The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
It's fair to say that we found ourselves with something of a dilemma. Having gained possession of an import copy of the Japanese version of the hotly anticipated sequel to Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time - namely Legend Of Zelda: Majora's Mask - we had a serious decision to make. We could in theory have reviewed the game from this version, thereby being the first magazine in the UK with a review and thus guaranteeing huge sales and lots of smiling shopkeepers. However, upon playing the game we soon realised that there was no way we could fairly rate this title in its current form. While the graphics are not going to change and ourselves with something of a dilemma. Having gained possession of an import copy of the Japanese version of the hotly anticipated sequel to Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time - namely Legend Of Zelda: Majora's Mask - we had a serious decision to make. We could in theory have reviewed the game from this version, thereby being the first magazine in the UK with a review and thus guaranteeing huge sales and lots of smiling shopkeepers. However, upon playing the game we soon realised that there was no way we could fairly rate this title in its current form. While the graphics are not going to change and the gameplay will remain pretty much the same for the UK translation, the elements that made the first Zelda game such a joy were the storyline, the minigames and the interaction with the myriad of characters. If you're playing the game in a language you don't understand, then you lose all this. We did toy with the idea of getting someone who could read Japanese to review it but since (as far as we're aware) the majority of you lot aren't fluent in the language it seemed a little pointless. So what we thought we'd do instead would be to bring you a massive feature on the game including our impressions, some of the secrets and our hopes for the UK version. And here it is...
The first thing that you notice about Zelda: Majora's Mask is that it looks very similar to the original title (well okay, the first thing you notice is that it's in Japanese - but the similarity thing is definitely next on the list!) This means that if you're expecting some fantastically improved graphics and sound then you're going to be in for a bit of a disappointment. However, since the first Zelda game was none too shabby in the visual and audio departments, this one is looking pretty darn groovy.
The story begins with our hero Link, once again back to being a little boy following his generation-spanning adventures in The Ocarina Of Time, wandering through a misty forest on the back of young Epona (his horse).
An instant later Epona is startled by two fairies and Link tumbles to the ground, knocking himself unconscious. Then before you can say "Oy that's my horse and Ocarina you git!" a masked figure pinches his Ocarina and jumps onto Epona. Despite a brave attempt at wrestling Epona from the masked figure's grasp Link eventually loses him and it's then that you take over. The next few sections of the game are very linear in nature with not a lot for you to really do. You basically get to do a bit of running around before you come to another cut-scene, then a little more running before another cut-scene kicks in... and so on. The culmination of all this is a sequence where Link faces off against the masked horse-thief and ends up getting turned into a Deku Scrub for his trouble!
This is where the game really begins in earnest. A quick trip through a few tunnels (one of which just happens to be a portal to another world) a brisk jog up some stairs, a chat with the mask seller from the first game and you're in town! This is where the difference between Zelda: Majora's Mask and the first Zelda game becomes apparent: this game has a serious time limit!
As soon as you enter the town square, a small gauge appears at the bottom of your screen. If you look upwards into the sky at this point you notice a big, angry-looking moon hovering above the town. In just three days time that rather large spaceborne lump of rock is going to crash into the planet! Of course... three days sounds like a long time, doesn't it? Except that three days game time roughly translates into about 45 minutes of real-time. As the gauge moves across the bottom of your screen all too quickly, you've got no time to lose if you don't want Link to end up in the N64 remake of Deep Impact!
First order of the day therefore is to recover the Ocarina, but of course there are plenty of other tasks for you to tackle first. The town in which you begin the game proper has plenty of places to visit and all manner of little tasks to perform. The most important thing for you when you first arrive is to secure yourself some weaponry because in three days time you need to confront the guy who stole your Ocarina and in his Deku Scrub form Link can't make use of his sword!
The answer to this puzzle is away with the fairies. As in the first game, if you explore your environment you eventually discover a fairy fountain and if you can persuade her to appear then the fairy bestows the power of spitting on little Deku Link which is an absolutely essential skill.
