The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D Review
Many people regard Ocarina of Time as one of the best games ever made, which makes the existence of Majora’s Mask somewhat surprising. Nintendo’s willingness to drastically alter a successful formula (and take it in such a dark direction) so quickly after Ocarina’s release is even more unfathomable now that we’ve had 15 years to reflect. Majora’s Mask plays like a Zelda game, but its restrictive timeframe and recycled character assets were divisive among fans. Despite its departure from tradition, the appeal of this entry is powerful, and Majora’s Mask 3D is the perfect excuse to revisit the strangest core Zelda game ever released.
Though it has been tweaked in a number of positive ways, Majora’s Mask 3D plays and feels familiar. I remember Termina as a dreary, sad world, but I went into this remake expecting that time (and my young age when I first played the game) had warped my memories. In fact, it’s every bit as gothic as I remember; Majora’s Mask is a surprisingly dark game with undercurrents of sharp sadness overshadowed by the giant moon hovering in the sky. The three-day rotation gives you a chance to look closely at the lives of those living in Termina, and I was surprised by how interesting and strange its characters are – even after all these years. The tone, world, and story all hold up well.
Beyond the story, Majora’s Mask’s dungeons and combat are also relatively unchanged for this new version. Though Termina has fewer dungeons than comparable Zelda titles, it has no dearth of secrets. With fewer dungeons, puzzles are dispersed throughout the world, creating a denser and more consistent environment.
Majora’s Mask 3D has a number of changes from the original 2000 Nintendo 64 release – more than the 2011 remake of Ocarina of Time. Some changes are small, while others drastically affect the pacing, but every change is worthwhile and well implemented. The biggest and best change is the way Link speeds up time. On Nintendo 64, if you wanted to participate in a specific event, you could speed up time to make it arrive faster, but even then, you couldn’t escape the need to wait. Link still can’t go backwards in time (other than the hard reset, which places him back to the beginning of the three day period), but now he can jump forward to whenever he wants. This handily eliminates my major complaint about an otherwise amazing game: You were forced to sit around and kill time, even though a timer counting down to destruction loomed at the bottom of the screen.
Though the most serious issue has been addressed, Majora’s Mask still has frustrations. The Groundhog Day nature of the game means you are repeating yourself a lot – in some cases doing the same small things every time you reset. The unavoidable passage of time unnecessarily interrupts your short-term goals; while chasing a ghost through the snow, I moved into the dawn of the second day and the ghost disappeared, forcing me to restart the chase from the beginning.
The timer can also create some awesome moments of intensity. While working on the Zora domain dungeon, I drifted into the night of the third day during the boss fight. As the screen shook and disaster loomed outside, I frantically swam alongside a giant mechanical masked fish trying to take him out as quickly as I could. The timer creates a level of intensity rarely seen in Zelda games, and despite some minor qualms, I found myself loving it all over again.
Purists will decry the changes made to Majora’s Mask no matter how slight they may be, but I am seated firmly in the “change is good” camp. It’s everything you remember, but without the boredom or frustration related to the passage of time. Majora’s Mask was a game ahead of its time in 2000, and revisiting it under this new lens only confirms that sentiment. Whether you’re returning to Termina or visiting it for the first time, Majora’s Mask 3D is the ideal way to experience this classic.