Simply put, Nintendo is releasing a side story to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the N64 in this fiscal year. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is set a few months after Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and peace has been restored in Hyrule. One day, while in the forest, Link meets up with a strange masked man named Stalkid. Stalkid says that he has taken Epona away from Link, and quickly disappears through a door leading to a strange world. Link follows, and sees the world through this door. It looks strange to him, yet somehow familiar. Link steps through.
The first thing Link notices in this new world is a huge moon in the sky. According to the residents of the strange world, the moon is falling to the earth within a few days. Upon hearing this, Link sets off on a mission to avoid the moon by returning to his home world.
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask will play exactly like the previous Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. However, this time around there will be a gauge in the lower middle of the screen. Sadly, Nintendo hasn't yet revealed how the gauge will come into play. Judging from the storyline, though, one could wonder if it has something to do with measuring time. Backing up that theory is a recent comment from Shigeru Miyamoto in which he revealed that time will pass in real-time. Essentially, the world will be destroyed if you play the game too slowly.
Masks will also play a major role in Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask . Not only will they be more prevalent this time around, you'll be able to use multiple masks at the same time (as shown in some of our new screens). Using certain masks you'll be able to take control of other creatures (notice that some of the screens center on the creatures rather than Link). When Link wears specific masks he is able to turn into other characters - this process will not only affect his appearance, but also his abilities. As an example, when Link wears a Goron mask he transforms into a ball to roll down slopes. If he wears a Zola mask, his swimming skills improve greatly. Throughout the game Link will be required to use these different masks to solve puzzles.
According to Miyamoto, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask requires the Expansion Pak to play. He says that Nintendo is able to display more enemies, present better enemy artificial intelligence, and more advanced special effects by using the Expansion Pak.
Videogames.com's Sam Kennedy tried out Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask at Nintendo's Space World '99. Here's what he had to say:
"Judging from the pictures that have been released in Famitsu over the past few weeks, I was looking forward to something a little more fantasy based, and that's exactly what I found. Ocarina of Time was a more traditional adventure title, while Majora's Mask seems to incorporate fantasy themes in the strange world that Link has entered. The strange characters you'll come across, the obscure scenery around you, and the fact that you can now transform into one of the Deku Nuts as you hover around spewing flowers, are all prime examples of this title's departure from the more traditional Ocarina.
The demo I saw at Space World included three main scenarios: the speed tour, the dungeon tour, and the battle tour. The speed tour then offered four sections: a race with Zora, a race with Goron, a race with Epona, and a hunting area with Epona. The Dungeon tour offered a jungle area, a snowy land, and a nuts city. And the Battle tour had a boss battle stage and a battlefield area.
One of my favorite sections of the speed tour was the Goron race. You race by spinning in a ball, very similar to Sonic the Hedgehog. In fact, there's even a spin dash-like move to help boost you along when you need it. I had quite a blast with this.
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask seemed to look a bit more visually impressive than its predecessor - I noticed certain new effects. For example, when you first enter the water as Zora, there's a really cool water effect that seems so real that it's very deceiving."
Chris Johnston also gave us his impressions of Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask from the Space World show floor. "I loved the original Zelda 64, but I've been a little skeptical of Majora's Mask . Screenshots thus far have been in a much different style that the original. Much more trippy and detailed in a more whimsical manner. That's probably for the best since it makes Majora's Mask seem like a totally new and different game from Zelda 64.
One of the demo levels that I played was a race with Epona against the Mario and Luigi lookalikes. You have to worry about knocking into these two opponents while still avoiding trees and jumping gates when needed.
The other demo level I tried out was a dungeon. The effect of switching masks is perhaps the trippiest thing I've seen in a video game. It's almost the same kind of effect as when Jim Carrey puts on the mask in The Mask. It becomes an extension of your character, giving Link different abilities.
It'll be interesting to see how this game fits altogether. While it felt very much like Zelda 64 in the way it controlled, the game itself and the story looks much different. Almost darker, yet more whimsical and fantastic than the original." Yutaka Ohbuchi's Hands-On Impressions:
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64 was quite the orthodox storyline, requiring the main character to "defeat the great evil." In comparison with the classic NES or Super NES version of the game, the N64 edition was very much a different Zelda. The follow-up to Ocarina of Time, called Majora's Mask, returns to the roots of the Zelda series, bringing back its original style.
The scenery in Majora's Mask is quite out of this world and provides a sense of mysticism and spookiness - unlike in Ocarina of Time where it depicted a more realistic view of the world. Even Shigeru Miyamoto and his development team admitted that Ocarina of Time was too "epic." The team felt that it had the obligation to give Majora's Mask a different feel from Ocarina of Time. Although the game is a spin-off series of Zelda, from what we've seen so far, the game is amazingly well done and can even be considered as a new game.
The 3D engine from Ocarina of Time is still intact, including the basic control scheme. The game system itself is quite different, since the player's objective is to "stop the moon from falling onto the earth and save the world within three days." A day in the game spans about 20 minutes. The game in its entirety takes about an hour to complete. Most players will not be able to stop the moon from falling in the first try, yet alone find a save point in the game. You won't be able to save your progress in the game while you're playing unless you find the Ocarina of Time. Saving the game also means starting the game from scratch again - which pretty much means to prevent a game over, players will have to use the Ocarina of Time to reset the time and start from three days back again and attempt to stop the moon from falling. This would also mean that all the items - except the Ocarina of Time - you have acquired in the journey will disappear, and the tasks you have accomplished will have to be accomplished again.
Some people may think that all this may be a hassle, but when you are actually playing it, it feels quite straightforward. Using the Ocarina of Time, you can reset time anytime you wish to, and from there you will learn to go through the game smarter and faster the next time around. The game in its entirety becomes the one big puzzle, which makes Majora's Mask the Zelda that goes back to its roots.
Every character also has his own daily routine schedule over the three days, and characters may have their own problems and issues. One of the side objectives is to help these people as well. It may sound odd, but it is somewhat reminiscent of Sega's Shenmue to a certain extent - not that the gameplay itself is anywhere close. The music used in the game also returns to its roots, which will definitely make old fans happy. With the exception of cutscenes and limited areas, the game basically runs in real time.
Expect more coverage on the game soon, capped off by a full import review.