Fifteen years since its release on the N64, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D arrives on Nintendo’s handheld and brings welcome changes to alleviate past frustrations. The haunting pressure of the impending moon is still ever-present, eclipsing those original fears with stereoscopic 3D usage, while various boss battles are refreshed with entertaining techniques. But despite its practicality, the new saving system dampens the tension, leaving Termina less of a ticking time bomb.
Developed by Grezzo and Nintendo’s EAD Tokyo team, Majora’s Mask 3D has transitioned seamlessly to a portable system with beautiful character remodels, tweaked puzzle elements and improved design layout. After firing up the game and witnessing the opening sequence with our trusted Hylian hero Link and giggling trickster Skull Kid, players will be charged with saving Termina and its inhabitants from the moon’s destruction. But with only three days to find the guardians of Woodfall, Snowhead, Great Bay and Stone temples, Link must use his ocarina to manipulate time and defeat the growing evil within Majora’s Mask, collecting a number of transformation masks and weapons along the way.
As a remake, the game’s familiarity in gear and item screen layout for Ocarina of Time 3D players will be a joy to bunny-hop back into, while content faithful to the original will have fans mimicking the Happy Mask Salesman and grinning from ear-to-ear. Subtle changes to the game’s design, including a revamped, clearer Bomber’s notebook and the ability to fast forward time to the exact hour you wish, are warmly welcomed and keep the pace fluid and fresh.
Newcomers, perhaps, may feel a touch out of their depth without an initial tutorial section to break the ice, but can visit the Sheikah hint stone or gossip stones scattered across Termina whenever they wish for aided direction. Given guidance is optional, players are free to roam the world as they wish and are rewarded immensely for their exploration with up to four transformation masks, 20 regular masks, six bottles and many pieces of heart, along with a vast to-do list in side quests and mini-games.
One of the most controversial changes to Majora’s Mask 3D, however, is its saving mechanism. Rather than performing the Song of Time on Link’s ocarina to permanently save the game, players can now choose to save at the various feather quill and owl statues – the latter which also function as warp zones – across Termina, negating the need to play in one-hour chunks. Though it’s entirely practical, as well as much easier, the frantic need to finish a quest or a dungeon in one sitting is ultimately lost and breaks the foreboding tension that set the game apart from its series’ companions. As a positive, though, saving at a statue means players can safely go back to the previous set of three days to complete any forgotten sections and slow the passage of time if needed, thwarting past frustrations in the original.
Featuring only four dungeons, Majora’s Mask 3D is one of the shortest games in the Zelda franchise, but the intriguing side missions – which often require much detective work – are a joy to explore. You’ll converse with monkeys in your Deku mask form, sing lullabies to a crying child as the spirit of Darmani with a Goron mask, and break out your stealth ability in the Gerudo Fortress to bring back stolen eggs in Zora form. At times, you may find yourself wandering aimlessly around Clock Town, just taking in all the interesting sights and sounds of the area or playing mini-games such as the Shooting Gallery time after time. Taking up a staring contest with the moon is not advisable, though, unless you like to lose.
While there are slight nuances in structure to side missions, including grabbing an extra bottle earlier, the most significant lie within the dungeon boss battles – many of which are for the better. In particular, a rejuvenated battle with Twinmold gives the fight much more flavour, though may leave Link’s arm a little worse for wear. It’s possibly just as well Chateau Romani is disguised as Popeye’s famed spinach formula, especially with aliens appearing in the dead of night.
While Majora’s Mask 3D is a wonderful remake in its own right, the game is hampered slightly by the same camera controls seen in Ocarina of Time 3D. L-Targeting, particularly if you’ve yet to upgrade to a new Nintendo 3DS or own a Circle Pad Pro, is wearisome when bosses fly, run or float off screen. Refocusing the camera can often eat into your defences and, in turn, becomes perilous in boss fights when control is of the utmost importance. But even with the added support of C-Stick or a Circle Pad Pro, the game consistently flirts with camera angles in tight spaces, showing dark gaps where there should be hard walls. It’s a minor grievance, but one that’s in desperate need of improvement.
Returning players may be disappointed with the rather bizarre move from Nintendo and Grezzo to omit a Hero Mode or Master Quest section. However, the addition of two fishing holes – though it won’t heal those wounds – may just keep players occupied for a short time with their hidden surprises.
Though it has minor drawbacks, Majora’s Mask 3D is a beautifully remade game with deeply refined elements to its gameplay and structure. A dark and saddening tale, perhaps, but it’s a game that moves players to the core with evocative music, witty dialogue and one spine-chilling moon. After all, it’s those little pockets of bliss that brings the dawn to our days.