The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is the sixth game in The Legend of Zelda series, having come out on the Nintendo 64 in 2000. It was unique among the Zelda series in that it featured a three day time system (72 game hours in total.) Majora’s Mask is one of the few titles in the series that Ganon has no role in whatsoever; Zelda herself only appears in a flashback. It is a direct sequel to the popular first 3D Zelda title, Ocarina of Time, sharing the same engine and many art resources. Many conventions of Ocarina of time, such as characters, enemies, and items were carried over into Majora’s Mask. It got a 3D remake of the game in 2014.
Arrival in a Doomed Land
The game opens with Link leaving the land of Hyrule, a text intro speaking of him leaving on a personal quest – this quest was in search of a “beloved and invaluable friend”, heavily implied to be Navi. His travels are interrupted by the Skull Kid, an imp who is possessed by the evil contained within Majora’s Mask, which was stolen from another traveler with the help of two fairies, Tatl and Tael. The Skull Kid knocks Link unconscious, causing him to fall off his horse, Epona. The Skull Kid takes the Ocarina of Time, and Link pursues him after awakening.
When Link finally catches up to him, he taunts Link with having “got rid of” his horse, before using his dark magic to transform Link into a Deku Scrub. He then leaves Link while Tatl continues to berate him. This delay causes Tatl to be left behind, and she insists that Link take her with him, blaming him for the situation at hand, stating they can work together to find the Skull Kid. With some degree of effort, Link is able to enter Clock Town, meeting the Happy Mask Salesman, who reveals to Link that he was the traveler from whom Majora’s Mask was stolen; he then makes a deal with Link – he will return the hero to his human form if he is able to recover that which was taken from him, the Ocarina. He also asks that the mask be retrieved as well. Link sets off still in his Deku body, finding himself in the parallel world of Termina.
Link is able to accomplish little around Clock Town, but with the help of Tatl and the Great Fairy, he does manage to find the Skull Kid, who is hanging around the top of the town’s central Clock Tower, from which the town is named. Along the way, Link hears rumors and whispers of the moon, which bears an ominous grimace, that is steadily growing larger and moving ever closer to the town. At midnight on the Final Day before the Mask Salesman’s departure, Link is able to reach the top of the Clock Tower and confront the Skull Kid. Upon arriving, Tatl demands that the Skull Kid return Link’s Ocarina, and Tael delivers an enigmatic warning to find the four being from the “swamp, mountain, ocean, and canyon.”
The Skull Kid then knocks Tael aside, as if in response to his outburst, before laughing about how “they” would not be able to stop him, even if they were to come. He then directs Link’s attention to the moon and challenges them to stop it from falling. With a horrible shriek, the Skull Kid begins to pull the moon down once and for all. Link is able to fire a magic bubble at the Skull Kid, his attention being focused on pulling the moon downward. This causes the Skull Kid to drop the Ocarina, and Link is able to recover it, memories of Hyrule flooding back to him. In these, Princess Zelda is bidding Link a sad farewell, telling him that the Goddess of Time is watching over him. After being brought back to the present by Tatl, Link plays the Song of Time and is thrown back to the morning when he first arrived in Termina, three days prior.
Link goes to see the Happy Mask Salesman, who teaches him the Song of Healing. Playing this song with the Ocarina allows Link to finally break the curse that is keeping him in his Deku Form. The only remnant of this magic is the Deku Mask, which he is told by the Mask Salesman is something that can be donned and removed at will, for the magic was sealed inside. After aiding Link, the Happy Mask Salesman asks that Link uphold his part of the bargain, returning the mask that the imp stole. Upon learning that the mask wasn’t recovered, the Happy Mask Salesman becomes furious, frantically explaining that the mask is known as Majora’s Mask and is an ancient artifact which contains immense power; it needs to be recovered so that the terrible power is not misused. He asks Link again to recover the mask, stating that he believes it can be done.
