The Legend of Zelda has seen a wonderful stretch of quality games. 2013's A Link Between Worlds made for a Zelda adventure that was highly reminiscent of A Link to the Past in both worlds and quality, and the following year saw a risky endeavor called Hyrule Warriors, a Dynasty Warriors-inspired Zelda game that turned out to be magnificent and an embarrassment of riches and content. Despite a new home console Zelda game due out at the end of the year for the Wii U, Zelda fans have a different focus at this time. It's a highly requested remake in the same vein of Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D. The Nintendo 64 original was a mighty significant alteration to the formula, and one that was really loved by a good portion of fans. Does this Nintendo 3DS remake and its new additions make for a reason to return to the land of Termina?
Where most Zelda titles have a strong emphasis on dungeons, Majora's Mask is more about exploring the world and interacting with the NPCs that inhabit it. Each NPC has their own schedule which, with the upgrade of the Bomber's Notebook in this Nintendo 3DS remake, allows you to track their lives and locations through the game's three-day cycle much more easily. The notebook makes note of rumored events that are told by the children in Clock Town and keeps track of events in progress and ones that are completed. Seeing the entire world of Termina's denizens go about their days with different schedules still makes Majora's Mask the most realized world in Zelda series history. It's still impressive and remarkable to this day.
The people of Termina aren't the only ones on a schedule. While you're free to roam about as Link, there is an ever-present danger looming about Termina, a moon with a truly chilling looking face. You have a three-day cycle, which amounts in-game time to about 45 minutes, not counting time spent in menus or talking with NPCs, and each day that goes by sees the moon coming closer and closer to smacking right into Termina. If the three-day cycle passes without Link playing the Song of Time on his ocarina, something he learns early in the game, then the moon will crash into the land, casting the entire land into a massive eruption of flames and destruction-- and providing one seriously disturbing series of visuals.
It is a lot of fun to challenge one's self in seeing just how much a person can get done within the stretch of three in-game days. There are still the two ocarina songs that can be played to mess around with time: one of which slows down time so minutes pass by noticeably more slowly, while the other has been given a much welcomed upgrade. In the Nintendo 64 original, the Song of Double Time only allowed Link to skip ahead in time to the next day or the same evening. With the 3DS version, you can choose what hour to pass the time to exactly. This makes aimlessly wandering around and killing time just for an event to finally happen at a certain time a thing of the past. You can just skip to the exact time, since events begin on every in-game hour.
When Link transports back to the start of the three days, almost everything in the game's world reverts back to what it was. Bosses in dungeons have to be completed again to cleanse the surrounding areas from evil (though you can transport directly to the boss from the start of a dungeon if that boss has already been defeated), NPCs won't remember you helping them out as technically those events never took place, and the majority of Link's repertoire disappears, such as Rupees, bombs, arrows, and things inside bottles.
You might wonder then how one even makes progress in Majora's Mask 3D if when the three-day cycle starts over everything reverts back to normal. Smart thinking there! Special things like Link's equipment, awarded items like Link's bow and hookshot, collection of masks, bottles, learned songs, Heart Containers, and remains from defeated bosses stay with Link no matter if time returns to day one of the three-day cycle. Owl statues that have been awakened by Link can also still be transported to. Meaning that if you did all of the events leading up to a dungeon and have awakened the owl statue outside of it during a prior three-day cycle, you can simply transport to that location via one of Link's learned ocarina songs and start the dungeon on a new cycle.
There are but four main dungeons in Majora's Mask 3D, a drastically low number compared to most of the other games in the Zelda series. Most of your time as Link will be spent participating in events leading up to reaching one of the dungeons, each located in one of the four polar directions outside of Clock Town. For instance, to enter the third dungeon of the game, the Great Bay Temple, you need to rescue a Zora from the ocean waves, collect Zora eggs from both the Pirates' Fortress and Pinnacle Rock, and learn the song that awakens a turtle to safely lead Link through the typhoon that surrounds the temple. Once the song is learned to open the way to the temple, you need not perform these events again just to make it to the temple.
Another change in Majora's Mask 3D has to do with the boss battles in the game. While the majority stay true to form, some have been altered drastically and for the most part for the better. Though the jury's out on whether the big change to the boss of the Great Bay Temple is a good one or not. Now all of the bosses have clear weak points, usually a multi-color eye, a change that was made because series producer Eiji Aonuma found that with the original Nintendo 64 release some players were randomly hacking at bosses, totally oblivious to a weak point.
As its name might imply, Majora's Mask obviously enough has a great focus on masks and the collection of them. Each of the approximately twenty masks has its own use, but outside of the three major transformation masks and some side masks like the Bunny Hood, most of these masks are used just once throughout the game. They're essentially keys to unlock metaphorical doors-- that is, using a mask at a given time results in an event progressing, leading to a prize of some sort, whether it be an empty bottle or Piece of Heart. Then the mask isn't used ever again, just taking up space in your inventory, and admittedly helping to unlock the coolest transformation in the game.
In comparison, the transformation masks are used much more. Throughout the dark and twisted land of Majora's Mask 3D's Termina, Link will not have the skill set needed to progress all by himself, so he'll need to transform into one of three characters: a Deku Scrub, a Goron, and a Zora. Simply putting on a mask has Link undergo the frankly disturbing transformation. While Goron Link has the ability to curl into a ball and roll around, climbing up steep inclines, and smashing his way through obstacles, Zora Link can dive deep into bodies of water, setting foot on the floor. He can also swim with phenomenal speed. Though in the Nintendo 3DS version, there is a baffling caveat in regard to Zora Link's swift swimming ability. Swimming with great speed, performed by holding down the R button, results in use of Link's magic meter in the 3DS version, which as any good Zelda fan would know allows for a finite amount of uses of magical abilities. While Link can collect magic jars to refill his meter, it's just a bit confusing why the developers of this remake thought that needed to be changed.
Like with the previous Nintendo 3DS remake, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora's Mask 3D sports a host of inviting additions thanks to the touch screen. For instance, a helpful map is located on the touch screen, though one has to buy maps for each region from the eccentric and entertaining Tingle to see it, or while in a dungeon, acquire the dungeon's map found within a treasure chest. The items and masks menus can be opened with the touch screen as well, allowing up to four items or masks to be equipped to slots for easy access. Finally, optional gyro sensor aiming can be used to add some extra precision and control to aiming things like Link's arrows, a desired target for Link's hookshot, or Deku Link's bubble attack.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D looks brilliant on the Nintendo 3DS. The graphics compared to the Nintendo 64 original are like night and day. Whereas the N64 game was blurry as can be, the 3DS version is clear and crisp, offering bright and vivid color and great detail in characters and environments. It's an obvious step up. The stereoscopic 3D is a treat for the eyes, offering a fantastic layer of depth. It's not perfect, as like Ocarina of Time 3D, there is an occasional bit of ghosting, particularly in darker areas.
If you've been waiting for a reason to replay The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Majora's Mask 3D is it. It's the definitive version of a gaming classic that offers more good alterations than bad. Nearly everything that has been changed was done to make the experience a much better one. To this day there hasn't been a Zelda game that offers a more fully realized world, and while the lack of dungeons might be a negative to some, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is a game that somehow remains entertaining. Exploring the world and uncovering and participating in the lives of the NPCs replace a need for a massive amount of dungeons. All in all, if you're looking for a living, breathing world that other Zeldas cannot hold a Fire Keese to, Majora's Mask 3D has it and much more.