As in the first game, the days are divided into night and... erm, day. Depending on whether it's light or dark you run into different creatures in various places and at night-time the townsfolk pretty much stay indoors. This night and day puzzle element is even more important than in the first game because of the time limit. Unlike Ocarina Of Time, you can't just hang around waiting for it to get dark, because you've only got 72 hours before the untimely demise of the whole planet!
Assuming that you manage to obtain the abilities that you need to survive your confrontation with the masked man, you then get your Ocarina back and - using the Song of Time - can send yourself back to the start of the world, giving yourself another three days breathing space. But the clock just keeps on ticking! Needless to say, much of the game revolves around finding ways to gain yourself more time and to prevent the sun from rising on day four - fail just once and it's goodbye Link! Despite this pressing time limit there are still plenty of fun things to do and you should never find yourself getting overly stressed or bored.
Obviously, from the title of the game you've probably worked out that masks play a pretty big part in the whole adventure. In all there are a total of around 30 masks to collect in the game and they have a variety of different uses. Some of them act simply like ordinary masquerade masks, so that nothing special happens when Link puts them on - at least initially. Others however, are a little more unusual. For example there's the Deku Scrub mask, which Link gets when he manages to break the spell cast on him at the beginning of the game by the masked man. This mask and other similar ones like the Goron and Zora masks actually effect a physical change in Link when he puts them on. While wearing these masks our elven hero looks markedly different and takes on new abilities associated with the mask which are absolutely essential for making progress through the game. Essentially the masks replace the various tunics, shoes and weapons that Link collected in the first Zelda game. However, because the masks bring about an actual physical transformation it's a lot more fun. There's absolutely loads still to discover in this game - after about a week of solid play we've barely scratched the surface of the whole thing (although to be truthful we'd probably have got a bit further if the game was in English). Rest assured that with titles of this quality on the way you can put to rest the ridiculous rumour of the N64 being on the way out - if anything it's stronger than ever!
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask DownloadsThe Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask download
A long with Perfect Dark, Zelda Gaiden is the game to put 40 aside for next year - and these extra ordinary new shots further prove the wonder of Nintendo's newer.
With Miyamoto casting an eager eye over proceedings, the design team responsible for the magnificent Ocarina of Time are rapidly turning Link's second N64 adventure into - astonishingly - something even better. With 4Mb of extra oooomph thanks to the expansion рак, Caiden now boasts a wondrous level of detail - the environments are absoflippin'-lutely amazing - as well as the ability to throw around enemies at a rate of knots Acclaim-Austin can only dream of. During a brief spell in one of the game's unnamed Dungeons, for example, up to seven Stalfos skeletons attacked us at one time, when compared to Ocarina of Time, which could only face off two at a time, it's a bum-trembling achievement.
But, more significant is the game's emphasis on masks this time round, and Link's ability to use them to gain the skills and abilities of those they belong to. Coron, Zora, a Deku Scrub, each of these Link can change into, with some truly terrifying transformation scenes as accompaniment. Look out for more on this breathtaking Nintendo game in coming months...
If you thought Mario64 was impressive - you ain't seen nothing yet!
Zelda. The name commands respect because on the Super NES it was a multi-layered adventure game of such maturity and depth, that many gamers were left with the impression that the ultimate game had arrived - nothing could touch it. So it is with great anticipation that we N64 adoptees await the coming of Zelda 64 - all the lush plots and characterisation of the original, but now with added 'zing.'
Originally pencilled in as the N64's first 64DD game (see the technical explanation of the machine at the front of this magazine). Zelda 64 is now rumoured to be coming on a cartridge, although how the incredible world it promises is to be run from the base storage system is still a mystery.
