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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Retrospective

If you were to twist my arm, I could probably expand this list to a nice round 50, but I've already spent more time on this game than I should have.

30 things that suck about Majora's Mask:
  1. The fish that constantly spawn just within range to hit you, and can't be killed without coming to a complete stop.
  2. the slow as hell vertical movement of zora link underwater
  3. the zora boomerangs that take 2 years to come back to you, leaving you unable to attack or even effectively move until they do.
  4. the third combo attack of Goron Link and Zora Link, which never seem to hit anything, and takes 3 times longer than the other attack animations
  5. that magical woosh animation that plays EVERY time you change your arrows
  6. the inability to equip more than one type of arrow at a time (see #5)
  7. jumping puzzles in a game with no jump button
  8. the fish boss who stays stunned exactly 2 seconds less than is necessary to sink, attack, and get back to safety (see #2)
  9. enemies that hit you with an inescapable 8 hit combo of 1/4 heart per hit, rather than simply dealing 2 hearts of damage to you
  10. the lack of any type of camera control outside of completely recentering the camera
  11. The lack of any way to center the camera if any enemies are in front of Link
  12. the overly eager bank teller that looks like he's jacking off whenever you talk to him.
  13. The unreliable "automatic" method of getting Epona to jump over a fence.
  14. being told every time what every item you get in a chest does, including items that you pick up multiple times in every dungeon like keys and rupees.
  15. The 4 pages of text that appears every time you talk to the bank teller, which inevitably leads to the player selecting the first option as a result of button mashing.
  16. Getting a measly 5 rupees for putting 1000 rupees in the bank, which you generally only do when you're about to turn back time, forcing you to decide whether to deal with #15 again, or lose the 5 rupees.
  17. the way rupees are never used to buy actual supplies, since bombs and arrows can be found in grass and pots all over the world, and thus just end up maxing out your wallet until you deal with #15 again.
  18. Riding Epona. If you get near a wall. Any wall. At any speed. At any angle. Epona flips out and you have to wait 3 years to regain control.
  19. Watching the same unskippable cutscenes over and over because you have to get a key item again.
  20. Bubbles that curse you for too fucking long. Seriously, I timed it. it takes 60 seconds to regain the use of your sword. In game time, this is an entire hour.
  21. that 1 second of ocarina time between when you can start playing, and when the game will actually start listening to the buttons you press.
  22. inability to move up or down on the owl quick-travel map
  23. how slow Epona moves, even with carrots
  24. waiting for carrots to recharge.
  25. Tingle. just... Tingle.
  26. having to listen to Tingle's diatribe every time you want to buy a map
  27. birds and bats that swoop down from above and behind link, which don't even deal any significant damage, but continually respawn.
  28. that music that plays whenever an enemy is near that sounds like the trolley from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood
  29. how slow link walks when charging his spin attack
  30. being unable to pause when any message is on screen, even messages that are unskippable, but do not pause the game.
I won't officially go on record to say I hated this game, but it did piss me off many, MANY times. This is the kind of game that was developed to sell strategy guides. In most Zelda games, you are given a full heart container after beating a boss, and there are heart container pieces spread all throughout the world for you to hunt for. Even if you don't find these heart pieces, you tend to have enough containers just from beating the bosses; 10 in Ocarina of Time, 11 in Link to the Past. But in Majora's Mask, since you have only 4 bosses, you would be forced to go up against Majora with only 7 hearts. This makes Heart Pieces a very important commodity and creates a meta-game out of hunting them down. In a way, this is very innovative for the series, which makes the game not only free roaming in terms of location, but even to an extent the order in which you do sidequests.

The only downside to this is that many sidequests are VERY cryptic in terms of how you have to do them. Perhaps the dozens of Gossip Stones around the world give insight into this, but even obtaining the Truth Mask in order to talk to them is a completely optional task. While having this many optional sidequests works in a game like Fallout 3 or Grand Theft Auto 4, Majora's Mask kills it with the addition of the running timer. With that timer always running, and the clock always counting down to the time you'll be forced to start all over. Couple this with the fact that many of these events are linked to a particular time, or even a specific time AND day, and it brings echoes of Night Trap in terms of exploration and memorization.

While I praise Majora's Mask for taking risks with a series that has, let's face it, grown very, VERY repetitive in its age, there are a lot of design choices that prevent it from being hailed as the best in the series.

That award still goes to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

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