The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D review – a new sheen for the darkest Zelda

Long the black sheep of the Zelda series, the bona fide genius at the core of Majora’s Mask is exposed in this remake. Though shrunk down for the small screen, Majora’s Mask 3D’s visuals are leagues ahead of the Nintendo 64 original.
Nanjing Night Net

The quests and characters are just as dark and weird as ever, but the frustration of managing them all is gone.

There are thousands of things to do in Termina once you get your head around how the time cycle works.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D on 3DS $59.95 Classification: PG Reviewer’s rating: 10/10

In 2000, Nintendo released its follow-up to the incredibly successful The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and although the sequel was running on the same hardware as its predecessor, it proved to be the black horse to Ocarina’s mainstream darling.

Much darker than any other Zelda adventure, but also much more human, Majora’s Mask has now been remade for Nintendo 3DS in a form that keeps and improves upon its incredible highs, while removing some of the technical niggles and confusion that chased some gamers away 15 years ago.

This is unequivocally Zelda – quirky characters, amazing music, plenty of interesting items and great puzzling dungeon designs – but it carries a legitimately dark edge in both tone and visual design, and the game is defined by its unexpected and wholly unique time-looping hook.

While players will recognise the standard explore-dungeon-item-boss structure common to Zelda games in completing Majora’s Mask’s main quest – which involves saving the land of Termina from being crushed by a menacing and ever-falling moon in just three days’ time – the rhythm of the action is fundamentally different as it takes place over the course of just three days.

Thanks to Link’s ability to manipulate time, you’ll play these three days over and over again. Whenever you run out of time – assuming you’re not yet ready to take on the final boss and prevent apocalypse – you have to start over again on day one. Every change you’ve made to the world returns to the way it was before, although you can take with you any magical form-shifting masks and important quest items you managed to acquire.

This Groundhog Day mechanic adds an extra dimension to traditional puzzle and adventure designs, as Link uses his ever-growing skillset and knowledge of the Termina residents (who of course never remember who he is) to provide assistance to a town increasingly disturbed by the lunar body threatening to end all of their lives.

Indeed, as Link jumps between helping doomed characters deal with their life’s regrets in the face of obliteration, staving off the ever-lingering Damocles-esque moon and taking the form of recently-deceased warriors to tap into their power and abilities, Majora’s Mask can occasionally feel obsessed with death. The theme is executed brilliantly, adds a beautiful candour not often seen in mainstream gaming and is part of why this is such a must-play game, but it could hit on sensitive subjects for some.

Though the game makes sure you’re constantly in mind of your race against time, you’re unlikely to feel too rushed or pressured once you understand the game world and plan your objectives accordingly. Some actions are only available to you at certain days or times, and the central area of Clock Town seems to get more frantic and menacing as the moon makes the final leg of the approach (this is helped along in no small part by the increasingly frantic distortion of the music). The growing feeling of impending doom, not just for the player but for all the other characters too, is one of the game’s greatest strengths.

Improved in this version of the game, a handy notebook keeps track of mysteries, rumours and characters’ schedules over the three-day period, making it easy to plan out your actions for each three day cycle and make sure you don’t run out of time. Some side-quests – like the aging punk who regrets that he will never get to see his pet chickens grow up into proud roosters – are touching and a joy to work out a happy ending to, while others – like person who lives in a toilet and just wants to find some good paper before the end of time – are just plain weird.

Several changes have been made to this version of the game to minimise the chance that you’ll get stuck or frustrated, which was a considerable issue in the Nintendo 64 original. The locations of some masks have changed, the boss battles and dungeons have been tuned up and one vitally important ocarina song – which makes time pass a little less quickly – has been made a bit easier to come by.

That combined with more save locations, the added ability to skip forward to any specific hour in the timeline, and the aforementioned notebook that keeps track of the actions you need to take to attempt a specific challenge or subplot, means this new version is leaps and bounds ahead of the original in making Majora’s Mask the epic, emotive masterpiece it was always designed to be.

Follow Digital Life on Twitter

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.