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New Zelda for N64 leaves them moonstruck

Published Nov. 6, 2000|Updated Sep. 28, 2005

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORA'S MASK, FOR N64 _ You have 72 hours to save the world. Better get busy.

It's hard to believe it has been two years since the title we called "the Gone With the Wind of video gaming" was released. That's what we said about The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, for the N64.

At that time we wondered if we'd ever see a better game, especially for the N64. Knowing that the Big N had another system in development, we actually wondered if we'd ever even see another Zelda game for this system. Well, thanks to delays in the GameCube _ Nintendo's next-gen system, which has now been pushed back for release next October _ we have before us the only game capable of toppling Ocarina from its lofty peak: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

This one's an eye-popping treat from beginning to end. It's also devilishly difficult. All Zelda games are mind-benders, but imagine adding a deadline to the mix and you have the idea behind this one.

Our hero, Link, is lured into a strange new world by a shadowy, masked figure. His new surroundings seem somewhat familiar, and Link soon realizes he's in an alternate dimension. One major difference is that this dimension has a huge moon looming in the sky. Link soon finds out that the moon is due to crash into this world in a mere 72 hours . . . unless he can find some way to stop it.

Thus begins a quest that will have you traveling through both time and dimension as you try to save the world. Fortunately, this doesn't mean you have to beat the game in 72 hours. It does mean, however, that you have to find ways to control time.

You'll have plenty of instruments and objects at your disposal (including your trusty ocarina from the last adventure, as well as Link's standard arsenal of weapons). And the masks that first appeared in Ocarina as something of a humorous afterthought are a key element in the new game. There are 24 in all, and each gives Link different powers _ some even let him transform into different characters altogether.

Like every Zelda game, this one is an adventure of epic proportion. And, like every Zelda game, it's a journey through a vast, amazing land, one that will draw you as a player through some mystical portal and into the action just as surely as if you'd been sucked through a window in your television set.

Nintendo might not be able to put out a new system to rival Sony this holiday season, but it has delivered what's hands-down the best game we've ever played, a more-than-worthy sequel to its 7-million-selling predecessor.

Just in case you don't have a calculator handy, that means Ocarina raked in about $400-million; by comparison, the movie E.T. has grossed just under $400-million after 20 years in circulation. Last year's top-grossing film, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, brought in $430-million. The all-time leading Hollywood moneymaker, Titanic, made $488-million in the year Ocarina was released (next closest was Armageddon, which made half as much as Ocarina, at $200-million). Titanic has since topped the $600-million mark, but we wouldn't be surprised to see the new Zelda give that sinking ship a run for its money _ 10-million copies would do it.

And that's a realistic figure. If you own an N64, you simply must have this game. If you don't have an N64, the opportunity to play Majora's Mask and Ocarina are certainly worth the $99 investment it would take to pick one up.

The term genius gets tossed around lightly in modern America. There are maybe a dozen people in the world that actually deserve the title. One of them, without a doubt, is Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Mario, Zelda and a boxful of other legendary Nintendo titles, including the Star Fox series.

Mario has always been about innocent fun. Miyamoto's other titles have always been brilliant and engaging. But the Zelda series is the shining jewel in Mr. Miyamoto's heavy crown. Zelda has always been about much more than gaming. Zelda's about getting lost in another world. Zelda's about a quest. Zelda's about honor and decency and striving to overcome evil. Zelda's about doing your best to live your life the best you can.

Yeah, okay, we know they're just video games. It's what they represent _ and the lessons they teach _ that make them so important . . . and so wonderful.

And Majora's Mask is the most wonderful of these amazing adventures yet.

Jonathan says: I bow in the presence of greatness. A+

Chip says: I had the great privilege of once meeting Mr. Miyamoto. You could tell, simply from his demeanor, that he exists on some other realm than the rest of us. He's charming, self-effacing, funny, and one of our greatest living artists. As soon as we, as a society, get over the notion that video games are just a silly diversion for kids, Mr. Miyamoto will take his rightful place alongside Beethoven, van Gogh and all the other great artists of all time. A+

Overall rating: A+ _ Buy it for all ages.

Tips and tricks

SYDNEY 2000, FOR PLAYSTATION _ To earn all gold medals, at the main menu press circle, X, triangle, square. To rack up first-place finishes in all events, press triangle, square, circle, square, X.

ESPN INTERNATIONAL TRACK AND FIELD, FOR DREAMCAST _ Try these names in the trial mode to get some cool metallic competitors: Montreal, Sydney, Helsinki, Rome, Moscow, L.A., Munich, Mexico, Tokyo, Athens, Atlanta, and Seoul.

Finish in the top three in the first eight events in trial mode and you'll unlock the high jump and triple jump events.

Earn gold in all eight regular events and the three bonus events and you'll find the trap-shooting event.

To unlock the pole vault, either enter your name as L.A. in the championship mode, or earn gold in the eight regular events and at least silver in the high jump and triple jump.

Enter Montreal as your name in the championship mode to unlock other events.

SPIDER-MAN, FOR GAME BOY _ Try these passwords: GVCBF, QVCLF, and G-FGN.

For more tips, tricks, reviews and news, check us out online at http://vgames.

webpoint.com/vid/ecol/mainpage/. Or e-mail us at VidChipAOL.com.

Got a question? An inside tip you'd like to share? Write to Chip and Jonathan Carter in care of the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Although they cannot respond individually, they will answer questions of general interest in their column.

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