As in Legend of Zelda on the Super NES, you play Link, but you're a slightly older version of the wide-eyed kid who appeared in 1993/4. The game is a graphical adventure, with you controlling Link very much like Mario, but the main difference is that you can interact with all the non-player
characters in the game, as well as collecting new weapons, armour and magical items. Zelda 64 is also not a level-based game. You get the whole world to explore, arid if there's an area which is blocked off, you must first solve a puzzle elsewhere to access it. The original game was viewed almost from directly above and battles merely consisted of you slashing away at sprites until they expired. What Zelda 64 brings to the series is full 3-D battles, very much like Tekken 2 on the PlayStation, and instead of having a fixed viewpoint, you can change the camera angle at any time. Link must collect rupees (cash) on his quest, as well as hearts (lifeforce) and as in the original, special hidden hearts can be found which extend your overall health rating. You will also have an inventory to store precious items, and as you kill more enemies and open up the game, your weapons and skills will gradually increase, allowing you to perform even more outrageous moves.
Zelda 64 will be THE game to have on the new console. Mario was impressive, but this is completely AMAZING. Start saving, pester games shops, don't take no for an answer. When Zelda 64 arrives you will not leave the house for a month. Look forward to an in-depth report in the next issue of 64 Magazine.
Prospects: The Jurassic Park or videogames, zelda will be bought by everyone and show just what 64-bit power can do.
The game you've been waiting for your whole life here at last!
How would you spend £14 million? You could buy a private jet, a huge yacht, a fleet of Ferraris, a diamond the size of Chris Evans' ego. Or, as Nintendo did, you could use it to create the greatest videogame ever. Your choice.
Before we start, it's worth pointing out that this is not a typical review. The conditions under which 64 Magazine played the game were less than ideal; your editor had to travel to Nintendo of Europe's headquarters in Assendoneinvhere, Germany, to discover that not only was there only one computer capable of taking screenshots in the entire building, but it also had to be shared between 14 journalists from all around Europe, and didn't even become available until the afternoon of the flight back. On top of that, Nintendo was decidedly paranoid about the game, resulting in the laughable spectacle of various hacks being escorted around the Nintendo building by German officials with N64's under their arms, the Zelda cartridges padlocked firmly into place by some dastardly apparatus from the Marquis de Sade's bedchamber. As one of the other Brits commented, "You wouldn't get this at Sony."
The weird thing? It was all worth it.
Play That Funky Musk, Elf Boy
People have been waiting a very long time indeed to play The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time. After that kind of build-up, very few games are actually able to meet everyone's expectations. Case in point, this very issue; Turok 2. It's good, but it's not quite the knockout that people had anticipated.
Zelda, on the other hand, not only meets every expectation you had of it, but actually exceeds them. When it comes to what people will now demand of a top videogame, Nintendo has moved the goalposts off the pitch, into a lorry, down the road, into the airport, onto a plane and halfway round the world to a different continent entirely.
There isn't a single square inch of the vast game world that hasn't been subjected to intense scrutiny by Nintendo's designers, programmers and testers, and then polished to a finish so glossy it makes Dulux jealous. Zelda has the perfect learning curve, which makes what is actually quite a complex control system as second-nature as breathing by the time players leave the safety of the forest where they start and head into the wide world beyond. Link begins the game as a child with a couple of basic skills and the clothes on his back. In the process of exploring his home, Kokiri Village, he picks up the essentials of adventuring.
As the game begins, Link (who can be renamed if you want) is summoned by Navi the fairy, who from then on becomes his constant companion, to see the Deku Tree. This big old stick is the guardian of Link's village, but his roots have recently been infested with evil creatures. He also knows that Link's been having nightmares about a malevolent force taking over the world - realising that it could be a prophecy, the Deku Tree decides that Link is the key to preventing a catastrophe. Once the Deku Tree has been fumigated, Link has to set out into the world of Hyrule to find the young girl glimpsed in his nightmares... Princess Zelda.
As Long As You've Got Your Elf
If you've played any of the previous Zelda games, there are many things about the N64 game that will feel familiar - places, people, being able to pick up chickens and hurl them around like feathered beachballs. If you haven't played one of the older games, there's no need to worry - the Tolkien-style world is a fantasy archetype, and after a couple of minutes you'll feel right at home.
