Majora’s Mask is the direct sequel to the Best Game of All Time, Ocarina of Time. Originally released in 2000for the Nintendo 64 on the exact same day as PlayStation2, it served as a great example of how a last-generation console can visually outshine a next-generation console, thanks to years of programming experience under the developer’s belt. It required the 4MB Expansion Pak to push graphically intense locations, creating scenes that OoT was simply incapable of. Other notable upgrades included flips and somersaults, a flawless lock-on, and a revolutionary three-day time system.
Majora’s Mask is set in a parallel world to Hyrule named Termina, where things are similar, yet eerily different. Unfortunately for Link, the new arrival, upon his arrival he learns the land has three days before the planet is engulfed by the Moon. Fortunately for the player, it’s possible to go back in time and replay the three days Groundhog Day-style, learning more about the world and obtaining new items each time.
The best part of the three-day system is the Bomber’s Notebook. In this notebook, you record events and details about the lives of Termina’s residents to gain items and help them with their problems. For instance, at a certain time on a certain day, a Goron tradesman comes into town. If you follow him to the inn, you can overhear a conversation with the lady behind the counter. He gets the keys for a room he’s booked for the night under the name… Link!? So of course, you tuck this information away under your thinking cap, and realise that if you go back in time, you can get there before him and take the keys for yourself, which in turn enables you to further another side-quest.
Also integral to the game design is the use of masks. Masks can have various effects - for instance they might give you an extra ability (like attracting one of the 15 fairies hidden in each of the five dungeons), be the answer to a puzzle, or transform you into an entirely different species. There are three main transforming masks, the Deku (float and snot-shooting abilities), the Zora (kick boxing and amazing swimming abilities) and Goron (rolling at high speeds, what more do you need?!). On top of that, there are two other transforming masks; one that turns you into a giant for a boss fight, and another that turns you into a Fierce Deity named Oni Link, who can be used against all the bosses, using his huge sword to fire magic disks at enemies.
Majora’s Mask also introduces a very dark and twisted feel to the series. Later mirrored in Twilight Princess, MM broke from the standard colourful Zelda style with a story based around armageddon, with a corrupted palette and morbid soundtrack to match. As the days continue, the mood and weather become increasingly sombre until the moment when, unless you play the Song of Time, the destruction of the world does play out for the first time in a Zelda. However, the series is back on track after the most incredible, heart warming ending in any Zelda game, ever.