The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask 3D on the 3DS is first and foremost a remake – and an excellent one at that.
As a life-long, diehard fan of both the Zelda franchise and the original Majora’s Mask on the N64, I had mixed feelings when this 3DS remake was announced a few months ago. On one hand, I was incredibly excited to have a game I had been evangelizing for so long gain some relevancy again, along with the praise I thought it deserved. Yet, on the other, I couldn’t shake the twinge of disappointment I felt when it was announced as a 3DS title. It may sound naïve, given that the game’s direct prequel, Ocarina of Time, was also remade for the 3DS, but that didn’t stop me from wanting more. What I wanted to see was a start-from-scratch remake on the Wii U. I wanted to have the incredible world of Termina brought to life again in re-imagined majesty. In the end, however, what we got was not only fantastic, but arguably exactly what the remake should’ve been all along.
When you first dive into the game, it’s clear that the visuals have been improved significantly. In fact, I would venture to say that currently, it is one of the most graphically advanced games you can play on the 3DS. Veterans of the series will notice the beauty of the original game has been more fully realized in the same engine created for Ocarina of Time 3D. Developer Grezzo has done a superb job of making the world feel less confined by using the visuals to flesh out the existing terrain without adding any extra space. The higher processing power and memory of the 3DS when compared to N64 has allowed Grezzo to add more objects, people, and art that stand apart from the world’s physical boundaries. Playing the game with the New 3DS has seen me constantly moving my thumb up to the new C stick to take in the world from many angles.
While the game may be beautiful, Majora’s Mask 3D is downright creepy. The premise of the story puts Link back in the saddle immediately following his adventures in Ocarina of Time. We’re told that he’s looking for a lost friend when his horse is stolen by the mischievous Skull Kid, wearing a terrifying mask. We later learn that it is Majora’s Mask and it has great power, which has twisted Skull Kid to the point that he is using the power of the mask to pull down the moon on the parallel world of Termina. The game gives you three days to stop the moon from crashing and the world from ending. Very quickly you’ll realize this is nowhere near enough time and you will have to start the cycle over again.
Everyone in Termina knows they are going to die. Some of the most unsettling yet interesting things you can do in the game involve simply talking to people. Every character has their own story and reaction to watching the moon slowly fall. At times these interactions are paralyzingly sad, which provides a massive incentive to stop the moon in any way you can.
The Legend of Zelda as a franchise is generally known for its puzzles and gameplay, but Majora’s Mask 3D takes it a step further. The entire world becomes a puzzle as you are forced to figure out how to stop the moon from killing everyone in three days’ time. With its haunting face hanging over you and the NPCs at all times, the feeling of doom is ever-present. Few games have as much motivation to keep moving forward. There is simply no time to waste.
As far as gameplay is concerned, it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The lock-on system makes combat functional and generally fun, but when there are a lot of enemies on screen or their movement is especially erratic, it really starts to break down. However, the motion sensors in the 3DS that allow you to aim by tilting the console in any direction work extremely well and go a long way to solving the problems the lock-on mechanic has at times.
Apart from the sword and shield combat that is the hallmark of the whole franchise, Majora’s Mask 3D allows the player to don masks that change Link’s form or function. All of them are useful, but only a handful can completely change your shape. When using these select masks, movement and combat feel true to character as well as being immensely enjoyable. They all have varied and important uses that pop up here and there throughout the game, keeping them constantly relevant. Nothing feels stale or recycled in Majora’s Mask.
The game world is not especially big when compared with Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule, due in large part to a shorter development period. But despite its size, the world is much more dense and alive. NPCs have set schedules and actions that take place over the three days that bring an incredible amount of content to the game in the form of side quests. All of these have a great pay-off, either with a new item or mask on top of an emotional significance that’s in direct relation to the falling moon overhead.
For those who played the original 2000 game, you’ll notice that apart from the visual boost, changes in the remake are few and far between. Some minigames have been added as well as more save statues, but the most significant changes have come to most of the game’s bosses. New mechanics have been introduced to some that makes them a lot more memorable and enjoyable. But for others, their weaknesses are obvious and much simpler to exploit.
The bomber’s notebook that kept track of NPCs schedules in the original game has been totally reworked. In Majora’s Mask 3D, it monitors events and event sequences, as well as individual schedules, perfectly. It made it much simpler to keep track of long and complicated side quests and gave me a much greater incentive to explore the characters and hidden nooks of Termina.
Majora’s Mask 3D has improved on the groundwork set by Ocarina of Time in nearly every way. While some aspects have been made more approachable and inevitably easier, the overall game has kept the challenge and feeling of doom that made the original a true classic 15 years ago. In short, this game is a must-play for any Zelda fan with a 3DS.