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

As a series, The Legend of Zelda is notorious for its quality. Cited by many as some of the greatest games of all time, to pick a favorite is a contentious and difficult experience. Nintendo has now made that choice even harder with the master class in how to remake a game that is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D. Everything you loved about the original is here, and those things that you hated or even just felt hurt the experience have been reexamined and altered to create one of the best gaming experiences of not only the year but likely the decade.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Majora’s Mask focuses on our green-clothed hero’s valiant attempts to prevent the diabolical schemes of a possessed child from destroying the land of Termina. This child was once an innocent forest-dweller with a fondness for practical jokes, but after coming into possession of an ancient mask, his jokes take a turn for the macabre and he plots to crush the world under its own (incredibly disturbing) moon.

Spare change?

Spare change?

Majora’s Mask is famous for its dark tone and depressing story. Nintendo wisely left this part of the game unaltered; you will experience the heartbreaking tale of Termina and its residents time and time again. If Zelda games are fairy tales, then Majora’s Mask is one written by the Brothers Grimm. The story focuses on how the lives of the people of Clocktown and its surrounding areas deal with their impending doom. Some run and hide, some seek solace in routine, whereas others simply deny the obvious truth. The most heartbreaking element of these tales is not how so many people are doomed, but how that doom has invaded their lives. The characters of the world have made plans, they have fallen in love, they are in the middle of their lives, yet soon all that will end. Indeed the world is depressing, but never overly so. There are moments of joy and happiness in the lives of some of these people. This is the scenario you will face in Majora’s Mask and one that is made bittersweet by the game’s core mechanic of time travel.

Time travel plays a central role in Majora’s Mask, with Link given three days to prevent the moon from falling and save the world. The days tick away in accelerated real time so the pressure is truly on, with every temple and sidequest requiring time management and attention to detail. It is however a testament to Nintendo’s game design that the time limit is always there and yet never in the way. Players are taught to manage their time and every sidequest or dungeon is designed in such a way as to encourage you to take full advantage of the time that is given to you. Players who pick it up for the first time on 3DS may even note a Dark Souls-esque feeling when you have to reset the clock. You will have learned shortcuts, you will know the route better, you may have an item you didn’t have before, and, perhaps most importantly, your loss is never the game’s fault. By this you should understand that losing in Majora’s Mask is a learning experience, one you must endure and learn to respect. Every loss and every reset will get you closer to your goal.

Hello Darkness my old friend...also hello little wooden reflection.

Hello Darkness my old friend…also hello little wooden reflection.

Outside of the time travel mechanic, the core Zelda gameplay remains intact, with the upgrades brought to the Ocarina of Time remake (such as gyro controls for the bow) all present. The biggest shift in gameplay arises from the game’s second core mechanic: masks. Throughout his adventures, Link will acquire a number of different masks that each provides an in-game effect. Some provide a physical transformation (such as the Zora or Deku mask) and some provide a one-time bonus or are required to progress in a sidequest.

Sidequests are one area in which Majora’s Mask 3D rises above its original. Link’s journal (that he acquires after joining a mysterious cult) is used to organize all the game’s sidequests into an easy-to-read fashion. Each character you meet is added to the notebook, as are any of the major events that occur to them over the three days. This provides a precious resource for your adventures, as it enables you to know where you need to be and when you need to be there. Many of these sidequests play out like puzzles, with Link only seeing the events of his absence on people’s lives, and from there travelling back in time in order to find out where they ran into trouble. The streamlining of quest management and small improvements made to the layouts and difficulties of temples help to elevate Majora’s Mask 3D beyond its predecessor.

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What do you want from me you little maniacs!?

For a game that at its heart is fifteen years old, Majora’s Mask 3D is refreshingly original and heartfelt. It is a game that needs to be played and will likely be remembered as one of the greatest games of all time.