Review by discoinferno84
Reviewed: 02/13/15 | Updated: 02/20/15
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night...
Termina is on the brink of annihilation. Armed with the dark power of Majoras Mask, the Skull Kid wanders the land and corrupts everything in its path. Nothing can escape it. The Southern Swamp has been poisoned, and its holy temple is now in ruins. In the north, Snowheads idyllic springtime countryside has been ravaged by an endless winter storm, and its inhabitants are dying in the frozen wasteland. In the west, a family grieves for those lost in the Great Bays monster-infested waters. In the east, the ancient Ikana Kingdom is being slowly overrun by its undead subjects and rotting from the inside out. In the middle of it all, the residents of Clock Town go about their daily lives. Theyre pretending that everything is still normal, that the sense of foreboding and desperation is just their imagination. But they know better. The moon is falling, and its going crash soon. When it does, all the suffering and loss will be forgotten in the apocalypse.
You have three days to save the world. Go.
Its not going to be easy. If the hero was anyone than Link, itd be impossible. Thanks to the Ocarina of Time he acquired in the previous game, he can travel back in time whenever he needs to and he will. A lot. Termina is a massive place; fully exploring even one section requires you to relive same days several times. The basic game structure is standard Zelda series fare; you complete a dungeon, load up on items, find hidden areas, collect heart pieces, etc. But what makes Majoras Mask different is that youre operating under a time limit. Termina will die in three days, but each in-game hour equates to 45 seconds in real life. Even if you use an ocarina melody to slow things down, youve got a maximum of three hours to get your business done and escape back to Day 1. Its pretty tense at first youre under enough pressure as it is but the 3DS version makes the process far easier to get into. There are more save points, which are ideal for portable gaming sessions; unless you have to stop while deep in a dungeon, theres little risk of losing much progress. Its perfect for newcomers, though veterans of the original might be disappointed by the lack of difficulty. The clock display is simpler to read, and even displays the progressing minutes. The game also introduces a revamped Song of Double Time, which lets you fast forward to specific hours of the day. This is a huge improvement over the original N64 game, which only let you skip between day and night. With this new song, you have much greater control over how you plan and progress through each loop.
Theres good reason to have it, too. At first glance, its easy to assume that youre supposed to cram as much adventure into each three-day session as possible. Thats not always the case, though; some of the most important moments in the game happen at various but specific hours of the game. While youre gallivanting all over Termina, its inhabitants have their own plans. Sakon always tries to steal from the old lady on the first night. Theres a mystery afoot at the Romani Ranch, and its horrific extent isnt revealed until the third day. Reuniting Anju and Kafei is one of the most intricate (and tragic) side-quests in the Zelda series, and it requires you to be at exactly the right places and times. You wont figure most of these things out unless you stand back and observe where and when people go. This Groundhog Day-style method of getting to know the NPCs is mitigated with the Bombers Notebook. The N64 version of this daily side-quest planner was functional, but a vague; rather than using its cues, you were far better served by reading a guide to complete it. Majoras Mask 3DS improves upon it with entries for all the pertinent characters, their locations, and active objectives. Its more organized and takes a lot of the time-wasting guesswork out of the equation. Its a double-edged sword, though; discovering stuff through your own observations and effort felt more rewarding. Having everything spelled out for you lessens Terminas mystique. Regardless, youll be surprised at the tapestry of bizarre and twisted stories interconnected throughout the game.
Youll be rewarded for your efforts with a collection of masks. There are over twenty, each with different effects on either Link or the surrounding environment. Some are used to progress certain side-quests or acquring heart pieces, but others are more practical. For example, wearing the Captains Hat or Gibdo Mask in front of ReDeads those nightmare-inducing enemies from Ocarina of Time theyll perform a harmless interpretive dance. The Stone Mask makes you invisible to minor enemies, and the Bunny Hood lets you move faster. Youll spend most of your time using the three main transformation masks, though. These are obtained during key moments in the game, and allow Link to physically transform into a Deku, Goron, or Zora. Each of these has their own playing style and drawbacks; the Deku is tiny and slow, but can temporarily fly and hop across water. The Zora swims quickly and has boomerang fins, but weak against elemental attacks. The Goron fares better against heat and cold, but sinks like a stone. However, it does let you curl up into a ball and roll around at high speeds. Zooming around Termina Katamari-style is ridiculously fun. When youve acquired a few masks, take the time to explore and experiment with them; you might be surprised at the results.