The Four Giants
To stop the Skull Kid, Link and Tatl work on the only clue that they have, which was the riddle given by Tael. They first head to the Southern Swamp, finding that the area is poisoned due to the disappearance of the Swamp’s guardian god. After venturing through the Deku Kingdom and Woodfall Temple, Link overcomes a dark being known as Odolwa. Upon Odolwa’s defeat, Link frees an innocent spirit that was being held captive within the mask worn by the monster. Link and Tatl then find themselves facing a sorrowful and powerful giant; Tatl is able to surmise that the giant is one of the “four” that Tael spoke of, as the giant teaches Link the Oath to Order.
The two then head to Snowhead Mountain, a place that is experiencing a longer-than-usual winter. While there, Link heals and takes on the soul of a Goron hero named Darmani, who had died trying to find a way to save his people; this allows Link to free the guardian spirit from within Snowhead. Link next finds his horse at Romani Ranch, finding that she had been taken in by Cremia and her little sister Romani. After enabling spring to come to Snowhead, he is able to get to Epona on the first day and recover her to head for the cursed Great Bay, where the ocean is murky and dank due to an issue at Great Bay Temple. Link also finds the near-dead Mikau, Zora guitarist for the legendary band the Indigo-Go’s, managing to free and take on his soul too. He then finds the stolen Zora Eggs that belonged to the Indigo-Go’s singer, Lulu, and is from there able to find the third giant and free him.
Link finally ventures to Ikana Canyon to face down the restless spirits of the dead so that he might climb the Stone Tower to free the last giant. After doing this, he heads back to Clock Town at the end of the Final Day, summoning the Four Giants with the Oath to Order, to keep the moon from falling. Even though the giants successfully hold back the moon, Majora’s Mask leaves the Skull Kid, who had passed out at the gaints’ coming, and rises into the moon. There, the mask takes over the moon itself, trying to force it down and consume all of Termina. Link follows the mask inside of the moon, finding a surreal field in which four children are prancing around a giant tree, and one is sitting at the tree’s base. These children are wearing the four masks that serve as remains for the monsters that were holding the giants against their will; upon talking to the child wearing Majora’s Mask at the base of the tree, Link proceeds to face the demon. After a grueling battle, Link defeats Majora, and both the demon and the moon it possessed are destroyed.
When Link comes to the “Dawn of a New Day”, he learns that the Skull Kid and the giants had once been friends. The Skull Kid also remarks how Link smells like a kid who once taught him a song in the forest, confirming that this is the same Skull Kid from Ocarina of Time that the hero taught Saria’s Song to. The Happy Mask Salesman states that the evil has left Majora’s Mask, mysteriously disappearing, bidding Link a fond farewell. Tatl then tells Link that he should get back to his original quest, and the two part ways with Tatl heading to the Carnival of Time. The story ends with Link riding off into the forest once more, and Saria’s Song echoes about a carving of Link, the Skull Kid, the fairy siblings, and the four giants on a tree stump.
The gameplay of Majora’s Mask is very similar to that of its predecessor, although there are new features, like the mask system, items, skills, and more. For example, several of the items that were only available as Adult Link in Ocarina of Time are made available to Link throughout his journey, such as the Hookshot and the Bow. Link is also significantly more acrobatic than he was before; he is seen as automatically doing flips when jumping in the air off of ledges.
Three Day Cycle
Unlike previous installments in the series, Majora’s Mask implemented a system of time, where the same set of three days are cycled until the moon plummets to the earth due to the influence of the Skull Kid; in these three days, the same events happen at the same time on every cycle. Link is able to play the Song of Time on his Ocarina of Time and ‘reset’ the cycle, returning to the first of these three days as many times as necessary. Link is also the only one aware of the repetition; all other characters go about their business as if it is their first time experiencing the events within the game.
When traveling back, Link loses all rupees, replenishable items (arrows, bombs, etc), dungeon progress, and most interactions with others. Going back to the First Day on the Nintendo 64 version is also the only way to permanently save the game; the Nintendo DS version allows saving at Owl Statues instead. The player is able to perform a temporary or quick save at Owl Statues on the N64, but this is exactly what it sounds like – temporary, and it in no way records your progress after that temporary save is reloaded. At the bottom of the screen, a clock is displayed, which keeps track of the time. In the center, the day is displayed. Surrounding in a semi-circle is a small sun or moon that slowly makes its way around, showing the hour of the day.
