Although reflective gamers tend to praise Ocarina of Time to the high heavens, and deservedly so, the truth of the matter is that it wasn’t the only great Zelda game that Nintendo released during its N64 era. There was also The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which took the series’ more traditional structure and altered it in unique ways, resulting in a creative, intellectually stimulating and thoroughly fantastic title. In fact, it’s one of the better Zelda games out there, and arguably one of the best action-RPGs of all-time, albeit one that doesn’t get as much praise as it should.
It was just over three years ago that Nintendo wowed handheld gamers, by releasing a revamped version of Ocarina of Time for the portable system. Existing as a near-flawless port, with impressive 3D effects and miscellaneous tweaks, it quickly became a system seller and received a wealth of unsurprising critical acclaim. It was an experimental success, to say the least, and one that left us wanting more, or wanting Majora’s Mask to be exact. However, the Big N remained mum on its plans, and it wasn’t until late last year that it finally revealed the existence of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, which is going to be a launch title for its revamped New Nintendo 3DS handheld.
Continuing on after the events of its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is centred upon young Link’s time in a new location called Termina. It’s a land under siege not just by evil, but by its own moon, which is falling from the sky at an alarming rate. This isn’t a natural occurrence, though, and is instead being caused by the area’s mischief-making Skull Kid, who has found immense power after stealing the titular mask from a travelling salesman.
A maniacal event planner, the Skull Kid has chosen what he deems to be a perfect day for his regional apocalypse, and has made it so that the moon will finish falling in exactly three days. As such, Link must not only use his expert combat, questing and puzzle-solving abilities to save this foreign land, but also musical melodies that can affect time itself. Otherwise, the region’s annual Carnival of Time will turn out to be an apocalyptic event.
While having a three-day time limit sounds daunting, it’s really not, because you’re able to go back to the start of day one at any time. Doing so doesn’t eliminate most of your progress, either, though you’ll want to make sure to store any collected money in a bank before doing so, else you’ll risk losing it all. This becomes a thought-provoking mechanic in and of itself, as it makes you think and plan accordingly. Don’t stress, though, because while you may not be able to get to and complete a dungeon during one cycle, it’s likely that you’ll find a nearby warp point that will save you from having to walk there during your next go around.
When it comes to gameplay, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is quite similar to its predecessor, which is certainly not a bad thing. Outside of its new, time-altering mechanics, its combat, inventory system and movement mechanics are rather identical – for the most part, at least. The major difference, though, comes in the form of masks, which can be worn for new abilities and to illicit different responses from non-playable characters, some of whom are integral to quest progression. A good example of this is the Deku mask, which lets Link use flower pads to launch himself into the air, and use bubbles as a projectile weapon.
It’s almost hard to believe, but nearly fifteen years have passed since this game originally released onto Nintendo’s N64, and in that time, it’s also become available for the company’s GameCube, Wii and Wii U consoles. Millions have played through it at least once, and many of those folks are the same ones who have been clamouring for this three-dimensional version’s release. As such, I won’t dwell any longer on its overall quality, because its greatness was established years ago.
What we need to focus on now is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, not Majora’s Mask itself, per se. And what a port it is, outside of the odd hiccup. Nintendo has really outdone itself once again, and is deserving of all of the attention it’s received for bringing this project to light.
Things aren’t entirely the same this time around, but they’re close. While saving was restricted in the original version, it can now be done at any hour, and save statues are rather plentiful. Going further, the game’s ever-important bank is set up right in the heart of Clock Town, which serves as its hub. A challenging boss’ exploit has also been nerfed, and two additional fishing holes have been opened for those who like to test their reeling skills. Furthermore, those who plan to skip ahead through song will be happy to hear that the Song of Double Time — which used to only allow you to skip from day to night and vice-versa — can be used to fast-forward to any chosen hour.
Of course, the graphics have also received an overhaul, and look beautiful on the New 3DS and its two impressive screens. In fact, Majora’s Mask has never looked better, thanks to a fantastic remastering job that is not only vibrant but full of detail as well. That said, it can be difficult to find a 3D sweet spot at times, though when you do, the 3D is rather neat and of quality. And, apart from the odd minor frame rate hitch, it runs really well on the latest version of the Big N’s portable.
All of the action is restricted to the top screen, which has a user-controlled camera that can be rotated using the New 3DS’ C-stick, while all maps and menus are found on the lower one. It’s a design that worked well last time, and it presents the same level of quality here. Hell, there’s even an upgraded Bombers’ Notebook, which keeps track of your quests and acts as a go-to companion app.
Continuing on with the presentation talk, it won’t be surprising to hear that the music is, once again, top-notch. Not only have the visuals been given a makeover, but the sound has as well, making Majora sound even more beautiful than it did before. Music has always been a key part of Zelda games, though, so it was important that time was spent on remastering this turn of the century classic’s melodies.
Needless to say, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is an absolute winner, and a must-buy for all Zelda fans. In fact, it’s a must-buy for every RPG or action-adventure loving 3DS owner, especially those who plan to upgrade to the New Nintendo 3DS on or after February 13th.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS exclusive, which we were provided with.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D exists as the definitive version of one of gaming's best titles.