- Format: 3DS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo EAD, Grezzo
- Players: 1
- Site: http://zelda.com/majoras-mask/
- Game purchased by the reviewer
After the largely successful release of Ocarina of Time’s 3DS port, the next obvious – and highly requested – step was a similar treatment of Majora’s Mask. It took three years, but Nintendo have finally acquiesced to the high demand and opened the gates of Termina once again, this time with a third dimension!
It’s quite probable that those who sought out a review for this game have a fondness for the original and are more interested in how this version utilises the more powerful hardware. Those of you are in luck: There’s a huge boost in the graphical finesse of Majora’s Mask 3D, allowing for a much higher fidelity of the game’s vision of Termina. The added power of the 3DS not only allows for the much better textures and character models on display, but also enhances the unique atmosphere with certain new techniques. The introductory sequence alone employs fog and some phenomenal lighting that grants it a new chilling sense of mystery.
This tone was perhaps always Majora’s Mask’s greatest strength, and it’s been faithfully preserved in this update. Upon stepping into Termina, the first thing players hear is a melancholic tune that embodies the quietly solemn mood that follows for the majority of the game in a number of ways, particularly in a lot of the haunting imagery used: Early on there is a wilted Deku scrub who is described to look just like Deku Link, and those diligent enough will discover certain hints as to why. The Happy Mask Salesman himself carries a mask on his pack that resembles a screaming, anguished face that peers over his shoulder.
Perhaps the best way Majora’s Mask uses these to set its tone is to have them serve as the underpinnings for the world of Termina; the previously mentioned song is followed up by an equally resonant whimsical tune in Clock Town that serves as a stark juxtaposition. In terms of art direction, it’s the same vibrant Zelda that players have known and loved for twenty years, but adorned with darker furnishings such as the wilted Deku scrub, the iconic moon, and an emblem of said moon above the door of the mayor’s house. It eschews subtlety for very brief peeks into the darker nature of this world that capture the player’s imagination at every step.
Even some of the townsfolk embody this as they jaunt happily around town, with blackened eyes on an otherwise innocuous face. This is much more notable with the new character models made possible by the 3DS’s hardware, most of which are fantastic and offer some minor, characterising flairs.
The biggest change in Majora’s Mask was the time mechanic, which has been tweaked ever so slightly here to make for a more player-friendly experience but remains largely intact. Players have three days to save Termina from certain destruction; the passage of that time however can be sped up, slowed down, and reset entirely. Through clever use of certain mechanics, however, this never feels stifling.
Carefully placed save statues dot the land and Link learns a song that allows him to teleport to these early on, saving the player a lot of time getting back in a lot of cases due to skipping over certain lengthy puzzles. So if the player runs out of time, they can simply reset the clock and give themselves a full 72 in-game hours to explore the new area.
Items are also granted in key locations that allow for a similar expedition of certain quests. One area features a mini-dungeon followed by a stealth sequence that can not only take up a large portion of those three in-game days, but will also require you to return through them. The first time through however, the player receives the hookshot that can be used in the area to skip the mini-dungeon and a large portion of the stealth sections in a fraction of the time in subsequent visits.
While these are all excellently implemented, the design of the game surrounding them takes an unfortunate nosedive in its second half, the shortcuts becoming irrelevant in the face of the tedium of some of the quests. There is a quest that involves capturing seven eggs in jars, resulting in a dull back-and-forth journey each time if you’ve only managed to accrue a single jar. While it’s made evident that additional jars will help, it’s not clear exactly where they are; seeking them out would just take more time and possibly result in a forced time reset, losing all the progress the player has made so far and thus making it a less attractive option. The fact that the jars are necessary for the eggs at all is a punishment to those who either haven’t explored or haven’t explored in the right places, rather than a reward for those who have.
Similarly, there is a mini-dungeon in which you have to constantly bring some items to the mummy-like Gibdo enemies, resulting in the player again going back and forth between vendor and Gibdo for the handful who require items unavailable in the dungeon itself since it’s impossible to know which item will be required by the next one. It’s like you’re being punished for not using a guide, even more so when it bleeds into the game’s dungeons. It’s also a particularly egregious example of an oblique and asinine stance toward game design that has fortunately dwindled since the original’s release.
Those players fond of the original will love this journey back into Termina, but there’s not enough improvements to the core of the game’s second half to entice those who weren’t. It’s a real shame; a few additional tweaks could have elevated this very good game to a masterpiece.