The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask released less than two years after Ocarina of Time. I start with that point to perhaps give you some reference for how I viewed this oddball of an adventure during my formative years.
I sort of hated the idea of Majora's Mask. I adored Ocarina of Time, you have to understand that. I was 12 or 13 then, and I had no real means of making money in order to support my gaming habit beyond chores and a small allowance. That meant I played a lot of Ocarina of Time.
I made use of all three save files, in fact. I had one just to play the game from the beginning. I had another right when Link is about to get Epona for the first time so that I could experience that sweet fence jump whenever I wanted. I used the third simply to fight both of Ganon's forms at the end of the game.
When Majora's Mask was revealed as a Zelda game that didn't take place in Hyrule, didn't involve adult Link and served as a secondary story, I sort of wrote it off. I pre-ordered it for the gold cartridge, I saved my money for it and I bought it, but I did those things as a hapless collector convinced the game would never live up to my expectations.
Then I played it. Majora's Mask looked and felt like Ocarina of Time's side story, but the game was immensely more than I thought it would be. It was dark, threatening, funny, weird and somewhat challenging. Figuring out exactly how the 72 hour cycle worked was one of the toughest concepts I'd seen employed in a Zelda game back then.
Majora's Mask was different, and I fell in love with it the same way a lot of Zelda fans did. It's the black sheep of the family, and it's wonderful.
The Sky is Falling
The Hero of Time leaves Hyrule at some point shortly after his quest to defeat Ganon by gathering the Seven Sages and, well, you know the deal. Link leaves Hyrule in his child form with Epona.
Somewhere in the woods outside of a land called Termina, Link runs into Skull Kid in a strange mask and his two faeries. Skull Kid knocks Link off his horse, takes his Ocarina, turns him into a Deku Scrub and flees leaving one of his faeries behind.
The interesting thing here for a Zelda fan in the late 90s and early 2000s was that Skull Kid actually made an appearance in Ocarina of Time. He lived in the Lost Woods, and playing him Saria's Song would earn you a piece of heart.
Here? He's the villain. Skull Kid's wearing a strange purple mask that you find out is called Majora's Mask, and it holds an enormous amount of power and evil within it. Using the mask, Skull Kid will bring the moon down from the sky and ram it into the center of Termina's Clock Town, thus destroying the world. That happens in 72 hours of game time.
If you've never played this game, the first 72 hours of in-game time, which works out to roughly an hour in real time, are threatening and tense. The moon is in clear view at all times, you can't escape the city and you're told that you need to get the mask back. Ah, yes, and you're nothing but a Deku Scrub with a spin attack and the ability to launch from flowers.
Once the game opens up, Majora's Mask becomes a story of time management, forward thinking and puzzle solving. You'll collect all sorts of masks that do things such as let you change form, march with animals, run faster and attract faeries. Some are mandatory, some are optional. Collecting them all brings on an extremely powerful new mask reserved for the most dedicated players.
You'll use and abuse this once threatening 72 hour cycle in order to get at gear, temples and collectibles. On the heels of the unique time jump mechanics in Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask presented this really interesting way to think about time and space.
An area might be blocked at 1pm on the first day but open at 6pm on the next. It's up to you to explore Termina, talk to people and figure out when things happen and how to solve them. This time game was a bit clunky in 2000. Majora's Mask 3d clears a lot of that up.
Tweaked and Refined
If you've never played Majora's Mask, you're going to miss a lot of the love and care Nintendo put into this remake. The changes made in Majora's Mask 3D will make veteran players sigh in relief. You can look at comparison videos and see that the graphics are better and the color palette has been improved, sure; however, the improvements made to this game actually lie in core mechanics and subtle tweaks that only fans who once obsessed over this thing will notice.
First of all, the control of time is much, much better here. In the original game, you had three basic options for controlling time that all linked back to three different takes on the same song. Playing the song normally would restart the 72 hour cycle, inverting it would slow time down a bit and playing the original notes twice over would let you jump to the next 6am or 6pm block.