Masks and Transformation
Link appears in his younger form, originally seen in Ocarina of Time, though now he carries a sword and shield larger than he had before. However, Link is not able to transform into an adult in Majora’s Mask. 24 different masks with different purposes can be found throughout Termina, of which a few allow Link to take on the form of another race; Deku Scrubs, Gorons, and Zoras. These transformations allow Link to take on the body of the deceased spirit who inhabits the mask; when used, they depict a face of agony for the transformation.
The first transformation Link receives is Deku Link, and is based off of the long-missing son of the Deku Butler. In this form, Link can stun enemies with the spin attack to leave them defenseless. He can shoot bubbles to attack aerial enemies and some targets, though the range and power is much more limited than with a bow. The use of Deku Flowers is another trait, granting Link the ability to temporarily fly, as well as to drop Deku Nuts on his enemies, using them as bombs. His instrument is a set of Deku Pipes and he is able to confront the boss of Woodfall Temple, where his abilities shine best, though this is optional. Deku Link is weak to fire; if he comes into contact with it, he will despawn and respawn outside of it, taking damage.
Goron Link is the second transformation Link receives, being based off of the fallen Goron hero Darmani. In Goron form, Link can curl his body into a ball to travel faster, generating magic-based spikes after a few seconds of rolling to gain speed. He can use a Ground Pound, useful for puzzle solving and offense, and can also use his powerful punches to both attack enemies and hit hardened targets. Goron Link is the only one able to use Powder Keg. His instrument in this form is a set of Goron Drums, although it is again optional, this form can be used to fight the boss of Snowhead Temple, where his abilities are best utilized. The weakness of Goron Link is water; falling in it will cause him to sink, despawn, respawn outside of it, and take damage.
The third transformation Link receives is Zora Link, being based off of Indigo-Go’s lead guitarist who fell in battle. He has more abilities than the previous two forms, including a stylized combat moveset which utilizes his bladed fins that also double as a set of boomerangs. He is able to swim incredibly fast, can generate electric barriers while swimming or standing, and he can also freely dive and walk underwater. His instrument is a Zora Guitar, and his abilities are most useful in confronting the boss of Great Bay Temple. Both fire and ice are lethal to him, with contact having similar results as his previous forms and their vulnerabilities.
With the exception of the Giant’s Mask, the rest of the masks give Link a new ability (such as the Blast Mask’s instant explosion) or they disguise him. After completing the game to the point just before the final battle, it is possible to complete several side dungeons in which Link plays a game of hide and seek with a series of children, at the cost of giving up the masks he’s earned. (These masks are still available after the game is completed, however.) Finishing this sidequest and completing all four hide and seek games rewards Link with the Fierce Deity’s Mask, which transforms him into an adult with devastating power; this is only available for use during boss fights, Majora’s Mask included.
Majora’s Mask has been noted for its many optional sidequests throughout the game which, should Link complete, explore numerous sub-plots and stories. These include helping a distraught troupe leader, restoring five Great Fairies to power, saving a ranch from devastation, and what is perhaps the most intricate sidequest in any Zelda title, reuniting an engaged couple moments before the moon falls on Clock Town. All sidequests are recorded in the Bomber’s Notebook. The number of mini-games is higher and more complex in execution than those in Ocarina of Time, and there are more optional or secret areas where extra mini-bosses or Gold Skulltula hunts may be available. Completing sidequests is usually rewarding to Link, as the resolution of the completed sidequests is shown during the end credits of the game.
In retrospect, Majora’s Mask has the highest number of Heart Pieces of any Zelda title in the series: 52 in total, while Twilight Princess is next with 45. Additionally, it has the highest number of empty bottles – six in total, with an optional seventh on the Nintendo DS remake. With the exception of Skyward Sword and A Link Between Worlds which both feature five, all other Zelda games have a maximum of four. On the negative side, the emphasis placed on sidequests also translates into a lower number of dungeons, which is a potential criticism point for some players.
Majora’s Mask is generally regarded as one of the darkest entries in the series, containing much heavier themes than those seen in prior games, with somber melodies and a variety of tragic events and situations. Link is faced with the knowledge that the world is going to be destroyed within three days, having the only means of preventing that fate: the Song of Time, and having to restart everything from the Dawn of the First Day. Majora’s Mask goes further by delving into the psychological and emotional state of Termina’s people, each of whom has a different but realistic reaction to their impending doom. Link and the denizens of Termina are continually confronted with elements of death or loss over and over again as the three day cycle is continually repeated.
