Majora’s Mask is the black sheep of the 3-D Legend of Zelda family. It was developed in a year after the massive success that was Ocarina of Time. Majora’s Mask uses the same engine and basic formula as its predecessor, but it takes a bizarre twist. There is no Zelda, no Triforce, and it does not take place in Hyrule. Instead, Majora’s Mask takes place in the doomed realm of Termina. The moon is set to crash into Termina and destroy everything in three days (about 54 minutes of real time). You are trapped in a Groundhog Day scenario, you must reset the three day cycle to prevent the moon from crashing into Termina until you gather the necessary items to save the world. Whether or not you like this game depends entirely on how much you enjoy this three day cycle mechanic. I personally thought it was a double-edged sword in many ways. I can appreciate the ambitious and unique aspects of Majora’s Mask, but I just could not get into it for a couple of reasons.
Majora’s Mask lives and dies on its three day cycle. Many people are scared away because of the 54 minute timer, but to be honest it was never a problem for me as I often used the Inverted Song of Time to triple the amount of time. Everything you do in Majora’s Mask is designed to be easily completed within those 162 minutes, so I had no issues with that aspect at all. That being said, there were many other issues I had with this system. First and foremost was the obnoxious saving system. The only way to permanently save the game was to reset the three day cycle, so I felt like I needed to play a solid two hours if I wanted to make any progress. Other games I can be satisfied by playing thirty minutes to an hour, but Majora’s Mask does not allow you that luxury and it forces you to play it in big chunks. Another problem I had was just the sheer repetitive nature of the game. When you reset the cycle, everything is reset except for your items which you keep. Due to this, there is just a lot of repetition and tedium in this game. My final issue with the three day cycle is more subjective but it was probably my biggest problem with this game. I felt like I was not making any progress. Resetting the cycle and watching all your work and time erased just felt demoralizing. There is no point of doing any of the side-quests or helping any of the characters when you know that your efforts are fruitless and ultimately amount to nothing. Of course you get a mask or some other reward, but I like to see how the world develops or how the characters change. Some argue this aspect was the entire point of Majora’s Mask, you are meant to feel helpless and like all your efforts are futile. While many may like this, I personally did not.
The other thing that makes Majora’s Mask standout in comparison to other Legend of Zelda titles is its lack of dungeons. It only had four main dungeons, while its predecessor had nine. To be fair, Majora’s Mask focus is not on the dungeons, but on its world and its side-quests. Still, dungeons have always been a core part of the Legend of Zelda experience and Majora’s Mask is lacking in that department. The first two dungeons were alright but nothing special. Great Bay Temple was conceptually interesting, but it was extremely frustrating to navigate. Stone Tower Temple was fantastic and one of the best dungeons in the entire series. All in all, if you enjoy Legend of Zelda games for the dungeons than Majora’s Mask is definitely not for you. The lack of dungeons is made up for with all the side-quests and the lengthy sections before each dungeon.
Everyone loves to talk about the complexity and interesting world of Majora’s Mask. The three day cycle allows for some complex interactions. Every character has a schedule that they follow and talking to them at different times during their cycles will yield different results. For example, if you talk to the old woman at the bomb shop on day two or three she will tell you how she was robbed on the night of the first day. Logically, you reset the cycle and save her from getting robbed and she gives you a reward. The quests are all interconnected as well. Following the previously mentioned side-quest, if you help the old woman then you will not be able to do a quest involving the thief later on in the cycle. Many of the of the side-quests utilize the three day cycle to help you figure out the solution and it is interesting to see how all the characters plots are interwoven with each other. Unfortunately, a couple other side-quests were not as well crafted as the others. Many of them boiled down to just talking to the character at the right time, or talking to the character and wearing the correct mask. I felt like some of the side-quests just wasted my time. The famed Anju and Kafei quest is about 45 minutes long and you need to complete it twice if you want both rewards. The quest involves a lot of just sitting around as you wait for the characters to get to the correct part of their schedule for you to interact with them. Overall, some of the quests correctly utilized the three day cycle, and others I felt like just wasted my time.
I feel like Majora’s Mask is a game that many people love, but others find it exhausting. I fall into the latter camp, it is my least favorite Legend of Zelda title that I have played so far. I can appreciate the creativity and the uniqueness of what Majora’s Mask achieved, but I just did not like it. I feel like you need an exceptional amount of patience to put up with all the tedium and repetitiveness that is in this game. If you are interested by the prospect of the three day cycle, impending doom, and themes of hopelessness and regret, then you will probably love Majora’s Mask. If you are more of a gameplay and action oriented person, I would recommend steering clear of this game. Overall, I understand what it was going for, but Majora’s Mask just did not click for me.