The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is a game that will wildly differ in significance from person to person. Depending on your past experience, it could simply be a competent and engaging adventure with a worthwhile amount of content. It could be an update of that one game you gave up on, that fixed most of the obtuse and annoying mechanics. It could be a mesmerising subversion of everything you’ve come to know and love in the Zelda franchise. Divisive it may be, but Majora’s Mask 3D is a marked improvement on what is quite possibly the most interesting entry in the franchise.
Storywise, Majora’s Mask is a surprisingly dark fantasy take on a Groundhog Day-style premise: At the start, you find yourself robbed of your possessions, cursed to take the form of a wooden creature and stuck in the strange world of Termina, in a town operating quite literally under the looming shadow of imminent disaster – an incredibly nightmarish moon on a slow yet deliberate crash course. As you progress, you find that the only way to save Termina lies through time as well as space, using the three-day cycle to fight through dungeons and gather supernatural help.
The graphics are easy on the eye, and successfully skirt a fine line for fans of the original: the game looks exactly like you remember it, until you irrevocably damage your rose-tinted glasses by looking at an old screenshot. From then on, it’s an incredible improvement.
In terms of gameplay, Majora’s Mask 3D is mostly unchanged from its N64 days, yet holds up surprisingly well. The addition of dual stick camera control for New 3DS users is welcome, yet not earth-shattering. The combat is fun, yet not incredibly difficult. As you gradually gain the ability to transform into different creatures, your new abilities are utilised in some clever and challenging ways. Some of the more obtuse elements of the original, such as the save system and the sidequest log, have been streamlined without being reduced to handholding. The log is a more effective gateway into that game’s side content, in which you gather and utilise a plethora of different masks to help the people of Termina.
It’s here that Majora’s Mask should be considered in comparison to other Zelda games. The “Rescue Princess, Defeat Villain” Zelda formula is completely upended, and in fact the main plot isn’t even the focus. Majora’s Mask is all about the individuals that populate its world.
If you’re familiar with the series, you’d probably expect such characters to stand in one spot and spout the same line throughout the entire game. They don’t. The wonderful thing about the three-day framework of the game is that these people have schedules. As you explore, you begin to pick up more information about them and their troubles.
In this age of cluttered map screens and repetitive cookie-cutter side missions, it almost seems an alien concept to help a side character because you want to – yet that’s why I found myself helping out every one I could. Sure, there are rewards for doing so, but they often pale in comparison to the emotional payoff. It’s not The Last of Us, but Majora’s Mask accomplishes a remarkable amount with a handful of dialogue and a boatload of atmosphere. Upon finishing the lengthiest side quest, I immediately changed plans and beat the game on the same cycle – purely because I couldn’t stand the thought of the resolution being ruined by that horrible, horrible moon.
Majora’s Mask 3D is every bit as captivating as the original, and somehow more. From newbie to returnee, this game is worthy of an unqualified recommendation.
Originally published in the Bangor University student newspaper SEREN, March 2015 Issue.