History of Zelda: Part 06 – Majora’s Mask

The History of Zelda – Part 6

The Legend of Zelda. Indeed, this name is as recognisable in Video Game fame as Mario, and even Final Fantasy. Close to thirty years ago, Nintendo hired a man who would, of all things, design concepts for toys. Little did anybody know that this man would write history, influence hundreds of games, oversee the development of even more and define an entirely new genre. Shigeru Miyamoto devised the first iteration of The Legend of Zelda in the mid 1980s, and since then, The Legend of Zelda has become one of Nintendo’s very best properties.

This series of articles will look at each Zelda title in chronological order of release, describe the groundbreaking achievements and show the essence of the Action Adventure RPG.

Chapter VI – Majora’s Mask (N64)

The world had been left breathless in the wake of Ocarina of Time. It had taken a staggering 4 or so years to develop. Now Miyamoto wanted to make a new adventure, and he wanted it to take only one year. Those twelve months blew out to 24, and Miyamoto had placed a new person as director. Eiji Aonuma lead the team to develop a title that, at Miyamoto’s direction, would take no where near as long as Ocarina of Time, less staff to bring it all together and would run on the same game and graphics engine.

It was the first time Miyamoto had not been director of a Zelda title and, rather, a producer. The difference is evident within the game, but in a positive way. New life had been breathed into the franchise, with results displaying such ingenuity, creativity and graphical prowess. There were more enemies, higher detailed textures and more interaction with NPC’s. So much in fact, you were given a book to record all of your dealings! And because of the time system used, you could go back as many times as you wanted, extending the replay value several times over. Welcome to the world of Termina; Welcome to Majora’s Mask.

Link was on his way setting out for a new journey, to find a friend, near and dear to him;

“In the land of Hyrule, there
echoes a legend. A legend held
dearly by the Royal Family that
tells of a boy…

A boy who,
after battling evil and saving
Hyrule, crept away from that land
That had made him a legend…

Done with the battles he once
waged across time, he embarked
on a journey. A secret
and personal journey…

A journey in search of a
beloved and invaluable friend…

A friend with whom he parted
ways when he finally fulfilled his
heroic destiny and took his place
among legends…”

A poem, a new way to introduce the game at hand, and a whole new adventure waited. Link began his adventure on horseback in the Lost Woods, on his way home from his larger than life adventure in Ocarina of Time. He was in search of a friend who was very important and close to his heart. However, he was intercepted in the woods by a fairy which frightened Epona enough to bring her to buck Link to the ground. A Skull Kid appeared, stealing the Ocarina of Time, and Epona. Link attempted to pursue, but pursuit was no use, and eventually was cursed and thrown off the trail. Link’s new adventure had begun in a strange and distant world; he himself took on a strange and different shape…

Majora’s Mask maintains the importance of character placement and their involvement in the world around them. This new world of Termina was a parallel world to Hyrule, with some very obvious differences. One of them, a gigantic moon that hung in the sky above Clock Town, not only the busiest city in the game, but the only town, was to cause a great cataclysm. Link soon learnt what was to become of this moon, the menace behind it, and what he had to do to save the world. Link is once again our star studded champ, (is he ever not?) returning as his original form to do it, the child that first rescued the princess…

Termina was a world where it was absolutely invaluable to interact with NPC’s. Trading items and exchanging information was essential in the unravelling of a deep, twisted and complex storyline. Such a storyline saw the likes of a stallchild along with his two de-facto fairies hijack a mask salesman and steal a sacred mask filled with such evil and malevolent forces that could turn a relatively innocent child into a wicked villain filled with the desire to rule all. There is always a person to talk to, an event taking place or a mission requiring fulfilment.

To go with the action was a slew of foes new and old and some rather unique and creative enemy designs. Among them was the Real Bombchu, a creepy, functional live bomb that began to count down when it caught you in its sight. Others included the cursed Ninjas of Ikana, aliens dropping from the heavens in an attempt to cow-nap along with ever present traditional enemies; Like-Likes, Keese, Stalfos, Wolfos, Tektites and Leevers. Each had their weaknesses, and strengths. Now it was time meet them once again.

