This may sound crazy, but back when The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask came out on Nintendo 64, I thought it was better than Ocarina of Time.
Please, don’t stone me.
While I eventually came to love Ocarina of Time more, Majora’s Mask has always had a special place in my heart. I bought the game (with the included expansion pack) when it came out for N64 and along with Ocarina, have played through it at least 3 or 4 times between N64 and Wii’s Virtual Console.
But after playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on 3DS, I couldn’t help but wish Majora’s Mask would receive the same treatment and benefit from all of the advantages the 3DS brought. In the time I waited, I tried playing Majora’s Mask again on Wii and found myself missing all of those great new features and the improved visuals. I kept holding off on playing through again, even after re-obtaining the game along with a Nintendo 64 console, all in hopes that Majora’s Mask would receive that 3DS remake.
And nearly 4 years after the release of Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo has finally released that remake.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for the 3DS, despite some changes ranging from great to questionable, is easily the definitive version of the game.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I always assumed that Majora’s Mask would remain largely the same on 3DS as it was on N64. Obviously, the graphics would be improved and have 3D depth added. The visual style would match the original concept art more closely, while still maintaining the slightly creepy atmosphere. The control improvements from Ocarina of Time 3D, like moving the menus, maps, items, etc. to the touchscreen for easy access and adding optional gyroscopic controls for more precise aiming, would also be added. Beyond that, it seemed safe to assume that everything would stay the same, and for the most part, it has.
The three-day cycle in which you complete dungeons, help residents of Clock Town (and elsewhere in Termina), collect masks, and so on remains the same. The side quests, with very few minor exceptions, remain the same. The fact is, that most of the changes do not impact the gameplay in any way. I’d go so far as to say that those who have played the original game, whether on N64, the promotional Gamecube disc, or through Wii’s Virtual Console will basically be able to play the game in much the same way as they did before. As someone who loved the original, it has been a relief to have the gameplay so well-preserved.
And the gameplay still holds up well. The 72-hour time limit (taking roughly about 1 hour to get through without slowing down time by half) is a mechanic that really requires players to plan out what they’re going to do in any length of time. Maps, items, weapons, bottles, and masks all remain in Link’s inventory when he travels back in time, whereas consumable items, like arrows, bombs, Deku sticks and nuts, potions, and rupees all disappear when he travels back (though depositing rupees into the bank keeps him from losing them). There are nuances to how the game can be played and while some puzzles have only one way to be solved, there are others (like boss fights) that can be won in multiple different ways.
But easily one of the most enjoyable aspects of Majora’s Mask is the wide variety of masks with different functions. One mask enables Link to run faster and jump farther. Another makes him invisible to most enemies. Another simply enables him to stay awake long enough to hear an old woman’s stories. And that’s just a few of the 20 non-transformation masks.
And those transformation masks are the best part of the game. The Deku Mask gives Link the ability to shoot out of flowers to float in the air over obstacles and skip across the water across lily pads. The Goron Mask gives Link the weight and power of a Goron, enabling Link to roll around very quickly and destroy enemies and obstacles with his spikes, including in what is arguably the best boss fight in all of the Zelda games. The Zora Mask gives Link graceful swimming abilities, fins that can be used like boomerangs, and an electrical shield for taking out enemies. And the Fierce Deity’s Mask, well, let’s just say it’s worth collecting all of the other masks to get it.
It seems that when remaking Majora’s Mask for the 3DS, Nintendo’s desire was to do more than simply remake it as a prettier version of the original game with a few added features as they had done with Ocarina of Time 3D. This version boasts all of the same improvements as Ocarina 3D (including updated visuals that match more closely with the original concept art than the original game), but also makes enough tweaks to streamline certain aspects that were sometimes frustrating or annoying.
The save system, for example, now features more hard save points (i.e. saves that remain in the system memory until they are overwritten with another save) than in the original Majora’s Mask. While it could be argued that having these hard saves makes it possible to reset when missing an important event, it’s not in any way necessary to do, so purists (along with those who are just used to the old way) probably won’t even use that feature, but rather treat the save points the same as in the N64 version.
There are some small changes regarding locations of certain things as well. Both the Stone Mask and Giant’s Mask have been moved to different locations. Without spoiling anything, the new locations make a bit more sense given the ways they are used. Some of the fairies in dungeons also seem to have been moved. The bank, which formerly was present in West Clock Town as the sole business on one side, has now been moved to the rear side of the Clock Tower. None of these dramatically impact gameplay, but they’re changes nonetheless.
