Ever since the release of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (OoT) 3D in 2011, alongside the release of the original 3DS, fans of the series have been clamouring for Majora’s Mask (OoT‘s N64 sequel) to receive the same treatment. After four years the time has finally come, coinciding with the release of the New 3DS, for Majora to grace the screens of your 3DS.
The premise of Majora’s Mask is fairly simple. Link, whilst searching for a lost friend, arrives in the mystical Land of Termina after having his Ocarina and horse, Epona, stolen by a nefarious imp Skull Kid who’s in possession of a mysterious, malevolent artifact simply known as ‘Majora’s Mask’. Upon arriving in Clock Town, the central hub of Termina, you soon learn that, thanks to Skull Kid, the moon will come crashing into Termina in three days, completely destroying the world. Yes, that moon. The moon that, might I add, Nintendo have made even creepier in this remake with a larger, contorted smile. It’s truly the stuff that nightmares are made of. And so, it’s up to Link to save Termina by reuniting four spirits that are imprisoned across the world and retrieve Majora’s Mask for the incredibly creepy happy mask salesman. Many consider Majora’s Mask a much darker game, story-wise and thematically, than others in the series. Although the fate of the world is held in the balance in almost all games in The Legend of Zelda series, Majora’s Mask‘s particular focus on death and the impending apocalypse gives it very melancholic undertones. There are numerous fascinating theories online as to the true meaning of Majora’s Mask and why everything feels slightly surreal. For example, many characters that you meet in Majora’s Mask are exactly the same as those you meet in Ocarina of Time, despite Termina being a completely different ‘world’.
As you have probably already clocked, three days to save the world doesn’t exactly sound like a lot of time and it isn’t, nor is it supposed to be. Although time is the main mechanic of Majora’s Mask, it is also my biggest gripe with the game. Oddly enough, however, I would not want this mechanic to be changed in any way as time is Majora’s Mask. The pressure of time is always your biggest enemy in the game, the way that time counts towards the end of the world on a bar at the bottom of the screen, the fact that, wherever you are in Termina, you can look up into the sky and see the grotesque moon inching ever closer, all of it is integral to the game’s tone. You’re supposed to feel like you don’t have a lot of time, because you don’t. Although you can pseudo-pause the game by pressing the 3DS’ home button, there isn’t actually any way to pause the game in-game. Wherever you are, be it a dungeon or the potion shop in Clock Town, time will pass. This just clashes with the way I often play games, doing little bits here and there between browsing sites and such. However, that’s purely a personal problem. On the other hand, this results in the game commanding your attention, demanding that you make use of every second that you have.
Despite all this talk of brevity, Nintendo weren’t foolish enough to give you only three in-game days to complete the game. After a certain point, very early on in the game, you will learn that playing the song of time will allow you to travel back in time, to the beginning of the first day. This does have its drawbacks though, as you will lose all money (rupees in TLoZ’s case) and all ammo for items (arrows, bombs etc.), but not the items themselves. This allows you to return in time to complete sidequests that you may have missed, as many of them are time-sensitive.
Although much of the gameplay will be a common standard to those familiar with the series, go to a dungeon, gain an item and defeat boss with said item, there are a few ways in which Majora’s Mask deviates from this norm. Although you do receive a new item in each dungeon, such as the hero’s bow or the hookshot, bosses often require a combination of items to be defeated. Odolwa, the boss in the first dungeon Woodfall Temple, for example can be defeated using a combination of the hero’s bow and deku nuts. Compared to Ocarina of Time, there is also a larger focus on sidequests in Majora’s Mask, with many of them requiring you to manage your time, so you can be in precisely the right place at the right time. This gives much more character to the inhabitants of Termina, as many of them have set-schedules, meaning that they will be in certain places at certain times. Another aspect of Ocarina of Time that is expanded in Majora’s Mask, as you may be able to tell from the game’s title, is the mechanic of masks. Whilst there were only a few different masks in OoT that were used in a single sidequest chain they are integral to Majora’s Mask, allowing you to change into different forms (such as a Goron, Zora, Deku Scrub etc.) each with their own individual abilities. The Zora mask, for example, allows you to swim in the water with ease, whereas the Goron mask allows you to lift heavy objects.
So what has the 3DS improved? Frankly, many of the positive changes made to Majora’s Mask are the same changes that can be found in Ocarina of Time 3D. Models and textures have been improved. The game runs smoothly, even with the 3D slider on full, although many models and edges do look slightly more jagged with 3D enabled. The bottom screen is essentially all of your UI rolled into one easy-to-use screen, allowing you to access the world/dungeon map, items, masks and gear all with one press on the touch screen.
Much like Ocarina of Time 3D before it, Majora’s Mask 3D is both a faithful recreation of the N64 classic and enough of an update to the game’s overall polish and UI to bring the game into 2015. Although I would argue that almost any Zelda game is a great place to start, I think Majora’s Mask is the most unfriendly to those new to the series. Whether this was intentional, or simply a result of the game being a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, doesn’t excuse the fact that it is undoubtedly harder than OoT. Additionally to the combat and puzzles being slightly more challenging from the start, very early on you are dropped into the, rather large, Clock Town with not too much indication of where anything is. Many consider Majora’s Mask a marmite game, you either love it or hate it and I think what makes me love it the most is the games oddly unsettling atmosphere…
Dawn of the First Day. 72 hours remain.