On April 27, 2000, we received a direct sequel to one of the most important video games of all time. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask followed 1998's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with impressive expedience. Ocarina of Time's many fans were happy to get a follow-up, but the excitement wavered a bit when they actually played Majora's Mask. Link's journey to save the stricken world of Termina is strange, to say the least, and not everyone was down with exploring Hyrule's dark flipside.
To this day, Majora's Mask is the most divisive game in the Zelda library. While people have generally come to terms with the motion controls in Skyward Sword (most people hate them), and the cel-shaded graphics in Wind Waker (most people love them), Majora's Mask's divisiveness stems from something else entirely. It isn't just controversial because of a gimmick that didn't work out, or because of an art style. Its core struggle, the challenge to save Termina by sending Link back in time over and over, is admittedly stress-inducing, and that doesn't fly with some Zelda fans.
Here at USgamer, we're on Team Termina. We ranked Majora's Mask the third-best Zelda game of all time. I understand the pushback, though. There's more pressure when exploring a world under a time limit. Majora's Mask isn't shy about reminding you you're on the clock, either. Every day begins with an unsettling black screen that informs you how many hours you have left before the moon hanging over Termina squashes the realm into fiery paste.
Majora's Mask subverts everything the Zelda series is known for: Beautiful landscapes, a calm atmosphere, and freedom to wander as you please. The effectiveness of said subversion is why I believe the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild has a lot to learn from Majora's Mask. It should play with expectations. It should turn things upside-down in a way that makes us question if we really know anything about Link and Zelda at all.
I don't necessarily mean Breath of the Wild 2 should hold a giant moon over our heads and order us to save the world in 72 hours. I think, since we have another situation where the Zelda team is making a game with familiar assets, it's a great opportunity to offer us another "flipside" like Majora's Mask. Something that fiddles with everything we've grown to hold dear about Breath of the Wild.
Playing through Majora's Mask for the first time is shocking because you see familiar characters and locations cast in a new, darker shadow. In Termina, the nameless woman who challenges you to gather her lost chickens in Ocarina of Time is now an innkeeper with a sad story about a missing lover. The jolly Gorons are slowly freezing to death. Malon, the sweet girl who lives on Lon Lon Ranch in Ocarina of Time, has a sister (a role that's filled in nicely by Malon's aged-up model from Ocarina of Time) and they're being harassed by aliens. Like, creepy cow-napping aliens.
Many of the friends you met in Ocarina of Time and the landmarks visited are still present in Majora's Mask, but they're twisted just enough to make you constantly wonder what comes next. When your adventure kicks off with an omnipotent mask-peddler—formerly a forgettable NPC in Ocarina of Time—summarizing Link's misfortune with eight dire words ("You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"), you're filled with the need to explore Termina and learn how these old-new characters link with one another.
We need that kind of surprise as motivation to explore Breath of the Wild's Hyrule once more. On the plus side, what little we've seen of Breath of the Wild 2 stirs up a lot of questions. There are signs a short-haired Zelda might be playable—a major departure from Breath of the Wild, where she largely only appears in flashbacks. Link seemingly gets possessed by some unidentifiable force, and the last moments of the trailer shows us the awakening corpse of Ganon's human form, Ganondorf. Story-wise, Breath of the Wild 2 might wind up being as dark and strange as Majora's Mask.
There's still a lot Nintendo can do to mix things up with Breath of the Wild 2's gameplay. Dispose of the Guardian Beasts; give us miles of ruins like the ones Link and Zelda explore in the trailer for Breath of the Wild 2. Give us more goals, more side quests, and give them the emotional impact of the Anju/Kafei quest in Majora's Mask. Don't just make us find 900 Korok seeds again, unless the Koroks are evil and bite Link's face whenever he solves one of their puzzles. Or whatever.
