2nd Quest: Majora’s Mask

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was easily the most difficult game in the series to play so far. Not that it is a hard game, in fact most of it is quite easy. Rather than the moment to moment being hard, the difficulty is found in the overarching meta-game. In many ways, Majora’s Mask is a fascinating and unique game. Its Groundhog’s Day-esque 3 day cycle and darkly bleak tone is unlike anything else in the series, if not video games in general. Unfortunately, while those things make the game unforgettable and one of a kind, it also sometimes makes it no damn fun to play. Majora’s Mask is an excellent game, maybe the best in the series, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to play it again.

from vgmuseum

from vgmuseum

It is strange that unique is one of the first words that come to mind when thinking about Majora’s Mask, considering that the bulk of the assets used to create the game are recycled from Ocarina of Time. Characters, weapons and enemies are just lifted from that previous game and repurposed in this one. There are some new things, but for the most part it is made out of Ocarina’s leftovers. This isn’t a complaint; it is no different from the similarities among the Gameboy games or the two DS games. It does, however, add to the weird, dark tone of the game. Everything is familiar, yet slightly different. It is unsettling, disturbing even. Far from being a problem, the recycled content just adds the nightmare feeling the game has going on.

Depending on how you count it, Majora’s Mask either has the smallest set of items or the biggest. Link doesn’t get all that much to work with in this game, outside of series mainstays like the bow, bombs and hookshot. It is simple, vanilla. But the game also has the masks. There was a mask or two in Ocarina of time, mostly as window dressing for a sidequest. As the title would suggest, the Masks are a bigger deal in Majora’s Mask. Most are again sidequest material. They grant small powers or abilities and have only a few uses over the course of the game. Then there are the transforming masks. There few masks let Link change from into one of the other races that populate Hyrule. (I know this game isn’t technically in Hyrule, but the point is the same) Being a Deku Scrub or Zora significantly changes everything about how Link moves and fights and just how the game plays. The only thing close to in the rest of the series is the Wolf form in Twilight Princess. The masks have to be included when thinking about the game’s layout of tools. And despite only having a handful of dungeons, it makes good use of the limited toolset. The dungeons, though, are almost an afterthought in Majora’s Mask. They all really well designed, but the player spends such a small amount of time in them that they are probably the least memorable part of the game.


I guess that brings me to the game’s most prominent feature, the three day cycle. In Majora’s Mask, the Mask-addled Skull Kid is crashing the moon into the city of Termina in three days. Once you get to the end of the three days, or anytime you feel like it, you have to play the Song of Time to rewind things back to the start. Unfortunately, all the characters reset to where they were at the start. Link loses all ammo and rupees, though he keeps key items like weapons and masks. This is the aspect of the game that is most often singled out for praise, and it is pretty great. It really makes the game stand out and play different than any other Zelda. It really let Nintendo make a living world for this game. In other games, NPCs wait around for the player to activate them. Sure, modern games may give them a routine to go through, but Majora’s Mask gives them three days’ worth of life. They have goals and stories. They’re stories even change, usually slightly, based on what the player does even if it doesn’t directly affect them. The three day cycle gives the world life. Clock Town, even though it is getting ready for a big celebration, slowly empties as that grimacing moon bears down on the town. There is a palpable feeling of desperation and terror as the days go by.


The tone of the game is unlike anything else. I’ve already mentioned that several times, but it is so very true. There is a darkness to Majora’s Mask. You don’t just get a mask that lets you turn into a Zora, you watch a Zora die in your arms on the beach having failed in his attempt to save his people’s eggs. You don’t just help them out, you take his face, become him, and try to right things. Even if you are successful, he’s still dead. If you don’t make it to the Ranch by the end of the first night, then all of its inhabitants are so traumatized by its … ghost attack that they are unable to speak or interact. Everywhere you look there is a dark and tragic story happening that unless the player intervenes to stop it. This where the extra level of darkness comes in, because every time you reset the clock, all the work you did is undone. Like Sisyphus, everything repeats, but there is not enough time to save everybody. When you save one person or group of people, you condemn another to some hellish tragedy. There is no winning, there is no real progress. You mist simply use the people you need to use to achieve your goals, which incidentally end up saving everybody.

While the repetitive nature of the game set up works for world building and story and tone, I find it intensely annoying to actually play. Sure, a player that truly knows the game can beat it with only the smallest amount of redoing things, but a player less familiar might have to do some things over and over again. Like beating the boss of a temple. Once a temple is beaten, the area of the map where it’s located is changed dramatically. The swamp is freed from its poison; spring finally comes to the mountain, etc. There are treasures that can only be found or sidequests that can only be done once the boss is beaten. Which means that unless you clear the area completely after beating it, you’ll have to beat the boss again to right things, then go looking. It cries out for the use of a guide. That is how I find a lot of Majora’s Mask; great from a conceptually stance but somewhat tedious to actually play.


I can say that The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is an unreservedly a great game. Everyone should play it at least once. But now having beaten it for the second time, I would be fine with never playing it again. There is a barrier between the player and enjoying Majora’s Mask, a barrier of effort. It is a game that takes real effort to make any progress in, not really a game made for relaxing play. It is definitely not my favorite Zelda, but it is so unique and creative that it is impossible to dismiss the people who call it theirs.

