Review: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

Dawn of another day.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/16/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Faithful recreation of source material; Stunning presentation; Stirring soundtrack; Excellent game design and gameplay; Story; Changes to saving and Bombers' Notebook; Three day cycle
Poison Mushroom for...
Some bland siqequests, but very few; It ends

Mild spoilers below!

I’m the kind of player who will notice even the smallest of variations in a remake of a beloved video game. When I say slight, I’m not exaggerating; I’m talking the utmost of hyper-minutiae. Different fonts, change of enemy placement, if it’s a game I loved the first time around, remakes get my “that’s not the same!” radar beeping like a submarine’s in enemy waters. Playing through The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, a remake of the Nintendo 64 classic and one of my personal favorite games of all-time, I was acutely aware of the little details as much as the larger ones. The original Majora’s Mask was as close to perfection as a game can get, but with reports that Nintendo had made tweaks for this new iteration, I had to see for myself if these alterations enhanced or detracted from one of the gold standards of gaming.

For those who haven’t experienced Majora’s Mask before, the game largely follows the Zelda tradition of world exploration and fighting/thinking through dungeons, but it also adds a very big twist in the form of a three day cycle. Players have 72 hours to rescue Termina, a mirror world of Hyrule and its inhabitants, before the moon comes crashing down in an apocalyptic wash of fire. Though the clock system might sound limiting, Link can travel backwards and forwards through time, repeating the same three days at his leisure until he’s acquired the skills and items he needs to avert catastrophe. At the heart of this doomsday plot is the enigmatic and mysterious Skull Kid, who wears the titular mask and acts as an antagonist to Link and Termina throughout the game.

As developer Grezzo did with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora’s Mask 3D does not deviate very far from the source material. Like with that previous remake, Majora’s Mask 3D retains all the gameplay and story that fans are familiar with, and instead focuses its efforts primarily on overhauling the visuals. In that regard alone, Majora’s Mask 3D is a triumph. Textures, lighting, character models, none of it has been left untouched, and all of it is miles ahead of what Nintendo 64 could ever dream of producing. Played on a New 3DS XL, the game’s polished assets become even more vibrant with its improved 3D screen, and the addition of the C-Stick allows for full control over the in-game camera, allowing for a greater appreciation of the visuals than ever before.

Majora’s Mask has always been notable for its more morose and brooding atmosphere than Ocarina of Time‘s, and it has been perfectly replicated in this new version of the game. The music that plays in Clock Town, in particular, is a true encapsulation of the game’s themes and overall design. What starts out cheery and laid back on the first day transforms into a more sinister and harried tune on the last; each day, the music in Clock Town mirrors the escalating danger as the hours tick closer to the inevitable maelstrom of fire. Whether it’s the looming, leering moon gazing down from overhead, or the game’s frequent allusions and references to death, Majora’s Mask 3D has a foreboding undercurrent throughout that makes it unique amongst all other Zelda titles.

Not that the game is all doom and darkness, of course. A central aspect of Majora’s Mask 3D‘s gameplay is traveling around the world of Termina to help resolve its citizens’ various problems. Reuniting an engaged couple, protecting a shipment of fresh milk, defending cows from aliens, and giving the poltergeist resident of a toilet stall the paper it so desperately needs are just a handful of the sidequests that Majora’s Mask 3D has to offer. It’s equal parts humor and drama, and the vast majority of the extra goals are greatly enjoyable to complete. Unlike other Zelda games, these sidequests, though predominantly optional, are also integral to fully enjoying the experience. They bolster the game’s overarching narrative in brilliant ways, fleshing out the cast and adding a personal element to Link’s adventure that hasn’t been reproduced since. The land of Termina feels like it’s filled with real, breathing people, and by the time all is said and done, player’s will be fully invested in seeing the moon stay in the sky where it belongs.

Majora’s Mask 3D only has four primary dungeons, but don’t let that make the game sound short. First of all, the build-up to each dungeon is pretty epic, with players having to complete a number of tasks and trials before even being able to step through their doors. Infiltrating the secret base of a pack of pirates is just the precursor to one of Majora’s Mask 3D‘s dungeons, for instance. Secondly, as mentioned above, the sidequests are largely optional, but to skip them or only do a couple is missing the point of this game entirely. Majora’s Mask 3D is all about the sum of its parts. The extra excursions and events that can be engaged in are overwhelmingly elaborate, thoughtfully written, and fun. What’s more, improvements to the save system and Bombers’ Notebook make it easier than ever to navigate through all these tasks. The Bombers’ Notebook is also more interactive, allowing for in-game reminders of important events. An array of new save points was also incorported, further maximizing the ease of play of the game. All together, these are changes that should please both new and longtime players.

Speaking of changes, there are several notable additions and subtractions that are worth observing: the monkeys ask Link for help outside of the entrance to the Deku Palace grounds, rather than outside of the entrance to the Lost Woods. The banker has been moved to South Clock Town, which in turn is larger than it was before. The Bombers gang doesn’t confront Link when he returns as a human and uses their secret passcode. There’s more besides, but how much it matters to anyone who would even notice such things to begin with is completely arbitrary. I was very pleased, though, to see Grezzo maintain most of the text scrolling from the original Majora’s Mask. The speed of the letters rolling across the screen might not seem like a big deal, but in a game without voice acting its tantamount to an actor’s delivery. Just look at how Tatl repeats the words of the four giants and it becomes readily apparent what an impact this can have. It was something Ocarina of Time lost in its transition to 3DS, so I was grateful that Grezzo was mindful this time around.

What does it say when the most dependable, exciting video game console on the stands is a handheld? 3DS, no matter what version is being rocked, continues to show everyone else how it’s done. Majora’s Mask 3D comes a scant two months into 2015, and it’s already a forerunner for my favorite 3DS games this year. With plenty more on the way, including games that haven’t even been revealed yet, I’m stoked for what’s to come. Majora’s Mask 3D is a testament to the ingenuity of the game from which it’s based. New fans will be experiencing a game that will feel as fresh as anything else that’s come out in the past couple of years, and old fans will be seeing a favorite in an all new way. Like Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora’s Mask 3D is a must-play. It’s ironic that a game about time travel would prove to be so irresistibly timeless.

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