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Review: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask



(IDG) -- Surreal and epic in scope, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask may just be the last great N64 title. Luckily for the system, this new Zelda is original, odd, and different enough to revive the magic of Link one more time.

Mask of A Thousand Faces

Link, hero of Hyrule, can't seem to get a break. Now that he's saved Hyrule from the evil Ganondorf, he just wants a little peace. Of course, it wouldn't make much of a game in Majora's Mask if there weren't an evil villain (a young scarecrow-looking kid named Skull Kid), a crime (Skull Kid steals Link's horse), and a distant, parallel world. When he chases Skull Kid, Link winds up in the parallel world of Termina, where clocks constantly count down the hours before the moon comes crashing to the earth. Link has three days to figure out what's going on, save the world, and get home or he and everyone else on Termina will be destroyed.

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Of course, Link is far from helpless. Allies and friends throughout the world will give you clues and items to help you in your quest. You'll find tons of masks throughout the world, some of which will disguise you or give you magical powers. Even the three-day deadline isn't really a hurdle for Link, because he can play a song on his ocarina and return to the first day with a clean slate. This proves to be the most important and intriguing idea behind Majora's Mask. Remembering what happens where and when is as important as swinging your sword, and the constant race against extinction gives the game a sense of urgency not usually found in RPGs.

Masquerade Ball

Zelda 64 was truly original in its control scheme, emphasizing ease of play over tedious jumping puzzles. An auto-jump feature makes sure you don't slip over edges, and the world's best targeting feature keeps you focused and ready in battle. You can customize the C-buttons to allow you easy access to your special items and weapons. Simply put, Zelda's controls are nearly perfect, only suffering from a slow camera and periodic strange viewing angles.

With the PS2 spinning discs on a few people's shelves by now, the N64's graphical prowess is nothing special. Still, Majora's Mask wins in the graphics category, thanks to its whimsical and immersive design that takes you deeply into a world that, compared to the Dreamcast or PS2's best, looks a little simple. It's amazing that this long after the release of the N64, you'll still find graphical moments that will take your breath away, like spotting the angry, falling moon on a boat tour through the swamp.

As if it bears repeating, the N64 is not known for its sound quality, but Majora's Mask handles this well. The awesome music and environmental sounds will keep you glued, even as the bad character voices and repetitive, annoying sound effects (like footsteps, jingling fairies, etc.) goad you into tossing your remote through your TV.

Time and Time Again

Majora's Mask is living proof that the N64 still has its magic. Skillful hands have crafted a story that's surreal and spooky, deep, and intriguing. Majora's Mask will keep you glued to your N64 for a long, long time.

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