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LONG BLOG

REVIEW: Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (3DS)

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As my month of Zelda comes to a close, it’s now March and I’ve finally finished my complete playthrough of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, just in time to post under the ‘Hello, Hyrule!’ band of bloggers Zelda month. This game’s timely release has kick-started my love of all things Legend of Zelda, and I’ve been posting prolifically these past few weeks with rereleased articles summing up my experiences of all the previous games I’ve played, as well as looking at some new themed hardware, asking the community some questions, and just earlier today joining in with the ‘Majora March’ madness with an analysis on one aspect of the game. But, what about the infamous videogame itself? I’d not previously played Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and knew about it only from the Hyrule Historia and the cult following it seems to have gathered in recent years.

When I first picked up my original Nintendo 3DS, the first game I played on it was Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, which utterly blew me away and instantly became one of my favourite videogames of all time. Surely, since the follow-up game used many of the same art assets, and took only a year to make first time around on the Nintendo 64 for the same reason, it would quickly follow on the 3DS in a remastered state similar to its parent game. Well, it didn’t seem like it was coming, and despite being teased by Nintendo and after joining a Facebook group tracking the (lack of) progress of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D I’d almost given up hope. Eventually it was of course announced and released last month mid-February, and finally I’d get the chance to play this cult entry in the Zelda series, one which in the past seemed quite divisive and which you seemed to either love or hate depending on a few specific mechanisms in the game.

The story of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D picks up right after the events in the previous game: Link became the Hero of Time, defeated the evil demon-king Ganon, and at the conclusion of his adventure was sent back in time by Zelda to regain his childhood. We re-join the child Link, after Ganondorf has been sealed away, with him leaving Hyrule in search of his fairy companion Navi in a dark and ancient forest. It is here that Link is assaulted by a mysterious Skull Kid wearing a creepy mask imbued with magical power, gets his Ocarina of Time stolen, and is transformed through dark magic into a Deku scrub. Teaming up with one of the Skull Kid’s mischievous fairies called Tatl, Link eventually makes his way to the subterranean tunnels beneath Clock Town, the central hub of a new world called Termina. Here he meets the creepy travelling Mask Salesman and is told that he must find the Skull Kid, get the magical “Majora’s Mask” back from him along with the Ocarina of Time, and save the world… which will end in precisely three days!! *deep breath*

So, to recap: there’s no Zelda, no Ganon, no Hyrule, no Triforce… in fact the setup for this game is not like your typical Zelda game at all. This of course is one of the divisive factors that lead to many people disregarding this game upon its original release, and you have to go into Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D expecting something very different. If you’re willing to keep an open mind, then what you’ll find in the land of Termina is a wealth of interesting characters and numerous side stories, all timetabled into a three day cycle that you’ll be living again-and-again-and-again like the Nintendo version of Groundhog Day. The tone of the game is also a *lot* darker than your average Zelda game, with some of the themes in the stories ending up quite bleak; and even if you manage to pull a happy ending out of the bag for some of the characters, you’ll only have to end up resetting the three-day cycle and send them all straight back to square one. It can be utterly heart wrenching knowing that you can’t help or save everyone.

The structure of the game has a much stronger emphasis on the overworld than a usual Zelda title, and there are only four major temples, compared with the usual eight(ish). Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D still largely follows the tradition of entering a temple, navigating part way through, then acquiring a new gadget that is used to complete the rest of the dungeon and kill the boss; although this time there are actually a few items that are found outside of temples too.  The overworld itself not only has a load of character-driven side quests but there are lots of compulsory and option dungeons hidden in nooks and crannies all over the place, some of which may be more memorable than some of the major temples. A standout location though is Stone Tower Temple, with its odd architecture and interesting structure, which for many is considered the best Zelda temple ever created. While the others may not rank as the very best, they are all well designed and good for giving your puzzling skills a workout; personally I thoroughly enjoyed every single dungeon in this game and thought it was all very well thought through and expertly constructed.

The central hub of Clock Town is where a lot of the side stories originate and end, and it is here that you’ll find the majority of the quest giving characters as well as the Bombers; street urchin children who feed you rumours of things happening in Termina. This is all tracked through you bombers notebook, which has been overhauled for the 3DS version, and is an excellent resource to keep track of when everything happens as well as set reminders and alarms. As I mentioned previously, the game has a three-day time cycle and the NPCs all move around, going about their daily lives, on a tight schedule that you can interrupt for the various quest and activities. It reminds me in a way of Dark Souls, where the NPCs similarly have their own missions, unperturbed by you most of the time, and really lends the game a lot of life and realism. This is definitely an area where Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is better designed than its predecessor.

