The black sheep of the Legend of Zelda family, and the evil twin of Ocarina of Time; Majora’s Mask (3D) is creepy, dark and addictive.
Majora’s does justice to the original, proving that the fifteen year old classic still holds water. The game’s personality and countless side quests make it hard to put down. While the majority of Link’s quest boasts superb game design, a few areas and one specific dungeon can at times show the product’s age.
So whats new? Those who played the game back in 2000 should for the most part find what’s here familiar. Many of the changes made are simple but serve to really modernize the experience. The layout in clock town, the game’s bustling central hub, has been revamped. It is now easier to navigate and prettier than ever before. Some changes are far more than just aesthetic. The touch screen interface, much like Ocarina of Time 3D’s, makes accessing and using your extensive inventory a breeze. Furthermore, all the game’s bosses have a new exploitable weakness. The latter two dungeon bosses even have completely new final phases of attack. The remake even totes one brand new side quest.
The last and most important change is undoubtedly the graphical upgrade. The 3DS revitalises the Majora’s setting: Termina, to a breathtaking degree. The four different regions of the game: the swamp, mountains, ocean and canyon, are brought to life with colour and more detailed textures. When looking at character models of Link or any other member of Majora’s quirky cast you find yourself brought into their world, rather than taken out by the pixelated animations unavoidable in the late 90’s. The one issue I did take with the games presentation came when a friend pointed out the game was a lot brighter and more optimistic in look than it had previously been. This is upsetting because Majora’s was and continues to be an atmospheric and unnerving experience. I feel that the brightness so prevalent in the 2015 version slightly detracts from the games spookier tone.
As with most Zelda games, story in Majora’s is understated and secondary to the personalities it gives you an excuse to meet. The antagonist, the mischievous Skull Kid, is immediately likable and easy to sympathise with. The (creepy) mask salesman who tasks you with retrieving Majora’s Mask is just as interesting and twisted. Each region of Termina has a population of characters to help out and gain insight into, with deep side quests to complete concerning many. Whether those characters be a rock band of Zoras, a blacksmith and his giant assistant or a gang of kids roaming the streets of Clock Town. The player is tasked with achieving all the aforementioned objectives before the end of a three day/night cycle. Different events happen at different times of day and a new alarm feature makes managing this easier than ever. It really seems like life in this world continues whether you’re in it or not.
The reward for making better the world around you is often the acquisition of a new mask. Over twenty different masks give Link abilities from running faster to transforming into different species. These abilities will translate to being better equipped to deal with dungeons, of which there are four. The dungeons of Majora’s are a great mix of puzzles and battles. Its very rewarding to overcome a problem that has previously stumped you. The water temple is a good example of this. Unfortunately, the game’s last dungeon is prone to simple-to-solve problems that are repetitive and time consuming. Similarly, dungeon bosses for the most part are really well designed fights with cool combat options to toy with, but the last (as a result of the remakes new additions) often felt over-difficult and cheap.
Majora’s Mask may be one of the most underrated Zelda games, yet it consistently shows itself to be one of the best, and arguably the most ambitious. Though, the game may have benefited from a few more dungeons, it is made up for with countless other activities which give it great value. The 3DS’ new coat of paint has made the already deep and absorbing world of Majora’s Mask better realised. This is a must play.
Note: Playing on the new 3DS is advised. The addition of more reliable 3D effects and a C stick used to control the camera makes the game that much more engrossing.
This review was previously published in Salient Magazine, the student magazine of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.