The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask finally received the remaster treatment from Grezzo, the same team behind the fantastic update of Ocarina of Time. Majora’s Mask 3D includes numerous changes from the original game including new graphics, efficient in-game instructions and guidance, and easier controls due to the touch screen. While there are plenty of good changes, there are some that are a little confusing. Honestly, I was very pleased with how Grezzo handled the Ocarina of Time remake. The game, much like most Zelda games, was an instant classic. It was a phenomenal game by today’s standards and improving the controls and graphics made the experience even more enjoyable. Majora’s Mask features other extensive changes that may seem minor, but those looking for just a prettier version of the game may be a little disappointed. Overall though, Majora’s Mask 3D remains the creepy and weird Zelda title that everyone loves. It’s still a classic, but even a tune-up and a fresh coat of paint don’t fully fix some of the underlying issues that still remain present in the 3D version of Majora’s Mask.

Majora’s Mask features an interesting premise. While traveling through the Lost Woods, Link is attacked by the Skull Kid whom is causing all sorts of trouble because of an evil mask. Link eventually makes his way to Termina, and after a life altering curse, decides to help return Majora’s Mask to the mask salesman. The storytelling here is much darker than the traditional narratives established by previous Zelda titles. While I think other games had their dark and depressing segments, Majora’s Mask has a constant lingering feeling of dread. On the Nintendo 64, I would always tap the start button frantically because the twirling Majora’s Mask freaked me out because of its darkness and odd sound effects. The structure of the story is held together by a very prominent gameplay mechanic. The world of Termina is going to be destroyed in three days time. The moon is falling and each day that passes the moon moves closer. The game takes place across those three days, but with a catch: Link can travel back in time, slow down time, and skip ahead in time.

Time limits are a really tricky mechanic to implement within a game. On paper, they always add extra layers of strategy as time constraints have an impact on player decision making. But on the flip side, I’ve grown to hate such limits in games. I never like the rushed feeling when I’m playing a video game, and the ticking down of the clock always adds anxiety to the gameplay. The good thing is that players have the ability to slow down time. Time goes slow enough so that you’ll have enough time to complete a few significant tasks before resetting back to the very first day. The real issue that affects the fun of the game is having to constantly complete tasks over again. Before playing Majora’s Mask 3D, I had completed the original title twice. One time beating it and collecting most of the stuff in the game, and the second time to earn a 100 percent run. I’m already familiar with the title so I know what to do, where to go, and how to manage my time pretty well. Even with all of my prior knowledge, there are still times where I have to go back to the first day, teleport to the area I was just in, defeat the boss of the area once again, and then I’m able to finally go do the task I originally set out for. Each area of the game that surrounds a temple is different before and after the temple is completed. The world keeps ticking on as you progress through the area you’re in, but at the same time this also fosters constant repetition. It’s really a double-edged sword. On one end it adds to the overall experience and keeps drawing me back with awesome memories of the game, but on the other end I’m constantly reminded that Majora’s Mask sometimes doesn’t feel like a good Zelda title. While the time mechanics have their good and bad portions, with this playthrough I ended up being a little disappointed with the masks of the game.

Back on the Nintendo Gamecube, I fired up the The Legend of Zelda collection and completed Majora’s Mask in its entirety. The bulk of that process involves the game’s many masks. Majora’s Mask is centered around masks, most good in nature, but one incredibly evil one. There are masks that turn Link into other species (Deku, Goron, Zora) and are well thought out, adding variety to the puzzle solving. The problem, though, is that outside of those masks the others are useless most of the time. The rabbit hood, for example, is incredibly useful because it allows Link to run faster and jump further. Obtaining most of the masks feels like there isn’t much payoff for the time required. With Majora’s Mask on the 3DS, I didn’t have the urge to collect the masks like before. Most masks feel like filler material rather than adding new, worthwhile gameplay ideas. But once again, the transformation masks clearly received much more focus in the game.

The biggest draw to collecting all of the masks (outside of a nice little bonus to players) is helping the residents of Termina. Each resident lives out their separate storyline during the three day time period. If you aren’t around to help them then they are doomed to their respective fates. Even if you help them during a single timeline, the world isn’t truly saved until the main objective is completed and all of the side content wrapped up. The character models, and many of the assets in the game, are borrowed directly from Ocarina of Time. Reusing the assets was largely a business decision, but ultimately it added a creepiness to the entire game. Majora’s Mask showcases familiar characters in much different circumstances from the previous game. Majora’s Mask will always be the weird Zelda game, and it’s small touches like that which are able to differentiate the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is a game whose score I have been debating in my head for a long time. In many ways, assigning a single number to dictate the overall quality of a game is a difficult task, but ultimately as a reviewer, objectivity, explanations, and a score are always required. My third time through Majora’s Mask was a pleasant experience, and I’m glad to have explored the world of Termina once again. It was also fun to revisit the title after years of breaking down games in reviews. Sadly though, Majora’s Mask 3D is a brilliantly flawed title. For every interesting side story in the game, there’s at least two jarring moments that make you question if this is really a Zelda title. When it comes down to doing what Zelda games do best, Majora’s Mask seems confused with its identity. Repetition due to the constant time constraints is interesting at first, but then it starts to get in the way of the experience. And while the transformation masks are well handled and do add variety to the gameplay, overall, the mask selection is incredibly weak with many of the masks serving a very minor purpose.

Still, Majora’s Mask 3D is a good game. Fans of the game will be happy with the upgraded graphics and portability, and newcomers will be interested in the more structured guidance. It’s good to be weird sometimes, and Majora’s Mask 3D embraces that thought.