On the surface, Zelda might look similar to Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie, in that you control a character who can roam freely through a 3-D world. If you're expecting a platform game, though, you're in for a shock.
While there are places where Link has to leap from ledges and climb up cliffs, the game engine is smart enough to perform these actions automatically when needed. What, no jump button? Run Link at the edge of a raised area and he'll jump, move him to a ladder and he'll climb, send him into water and he'll swim. Taking these actions out of the hands of the player may seem as though control is being surrendered, but it isn't. Only donkey work is being given up - more specific actions are still entirely up to you.
The key to all this is the incredibly clever control system. The A button is the 'action' command, which depending on circumstances lets Link open doors, talk to people, enter small spaces, climb walls, push objects, uproot plants, attack enemies, jump in battle... the list goes on. You only have to glance at the icon at the top of the screen to see what Link can do at any given moment.
The В button controls Link's main weapon - by using this in conjunction with the analogue stick, he can make different kinds of attack - and R brings up his shield. The ingenious part of the combat system is the use of the Z trigger as well. By holding Z while attacking. Link locks onto an enemy and will always face it, even while moving around. The combination of these three buttons gives players what is quite simply the best combat system ever. Until you've used it in action it's hard to appreciate just how good it is, but Link can dodge, feint, probe for weaknesses, defend and dart in for devastating effect against multiple opponents, without the action ever becoming confusing.
Even the inventory system is ingenious, with no need to keep stopping the game to switch between items. Using the objects that Link collects is simplicity itself. On the Select Item subscreen, move the cursor over an item, push whichever С button you want to assign it to, and that's it. Back in the game, every time you push that С button the item will be used, be it a weapon, a magical spell or a fish in a bottle.
Icon See Clearly Now
Once Link gets out into the big wide world, the game becomes a mixture of combat, exploration, character interaction and puzzles. Hyrule is vast, but is laid out in such a way that players don't have to spend hours slogging back and forth between areas. It's usually made clear where Link needs to go next, and if you forget, the in-game map helpfully puts up flashing icons to show places of importance. Later in the game, shortcuts become available to cut down still further on travelling time.
A few people have been heard to complain about Zelda's lack of support for the Expansion Pak. You know something? It doesn't need it. The game looks gorgeous enough as it is; it's hard to see how banging in a few extra pixels on screen could improve matters. Watching the sun set over Hyrule Castle, battling against the massive bosses, seeing the lengthy expository cut-scenes unfold or just sitting down to go fishing... everything looks superb.
Zelda, unlike most games, goes to great pains to give its characters... well, character. Minor actors are given typically Nintendo exaggerated facial characteristics to make them stick in the memory (the Quasimodo-like gravedigger. Talon the bog-eyed, sinister-'tached farmhand with ideas above his station) and major characters like Zelda, Seria, Ganondorf and Link himself have facial expressions that perfectly emote their feelings. The characterisation helps pull you into the story in a way no videogame has managed before.
There are also plenty of delightful comedy moments that help provide relief from the main story. From Navi banging head-on into a fence in an opening scene, to Goron disco dancing, to fun with chickens, even the most cynical will crack a smile.
The closest comparable game to Zelda would be Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation. But that's not really a fair comparison, because Zelda hammers FFVII into the ground on every level.
Because Zelda never takes you out of the game world, unlike FFVII constant stop-start turn-based attacks and CD access, Nintendo's game completely immerses you in the story and gets you involved with what happens to the characters. You might sniffle a bit when Aeris buys the farm in FFVII (oops, did that spoil it for you?) but Link's adventures are so absorbing that even your dreams will revolve around saving Hyrule. I speak from experience.
Never Mind The Blocks
Like most adventure games (apart from Holy Magic Century, which took the brave step of not bothering with all that tedious discovering stuff in favour of hour after hour after hour of random monster attacks) Zelda has loads of puzzles and problems that have to be solved before Link can progress. Some of them are straightforward enough -anyone who's ever played Tomb Raider will feel right at home with the sliding block sections. Other parts require more imagination to solve. Some of the puzzles seem impossible to work out at first, until with a mighty slap of the head and a cry of "Duh!" you suddenly realise what has to be done. If you remember that all the necessary clues and items are available by the time you reach a puzzle, and that for the most part things behave as they do in the real world, you'll get there in the end.
