“Whenever There is a Meeting, A Parting is Sure to Follow….”
By Corey Dirrig
Note: The game was reviewed on an original 3DS XL.
As the sequel to one of the greatest games of all time, Majora’s Mask had a lot to live up to upon it’s release in 2000. It was surprising and unfathomable, especially for the era, for Nintendo to release a main line sequel in just two years. Nintendo was under pressure to produce more games for the Nintendo 64 for many reasons, particularly because developers were jumping ship to develop for the cheaper, disc-based PlayStation. The safe route for another Zelda game for the same generation would have been a longer development cycle, a traditional overworld comparable to Ocarina of Time, with traditional Zelda elements and dungeons. But Nintendo took a risk, creating a Zelda game that explored dark themes, used a restrictive time management system, had a ton of side quests, and a a short development cycle. Nintendo’s risk paid off and gave us, surprisingly, one of the greatest, yet bizarre, gaming experiences, and to many, the best the series has to offer. Nintendo has now given a new generation of gamers the chance to play Majora’s Mask, fixing the smaller problems and adding things to make it more appealing for a portable experience and short burst play sessions.
Majora’s Mask 3D plays and feels familiar. From the opening scene walking through the woods to exploring Clock Town again to the basics of combat, the game feels polished, yet uncompromised at the same time. Grezzo gave the game a graphical overhaul that makes the game look amazing and nostalgic. The game looks how I remember it, yet there are obvious little touches to the world that would have not been possible with the Nintendo 64’s technology. Small enhancements make Termina that much more unsettling and sad, from the darker, more colorful Clock Town to the moon’s more menacing redesign, which makes it scarier unto itself. Grezzo has whole heartedly taken great care in re-crafting the visual aspect of the game.
Though some of the game feels like a Zelda game, there are many aspects that make this chapter unique. The tones of the story hold up remarkably well to modern standards and the three day cycle makes the world feel more intimate. Knowing the characters’ routines really gives the feel of a living, breathing world with real problems and agendas. I was surprised how weird some of the characters could get, but it makes the world that much more interesting. The Skull Kid is disturbingly dark, The Mask Salesman is delightfully weird, and the Zoras and Gorons give the world more diversity. Nintendo and Grezzo show that even after fifteen years, they can still make it feel fresh.
There have been a number of tweaks that fix some of the game’s original issues. One of the major changes in the game is the amazingly redone Bomber’s Notebook, the key item that tracks schedules of NPCs and requests of notable characters. This version fleshes out the quests down to every last detail as you discover them. Talking to towns people adds more clues to the notebook’s quests, making it feel more like a proper Quest Log. This gave me a more rewarding feeling when I completed an entry. Heart pieces and treasures are also marked on the maps, not just the bigger quests, the completionists will have an easier time finding everything.
The dungeons of Majora’s Mask are, for the most part, unchanged. Though there are only four dungeons, they are just as challenging and robust. The world itself contains puzzles outside the dungeons and around Termina, making it feel more dense. There are a ton of secrets to find and a lot of side quests that the masks themselves took me on too. The timer of the three day cycle also changes the way I would have normally worked through traditional Zelda dungeons, giving me the feeling of dread at times and thrilling satisfaction in others. The countdown makes the game’s puzzles feel more tense and stressful in the best way.
There are a number of changes made throughout the game that are well implemented that fix the pacing issues that plagued the original game. Link can now play the Song of Double Time to not only speed up time, but jump ahead to specific times and days, making the point of killing time to wait for certain events virtually nonexistent now. The Song of Soaring also lets players fast travel to already discovered locations, making side quests less stressful and more rewarding. I found myself wanting to do more of them based on this mechanic alone. Another fix that makes the game more manageable is the inclusion of more owls throughout Termina for saving in the middle of a three-day time loop instead of reverting me back to the Dawn of the First Day. The Bosses of each of the four main dungeons have also been retooled to be more challenging than they were in the original game.
Though those changes are great, there are some I wish were implemented. Some of the things I found myself doing over and over on most time resets really hindered some of the smaller tasks I was trying to accomplish. Whether it was getting the moon tear to get the Town Deed, or chasing the Ghost through the snow, there are some things I wish I could have stored. The Great Bay Temple also continues to be an issue. The puzzles still have limited clues and the dungeon itself is way too long with the amount of content that it holds inside it. Though these didn’t diminish my overall enjoyment of replaying the game, they were somewhat annoying hurdles.
9/10 – The DNA Network
Nintendo risked a lot when it set out to make this game. With it’s somewhat repetitive nature, it’s minor bugs, and it’s out of the box story for the Zelda Universe, it had the perfect recipe for failure. But Majora’s Mask became one of the most iconic chapters to the Zelda series, arguably better in most ways to it’s predecessor. It’s dark tones and sad layers to it’s stories make it stand out from the rest of the series. A game ahead of it’s time, Majora’s Mask is a game Nintendo should be proud of. With it’s minor tweaks and subtle changes, this is the definitive version of the Nintendo 64 classic. Whether you are revisiting the world or playing through for the first time, Majora’s Mask is a must play and major staple to any gamer’s library.