Following a game widely regarded as the greatest thing ever made must have
been a daunting task for the team that took on the challenge of producing the sequel to The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time.
Even if they had managed to devise a central location as glorious as Hyrule Field or a sight as wonderful as the sunrise over misty Lake Hylia, it could never have quite the same jaw-dropping impact as it did the first time. Would that Ocarina magic work a second time around?
As it turned out, the developers went in a completely different direction, creating a Zelda adventure that was so unusual it still stands out as - Ocarina aside - the most daring and original game in the series.
Set in the new world of Termina, it's played out over the course of three days of game time, each lasting around 20 minutes in real life. The time limit is enforced by the moon that looms over Clock Town, drawing ever closer until it collides with the earth in apocalyptic fashion, bringing an end to everything.
The key to avoiding a fiery demise is the Song Of Time, which warps you back to day one, complete with any important items you managed to collect before making your escape. Armed with knowledge from the future, you begin the cycle again, exploring a little further each time you experience the days.
As you watch the locals go about their daily business, following the same mundane, unshakeable routines, you'll wish you could yell at them and warn them that the sky is falling in. By the third day it's impossibly sad, and as the moon's hideous grinning visage casts a dark shadow over the world, while the townsfolk cower in anticipation of the inevitable, you'll feel almost guilty when you whip out your ocarina, play the song and abandon them to their fate.
Little by little, you change things for the better. You travel far and wide, battling monsters, unearthing treasures and transforming into different creatures as you gain the wisdom to arrest the moon's decline. You even play matchmaker for a pair of doomed lovers in perhaps the most elaborate trading sequence of any Zelda game. The gloom and panic subsides. The claustrophobic dread of
Clock Town is replaced by a sense of new possibilities as you become the master of your brief time in Termina.
And maybe that's how the developers felt, after shrugging off Ocarina Of Time's burden and taking flight in spectacularly creative style. Majora's Mask remains one of the most intriguing things Nintendo has ever made and is an essential Virtual Console download.