I'm not worried Nintendo will just clone Breath of the Wild, shift a few things around, and slap a "2" on the game. Late last year, Nintendo sent out a call for developers who can ensure Breath of the Wild 2 will"offer new gaming experiences that exceed those of the previous game." I'm excited for what that means, and every day I get a little more hopeful that we'll finally learn what Breath of the Wild 2 has to offer. I also hold hope that the strange, torturous world of Termina hasn't left the minds of the developers who played Majora's Mask as children and might be working on Breath of the Wild 2 right now.
I know my Termina and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask hasn't left my mind after 20 years. I expect the memories will hang around for another couple of decades at least.
Major Game Releases: April 27 to May 1
Here are the major releases for the week of April 27 to May 1. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Gears Tactics [April 28 for PC]: Gears of War and the tactics genre are an unlikely combination, but it's one that turns out to work pretty well. Reviews Editor Mike Williams writes in his review that it "absolutely sells you on its vision of strategic combat. An entire enemy squad, reduced to a bloody mess of body parts over a single turn. It's goddamn great." The Xbox One version is still in development and will arrive later this year.
- Sakura Wars [April 28 for PS4]: Sega's venerable dating sim returns after a long hiatus, once again mixing show business and giant robots with an alternate take on 1940s Tokyo. Reviewer Hirun Cryer says that its biggest strength is that it's ultimately so digestible, even if it ultimately never evolves into anything more; a pleasant comfort food game in these strange and uncertain times.
- Streets of Rage 4 [April 30 for PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One]: It's been a long time coming, but it's time to take to the streets and rage, rage, rage, against the punks who think they can muscle in on your turf. There's a lot to look forward to here, including the return of veteran Streets of Rage compsers, Yūzō Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima. Have fun, and remember: Only trust your fists. Police will never help you .
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week in Gaming
- The Last of Us 2 has a new release date, but it's already being hit hard by leaks. Sony announced that The Last of Us 2 will now release on June 19, pushing it just a few weeks beyond what was supposed to be its original release date. Ghost of Tsuhima will be out in July. This new comes in the wake of major Last of Us 2 leaks, which include the ending. If you don't want to know what happens, it's probably best to avoid social media for a while (this is good practice in general, but still).
- Several classics celebrate notable anniversaries this week. Mega Man fans may recall The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, the spinoff of Mega Man Legends that ultimately sold poorly, but is nevertheless still revered by a certain segment of the fandom. It's quite rare these days, with a copy going for between $200 and $300 on eBay. Another sidestory, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, likewise celebrates its 10th anniversary this week. Snake's adventures in Costa Rica set the stage for Metal Gear Solid 5, and we ranked it quite highly on our list of the best Metal Gear games ever. Finally, adventure classic Full Throttle celebrates its 25th anniversary this week. We miss you, LucasArts.
- A bunch of fresh Animal Crossing: New Horizons content is dropping this week. Redd recently arrived in his Treasure Trawler, and Blathers' museum now has a wing dedicated to fine art. Fans can likewise look forward to a May Day event later this week. Animal Crossing may be more than a month old at this point, but it feels like it's just getting started.
- You can get a lot of good deals on older games right now. The excellent Alien: Isolation is available for just $2.00 on Steam in celebration of "Alien Day"-just one of the many branded days to appear in the wake of "May the 4th." Crass marketing aside, it's a great deal for one of the generation's best horror games.
- And finally, we recently celebrated all the ways games can bring us together with Play Together Week. You can find the complete archive right here, which includes memories of how rental game saves brought us together, a complete ranking of the Jackbox games, and more. It's a nice collection of writing from the staff of USgamer to get you started this week, and will hopefully make you feel a little less alone in the age of quarantine.
Axe of the Blood God for April 20, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
Kat and Nadia sit down to review Trials of Mana remake, and in the process delve into a bigger question: Does the Mana series hold up? Nadia thinks yes, but Kat isn't so sure. The pair also delve into the Secret of Mana soundtrack, celebrate Fire Emblem's 30th anniversary, and more!