When Nintendo's Legend of Zelda: the Ocarina of Time graced the Nintendo 64 in late 1998, many gamers were skeptical as to whether Link's adventures would translate well to a three-dimensional world. As it turned out, the game was a phenominal success, breaking sales records and receiving critical acclaim. Now, nearly a year and a half after our last trek through Hyrule, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the follow up to the N64's most popular action/RPG, has been released in Japan.
Called a sequel by some and a spin-off by others, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask will immediately cause players to draw striking comparisons to Ocarina of Time. The control setup and the graphical style, as well as the game's overall "feel," have returned with few changes from the original. Many weapons, items, and abilities will make return appearances, as will familiar areas and characters. Under the surface, however, lies a very different Legend of Zelda.
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask begins shortly after the previous game ends, and follows the adventure of young Link in an alternate reality from his own. This variant dimension, similar to the Dark World in the SNES game Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, is a twisted version of Hyrule, with familiar locations and characters that are changed from their original counterparts. This parallel realm faces an oncoming threat, the moon on a collision course with the planet, which Link must prevent at all costs.
Similarly to the time system used in some areas of Ocarina of Time, all events in Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask occur in real-time. What's different from the original, however, is that Link must accomplish his goals before the moon crashes into the planet. The collision will occur three days after the game begins, and the game is therefore divided into three days. However, in this game, one game-day only takes 12 minutes to complete. This boils down to only 36 minutes of play before the moon hits. The only way Link can survive the catastrophe is to use the Ocarina of Time before the impact to send himself back to 6 a.m. on the first day.
Using the Ocarina of Time to travel back to the first day is also the only way to save your game in Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Because Link travels back in time, however, some aspects of the game will reset each time you return. Some of these details that are lost during time travel include dungeon traps you have cleared, conversations you've had, and your inventory of consumable items (such as rupees, bombs, keys, and deku nuts). There are some things that you can take back in time, though. These include masks, instruments, special items and weapons, songs you've learned, maps, and money placed in the bank. Although players will be required to restart from the beginning many times through the course of the game, each new item and skill brought back will enable players to open new paths that were previously inaccessable.
Also new to Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is a character routine system similar to that of Sega's upcoming Shen Mue. Various characters will follow a set schedule throughout each day, and Link will be able to keep track of them using an in-game organizer and interact with them accordingly. Time will play a key factor in character interaction, as some events will only occur if you interact with a character during a certain time frame.
Although it features a departure in gameplay from Ocarina of Time, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask certainly has a lot going for it, and just like the original, it will most likely win over fans and skeptics alike when it reaches North America in the fourth quarter of this year. Stay tuned to RPGamer for any new updates concerning this upcoming action/RPG from Nintendo.