[Note: The original review for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D was pulled last week over quality concerns. GameRevolution recognizes this second review as our official review for the game. We apologize for the delay and appreciate your patience on the review. ~Ed. Nick Tan]
Like no Zelda before (or since).
For nearly thirty years, Nintendo’s classic fantasy adventure series has sold millions of copies, garnered oodles of critical acclaim, and inspired countless cosplay outfits. The Ocarina of Time is the crown jewel: considered by many as the greatest game of all time. The Citizen Kane of video games. Any game that followed was bound to be met with criticism. Nintendo knew this so they wisely didn’t try to top Ocarina.
Among the many great (and a few less so) titles in the Zelda franchise, Majora’s Mask is unique—a departure from the legendary formula. There’s no Ganon, barely any Zelda, and really, it’s not much of an epic quest. The whole campaign takes place over course of 72 hours that Link relives over and over. Released 15 years ago, Majora’s Mask is hands-down the most polarizing Zelda game ever made. And yes, we’re remembering the backlash that “cartoony” Link received with the colorful Wind Waker.
Remastered on the 3DS in time for the "New" Nintendo 3DS series, the new version of Majora’s Mask has a few new bells and whistles like better graphics. We’ll get to everything new it has to offer, but for gamers who’ve never played the Nintendo 64 original, let’s look at the core gameplay mechanics of Link’s “Edge of Tomorrow.“
Shortly after the events that transpired in Ocarina of Time, a young boy version of Link is in search of his fairy Navi. (If you played Ocarina 3D for 3DS, great, but this is the definition of a stand-alone title.) Travelling through a forest on his trusty steed Epona, Link gets ambushed by the Skull Kid. He awakens to discover that both his horse and his ocarina have been stolen, and he’s now stuck wearing a Deku nut-looking mask. Fortunately, he meets a fairy that guides him to the city of Clock Town.
Upon arrival, an angry-looking moon is heading toward the planet and will destroy everything in three days. Once Link gets his ocarina back, players can use the magical music instrument to travel back in time, or slow time, or… you get the picture. Certain items like ammo, bombs, and money are lost upon each time you reset the three days. (One in-game hour is about 45 seconds.) Other elements like when you complete a dungeon within the 72-hour period are not.
The key to Link’s abilities are the 24 masks found throughout the world of Termina (we’re not in Hyrule anymore, Dorot... I mean, Link). There are three transformation masks that you’ll use a lot: the Deku one lets you fly for a brief period, the Goron one lets you roll like a boulder, and the Zora one makes you a capable swimmer. In all, there are 24 masks to acquire in this roughly 20-hour adventure.
Most of these masks coincide with the four main dungeons in the game. The best is the Stone Temple, which forces players to cleverly balance time with the masks. Others like the Great Bay Temple feel bloated and repetitive. Still, the greater frustration is that even in a shorter Zelda game like this, four dungeons feels quite skimpy.
The control is very similar to the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time, but if you have a new 3DS XL, you can use the C-stick for camera control. It’s awesome. I highly recommend upgrading to the new XL if it doesn’t break your bank account. The Z-targeting feels completely and surprisingly at home on the portable system. Like Ocarina 3D, the dual screens makes switching items and now masks a little less cumbersome. I say “little” since I still feel this is one aspect that could have been more streamlined. On the plus side, the save system is way more forgiving than it was on the original Nintendo 64.
Also, when Link changes masks there’s a transformation cut scene that thankfully, can be skipped. Some of the masks turn Link into different creatures, which now is a sort of precursor to Link’s wolf state in Twilight Princess. It’s one of the few things that’s been revisited in a newer title. What’s interesting to note is that even if we look beyond the Zelda series, there aren’t that many games that have copied Majora’s Mask. The closest I can think of is Dragon Age 2. That game also had only one central location (Kirkwall). However, the lack of time travelling (and other problems) made DA2 a campaign that got old fast.
Plenty of enhancements here make the game easier to play, especially on a portable device. I wish Nintendo would remaster both Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time for Wii U, but if I have to play it on a portable, then this is pretty much as good as it gets. One thing that helps enormously is that the quest log has been tweaked to let you know what quests you’ve completed, and what’s left to do. Also, the boss battles are harder, but don’t feel unnecessarily hard. Best of all, as mentioned earlier, saving is much better since save points are plentiful.
The bad? Honestly, I was never that into the mini quests. They exist to help bring personality to the various townsfolk. Some of them have a sadness to them not usually seen in a Nintendo game, but as far as their side quests go, most of it feels like busywork. By far, though, my biggest pet peeve is the constant loading. The recently released Resident Evil HD has a similar problem, but at least in that game I still get slightly nervous when opening a door. Here, Link's constant back and forth to complete a quick task feels really tedious. I’m no programmer, but was there really no way to tie some of these areas together better?
Still, as a new version of a game many never played, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D has plenty of improvements that overall make it a more playable experience. In fact, the live, die, repeat nature of the game seems more at home on a portable device than a console (despite that fact that I would rather play in on my Wii U). Beyond all that, though, there really isn’t another game like this Zelda. In a medium where nearly every aspect of other big games are redone over and over, Majora’s Mask is still an adventure like no other.