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The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Review

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.

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Poor Skull Kid, he was just lonely.

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.

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The beautiful remastered map of Termina with all four regions; Woodfall, Snowhead, Great Bay and Ikana Canyon.

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.

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Beloved Epona returns, but you’ll have to reunite at the Romani Ranch on the third day, unless you can find another way?

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.

9/10

53 thoughts on “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Review”

    1. Get this one. I don’t think the changes are so bad that it merits getting a lower resolution, less polished, version.

    2. Virtual console version is on club nintendo right now. If you have extra coins to spend, you can save yourself $40. If you do decide to go with the 3DS version, dell had a deal where you got $25 dell credit back. I don’t know if the deal is still available though

  1. good review, but I feel like making it so much easier to save takes away some of the tense and unique anxiety that was felt in the original, you truly felt trapped, frantically trying to turn back time, I just think that element of never feeling safe, is absent in the new one because of the new save feature.

  2. “that could be desperately improved”

    That doesn’t mean anything. How do you desperately improve something? Maybe you mean “that desperately needs to be improved”?

  3. Ridley, the Angel of Death

    Looks like I won’t be using owl statues for anything but warping this time around. I refuse to use anything that will make this game a lesser version of the original. But this change will definitely make the filthy casuals that hated the original happy. Now they can have their hand held like the little infants that they are. Every other change is great, though.

    Oh & the lack of a Hero Mode or Master Quest mode is total bullshit as it could have been Majora’s Mask WITHOUT the casual crap!

      1. Ridley, the Angel of Death

        The very first sentence in my post should make it quite clear that I’m still buying the game. If I can’t get the Majora’s Mask special edition New 3DS XL on the 14th, I’ll go ahead & download the game onto my Link Between Worlds 3DS XL along with buying Pokemon Alpha Sapphire from Walmart. If I can get the Majora’s Mask special edition New 3DS XL on the 14th, then the games will have to wait for next month.

    1. I’ve had it on VC for a couple of years now, and was planning on getting the new one. I was holding off on the VC cause I was hoping for an HD remake, and I hate the classic controller. It’s one of the 3 Zelda games besides the Phillips-CD-I games I haven’t played. Should I just play the VC first? Or can I play the new one and not use the hand-holding tools? I want the real experience, and just wondering if I can get that from the 3DS version.

      1. Ridley, the Angel of Death

        N64 experience: Don’t use any time skip mechanic other than the Inverted Song of Time & the Song of Double Time which was in the original game… unless the time skip mechanic for the 3DS version is the Song of Doube Time. If that’s the case, when you use that song, skip time by 12 hours to get the N64 experience out of the Song of Double Time. Oh & never use the Owl Statues for saving as they now work like save states for Virtual Console. I might be missing something so talk to Quadraxis, too, as he might remember what I’m forgetting as I haven’t played the original in a very long time.

        1. Ok cool sounds good, so I CAN get the N64 experience with the 3DS to be clear? What time skip mechanics are there besides the song of time and double time? I haven’t really been reading much up on it to keep it all fresh and new to me when I do finally play it.

          1. Ridley, the Angel of Death

            Aside from the Inverted Song of Time, just those two. The Inverted Song of Time I mentioned slows down the progress of time so the 3 Days don’t go by as fast. It’s in the original game so that should be okay to use if you want the N64 experience. Hopefully they didn’t change that song to slow down time even further, though.

          2. To be clear, time skipping can only occur within the game whenever you play the song of time, the inverted song of time and the song of double time.

            I believe the inverted song of time counts every in-game minute as one second (though don’t quote me on that, since I haven’t timed it). My memory is foggy so I can’t remember if it’s the same as the original.

            The song of double time lets you skip individual in-game hours, but it doesn’t allow you to skip from the first to the final day, only over the course of the 24-hour day.

            Either way, I hope that helps! :)

  4. Dang, this is the first confirmation I’ve seen that there is no hero mode or master quest. I had hoped… But oh well. In my opinion, nothing about this remake makes it inferior to the original. I’m really pumped to play it.

  5. I’ve only willingly bought 2 remakes in my gaming career that I already had a previous version of: Chrono Trigger DS & Final Fantasy IV DS (having had both in FF Chronicles on PSOne).

    Reluctantly, I got Wind Waker HD via the MK8 promotion, & DK: Returns 3DS via Club N’s platinum gift due to slim pickings. But I can still play my copies of the original versions.

    Majora’s Mask is my favorite Zelda game. I still have my N64 gold cart (w/ holograph sticker!), & still have the Zelda Collector’s Disc for GCN. I can play the game on N64, GCN, & my launch Wii; no extra charge. (Oh, I might’ve willingly double-dipped w/ MM on GCN, but it was neither a remake or exactly purchased, plus it was included w/ the 1st 2 Zeldas I never had before, & some demos.)

    Anyway, the enhancements in the 3DS port are negligible to me. Now, a Wii U remake w/ additional bosses & quests would change my mind.

