Editorial: Lessons from the Past

Nintendo finally did SOMETHING right.

Nothing earth-shaking, perhaps, but something right. Specifically, they released The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on the Virtual Console. The game was originally released in late 2000 on the Nintendo 64, and again in 2003 on The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition for the GameCube. Somehow, though. Majora’s Mask has never managed to shake the image of “little brother” to its predecessor, Ocarina of Time.

To be sure, Majora’s Mask doesn’t quite live up to the near-perfection that was Ocarina of Time, but the bad rap it often receives is hardly deserved. It’s a shockingly underrated, overlooked game and if you haven’t experienced it yet, there’s no reason not to now. It’s a game from a time when Nintendo had more to offer than tricks, gimmicks, and (at best) solid gameplay experiences.

You may wonder why I (apparently) list “solid gameplay experiences” in the list of cons pertaining to Nintendo. I’ll explain: Nintendo, at their best, can still give core gamers one hell of an engaging, solid, and fun gameplay experience. Titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption are perfect current-generation examples. Speaking strictly from a core gameplay standpoint, those two titles are the best in their respective series’. The combat in Metroid Prime 3 works beautifully on Wii controls, refining the experience to a point where it’s difficult to imagine it could get much better. The dungeon crawling in Twilight Princess is practically flawless; undoubtedly the best dungeons and boss battles ever seen in a Zelda title to this date.

Deku Link sad that Nintendo stole his personality.
Deku Link sad that Nintendo stole his personality.

What, then are these titles missing? It’s simple: character. The lack of personality in the latest installments of Nintendo’s two flagship franchises is blatant and damaging.

I’ve said this before: Twilight Princess is essentially an attempt to make an Ocarina of Time 2. The game makes a singular attempt to set itself apart through the implementation of the “Dark World,” but sadly, the mechanic comes off as ho-hum and derivative. Link’s imp-like sidekick, Midna, tries hard to pack enough personality for the entirety of the game. As good a job she does, it isn’t enough. Aside from that, the entire game just comes off as an attempt to re-create the experiences gamers remember so fondly from 1998. Adult link is back, the “serious” graphical style is back, horseback riding returns, and the dungeons (which, admittedly had been slighted in the previous few installments) are back with a vengeance. What hasn’t returned is the emotion, personality, or character.

Metroid Prime 3 is an even worse offender in this case. I haven’t yet finished the game, and I’m unsure if I ever will. Gone are the masterfully crafted atmospheres of the first two installments. Gone is the feeling of loneliness, desperation, and mystery. Gone is the challenging nature of the combat that kept players on their toes even outside of boss battles. In Metroid Prime 3 we get military bases filled with poorly voiced Space Marines, bounty hunter buddies who pop up with annoying frequency, and bosses who shoot energy blasts than can be deflected with Samus’s own shots – and then drop health orbs. Metroid Prime 3 is an extremely solid (albeit insultingly easy) gameplay experience. However, the game might as well have been entitled Halo: Nintendo Edition.

There was once a time when Nintendo games offered more, and Majora’s Mask is a perfect example. Frankly, speaking from an atmospheric perspective, it’s the most masterful Zelda title ever created. You can tell as soon as the game begins. Link isn’t in Kansas anymore – it’s one of the few Zelda titles to take place outside of Hyrule. The player is constantly assaulted with the feeling that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the world of Termina simply isn’t real. It’s a twisted mirror image of Link’s homeland, with familiar faces and customs, offset by a cartoony moon glaring down on the world, and a ridiculously contrived overworld layout. (Swamp. Mountain. Ocean. Canyon.) The music is top-notch; perhaps not the best in the series, but perfect for the atmosphere of the game. The themes presented are often quite dark; ironically, Majora’s Mask is a far darker experience than Twilight Princess could ever hope to be, despite how much harder the latter tries. (Purply dark worlds doth not a gloomy atmosphere create.)

It can’t be denied that Majora’s Mask lacks some punch in the gameplay department, but the miniscule dungeons and three-day cycle restriction is far easier to forgive than the haters would like you to believe. It’s still Zelda, and it’s a ton of fun. In fact, it’s MORE than just fun. Majora’s Mask is practically a work of art. So, to all of you who have yet to give the game a go: hop to it, it’s available for 1000 Wii Points now. To all the haters: I highly recommend a second look. Nintendo needs to replay this game themselves – maybe they’ll remember a few things they’ve apparently forgotten.

