By Bryan Smith on February 20, 2015 at 3:20pm
What happens when Nintendo decides to take a giant step out of its comfort zone for one of its most loved franchises? Well, sometimes you get “Super Mario Sunshine,” a game that extremely good control and great ideas with platforming but also manhandled by ludicrous moments caught only in hindsight and tedium in collecting shine sprites. In “The Legend of Zelda’s” case, you get “Majora’s Mask,” one of the most thought-provoking and darkly beautiful games in “Zelda” history and arguably of all time.
Unfortunately, the original game on the Nintendo 64 suffered from some lower sales than anticipated. Despite some great improvements over “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” the game turned some away with the daunting three-day time limit and the slow start getting into the game. What followed was a giant cult following for “Majora’s Mask.” When “Ocarina of Time 3D” was announced and showed off, gamers collectively shouted for “Majora’s Mask” to follow suit and here we are with the remake. Does the game still hold up today on the 3DS? I say it absolutely does.
Same Beautiful World and Gameplay, With Upgraded Graphics!
Just like “Ocarina of Time 3D,” the same game is still here with pretty graphics (with a few extras too). Link is back and he can swing his sword and use items to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. Unlike any other “Zelda” game, however, Link can use masks for various of effects, such as transforming into a different Link, making Link faster, convincing other people Link is someone else or important, and more.
The structure “Majora’s Mask” is built around is the three-day time limit. You only have three days, which doesn’t translate to three actual days, to do the main quest or your side quests. Seems frightening, doesn’t it? While that’s the point of the system, going along the theme of death looming overhead, the whole cycle isn’t that threatening. Once the end of the final day comes, or whenever you decide to restart the cycle, you can use the Song of Time and return to the first day.
Personally, the time limit adds to the overall feeling of the mood of the game. Instead of just frolicking through the flowers, feeling safe and sound while you go on your merry way, death is constantly tapping on your shoulder to remind you that there’s a giant moon wanting to rub its face with the earth. You need to schedule and plan accordingly. The world doesn’t care if you weren’t ready; it’ll go on without your choices and well … end with the moon crashing into you.
Still the Darkest and Best Story/Writing for "Zelda"
My absolute favorite thing about “Majora’s Mask,” whether it’s the original N64 title or the 3DS iteration, is the writing. It is so wonderful, endearing, thought-provoking… there really isn’t enough words to state how brilliant the themes and emotions go. The same dark, mature setting is still here in “Majora’s Mask 3D,” believe you me.
Why I feel this is the perfect writing and story for “The Legend of Zelda,” heck, for a lot of gaming stories to begin with, is how it treats the audience and doesn’t borrow plot elements from its older brother. Most people, myself included, say would say that the stories in most “Legend of Zelda” games are extremely basic and formulaic. You need to stop Ganon, save Princess Zelda, and save the world. In fact, “Ocarina of Time,” a fabled game to being one of the best games period, strips pretty much the same story structure of finding three medal-like objects, Ganon gets to do what he pleases, find six people, and stop Ganon for good.
What does “Majora’s Mask” do? It says, “You know what? Screw getting the princess; we’re going to throw the moon at Link and make him piss his pants for this adventure.” For one thing, death is confronted full stop, and we don’t get to avoid it. We have to deal with death and the hardships that happen. Sure, there is the giant, evil-looking moon that probably wants to deck Link with its nose. I, however, don’t think I ever stopped before and considered the consequences of someone dying in a game before. Keep in mind this game came out when I was a kid, and even back then, I stopped and shuddered.
Yet “Majora’s Mask” was a game for everyone (remember, I could play this game as a young kid without my parents wigging out). It’s extremely hard to point towards a game that treats everyone like mature, intelligent people while not condescending to the younger audience while said audience is a large chunk of the demography. There are examples, don’t get me wrong, but I feel “Majora’s Mask” hits the sweet spot so well that it’ll make everyone ponder difficult questions that are often avoided.
Let's All Go Fishing
Although not too dissimilar to “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D,” there are actually quite a bit of changes and extra goodies scattered throughout the game. A good number of the changes help “Majora’s Mask,” such as being able to save at any time with the owl statues, a hassle-free way of skipping a select number of time with the Song of Double Time instead of going to the dawn/end of a day, and different allocations for places.
In addition to the Sheikah Stones, which helped Link if the player got lost, fishing has been put into the game. It works just as it did in “Ocarina of Time” with a new twist: masks act as a second kind of lure to get rare fish. As far as I’ve seen, fishing does almost nothing but help rewind and relax, adding to the theme of life and death of the game. “The world is about to end with the moon inches away, you say? I want to spend the last few minutes at peace with fishing.”
Not Everything Got Saved in This Transition
Unfortunately, there were a few… hiccups getting the game to the 3DS. Yes, pardon the silly analogy when Link uses the Song of Time and he loses his perishable items. The most noticeable downgrade is that when swimming with the Zora mask, the magic meter is now used to swim about. Since the Zora Link uses the electrical charge whenever you swim, it becomes harder to control while magic is constantly draining. The only decent way to bypass the magic loss is to get the Chateau Romani, which gives you unlimited magic for the rest of the cycle.
While the pain of the beginning has been mitigated slightly, it can still be slow for those who don’t know what to do exactly. Though it can be skipped with the scarecrow, the problem still stands for those who don’t know what to do and for those who don’t have much else to do once you get what is needed for the very first cycle. Also, the time limit for new players can be daunting since it can be faster than expected, even with the Inverted Song of Time.
Also, this is more of a complaint with the 3DS iterations of these games, but I feel that the spin attack is less efficient and feels weird to perform. Perhaps it’s the animation of Link spinning that is weird here, but it just doesn’t seem right on the 3DS games.
"Believe in your strengths... Believe..."
As my favorite “Legend of Zelda” of all time, the 3DS version feels just right at home and I can happily say that I can take and play “Majora’s Mask” wherever I want. The gameplay is still top notch, and the themes most “Zelda” games wouldn’t even touch are just breathtaking. If you haven’t played “Majora’s Mask” back when it first arrived, do yourself a favor and get it now.