I did it.
After about three weeks of solid play, I’ve completed my first ever 3D Zelda game. It only took me damn near 25 years to do it.
I won’t linger on it, because what else can be said about Ocarina of Time that hasn’t been discussed to death. But out of everything the game offered, I appreciate that it got me excited about video games in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time.
It’s easy with a powerful gaming rig to just amass triple-A titles in my Steam backlog and play the new shiny thing on the block. I tried to jump into Battlefield 1 a while back and fell asleep halfway through the campaign. The singular nature of a first-person shooter sharpened to a bayonet point just frankly….bored me. Coming off the heels of Prey, it’s incredibly frustrating to have an expansive top-tier game limit my actions to “shoot.”
Point. Click. Boom. Point. Click. Boom. Point. Click. Boom.
Sure, there are moments of brilliance and some genuinely impressive set-pieces. The sense of scale in particular is breathtaking. However, even turning back the clock to 1914 and exploring the unused terrain of WWI can’t shake the sense that I’ve done this all before.
So instead I jumped directly into Majora’s Mask.
To be honest, I’m blown away by its ability to function as a sequel. I often make the case that the best iteration of a series is the one that tries to do as much different from its predecessor as possible, and man does this game hit the mark. The atmosphere is darker, the pressure of completing as much as possible in three days is absolutely crushing, and the game mechanics have expanded tremendously.
A Sequel, By Any Other Name…
Critical Distance had a recent blog round-up where they wanted people to discuss how games handle letting their heroes go at the end of an adventure, and I suspect many will be talking about Majora’s Mask. Last time we left Link, he was the hero of Hyrule. The game ends triumphantly….yet when we pause to consider the repercussions of a time traveling main character, a darker reality sets in. Link was returned to his child form, before he actually saved the world. No one knows who he is or what he did in this timeline, and he has to live his life onward carrying the weight of having saved the world for essentially no one.
So how does Majora’s Mask begin?
It has its main character get mugged in the woods.
Link is arguably at his lowest point here, downtrodden and sullen as he rides atop Epona searching for his missing friend Na’avi. The game then proceeds to strip him of anything he has left, leaving him even without his humanity.
Changing the Rules
In a horrifying loss of identity, you play the first portion of the game as a Deku scrub trying to get your original form back. It’s a ballsy move by the developers, changing up not only the way your main character looks, but how he moves and interacts with the world. Luckily, the game is smart and gates you into Clock Town, letting you get a feel for the new mechanics in an open, but supervised environment.
It then blows those rules out the window the minute it lets you out. Once you get your sword and human form back, the world of Termina is yours to explore.
For 72 hours.
Begin the frantic exploration and note taking. The clock is constantly ticking and literally every action you take during the day cannot be wasted. I’ve never played a game like this before. If Ocarina of Time was Nintendo learning how to explore a 3D environment, Majora’s Mask was them jumping straight into 4D. No game has done it since, which makes this move even more impressive.
The cyclical nature of the game would almost be meditative if it wasn’t so horrifying. The music in Clock Town speeds up as the clock winds down. It rains on the second day. The mailman completes his route. The falling moon’s grimace gets closer every day. It’s a perfectly orchestrated symphony that you are free to interject yourself into, a sickening turn of Groundhog Day taken to an interactive level.
It’s absolutely brilliant.
I’ll get more into the other masks in a follow up post, but the way the game keeps making rules and then breaking them is fantastic. I’m enjoying exploring the world in new ways on a constant basis. Termina has wound its way into my mind, and I can’t get it out.