Well, I asked you guys which game you wanted me to review the dungeons from next, and while it seemed like it was pretty close between Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, I figured I’d at least start Majora’s Mask for October and when I’m done move on to Twilight Princess. So first up is, as always, the first dungeon of the game: Woodfall Temple.
Some of the Zelda games with the best opening dungeons are the ones where the player goes through the introductory and tutorial portions long before ever getting to the first dungeon, and that’s the case with Majora’s Mask. Instead of the intro area leading into the first dungeon, Woodfall Temple is located at the end of the first of the game’s main regions, which is visited after completing the introduction entirely. As a result, Woodfall Temple, while still being by far the easiest of the dungeons, is far from a tutorial dungeon. In comparison to Ocarina of Time, I’d rate its difficulty just below the Forest Temple but above any of the Child Link dungeons.
Woodfall Temple can feel pretty basic, but I don’t mean that in a negative way like I have in the past. Woodfall Temple is another “forest temple”, being a stone structure filled with plants and other things to fit the forest setting and even having the Bow as its dungeon item, but it has a lot of unique elements to set it apart from the Forest Temple of Ocarina of Time, as well. Filled with poisonous water, lily pads and Deku Flowers for Deku Link to navigate with, and torch puzzles complicated by darkness and hostile moths, the dungeon ends up being very, very unique.
There are no puzzles that are mind-benders in this dungeon, nor are there any battles you ought to spend hours doing. Majora’s Mask is a very challenging game all in all, but Woodfall Temple is definitely its most forgiving dungeon, which befits the first of the game; even with new hazards and objects to interact with, there aren’t any parts of the dungeon that are designed in such a way as to completely stump the player. All Bow-related puzzles are familiar and mostly reused from the Forest Temple of Ocarina of Time, and everything feels “basic”. But again, a degree of familiarity or at least ease of understanding is crucial for the first dungeon of the game, whether it’s a tutorial or not. As a result, Woodfall Temple functions perfectly in this role. It marks the only dungeon of the game that I managed to complete without a walkthrough ages ago on my first playthrough, which is pretty significant because I pretty much had to play the game with a walkthrough in hand not long after completing this dungeon. But conquering this dungeon without help was still a challenge and one of my fondest gaming memories as a kid.
Similar things can be said about its Stray Fairy sidequest. Like every other dungeon in the game, Woodfall Temple has a number of Stray Fairies to collect in order to earn an optional prize from a Great Fairy. In keeping with the difficulty of the dungeon, these are definitely the easiest Stray Fairies to collect, and while you will still have to put some effort into finding them all, I also managed to find most if not all the Stray Fairies in this one without any additional help on my first run. One can only be collected after the poison water is purified within the dungeon, which happens upon getting the large central wooden flower to spin; interesting that this causes a change in the entire dungeon that is only used for one optional collectible. The prize is a magical upgrade to your Spin Attack — the same one from Ocarina of Time — which is another relatively basic aspect of this dungeon.
Thematically the dungeon is also “basic”, again being a forest-themed but otherwise somewhat generic stone temple. That said, it still has a lot of unique elements to make it feel different from other dungeons. Carvings of creatures and symbols abound in this dungeon, depicting Deku, moths, and all kinds of other things, making the dungeon feel truly tribal. Cementing that is the dungeon’s music, filled with chanting and singing of the same nature; almost Native American-sounding. The dungeon feels like a forest, feels tribal, and feels decidedly Deku, but it also feels like a swamp. Its forest theme is bent just enough and complemented with the water throughout, giving it the distinct sense of a swamp within a building, tying it together with the entire swamp region.
Finally, that brings us to the battles. Familiarizing the player with the norm for the rest of the game once more, Woodfall Temple has multiple mini-bosses. Two in this case: A Dinolfos and the Gekko. The Dinolfos can be tricky if unprepared (especially with its fire breath) but is otherwise familiar to anyone who’s fought the Lizalfos or Dinolfos from Ocarina of Time. The Gekko is very easy, even when he mounts the Snapper turtle, but is still a fun character despite being a total jerk and an enjoyable fight.
So what could be the boss of such a basic yet interesting dungeon? When I first played the game, I was expecting a large moth, in keeping with the moth hazards. I figured it was a fittingly scarce yet prominent aspect of the dungeon that could relate the boss, a fact which I thought was true when I walked into the boss chamber and saw a giant depiction of a moth on the well. But nope! Another tribal part of the dungeon!
This fierce jungle warrior is one of the strangest bosses of the series in my opinion, because of how normal he is. He’s just a large tribal dude in a mask. This makes him weird both because of the other bosses in both Majora’s Mask and the series in general, which are typically monsters, but also because he’s giant along with being otherwise normal. He’s interesting, too, because he dances and chants while attacking with his sword, but later in the battle his strange chanting invokes walls of fire that trap you, and both moths and large insects to kill you (at least I was right that moths relate to the boss!). It’s a very hectic battle with a lot going on.
Odolwa is, once more, both the game’s most basic boss and a very interesting one. Odolwa is mostly fought with Link’s human form, instead of a transformation mask like with the other bosses, but while other bosses in the game have alternate means of hurting them, Odolwa seems to have no particularly intended method at all. You can approach him cautiously and attack him with your sword. You can stun him with the bow (which makes the battle very easy). You can use the Bomb Flowers ringing the arena to attack Odolwa or his insects. You can try to close in on him from above with Deku Link, or take advantage of Deku Link’s immunity to the moths he summons. There’s countless ways to take out Odolwa, and as a result he is, in my opinion, the series’ most diverse boss fight. With no right way to take him on, the battle can end up being completely different every time you fight him. He is my favorite boss of Majora’s Mask.
Finally, with the boss out of the way, you teleport to the only instance in the game of a room in the dungeon that is only visited after defeating the boss, where you rescue the Deku Princess and then leave.
All in all, an excellent dungeon. Basic, yet fresh and memorable, and with a boss fight that ought to leave a lasting impression (as all of them should), Woodfall Temple is a favorite of the series for me. I don’t believe it beats the Forest Temple from Ocarina of Time, nor do I think Odolwa trumps Ghirahim from Skyward Sword as a boss, but they are still excellent and worthy of much praise. Possibly the series’ best first dungeon — but certainly one of the best — it’s an excellent way to start off Majora’s Mask, setting up the rest of the game flawlessly.
But tell me what you think of Woodfall Temple! Is it great? Is it boring? Does it serve its role well? Did you enjoy Odolwa and the dungeon’s other challenges? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week when I review the Snowhead Temple!