0 comments

  1. “and if you haven’t experienced it yet, there’s no reason not to now.”

    Um….? How about not owning a Wii? Is that reason enough? Or how about not liking groundhog games?

    Also since when is Twilight Princess current gen, I though it was just a Game Cube port, making it last gen.

    Quibbles aside though, I think this was an even better Nintendo sucks editorial than your last one.

  2. I think its kinda sad when people finally praise Ninty, but its for a port of a N64 game… :/

  3. Well they just suck this generation, and they don’t even seem to have prevented their casual focus from hurting the view core games they have deigned to release this gen. There just isn’t enough pressure for their core games to be awesome this time around.

  4. Well as Nate describes it, it sounds quite reasonable to not enjoy it.

  5. I almost fully agree with this article. You write out my EXACT thoughts on Twilight Princess, and mirror my thoughts about character and the really crappy dungeons MM has.
    But I would say that despite Lusipurr’s puzzling contrary opinion, Majora’s Mask is quite comparable to Ocarina of Time and while the ol’ faithful OoT wins in my books, Majora’s Mask’s incredible mood, music, and character puts it in high contention.

    And, really, when you slow down time, the three days do not go by quickly. They are not an issue.

    But the dungeons do suck. Hard. Worse than Wind Waker. Worst in the 3D series.

    But in re: to Nintendo sucks. Yes, they’ve forgotten how to construct mood. It’s not really a problem with Mario since those games are ALL gameplay, but it’s incredibly noticable in the two most recent Zeldas. Contrary to popular belief, they’ll have to do a lot to make me believe they can make a Zelda on the level of OoT and MM again. The solid gameplay is great, but it’s just a piece in the puzzle for me.

    I never got into any Metroid game ever, so I can’t comment there.

  6. @SN – I actually don’t particularly blame anybody who doesn’t like MM. It IS an unusual setup and the dungeons ARE lame, the latter being why I consider it weaker than OoT. So if you play Zelda for just the dungeons, I can’t really blame you for hating the title.
    But for what I look for in a game, I’m with Oliver, the game is a masterpiece. It’s one Zelda game that wasn’t about the dungeons, so that didn’t matter so much.

  7. I’ve heard good things about Majora’s Mask on HG101. I really didn’t like the first five minutes though when I played it and never gave it a second chance.

    The whole Groundhog Day thing made it sound kind of like Baroque or a rogue-like in a way.

  8. I don’t know where this idea that Majora’s Mask is a “groundhog” or “rogue-like” is coming from. The three-day time limit is hardly an issue, as Ethan points out.

  9. Well I don’t disagree with the Groundhog Day comparisons. It’s very similar to that movie in the sense that nobody else is aware of the three day cycle except for Link (and MAYBE Happy Mask Man). But I think that lends itself to the game, not detracts from it.

  10. An excellent editoral that I completly agree with. While Twilight Princess and Corruption were both great games, but the lack of personality and character just stands out like a sore thumb, that it’s almost embarressing. Ocarina and Majora’s Mask both excelled and in many ways perfected the series to a point were there was no need to change anything. Twilight Princess was way to easy and while it still perfected the Zelda charm, it never even came close to the feeling I got when I first played Ocarina and Majoras Mask and that’s what makes a great game. What makes a great game is the feeling you get while playing the game, that feeling you get both during and after the game were you feel satisfied, content, curious, impressed and wanting to see more, all at the same time. Nintendo, I implore you to look at the games you created back in the N64 era so you can realize that, you don’t have to change your first party games just for the casual players because we were once casual in some respect a long time ago, yet we beat Zelda, we played Mario and we enjoyed Metroid. The elderly and soccer moms of our generation don’t need to be coddled with Brain Age and the likes, they need to experiance the games of the past. That’s how we learned to become better and to appreciate games more and that’s how they should as well. I know that sounds a tad bit…unfair and somewhat lacking but I don’t think this casual market should be treated like kids, they need to be treated with quality games so their minds don’t get corrupted and believe the only games for them are the Brain Age and Wii Fits.