Collection campaign (Japanese: ゼルダコレクションキャンペーン).
Similar to other GameCube rereleases, versions of the games featured in the Collector's Edition are emulations of the originals using GameCube hardware. The only differences are minor adjustments to button icons to resemble the buttons on the GameCube 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. Aside from these deliberate changes, GameSpot's Ricardo Torres found that the frame rate "appears choppier" and noted inconsistent audio. The GameCube version also features a slightly higher native resolution than its Nintendo 64 counterpart, as well as progressive scan.
Majora's Mask was released on the Wii's Virtual Console service in Europe and Australia on April 3, 2009, and Japan on April 7. It was later released in North America on May 18 and commemorated as the 300th Virtual Console game available for purchase in the region. During January 2012, Club Nintendo members could download Majora's Mask onto the Wii Console for 150 coins. A similar deal was offered at the end of Club Nintendo in 2015. The game was released for the Wii U's Virtual Console service in Europe on June 23, 2016 and in North America on November 24. Majora's Mask was released through the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack service on February 25, 2022.
The game served as the primary inspiration for the popular 2010s web serial and web series Ben Drowned by Alexander D. Hall, which helped define the creepypasta genre of online storytelling. Content based on Majora's Mask has also appeared in the Super Smash Bros. series. A stage based on the Great Bay Coast area of the game, titled "Great Bay", appears in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Skull Kid also appears as a computer-controlled Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and Ultimate, while the Moon appears as an Assist Trophy in Ultimate as well. A Skull Kid-themed mask is available as customizable headgear to be worn by Mii characters in Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and Ultimate.
A fan-made patch for the Nintendo 64 version entitled N64HD—featuring enhanced graphics, textures, and lighting—was released in 2021. Having been in development for five years, it overhauls over 6000 in-game textures.
Nintendo 3DS remake
After the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a remake of Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 3DS, director Eiji Aonuma suggested that a Majora's Mask remake was dependent on interest and demand. Following this news, a fan campaign called "Operation Moonfall" was launched to promote a remake of Majora's Mask for the 3DS. The campaign name is a reference to a similar fan-based movement, Operation Rainfall, set up to persuade Nintendo of America to localize a trio of role-playing games for the Wii. The petition reached 10,000 signatures within five days. In response to an email sent by a customer, a representative of Nintendo of America revealed that they had no official announcements of Majora's Mask remake, but they were interested to hear about what fans wanted, acknowledging their campaign. Both Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma and Miyamoto expressed interest in developing the remake in the future.
A remake of Majora's Mask, titled The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, was released worldwide in February 2015. Like Ocarina of Time 3D before it, the remake features improved character models and stereoscopic 3D graphics, along with altered boss battles, an additional fishing minigame, and support for New Nintendo 3DS systems. To update the game for modern audiences, Aonuma and the team at Grezzo compiled a list of gameplay moments that stuck out to them as unreasonable for players, colloquially dubbed the "what in the world" list. The game's release coincided with the launch of the New Nintendo 3DS system in North America and Europe. A special edition New Nintendo 3DS XL model was launched alongside the game, with the European release featuring a pin badge, double-sided poster, and steelbook case. The UK retailer Game offered a Majora's Mask-themed paperweight as a pre-order bonus for the standard edition of the game.
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Eiji Aonuma: I did hear that there's a website here that was launched in North America by some people that are hoping we'll release a 3D version of Majora's Mask. Of course I'm very flattered to hear that so many people are asking for that game, so I hope that at some point in the future hopefully, maybe, we'll be able to do something with it.
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The two software titles which were released simultaneously with the New Nintendo 3DS hardware in the U.S. and Europe, "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D" and "Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate",...
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