The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (3DS) - ReviewNick Pantazis , posted on 16 February 2015 / 8,856 Views
It’s funny to think that until 2011 Nintendo had never released a single Zelda remake. The closest thing was Master Quest, which was really just a reshuffling of the Nintendo 64 classic Ocarina of Time. Things have changed quickly, though, with the 2011 remake of Ocarina of Time and the 2013 remake of The Wind Waker. Not only does Nintendo make Zelda remakes, but they mean remakes. Upgraded character models, graphics, textures, lighting, controls, and in the case of the Nintendo 64 classics, framerate. Enter Majora’s Mask 3D, but is this remake worthy of your time and money, or should you stick to the Nintendo 64 original?
If you’ve never played Majora’s Mask, it’s a direct sequel to Link’s journey at the end of Ocarina of Time. Link leaves Hyrule to track down his companion Navi, but plans soon go awry when the mischievous Skull Kid, wearing the powerful relic Majora’s Mask, steals Epona and threatens all of Termina with doom by bringing the moon down on top of it. Link will gather masks and new powers in order to journey through dungeons and foil Skull Kid’s plot, saving Termina and its populace from their doom, all in the course of a three day period.
In many ways Majora’s Mask is the darkest entry in its franchise. There is a heavy atmosphere over the realm of Termina, and the game maintains a despondent tone. The stakes being the death of everyone aside, the residents of Termina deal with real world dramas. It is a game that’s personal and social. Every character truly lives; each has a schedule they meet as the game’s three days pass, as well as challenges they must face and need help to overcome. Discovering and advancing these relationships is the heart and core of the game.
Sure, your normal Zelda-isms are present. You’ll enjoy Majora’s complex and well-made dungeons (of which you’ll find four main and a handful of mini-dungeons), and the world is beautiful and complex to explore, but it’s the relationships that drive Link in Majora’s Mask. These relationships, unlike almost any other Zelda game, are also what grant Link a large number of his upgrades and masks (more on these later). Your greatest tool is not a boomerang or a bow, but the Bomber’s Notebook, where Link documents his interactions and progress within the lives of the people and creatures of Termina. When you’re done solving the mystery of a character’s problems, be prepared to accept your reward, then wind back the clock to leave them locked in their misery again. This is the cycle of connection and loss in Majora’s Mask.
Link’s major power helps drive this emotional truth of the game. While you’ll still have tools and weapons you can use as a human, many of Link’s abilities come from literally merging himself with the spirit of another intelligent living creature through a mask. Link isn’t just a Hylian boy, he’s also a Deku Scrub, a Zora, and a Goron. This transformation results in Link screaming in agony, by the way. Link is connected to the populace through these various masks, and while not all of them tortuously transform him into another species, they all offer abilities related to the people from whom Link obtained the mask… a connection to the residents of Termina that Link helps and interacts with, after that interaction has been erased by resetting the clock yet again.
A lot of people complain that Zelda games always play the same, and to those people I say give Majora’s Mask a shot. The shift in focus to meeting the personal needs of Termina’s residents, the time and schedule based gameplay, and the totally different controls when Link wears a transformation mask all make for a vastly different experience than anything else in the franchise. Even today, Majora’s Mask stands out as the Zelda franchise’s most unique entry, and also its most divisive.
So what has changed in the remake, you may ask. Well, dear reader, quite a lot. Grezzo’s excellent use of stereoscopic 3D and enhanced graphics from their Ocarina of Time remake are here. Termina has never looked more vivid and, while many purists will prefer the original, Majora’s Mask 3D does an incredible job of upgrading the graphics while maintaining the original’s tone and style. You’ll also get a much smoother 30 fps experience, compared to the original game’s locked 20 fps. Directional stereo sound, an improvement Grezzo added to Ocarina of Time 3D, is also present and effective here. The original soundtrack is maintained, and is just as melancholy and emotional as ever. I cannot listen to the song of healing without remembering the emotion of healing the souls Link encounters.
On the gameplay side, most of the feel of the original experience is maintained. Menu navigation is a fraction of what it once was thanks to the 3DS’s touchscreen, which also serves as an ever present map – a decision often knocked as developmental laziness but which greatly enhances the experience in exploration-focused Zelda games. The Bomber’s Notebook is massively upgraded; instead of just recording the tiniest details of social encounters it now acts as a detailed quest log with dates, times, and goal tracking. It won’t tell you how to finish these encounters and get your rewards, but it makes tracking them much less painful, eliminating one of the biggest frustrations of the original experience. Motion aiming is also back, and still useful for fine adjustments on ranged shots.
Zora Link’s diving and weaving swim has been replaced with a more measured, but much more controllable swimming experience, which makes temple navigation considerably less frustrating, but also hurts some of the joy of the original’s diving and dipping antics. Luckily you can still swim with the same veracity of the original title, it just costs you magic to do so now. This trade-off has some upset, but I find it a much better balance between fun and functional controls. A new, entertaining fishing minigame has been added, and there are far more save points, which makes the game much more palatable as a portable experience. Bosses now have their weak points telegraphed visually, which some would say makes the game easier, but it was possible to beat most of the bosses with hack-and-slash gameplay anyway, so having the weak points visible gives players a more puzzle-based and skill-based boss experience.
Value is a pretty easy call for Majora’s Mask. The 3DS title offers 30+ hours of gameplay for completionists and a solid 20 for just the main quest. Don’t just do the main quest though - you’ll miss the heart of the game. It’s also a great game to replay and try to collect everything (if you’ve never gotten to the end of the game with all of the masks, you’re missing out). Unlike most games - even most Zelda games - the side content in Majora’s Mask is really the meat of the experience.
If it’s possible for a series as big and ubiquitous as Zelda to have a cult favorite, Majora’s Mask is it. This is a wholly unique and sometimes divisive entry in the series, and Majora’s Mask 3D adds to everything that made the original great, while removing some of its biggest frustrations. Whether you’re new or old to the experience, I highly recommend this as the version you get. Quirks and all, Majora’s Mask holds up as one of the most interesting, unique, and haunting character-driven experiences in the industry.
This review is based on a retail copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D for the 3DS