Some minor changes are quite helpful. When using the Goron Mask, it is no longer necessary to hold down the A button in order to roll. A single press will cause Goron Link to roll into a ball and pressing again will cause him to go back to normal. The functions while rolled remain the same. Although this is technically a small change, it does make camera control possible (with either a New 3DS XL or a Circle Pad Pro for the original 3DS or 3DS XL), which helps a lot in multiple situations.
One change that has some enraged, some happy, and others neutral is that while wearing the Zora Mask, Link no longer swims speedily by default, but rather an in-between speed that makes it easier to navigate narrow passages without running into walls. Speedy swimming is still possible, but much like with the Goron Mask, it uses magic power, combining it with the magic attack the Zora Mask already had previously. This change sucks when out in the ocean as magic is difficult to collect and it was really the most fun place to use that speedy swimming. But when in the Great Bay Temple, where speedy swimming is not really useful outside of the boss fight (and often caused ramming into walls and such), the slower default speed helps a lot to get around.
One semi-big change that can be either viewed as helpful or unnecessary is that the Song of Double Time (which, in the original, moved time forward by 12 hours) has been changed to have the option of moving forward to any hour of that particular day. Purists can continue to move forward 12 hours and others who wish to take full advantage of the new feature can use it to be closer to the actual times they need for side quests.
Easily the biggest change of all is that the Temple bosses have all been redone from scratch. But rest assured, purists, the bosses aren’t any easier than before. In fact, if you have played the original Majora’s Mask, your strategies (with the exception of Goht, the Snowhead Temple boss, who is thankfully barely changed at all) will not work and they all are just as (if not more) challenging than before as they are (generally) harder to hit. As someone who had the strategies for each of them down to a science, this proved to be both refreshing and frustrating at the same time. Ultimately, the bosses feel more unique in these new forms than they did on the original.
The fact is that while there are a lot of changes to the game, most of them are small, very few of them actually make it impossible to play the game the same way as on the N64, and none of them make the game easier.
How well does it control?
As mentioned previously, all of the touchscreen functionality from Ocarina of Time 3D is present in Majora’s Mask 3D, as are the optional gyroscopic controls, all of which work very well and make the gameplay experience smoother than it’s been in the past. Access to items, masks, and the map are faster and more efficient. The Ocarina is accessible with the tap of a dedicated icon and if you forget the notes to a song, you can bring it up on the lower screen while you play (Side note: Because the notes are letter-based instead of arrow-based, it’s easier to remember the notes for songs in general). None of these things have changed from Ocarina of Time 3D, so anyone who has played Ocarina will feel right at home with Majora’s Mask.
The one thing that is truly different (and incredibly helpful) control-wise is the camera control options. In the original Majora’s Mask on N64, your camera control was limited to Z-targeting in order to get the camera facing the same way as Link. This is still an option and it works just as well as it did on N64 and on Ocarina of Time 3D. But the option for manual camera control is available if you have either a New 3DS (regular or XL) or a Circle Pad Pro (available for both the original 3DS and 3DS XL). The New 3DS’ “c-stick” is a little weird to get used to as it has no actual give to it (much like the old nub in the center of old laptop keyboards), but it still functions well for moving the camera. My personal favorite method for camera control is the aforementioned Circle Pad Pro, which not only gives a full-sized second Circle Pad (which has more give and feels more natural), but adds the ZL and ZR triggers (which function the same as L and R) and a larger, more comfortable grip. What it lacks in pocketability it makes up for in comfort, particularly for those with larger hands. If not for the improved 3D on the New 3DS XL (and the desire to use a new toy), the game would be better played on the original 3DS/XL with the Circle Pad Pro.
Hopefully someday Nintendo or some third-party manufacturer will release some sort of comfort grip for the New 3DS (XL) and make it the best possible way to play.
Is the remake worth buying?
Yes. Absolutely yes.
Those who have never played (or never beaten) the original Majora’s Mask will find that while this is a very dark entry in The Legend of Zelda franchise, it’s also incredibly unique, beautiful, fun, and challenging (in a good way). And it is still undoubtedly a Zelda game through and through.
Purists may scoff at the changes and consider it sacrilege to choose this remake over the original. To those people, there’s no reason you can’t simply play the original game, whether on Nintendo 64, the promotional Gamecube disc, or the Wii Virtual Console.
But the remake is worth playing. There is enough to keep the game feeling familiar, but changes that can make it feel fresh and new. The visuals are vastly improved over the original, matching more closely to the original concept artwork and still leaving the same ambiance of the original despite the brighter color palette (in fact, the colors make the overall darkness of the game stand out more).
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is well worth owning for any fan of Zelda, unique games, or anyone with a 3DS.