Our affiliate and partner Zelda Dungeon put together a nice article concerning the infamous time cycle aspect from Majora’s Mask. Although this subject can become somewhat controversial, the arguments made are presented well and is definitely a good read for any Majora’s Mask fan.
We all know Majora’s Mask to be a rather infamous Zelda title. Don’t get me wrong, the game is great, but heavily criticized. Why? This is mostly because of the time cycle. Even a lot of people who like the game a lot are frustrated with this fact as well. I, for one like the cycle, it separates it from the other games. On the first half of the game, the cycle lasts for about a half-hour so you can get the Ocarina of Time back faster. Once the second half starts, the time cycle extends to one hour of game play. However, playing the Song of Time backwards will slow time down by 1/3. One hour is actually longer than you think. I usually spend the time to unlock a dungeon, then go back in time and complete it. This did not work sometimes on a player’s first play through though, since the dungeons can be difficult, and the only items that go back in time with you are main items. The dungeon completely resets.
The cycle made the game frustrating at times, sure. However, it also didn’t only separate it from other Zelda titles, but from other games as well. The cycle made it unique, in other words. It was cool to have a timer, and it was fun to have the certain days and nights come every twelve minutes, unlike Ocarina of Time, where they would show up every couple of minutes. It felt like we were actually on a quest when there was time, instead of a day just passing by every couple of minutes. I’m not saying Ocarina of Time’s days are bad, but they did go by a little fast. Majora’s Mask’s time was much more organized. Although it was annoying how every time Link would help someone, he’d have to go back in time and the person will have no recollection of meeting Link or their problems being solved. The cycle added so much depth to the game.
As for time passing, the only place it didn’t pass was inside the Clock Tower, or if the game was paused. Every other place the cycle kept on rolling. Inside a house, dungeon, in the over world, you name it. Since the cycle made the days and nights longer, it made it feel more like a quest. Three is the prime number. The feeling that you have three days to save the world felt exciting, even though you have to restart time several times to do it. It was still only three days; you’re just renewing the time over and over. It was cool being able to have everything restart. When you did, you could see and get the majority of cut scenes and masks in the game. Some of them can’t be done again though. You liked a side quest; you can do them as much as you want thanks to the time cycle.
One of the greatest impacts the cycle has on the game: Difficulty. Some people don’t like hard video games. Most these days are just too easy, period. At least this game gave us a challenge, and kept us busy for a while. How often do you get a game these days and you beat it in less than two weeks? I admit, when I played this as a little kid, I couldn’t even get to Woodfall Temple. I still had a lot of fun with the days counting down and wondering around everywhere and such. If a little kid enjoyed the game despite not getting anywhere and having fun wandering for an hour, how can you say that the time cycle is a minus?
Since time resets, it was always fun to restore the four temples over and over again, instead of the area just staying purified for good after you beat the temple. It’s cool to restore the four areas and walk around a purified Termina. Without the cycle, we wouldn’t get any of these sensations we get from beating those types of things over again. One of the best things to replay was the Anju and Kafei side quest. That took the whole cycle practically to complete. From the afternoon on day one, to past midnight on the final day, that’s how long it took. One of the only real downsides to me is that you have 0 of every weapon in ammunition and supplies every time you play the Song of Time. Other than that, I don’t mind it.
The true biggest minus about it? All of the remakes on the Gamecube and Wii are screwed up because of it. Due to the time cycle, the game would always get glitched while getting transferred to the new consoles (it even says this while loading it up on the Collector’s Edition for Gamecube). Majora’s Mask is one of the last games that freezes periodically you’ll want to have. Both versions have been confirmed that they freeze much more often than other games on the consoles. Since the only way to save your progress is to go back in time, people almost never go back in time to save when they’re in the middle of a side quest, the quest to get a song to unlock a temple, or in a temple itself. The game freezing and losing all your progress of what you did is frustrating beyond belief, especially in a temple like Stone Tower. It’s so frustrating to the point where people will just completely stop playing it and trying to complete it, for a time at least.
Anyways, you can agree, or disagree. Bottom line, the time cycle should be respected, not shunned because it makes the game hard. Imagine a Majora’s Mask without it. The game would be completely different, and probably for the worst. Imagine a Majora’s Mask, where you help someone once, get a reward, and that’s it. You can’t go back in time, repeat side quests, dungeons or anything. It has a lot of Heart Pieces, side quests, etc. to offer sure. However, at least we could repeat most of them. Having the time cycle turned it into a whole different game. Nintendo most likely didn’t have plans for a time cycle at first. All it takes is a think, plan, write tactic. These days, most games’ developers use the think for five seconds and write without thinking much tactic. It really is a shame.
You can say whatever you want. You can share your thoughts if you think it was good, or bad. It doesn’t matter. All in all, I am one of those people who think the cycle was a plus to the game, and what made it into the great game that still haunts our memories today. It still would be a great game without it, but the cycle is what made the game so unique and different from all other games. Whoever says it’s a minus should sit down and think about it for a while. They should also play through the game again, while paying attention to it more.
Discuss your opinion on the time cycle presented in Majora’s Mask. Was it a good addition that added to the difficulty of the game that should be brought back some day? Or maybe it caused you too much frustration and took away that normal feel of a Zelda game from you. Either way, voice your opinion of the matter in the comments.