    1. Haha yeah, I actually get a lot of remakes. I guess more than the changes themselves, I like the convenience of playing them on a current gen system, and, especially in the case of Majora’s Mask (which is both my favorite Zelda game and one of my favorite games of all time) I love the renewed relevance of the game. The fact that my favorte game is no longer forgotten or outdated, and to experience it as if it were new is something I love.

      Yeah, I’m Nintendo’s perfect victim, unfortunately…

      1. Honestly, I’m unsure. Never really attempted to play it on GCN. I tend to get so engrossed in a game’s 1st play-through, it becomes extremely difficult for me to return, even after years. Plus, there’s usually a new experience (game or novel) waiting for me. I do, however, replay shm’ups, arcade racers, fighters, & the like, yet even that’s rare. I’m the type who pushes my limits right away, & goes for 100% before the credits roll wherever possible.

        But again, I got MM GCN mostly because I wanted to play the 1st 2 Zeldas, & to have a collector’s item. I think I see where your comment’s heading, though. Seems like the emulation on the disc might cause glitches & freezes, meaning the ports for Wii & 3DS are better. I might just try to see if Wii can handle it, though it’s a launch Wii & had trouble w/ a dual-layered Wii game, Sakura Wars. Yet played Other M just fine.

        Anyway, I’ve only fully replayed deeper, more time-consuming games such as Eternal Darkness, MGS: TTS, & RE4, & of course Chrono Trigger & Final Fantasy IV. I recently tried playing DK: Returns 3DS, but I must’ve spent all my desire there on the Wii version when it came out. & Tropical Freeze is still eyeing me from my to-do list.

        1. Yeah, it’s a problem with the disc. Apparently the audio is kinda off, and it does crash. It doesn’t matter how you play it since it’s a disc problem, but I did play it on the Wii a long time ago. I’ve already transferred all my stuff from Wii to Wii U, so I was thinking of playing it on the GC I still have. I don’t think it’s worth getting the 3DS version for me, they already ruined much of the purpose in the game. I just wish I could play the original with those nice updated graphics…on my T.V..

    1. Completed to the end, 35 hours play time in total. No Hero Mode on completion offered or a Master Quest option either. Just end credits and the ability to resume from last save. Sorry. :(

      1. Does 35 hours include all side quests, or will some of us be able to squeeze a few more hours out of it?
        Great review. Thanks for that!

        1. Ridley, the Angel of Death

          She probably did a speed run of the game to see if a Hero Mode or Master Quest was unlocked by clearing the game once like with Ocarina of Time 3D.

        2. I would say you could get 40+ hours from the game. The only side quests I had left to do was the lengthy Anju and Kafei quest and a couple of smaller mini-games / quests.

          My playthrough did include replaying each boss fight twice and collecting all four stray fairy groups in the dungeons.
          I also spent about three hours fishing. Yeah. And had around 12/13 hearts in the end, so there’s plenty more pieces of heart to find. Hope that helps! :)

  6. Never thought I’d see a time where a game’s biggest complaint among the fans is a save feature.

    That aside, I love that new map. I couldn’t get into MM before, but hopefully I can get a fresh impression thanks to the 3DS remake.

  7. If I figured this game out in 2000 as an 8 year old then so should kids nowadays. The game isn’t even all that complex by todays standards and Nintendo still decided to dumb it down. Yes, I understand why, but I feel like they are ruining what the game was meant to be.

  8. Nintendo Elite Commander Quadraxis

    As much as I worship MM, having no Master Quest is a let down and does not justify the price for me right now, I’ll get it once it’s cheaper…

    1. That’s because there was never one to begin with. OoT was originally going to have one on the N64 but they didn’t have time and saved it for the GCN release, and then the 3DS remake later on. They never planned a Master Quest for MM so that’s likely why MM3D doesn’t have one.

      1. Actually, a Master Quest for OoT was released during the 5th gen, but only in Japan (as Ura Zelda) for the N64 Disk Drive. Yet the N64 DD was a flop & never released outside Japan.

        Of course, Master Quest did eventually make it outside of Japan on GCN & 3DS.

        1. Ura Zelda wasn’t released. It was going to be released, but the DD failed, like you said.

          But yeah. The Master Quest on the GCN is nowhere near what Ura Zelda was intended to be. It was just a quick dungeon edit to quiet fans.

          1. Ah, you’re correct, Anon. Thanks for your clarification on Ura Zelda’s release status, as well as the nature of GCN’s Master Quest.

            Sorry for my inaccuracy.

  9. The memories I have of Majora’s Mask are grand. I use to play this just about non stop on N64. That being said, the remake will have to wait.

    Great review by the way! I felt informed well enough to make a decision on holding off on the purchase of this title.

    P.S.- The moon still gives me nightmares! That face! xD

  10. I’m a little confused. In the original you could save with the owl statue. You just had to play the song of time to unlock it I believe then hit it with your sword. Also, the original didn’t have a hero mode or master quest mode anyway.

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