Link goes through this world being the only one with any awareness of what will transpire within each three day cycle. Everyone’s trials and suffering are renewed and must be relived whenever the Song of Time is played, and they are all oblivious to everything that happened during the previous 72-hour period. The foreboding atmosphere of the world’s certain destruction is ever-present in Majora’s Mask, being largely conveyed through the game’s soundtrack and artwork. Even the world’s name is a reminder, “Termina” being derived from the Latin “terminus”, which originally applied to the Roman God of boundary markers, and roughly translates to English as “boundary, limit”. The desire to rescue the world from certain peril serves as an additional motivation to complete the game for most.
Motivated by the success of Ocarina of Time, Nintendo began planning a new Zelda for the Nintendo 64. This was originally going to be a redone version of the 1998 installment for the Disk Drive accessory; when dungeon designer Eiji Aonuma showed complaints about having to develop what was essentially the same game to Shigeru Miyamoto, the latter proposed creation of a new game by Aonuma, but in only one year. This marked Majora’s Mask as the first game fully directed in development by Aonuma.
After some experimentation, the team implemented the time-based system, to create a more compact and dense title, allowing development in only 18 months. The original name of the game was Zelda Gaiden, meaning “Zelda Side-story”. This was changed during development in order to reinvent the game. Prior to its North American release, the game was referred to as both The Legend of Zelda: Mask of the Mujula and The Legend of Zelda: Gaiden on the official Nintendo website. The former was a direct translation of the Japanese title, and the latter was the aforementioned working title.
The graphics are slightly improved in Majora’s Mask from Ocarina of Time, possibly due to the game’s need for the Expansion Pak. As the second Zelda game with 3D graphics, the game used the same engine as its predecessor, and even uses some of the same character and enemy models. Eiji Aonuma had stated that reusing many aspects of Ocarina of Time allowed his team to complete the game in less than two years, whereas its predecessor took no less than four. The vast areas that the game features have an improved definition in comparison to the ones seen in Ocarina of Time; the fog distance is almost nonexistent, there is more detail seen in enemy design, and the environment is overall more realistic. Another achievement from the Expansion Pak is that multiple non-playable characters can perform different tasks without an impact on the frame rate, there are more enemies present at once (most notably in Termina Field as compared to the sparsely populated Hyrule Field), and larger level design was possible. However, some textures are less detailed in some areas, and the frame rate may sometimes lower.
Termina is a dimension parallel to Hyrule; there are some characters within Termina that have Hyrulian counterparts, with the exception of Link, Epona, the Kokiri tribe, and (possibly) the Happy Mask Salesman. Skull Kid is confirmed to be from Hyrule at the end of the game, familiarizing Link as the one who taught him “that song” in the Lost Woods. Termina consists of five large lands (or worlds, as they were called by Anju’s Grandmother). The central region houses Clock Town, Romani Ranch, and Termina Field. Clock Town is the world’s center of tourism, featuring many forms of entertainment, important attractions, and multiple recreational zones. It is also in Clock Town where the annual Carnival of Time is celebrated. Romani Ranch is a large rural zone where milk is produced for distribution to Clock Town.
The Southern Swamp is located south, home to many monsters and the monkeys, as well the Deku Kingdom, which houses the Deku tribe and their monarchy. The swamp’s waters are poisoned because of the creature living in Woodfall Temple. The Snowhead Mountain is located to the north, and is inhabited by the Goron tribe, who practice a patriarchy very similar to that of their Hyrule counterparts. The mountain is trapped in an extended winter because of the creature living within Snowhead Temple. To the west lies Great Bay Coast, home to the Zora tribe, who live in an underwater reef and are known for their artistic lineage and musical abilities. It is also home to the Pirates, who live in a sinister fortress and have a reputation for treasure hunting no matter the cost, and humans, who live on the coast itself and do various things, like research and fishing. The coast’s waters become murky and dangerous because of the creature living in Great Bay Temple. Finally, Ikana Canyon lies east, and the entire region is housing undead entities because of the creatures living in Stone Tower Temple. It used to be inhabited by humans, but now the only people living there are Pamela and her father, and Sakon the thief, on the borders of the canyon.
