Moving on from Woodfall Temple, it’s time to review the Snowhead Temple. This is the game’s second dungeon, located in the northern mountain region. While I think Woodfall Temple is the most straightforward dungeon in Majora’s Mask, I think Snowhead Temple is the most forgettable, though not necessarily due to any real faults.
Going into the dungeon, the player probably doesn’t know what to expect; I know I didn’t. The last full dungeon to have an ice theme throughout it was the Ice Palace in A Link to the Past; we had yet to see the theme fully realized in a 3D Zelda game before Majora’s Mask. There was the Ice Cavern in Ocarina of Time, but it was just a mini-dungeon. Although I doubt any specific elements from it carried over to Snowhead Temple, it’s hard not to compare the dungeon to the Ice Temple that never made it into Ocarina of Time.
When I first visited this region, I returned to Snowhead multiple times while trying to figure out how to get inside. The dungeon is constantly discussed and completely visible each time you go up to Snowhead, and its spiky appearance looks fairly foreboding. With that buildup, and the promise of a dungeon themed off the goron form, it’s hard not to speculate on what the dungeon will contain. So what does it contain?
Ice. It contains a lot of ice.
The dungeon’s basically built up as an icy cave and tower. The actual dungeon structure is clearly a tower of sorts when viewing it from the outside, and this is immediately noticeable in its level design as well; the dungeon is very vertical, with a large, open central shaft that spans every floor of the dungeon. Every other room branches off from this shaft. Plenty of the dungeon’s rooms are covered in ornate stone walls, but others are simply rock or ice, giving the dungeon a mix of the civilized and the primitive; a perfect fit for the civilized goron brutes. The dungeon’s music is mostly quiet and ambient, with odd high-pitched sounds interspersed that somehow remind me of the Goron City theme with its equally strange sounds. Fittingly, they’re sharper and more unsettling than those of the Goron City theme, if only marginally. These sounds contrast with the more ambient background of the song and give it a bit more energy, while injecting a little oddness and goron-ness to the song so it doesn’t feel like it’s nothing more than a cave.
In terms of design, the dungeon is solid, yet forgettable and occasionally frustrating. This is the first dungeon of the game that, on my first run through the game, I was unable to complete without a guide. Similarly, it was the first dungeon of the game in which I had no idea where to find the remaining Stray Fairies. Of course I can do them both on my own now (I never remember the puzzles that well), but it’s still the point where Majora’s Mask turns into a very, very challenging game. Every dungeon from here on out is brutal. Woodfall Temple was the easy one.
The worst part about the design is the tower structure. I complained about this with the Fire Temple in Ocarina of Time, too: It’s too easy to fall, especially when using the Goron Mask to roll across ledges or ramps, and when you do there’s no easy way back up (unless you cheat and jump into the lava with the deku form to respawn at the door you entered from). It’s not a terribly long way back up, but it can get annoying.
Aside from that, the dungeon is pretty straightforward. Different rooms make use of different challenges, from icy stalactites, to block-sliding puzzles, to smashing things with the goron form, to lighting torches and melting ice. You progress steadily up the tower and through its rooms while solving these kinds of puzzles. While there are optional rooms, there’s only once or twice that you truly need to backtrack (primarily when you raise the central pillar; this is the part that stumped me when I first played). Decent puzzle design, but nothing flashy. The same goes for the dungeon’s enemy selection. The most involving aspect of this dungeon is collecting the Stray Fairies, which are well-hidden, yet their locations are clear enough. It’s a good balance and a good challenge, for which you are rewarded with a doubled magic meter, a much better upgrade than that of the last dungeon.
Finally, there’s the dungeon’s boss battles.
Like the Woodfall Temple and all the other dungeons of the game, you fight more than one mini-boss, but in this one alone, both mini-boss battles are against the same foe who gets stronger the second time. Wizrobe isn’t really an inventive battle, but it’s the first time we’ve seen this guy since the 2D games, and the whack-a-mole style battle can be pretty fun.
The dungeon boss, Goht, on the other hand, is often a fan favorite. I don’t prefer him over Odolwa because there’s only have two methods of defeating him as opposed to Odolwa’s countless options, but it’s a thrilling fight nonetheless. The battle can be spent either rolling after and bashing into him as he runs with the goron form, or by shooting him with the Bow or Fire Arrows. If you do the latter, in my opinion the fight is a lot less fun, but it can still be thrilling trying to wait for him to come, predict which direction he’ll approach from, and try to fire at him with enough time left afterwards to dodge. Or you can hide in the safe area and make it boring. But either way, the best way to fight him is with the Goron Mask, and doing so turns the battle into an epic chase sequence unlike any other boss battle in the series.
All in all, the dungeon is well-made, if a bit frustrating at points, but nothing about it particularly stands out to me except for the dungeon boss. Yeah, it’s the first full dungeon in a 3D Zelda game with an ice theme, but the theme isn’t capitalized on in any particularly striking or unique way. The dungeon might be forgettable, but it’s not bad and if anything the fact that I never remember it that much means it stays fresh every time I play it.
So what did you think of Snowhead Temple? How do you think it stacks up to the other dungeons in the game? Did you feel it was forgettable, or memorable? Original or straightforward? Did you think it was frustrating? Did you like the boss? Tell me in the comments! Next week we’ll cover the even more frustrating Great Bay Temple!