X-Men: Days of Future Past


Going in, I fully expected X-Men: Days of Future Past to a mess. The X-Men movie franchise has been a mess for more than a decade at this point. X-Men 3 was garbage, though I am something a defended of it I still can’t call it anything close to good, and the first Wolverine movie was no better. It was so bad that I made no effort to see the next Wolverine. First Class was a fine movie, but it was still messy. It straddled the line between prequel and reboot. Some elements of it didn’t really jive with the earlier X-Men films, but it went out of its way to not outright contradict them. It worked fine on its own, but it place in the larger scheme of things was hard to ascertain.

Still, Days of Future Past was too intriguing to pass up. Bryan Singer was back directing, and he has only one real miss on his resume. (Superman Returns was just so very wrongheaded in so many ways) It also brought back all of the actors from both the first trilogy and First Class, making for the most star-studded cast in a superhero movie this side of The Avengers. Really, how could one pass up a chance to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen on screen again? Plus, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is simply highly entertaining. Still, while it was great to see all of these characters again, trying to shoehorn all those characters on screen could have been messy. Which is why it is so surprising at how great X-Men Days of Future Past is. Not only is it a highly entertaining film, it also manages to meld all the previous X-Men movies into something that is actually comprehensible. It even manages to treat X-Men 3 with respect while completely erasing it from the timeline.

It opens in the near future, a future where mutants, and much of humanity, have been imprisoned by the powerful robotic Sentinels. Fighting against them are the remnants of the X-Men, mostly consisting of the younger half of surviving X-Men from X-Men 3. They use limited time travel to evade the Sentinels, but their numbers dwindle. They are soon joined by the senior half of the X-Men: Storm, Wolverine, Magneto and Professor X. Together they propose a plan, to send Wolverine’s mind back in time to his younger self to try to prevent the whole Sentinel program from starting in the first place.

This leads to Wolverine going back to team up with remnants of the First Class cast to try to fix things. While he has some trouble convincing the younger versions of the mutant leaders to help him, they soon near place of where everything went wrong. Unfortunately, once they get there, things go wrong in a completely different way. After that, Days of Future Past becomes the first superhero movie in a long time where it is actually unclear what is going to happen next. These things usually go along certain lines, but this one goes so far off the rails that the viewer has no clue what is coming. It is exhilarating.

Most of the movie takes place in the past; for the most part this is First Class 2. Other than Wolverine, the old cast only gets a few minutes apiece to show off. Even the new mutants added to the cast barely get time to have their powers explained. Still, it is great to see them again. Magneto and Xavier get a little more time, but not a lot more. The past crew, reduced to just four characters, gets the most of the action. Again, while it is hard to improve on McKellen and Stewart, Fassbender and McAvoy are great as young Magneto and Xavier. Fassbender plays Magneto with self-assured menace. Even when he is helping the good guys he feels like he is one step away from going full supervillain and seeming almost justified in doing so. McAvoy’s Xavier is not the wise leader that Stewarts is; he is a broken and pathetic. Wolverine’s biggest struggle is to get Xavier back on the right track. Along with those two and Wolverine, the other real star is Jenifer Lawrence as Mystique. She is the one responsible for the world’s downward slide, but it is impossible to not to find her actions at least partly justified.  Lawrence, despite being covered in blue paint, makes you feel her struggle.

This is a movie of characters and situations that are all fundamentally broken. Wolverine has gone from being the broken one to the one that is most together. For once he is trying to pull everyone else together. It is a very character driven film. It is far from lacking in action or spectacle, but that is not the real draw. The real draw is seeing the transformation of Xavier and Mystique. It is not as fun as many of the Marvel Studios movies, but there is more going on than those strictly popcorn affairs.

This last part might get a bit spoilery, but as someone who has been a fan of these movies for going on 15 years now I was astounded at how this left the X-Men movie franchise. I got enjoyment wading through the crap of X-Men 3 to find things I liked. Mostly that consisted of Kelsey Grammar as the Beast and Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde. However, that movie left the series in a terrible place. They had to go back to do a prequel because X-Men 3 left the present scorched earth. Days of Future Past, while largely clearing the deck for future First Class era movies, almost completely eliminated X-Men 3 from existence. It actually gave everyone from those first two completely excellent movies a happy ending. Almost too happy, but actually it is just perfectly heartwarming. Ignoring the impossibility of getting all those cast members back together to do more movies, it is left in such a way that they could do a sequel picking up just about right after this one. I’d prefer this to be the ending for the original X-Men cast. I want to all those characters to get to keep this happy ending. The biggest advantage superhero movies have over the comics is that they have endings. Bruce Wayne got to retire as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises because the movies are allowed to have endings, while the comics are required to go on indefinitely. This is a perfect ending for the X-Men.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is an excellent movie. It brings back the often wry fun of the first two movies and mixes it with the stylish sexiness of First Class. Whatever direction they choose to take things after this, as long as Singer and one half of this cast are involved I’ll be there. It is shocking at just how well this movie avoids all the pitfalls in its way to deliver a wholly enjoyable movie.