In Majora's Mask 3D, the first two songs remain the same. The third song, the Song of Double Time, though, actually lets you move forward to the exact time you want to move. No more moving to 6am and then standing around for two hours while you wait for the Stock Pot Inn to open. It isn't perfect, of course. You can only move to the exact time you want during the day you're in, but it's much better than before.
The convenience tweaks go even further with the Bomber's Notebook. This thing was a rudimentary quest tracking system in the early 2000s, and, quite frankly, it was terrible. While it still doesn't necessarily meet the elegance of more modern quest trackers, the Bomber's Notebook in Majora's Mask 3D actually serves as a solid reference guide for rumored events, known events, their participants, their timelines and a whole lot more. It's, brace yourselves, useful. Shocking, I know.
Then we start to get into the much more subtle tweaks. South Clock Town, for instance, seems wider and more spread out. There are new steps in its middle, and the bank has now been placed at the base of the Clock Tower right in front of a save spot. The annoying Business Scrub's flower has been slightly moved and, brace yourselves, you only have to sit through his insufferable cutscene once.
That cutscene, friends, was the bane of our existence in 2000. Every. Single. Time. You walked by his flower for the first time in the 72 hours cycle, and he flew in from the sky. You'd button mash, hoping that you could finally skip this garbage, but… no. That's gone. It only happens once.
We also see new fishing ponds (my addiction), new animations, more skill required to use the Deku Scrub's water hop and a completely reworked Zora swim. That last one was a bit odd for me. Link used to swim really, really fast as Zora Link, which was great out in the open but horrible in tight spaces. Now, Zora Link swims much more slowly and controlled, though the originally speedy swimming has been tied with the Electric Aura move and, thus, drains magic. It's an okay solution, I suppose, but moving so slowly as Zora Link after being able to absolutely race as Goron Link feels a bit weird here.
Finally, in the visual department, the HUD has been moved down to the bottom screen. Most of it, anyways. We saw this with Ocarina of Time 3D, and it works again here towards improving the look of the game by simply making Termina less cluttered by on-screen notifiers. It makes things feel more open.
The one addition I wasn't able to try, though, was the use of a camera stick. For Circle Pad Pro owners and those that buy the New Nintendo 3DS XL when this game launches on Feb. 13, you'll be able to use the right stick (or nub) in order to move the game's camera. That wasn't available on the Nintendo 64, of course, so the camera feels just fine to me here. I'd like to see how it works with the new hardware, and if it offers that much of an improvement, I'll update this review or link to a new article if it's warranted. For now, know that the option exists.
"The changes made in Majora's Mask 3D will make veteran players sigh in relief."
"The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is a wonderful game, and it was so clearly redone by fans of the original. Lovers of Zelda, get excited for a refined trip down memory lane."
We live in an age of remakes and remasters. It seems that almost every single game that releases and does well has a remastered version released within a year or two. Look at Sleeping Dogs and The Last of Us for proof of this concept. Those games, as good as they were, saw not much improvement beyond included DLC and refined graphics when they jumped from original to remastered.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is different. Here we have the oddball entry in a long running and beloved franchise. We haven't seen the original game in just shy of 15 years. Nintendo saw fans begging for its release after Ocarina of Time 3D, and they delivered.
Unlike most other contemporary remasters, Ocarina of Time 3D was improved mechanically and visually. Convenience tweaks, solid use of the second screen, actual mechanic changes and more make this better then just a simply upgrade and port.
Long time fans of Majora's Mask will swoon at the idea of playing a game they loved with mechanical improvements added. Fresh Zelda fans who never had a chance to try Majora's Mask will finally be able to enjoy what's certainly one of the darkest and oddest entries in the franchise.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is a wonderful game, and it was so clearly redone by fans of the original. Lovers of Zelda, get excited for a refined trip down memory lane.
Disclaimer: We received a code to download and review The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D from the publisher. We completed the game before starting this review. We did not test the Circle Pad Pro or New Nintendo 3DS XL's camera stick… because, well, we don't have that yet.
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