If you ever get stuck, then it's almost certainly your fault for not exploring the vicinity properly. In the whole intensive 22-odd hours play at Nintendo HQ, there was only one time - quite near the start of the game - when Link had to go back to an earlier point to get something he'd missed in order to solve a puzzle. The rest of the time, when you reach a problem, the means of solving it is either a short distance away or already in your grasp - you just have to work out how to use it. Just as a hint to new players, which won't spoil the game at all, once you've been given the ocarina it's worth going back and finding the person who gave it to you again before you begin the main adventure. It'll save you a walk later on!
Just how big a game is Zelda? In the course of two days at Nintendo of Europe's headquarters, 64 Magazine put in about 22 hours of play. To put this in perspective, it took 12 hours to complete just the first, relatively straightforward part of the adventure, at the end of which Link winds up seven years older. According to Nintendo, a player who has already completed the game, knows where everything is and how to defeat all the enemies, would take about 40 hours to reach the finish. And that's only 70% of the game! As well as the main quest to save Hyrule, there are all kinds of smaller missions, challenges and amusing subgames to do on the side.
Some readers gave us stick for saying Banjo-Kazooie was challenging when they finished it in no time. Well, apart from saying that these people should get out more, we can confidently say that it will be quite a while before Zelda gives up all its secrets. Remember, you need to eat and sleep and stuff like that.
Obviously it wouldn't be a proper 64 Magazine review without finding some things to complain about, so here goes; once you've figured out the pattern of a boss's attack you can always beat them without harm; you can't speed up text, only skip it; the targeting system occasionally takes a few tries to lock on; narrow corridors put the camera too close behind Link for comfort; the chirpy music drills into your head like a Cerebral Bore and won't leave. As far as things wrong with the game go, that's pretty much it. You'll live with them.
If you have an N64, buy this game. If you don't have an N64, buy one, then buy this game. That's how good it is. Nintendo's problem now is that they've created a game that's so good, it's hard to see how they can top it. But then, people said that about Super Mario 64, and compared to Zelda, Mario is just a demo knocked up in someone's spare time. Even Goldeneye looks a bit anaemic alongside Zelda.
With less than 13 months to go, it's a fairly safe bet that nothing more stunning is going to come along before the turn of the millennium. Even if you're one of those smart-arses who witters on about the millennium not really starting until 2001 it still applies. If you don't buy Zelda 64, you're missing out on the game of the century.
We flew all the way to Japan to interview Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto in his secret underground train that whisks him around Japan. No we didn't. We got this from the press release like everyone else. But it's still interesting stuff...
So, Shiggsy; what do you think is the secret of a great game? Well, I think the most important factor is the correct mixture, ie the weighing of the different elements of a game. My successful principle bases on a 70 to 30 percent share, that is to say 70 percent of tasks to be performed and the remaining 30 percent of secrets and mysteries to be unveiled and solved by the player.
How does Zelda 64 compare to Mario 64? In the creation of Super Mario 64, I was actually the director of the game, this time I am the producer. In Zelda 64, there are actually four directors, responsible for different fields of the game.
How many people were cracking away on Zelda? About 40-50 persons, the biggest development team ever involved in the creation of a game! Additionally, we closely co-operated with another company to perfect the programming of the adventure. If we add this group to our own team, I can say that about 120 persons were involved.
How big's this sucker, then? This is a difficult question to answer, for the playing time depends on each player and on his individual skills. Its scope is at least comparable with The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past SNES but the player now has many more possibilities to move around freely and explore even distant places on the world's surface. I think that it will take a versed player at least 40 hours of gaming to finish the adventure.
Cheers, Shiggsy. Next time you're in Bournemouth, drop by the Jug of Ale for a pint!