The process of equipping masks and any item, for that matter is streamlined thanks to the 3DSs touch screen. The menus are well organized and responsive, allowing you to choose and button map the inventory quickly and efficiently. This is especially rewarding in later dungeons like the Stone Tower Temple (arguably the most tedious part of the original game), which require you to use several items to solve puzzles and get past obstacles. The biggest improvement, however, is the revamped camera controls on the New 3DS. The older games relied on Z-Targeting to keep the camera focused on enemies and important items. For its time, it was a revolutionary new method of maintaining perspective 3D environment. Outside of combat was another story; youd have to constantly re-center the camera behind Link, or enter first-person view to look around. If youre playing Majoras Mask 3D on a regular 3DS, youll have to contend with those limitations as well. Unless youre a masochist, theres no way youd suffer the alternate gyroscope aiming mechanics. The Circle Pad Pro gives you more control a la Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, but its rather cumbersome. If you can, play this on a New 3DS; the C-Stick gives you free reign over the camera, allowing you to explore areas without having to deal with awkward and rigid angles. It takes some getting used to its a pity Nintendo couldnt incorporate a second control stick instead of a relatively tiny nub but its responsive and definitely worth using. Its a great example of how updated technology can make old games feel new again.
That goes double for the overall presentation. The original Majoras Mask reused just about every asset from Ocarina of Time. Thanks to the N64s Expansion Pak, it managed to hide its creative, but undeniably aged appearance. Its transition onto the 3DS is nothing short of stunning; textures and colors have been redone in gorgeous detail. Unlike most games, it makes you actually want to use the 3D effects. You can waste a whole time loop just wandering around Clock Town and seeing how alive it is. Look at all the mosaics and posters on the walls, or how the lighting and shadowing change over the day. The Great Fairy Fountains are incredibly shiny, and the sunset view at the Great Bay is amazing. Even Tatl seems more energetic than before. The sheer scale of the buildings and the draw distance are really impressive; Termina Field and Ikana Canyon feel much larger than they used to. It feels like Link is merely a tiny part of a much larger, vibrant world. More importantly, it retains the sinister tone of the original game. The moon is not only falling, but it has a monstrous, leering face that gets ever closer to devouring everything. Listen to how the music subtly shifts as the days pass; the cheery Clock Town theme becomes increasingly frantic and deranged, eventually giving way to a somber, tragic theme in the final ten hours. The lack of an orchestrated soundtrack is such a shame, especially given the 3DSs audio quality. No matter where you are, the sudden clanging bells are always an ominous reminder that times running out. Not to mention some of the NPCs; the Happy Mask Salesman is somehow even creepier now that his smile is more fleshed out. The phrase, Youve met with a terrible fate, havent you? is still strangely chilling.
Looking back, the original Majoras Mask deserved so much more attention than it received. Ocarina of Time was a hard act to follow, and the time-based mechanics seemed strange and unfitting for the series. Its great to see it finally take center stage; its a wonderfully nostalgic trip for old gamers, and newcomers will find unique and engaging experience. Termina is one of the most lively and often terrifying places in the Zelda series, and youll want to explore every last inch of it. Some of the new features, such as the upgraded Bombers Notebook and the Song of Double Time go a long way in making things more accessible. However, they also make the game incredibly easy; some of the mystery and intrigue was lost in the translation. Uncovering the windy, twisted story felt like an accomplishment when done alone. However, the touch screen menus and updated camera controls are inarguable improvements; once youve gotten used to these, going back to the N64 version will be difficult. The visuals are among the best on the 3DS; Nintendo took an already beautiful game and made it absolutely stunning. There are only three days to save the world, but youll enjoy every second of them.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Ultimate Limited Edition Bundle) (US, 02/13/15)
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