The time cycle has also been a point of contention for many people in the past, as there have been many dissenting voices that the game makes you rush or that it always feels like you can’t relax and enjoy the land of Termina with all its secrets. This is partly true, but changes to the 3DS version of the game make Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D a lot less frustrating than its previous incarnation; I may even go as far to say it’s now frustration free, at least in my experience. You can learn the ‘Song of Inverted Time’ very early on, which when played on your Ocarina slows the passage of time and gives you twice as long to complete events of each day. If you need to be at a specific place at a certain time, you can now use the ‘Song of Double Time’ to select a specific hour, rather than having to wait about for time to elapse. Lastly, there were always complaints about the save system in the N64 original, which has now been overhauled and works very similar to Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. You can now save your game permanently at any ‘feather’ statue scattered throughout the land and inside temples, as well as at the larger ‘owl’ statues, which also act as fast-travel locations.

With the introduction of the second touchscreen, there have also been functionality improvements to the interface and controls, as masks and items can be assigned not only to the face buttons but also to corners of the lower screen for easy selection. Swapping between masks quickly and painlessly is now possible in Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, and there are even sections of the touchscreen reserved for the Ocarina of Time and picture camera. Masks are one of the core mechanisms of the game, as adorning different masks imbues Link with different abilities and attributes; such as curling up into a fast-spinning ball and being impervious to lava as a Goron, or fast-swimming as a Zora. Being able to quickly shift between masks streamlines the game a lot, as do many of the other changes carried over from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, such as the motion-controlled aiming, which is now even better with the New 3DS super-steady 3D.

In terms of the presentation, looking at some videos or screenshots from the original Nintendo 64 version of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D you’ll notice a *dramatic* improvement, and I think the additional time spent in development has resulted in a game that looks even better than Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, which already looked great. Character models are all excellent, well animated and contain a lot of expression and detail, as do the lush environments, especially some of the interiors of Clock Town, which are littered with trinkets and knick-knacks. Lighting and post-process special effects have also seen a complete overhaul, with some scenes looking nothing like the original and some locations being a lot more moody and atmospheric than they ever could have been before on more limited hardware. The soundtrack of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D has always been fantastic, and still is, with many catchy tunes you will surely have stuck in your head for day on end long after the credits have rolled.

So, after waiting what seemed like an age to play this videogame remastered on 3DS, did the game live up to the hype and meet my expectations? Well, to be honest, I’ve been completely enthralled with this entry in the Zelda series ever since I started it, and I can firmly see why for many people it’s a personal favourite. Indeed, for me I think that due to its uniqueness, dark atmosphere and sombre storytelling (which are all right up my street), Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D has become another favourite of mine in the long running series. It was very bold of Nintendo to follow up one of their biggest success stories, and arguably most influential game, with something so experimental but with this remastered version it is finally a complete and fantastic experience. It may not have been for everyone before, but now this amazing game is much more accessible and a “must buy” for the Nintendo 3DS.

For me, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is an instant entry into the hall of fame, the third ‘perfect’ Zelda game albeit one which is very different from others in the series. The 3D remaster not only improves the visuals and functionality of the game, like Ocarina of Time 3D, but also streamlines the structure of the game, patching any holes or frustrations that might have otherwise spoilt a completely unforgettable experience.

This concludes my ‘Month of Zelda’ for February (and March) 2015 and I’m going to give the series another break until the WiiU entry is released later in the year, at which point I will also play through Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap. As for future entries, can we now please have a Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess 3D for the New 3DS? That would be awesome.

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About n0signalone of us since 2:01 AM on 10.06.2014

Videogames have come a long way since the 8-bit and 16-bit days of old, and it is now one of the most interesting and constantly-evolving storytelling mediums. I started blogging about videogames a few years ago because I am very passionate about certain experiences I've had, which I don't think could have existed outside of our unique hobby, and I wanted to share this with other like-minded people on the internet.

I'm based in the UK and my favourite videogame of all time is probably still Shadow of the Colossus, but other more recent games such as the impeccable Dark Souls and Journey have given it a run for its money. My other interests, and things I have blogged extensively about, are board games and Japanese anime. I've got a degree in Media Communications and Film, and I'm currently a Teacher of ICT.

I post fairly regularly on my personal blog at https://n0timportant.blogspot.co.uk/, so please visit there for legacy videogame reviews and articles on anime, boardgames, etc.