Over Memorial Day weekend, I spent my time at my aunt's cabin in Colorado. It was a lovely little vacation that I sorely needed. It helped me disconnect from the stresses of life. I witnessed a Bald Eagle shitting in midair. I relaxed. I ate snacks. I decided to spend my down time undergoing a challenge I've been afraid of for years: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest. In case you're unfamiliar with it, I'll go over the basic premise, but I won't go over its entire history. For simplicity, the original game will be referred to as OOT and Master Quest will be MQ.
Essentially, this is a ROM hack of Ocarina of Time that was actually made by Nintendo themselves. It takes the base game that we all know and love and tweaks it. It's like a dark parallel universe to OOT. Firstly, Link takes double damage from all injuries. This means you die much more easily and quickly. Early in the game when I had only a few hearts, I died quite a few times. Secondly, the overworld is mirrored from the base game. If you turn left in the regular game, you turn right here and vice versa. Initially, I didn't think this would be a big deal. In reality, this was super disorienting. I know OOT very well. I could almost cross Hyrule field blindfolded. But not here. All my years of training have taught me to go one way, but now I must go the opposite. The more familiar you are with OOT, the more difficult this change will be to adapt to. It's also interesting that Link is right-handed in MQ. This isn't a big deal except with the Hookshot. I'm so used to it being in my left hand!
The biggest changes lie in the dungeons themselves. They have all been redesigned. They have totally new puzzles. Rooms are in new orders. Enemies are in different locations. More difficult enemies are found within them. The bosses are the same. The new items obtained are the same. The dungeons look extremely similar, but they are not. I won't go into a great amount of detail because I don't want to spoil anything for you. But I'll talk about Dodongo's Cavern and a few other things to give you an idea of what we're dealing with here.
As with several of OOT's dungeons, Dodongo's Cavern is built around a large central chamber. The various puzzles branch out from here. In OOT, you start by solving all of the puzzles on the ground floor. Eventually, you work your way to the second floor. This will lead you to bombs and the bridge seen above. You drop the bombs on the skull's eyes to open a path to the final section of the dungeon. In MQ, this order is flipped. You quickly use an elevating platform to reach the second floor. You solve all of those puzzles and then unlock the areas on the main floor. You'll still obtain bombs at the end and use them to unlock the path.
This is a perfect example of the level design in MQ. The designers know you've played through OOT. They know you expect things to go a certain way when you walk into a dungeon. They use this knowledge against you. They force you to completely change the way you approach the game. In the Fire Temple, you start by facing this set of stairs:
In OOT, you walk right up them and get to work. In MQ, you naturally try to walk up these stairs. As soon as you try to step onto them, a wall of flame appears and burns you. You have to think about how to get up these stairs. You'll quickly realize that you must climb up the short walls lining either side of the steps.
Even some of the mini-dungeons have been redesigned. The Ice Cavern is among the very best locations that OOT has to offer. The music is divine. The atmosphere is perfect. It is dangerous.
There is a spinning blade in a central room that will hurt you if you're not careful. This is completely absent in MQ.
In OOT, there is a block puzzle. You have to solve it to get the Iron Boots. In MQ, this is optional. This room exists, but I passed right through it. I don't know what happens when you solve it. I presume it leads to a Gold Skulltula and/or a heart piece.
MQ would be even more challenging for a completionist (which I am not). All (or nearly all) of the dungeons have areas like this. You can solve extra puzzles. I think most of them lead to Gold Skulltulas, which weren't worth it to me. I didn't try to solve any puzzles I didn't have to. I also didn't complete the Gerudo Training Grounds, as the Ice Arrow is worthless in this game.
When you play MQ, you'll want to give yourself every advantage you can. You will absolutely need the Biggoron Sword. For anyone unaware, this sword does double the damage of the Master Sword (except against the final boss). You'll need it to put down enemies fast. You might lose a war of attrition considering how much more damage you now take.
It is also advisable to go well out of your way to seek out heart pieces. You need as much health as you can reasonably obtain.
MQ requires a great deal of spatial awareness. You really need to look around your environment to make progress. Nearly every time I got stuck, I was missing just a single switch. I'd have to scour the walls, ceiling, and any other visible surface until I found the switch I had missed. This would open a door or reveal a hidden chest with a key.
The most frustrating part of MQ is Navi. She's annoying in OOT. It's much worse here. I'm playing the Master Quest. Why do I need you shouting at me every hour to give me hints? This is hard mode! Shut the hell up you stupid fairy!
The Shadow Temple is the other thing. I've ranked it as the worst dungeon in OOT. That still holds true. It's awful. With the double damage, you die so easily. And it takes so long to get back where you were. And there are bottomless pits everywhere that take you back to the start of each massive room. And you take damage from that as well. One more thing. Beneath the Well is even more terrifying than before.
Playing through MQ was a huge test for me. I always use strategy guides for Zelda games (at least on my first playthrough). The only Zelda game I've completed without the use of a strategy guide was Phantom Hourglass, and that's a pretty easy game. I'm not very good at solving the puzzles in these games by myself. But in MQ, I have advantages. I am intimately familiar with the world. I know its rules. I know its items and their uses. I fully understand the tools at my disposal. Because of this, I was able to beat this game completely without consulting a strategy guide for the dungeons. I did use one just to find a few heart pieces that I couldn't remember how to obtain, but that's it. I feel so accomplished! Playing through MQ all by myself was a seriously rewarding experience.
MQ is very fun. It's intimidating because of the disorientation and the difficulty. But it's amazing to play the game like this. It's the closest I'll ever come to playing OOT for the first time again. The sense of wonder and discovery returned for me. I had fun looking in nooks and crannies. I made sure to get to know the various NPCs. I didn't rush through anything. I thoroughly played through MQ and I seriously enjoyed myself. If you are a fan of OOT, you deserve to have this experience.
There may be other ways to play it, but it's readily available on 3DS. If you buy OOT3D, MQ comes packed in on the same cartridge. That's how I played it. If you own OOT3D, dust off your copy and load up Master Quest. If you don't own it, buy it! Or find some other way to play it. Whatever. You do you. When you do play it, I'm certain you'll have a good experience. And no matter how challenging you find it, think to yourself, "Hey, even Boxman did it and he's terrible at games." Then steel yourself and face this perfect test!
For any of you that have played Master Quest before, share your thoughts down below!