Harbouring the majority of these enemies were the four main dungeons, underneath a putrid swamp, high atop a frosty mountain, far out at sea and atop the tallest and most hunted of towers. Each dungeon was an architectural splendour, with twisted halls, chambers, floating flowers, reversible floors and gigantic pumps. Deep within each was a lost and shattered fairy fragment, waiting to be rescued and rid of the curse empowered on them by the Skull Kid. Doing so reaped a reward, as Zelda titles always have for completing challenges, and so Majora’s Mask continues that tradition, not just with the shattered fairies, but many other challenges, including the protection of a valuable wagon of Milk, a heard of cows and the target practice of a witch. These are an example of the creative events that make this such an enjoyable experience, and are what gives it such a high replay value.

Music is also a different factor of this adventure in comparison with past games in the series. Although the same sound effects are used, a lot of the tunes are more twisted, darker and creepier scores. For example, the swamp dungeon utilises a tribal, bongo filled beat, complete with intimidating screams, while the tower top castle has a more sterile, secluded theme. Why? It’s far away from everything! These are mood building scores that presented this game as a much darker, creepier title than its predecessors. They literally had you sitting on the edge of your seats while turning a corner or trekking in the dark. Fortunately for veterans, the infamous Zelda theme of past journeys makes a return after an absence from Ocarina of Time.

The game play mechanics were unchanged from Ocarina of Time, which wasn’t a bad thing, as the controls built up in that outing were an excellent system that tends to suit Zelda games very well. Z-targeting makes for some really great battles while the C buttons were used for accessing the many items and masks of the adventure. New items included the Great Fairy’s Sword, of which was a C button sword, powder kegs; gigantic barrels of gun powder only a Goron could use, and due to the tremendous power, only one could be held at a time. Other items included the pictograph box, a crazy contraption resembling a camera that Link could use to take happy snaps, his sword and shield and more than 20 masks that could give Link enhanced or brand new abilities.

These masks are what made Majora’s Mask such a unique challenge. Collecting and utilising them was an essential part of the quest at hand. The Bunny Hood, as it does in Super Smash Bros. Melee, increases the speed of the user by 1 and a half (1 ½) times, while the Blast Mask allowed Link to become a human bomb. Along with many others, there were three particularly unique and important masks. The Deku mask, Zora mask and Goron mask. Each of these allowed you to transform into their respective species, and enabled Link to use their special abilities. Deku Link can glide using flowers, Zora Link can use martial arts as well as boomerang fins, while Goron Link can rock and roll anywhere, while being able to punch and bum bash enemies. In order to progress, Link had to use all three creatively and intelligently, allowing him to access new areas, items and masks. A very clever implementation of such items adds a new dimension to The Legend of Zelda. To tie all of these masks and items together was the Quest Status screen, visually improved over Ocarina of Time’s and a much cleaner and faster interface. What is a Zelda title without the Quest Status?

Of course, there are the gods that had become tangled up in the mess that had befallen Termina. Four giants that were the protectors of each temple, cursed by the skull kid into wearing masks that captured them and enslaved them to prevent Link from saving the world. Once friends of skull kids’, he turned on them, feeling alone and depressed, in an effort to bring the world to an end much faster. Combining the strengths of the giants along with a magical melody from Link’s ocarina will yield a chance for the salvage of the world.

If, for some reason, you weren’t up to the challenge of saving the world, there were plenty of side quests and challenges afoot to provide relief. Horseback racing, archery, mini games and racing challenges were all included in the tradition of The Legend of Zelda. All of these elements fit together to provide a very different Zelda experience, filled with challenge and adventure. There was no princess to save, but in her absence, an entire world was in need of a hero.

Majora’s Mask might be referred to as a follow up rather than a sequel. There was no Ganon involved, nor the Princess. Hyrule was far, far away. In style, it is really an Adventure of Link. This didn’t, however, impact on the feel and touch of the game. Dungeons and temples are in the vein of The Legend of Zelda, and so too is the way the game is presented through sound effects, background music and items. It was an adventure not just for any hero, but a legendary hero… The legendary hero of Hyrule, the legendary Link.