The release difference between the Japanese and North American version of the game was six months, the longest delay in release among any 3D title to date. Despite this, there are not too many noticeable differences between the versions. In the Japanese version, Owl Statues simply serve as destinations for the Song of Soaring, and are not able to be used to quick save. While the Japanese version has three save files, the North American version only has two due to the addition of the quick saves. The Japanese collector’s edition of the game has two save files and quick saves, like the international releases.
In the United States and Canada, all versions of the game were released with gold cartridges; the differentiation was that the collector’s edition had a holographic label on it. In Europe, the PAL versions of the game also came with gold cartridges, but were not named collector’s editions, lacking the holographic label. The only PAL collector’s edition was released in Australia, where it had the logo and the North American label, though it lacked the holographic effect. There was a limited edition Adventure Set released, being limited to 1,000 copies. This included the game, the soundtrack, a watch, a shirt, two pins, a poster, a sticker, and a certificate of authenticity, and it was only made available in Europe.
The game sold approximately 314,000 copies in its first week of sales in Japan, and while still a success, sold significantly less than its predecessor at 3.36 million copies. This was likely as a result of its release during the final years of the Nintendo 64 coupled with fan skepticism. The response to the game is generally positive, though there is a divide as to whether the game lives up to its predecessor. Some praised the more in depth focus on the side quests and character development, whereas others heavily criticized it; this included the lower number of dungeons. There was also mixed reception about the time system that was implemented within the game.
In 2003, Nintendo released a GameCube bundle; it included the console as well as the title The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition that featured four games, one of which was Majora’s Mask. However, due to a poor emulation, this game had minor glitches that were not present in the original, some of which froze the game entirely. Like the original, this game only allowed for two save files (per memory card), despite the fact that it would have been possible to have more.
In 2004, Majora’s Mask was translated to Standard Chinese with Simplified Chinese text, and ported to the region’s exclusive iQue Player. However, production of this was halted by the government, having deemed the dark undertones within the game to violate censorship laws.
Majora’s Mask was also released for the Virtual Console, being released in 2009. Several glitches that were present within Collector’s Edition were removed, including freezing, making it possible that the Virtual Console version was a direct port of Collector’s Edition.
A Nintendo 3DS remake was announced through the Nintendo Direct Stream on November 5th, 2014. It was entitled Majora’s Mask 3D, and was similar to Ocarina of Time 3D, featuring updated graphics and other various additions. This released early 2015.
1. Majora’s Mask is the first Zelda game where boss battles can be replayed at any time.
2. Along with the Kokiri Sword and Ocarina of Time, the Stone of Agony is one of the few items that Link preserves from Ocarina of Time, since the controller will still rumble when near a secret area, provided the Rumble Pak is inserted.
3. Majora’s Mask contains the smallest amount of dungeons in any game, with a total of four. Within the dungeons, all items obtained pertain to the bow.
4. The first playable character besides Link, Kafei, was introduced in this title. This played a big part in the next console installment, The Wind Waker.
5. The Virtual Console version of this game uses fewer blocks than Ocarina of Time, due to improvements in data compression. However, the save data uses three blocks, which is three times as much as Ocarina of Time’s save data uses.
6. Sakon is the first non-playable character that can be killed; if Link were to shoot the bomb bag he steals with an arrow, it will detonate upon impact. The old woman carrying the bag states afterwards, “Oh my. You think it’ll never happen to you. Well, now I’ve learned my lesson. And I thought we would finally be able to stock Bomb Bags in our shop. It’s too bad…” indicating that this wasn’t really the correct course of action. Doing this also disables the completion of the Couple’s Mask side quest within that cycle.
7. It is the first game in the series where Tingle and the Postman appear. The Postman also marks the first time a mail system in used within the Zelda series.
8. The Indigo-Go’s most famous song is the Ballad of the Wind Fish; it gets its namesake from Link’s Awakening, though the two do not sound similar.
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