The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Joseph Walsh 16.02.2015 23

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Majora

With 15 years having passed since its original release and the introduction of a few key gameplay tweaks, can the 3DS version of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask still make a claim to be one of the most innovative and radical titles ever made, or has the test of time sent it crashing down into oblivion?

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is the saddest and darkest of games. Take the opening sequence as an example: having just saved Hyrule from a seemingly inevitable doom, a defeated looking Link makes his way through the woods, slouched over his ever reliable horse friend, Epona, and within seconds is ambushed, robbed and cursed by the miscreant Skull Kid. Even the fairies - Link's most helpful and caring cohorts - seem to be against him. This instantly sets the tone of what's to come and is an obvious statement of intent from Nintendo.

It's not very often that adjectives such as traumatic, bleak, tense, gloomy and tragic are used to describe a game that can also bring so much joy and is arguably one of the most satisfying titles ever made. Rewind a few years back to 2000 when Majora's Mask originally launched on the Nintendo 64 and it's easy now to suggest that the easiest thing Nintendo could have done following the success of the critically acclaimed Ocarina of Time, is to have released a spiritual sequel or, essentially, the same game. It's testament to Nintendo, then, for attempting to move away from Zelda's much loved, tried-and-tested formula, and for taking a huge risk by trying to reinvent the metaphorical gaming wheel. Welcome to Cubed3's timely review of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D.

There's much to be said about what it is that makes Majora's Mask so special, whether it's the temple designs, the harrowing music, or the controversial 'Three-Day System' mechanic that forces the player to take on and finish the game at its own pace, rather than their own. However, the real magic and soul lies within its people. Ignoring side-quests would not only be a blasphemous snub towards the game's most charming and poignant moments, it would also mean missing out on collecting a majority of the masks, and in the land of Termina, Link is very much defined by these masks. Majora's Mask may not have invented side-quests, yet it did put a huge emphasis on them, so much so that they account for half the game, and the level of detail gone into a lot of them is quite astonishing.

There's an unparalleled level of satisfaction to be had from solving the requests and problems of townsfolk, experiencing their woes along the way - dig deep into their souls and even innocuous conversations can result in uncovering their troubled past, present and, sometimes, sinister tales. One story involving a couple, in particular, is still, to this day, incredibly heartbreaking and impressively complex in its design.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D on Nintendo 3DS

Of course, all of this is made possible by the 'Three-Day System' that is the very backbone of Majora's Mask. The short story is that Link has 72 hours (about an hour in real-time) to stop the moon from crashing into Termina. The slightly longer version is that with the power of his Ocarina, he has the ability to manipulate time in his favour, whether that be slowing it down, skipping forwards a few hours, or simply starting all over again from Day One. The good news is that Link can save Termina over and over again, although by resetting time he loses most of his items along the way. Sounds complex? It is. Even to this day, no game has attempted to take on time manipulation in the same way Majora's Mask did. There have been examples of the concept of time being used to affect a game's universe and surroundings, but none have tackled it in such a convoluted and expertly crafted fashion.

For many gamers, constantly being forced to finish their current mission was, and still is, the overriding feature that made or broke their love for the game. With that in mind then, Nintendo has tweaked the 'Three-Day System' to accommodate handheld gamers, as well as utilising the 3DS' hardware to make some subtle refinements as an added bonus. To say whether these changes are an improvement or not is subjective, but even so, it's fair to say that given the nature of its platform of choice, all changes made are necessary. For starters, the save system has been streamlined to allow for a simpler way of recording progress, and there are now even more save points than before. It's also now possible to shift time forward by the hour, rather than being limited to half days, as seen in the original version. By understanding how Majora's Mask wants to be played and exploiting these new game mechanics, it can potentially remove some of the tension that comes with fighting against time, but, all-in-all, these updated modifications are a welcomed addition.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D on Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo's decision to cut back on the number of temples and include four, rather than seven as seen in Ocarina of Time, was indeed a bold move, and perhaps a way of communicating the 'less is more' or 'quality over quantity' theory. Since then, recent Zelda games - Skyward Sword, in particular - have mixed up the classic temple puzzle-solving formula in a way that involves less of the burning-sticks-to-light-lamps-and-open-doors way of thinking and introduced a horde of new weaponry, allowing them to re-imagine the series' regular trademark fixture. Therefore, it's even more impressive that even now the temples seen in Majora's Mask are as remarkable now as they were back in the day. Bearing in mind that these were all designed to be completed within an hour, the size, scale, and quality are on par with the rest of the series, with the only requisite for completion being the gamer's own time-management skills.

The bosses are, as expected, darker in tone than those seen in previous games and are as memorable as the temples they preoccupy. With each mask altering Link's physical appearance and entire move set, each battle is as captivating as the other and figuring out each of the bosses' weak points involves examining a multitude of possible solutions, ultimately providing a huge sense of gratification and relief. Bosses aside, the build up to each of the temples is in itself every bit as memorable as anything seen throughout the series. As previously mentioned, because of the emotional connection likely to be harboured between the characters and Link's puppet master, there's an extra degree of motivation to see out each quest to the end. Coupling that with fantabulous level design, it's easy to suggest that Majora's Mask connects on a more psychological and technical level - not just when compared to other Zelda games, but with other titles on the whole.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D on Nintendo 3DS

When speaking about and referencing what it is that makes Majora's Mask so wonderful to behold, it's impossible not to bring up the music that follows Link around as he tries to interpret the world around him. The offerings here are all about matching moods and never before has a soundtrack been so symbolic of a character's emotional state or Link's current location. Venture into the Astral Observatory only to be welcomed by a piece of music that is so bewitching, enchanting, and elegantly composed that despite carrying the weight of the moon on Link's shoulders, it's tempting to sit back and gaze at the stars, entranced by the seductive, yet melancholy piano riff. It creates a desire to stay longer, although lingering around for any amount of time simply isn't an option.

Then, as time ticks down and the forecasted arrival of the slow-going moon comes to claim its victims with its malevolent glare, the village bells start to chime and the music formally known as 'Final Hours' begins to haunt the locals through the final hours of their existence. Of all the music or atmospheric pieces in this and other Zelda games, this is the one that best summarises and evokes all the relevant feelings for its intended purpose - in fact, it will leave Link feeling so dispirited and full of sorrow that it would be easy to forgive him for dropping his sword and conceding to his fate there and then, whilst counting down through the final minutes and embracing his and the villagers' demise.

Not many games can claim to render up as many iconic moments as Majora's Mask has and, with that said, how many other forms of media can profess to creating such a varied, risky and, most importantly, fun piece of entertainment? The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is a stark reminder as to the importance of innovation in videogames - the most ironic thing is that it has taken the release of a fifteen year old game to remind the industry of that.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

When arguing in the almost defunct 'Are videogames an art form?' debates, Majora's Mask is amongst a handful of other titles that can act as a defence 'for' games as it clearly states and displays the most compelling reasons as to what videogames are capable of when developers are free to experiment and toy with ideas. Based on an almost perfect blueprint, Majora's Mask dared to be different at a time when it probably didn't need to and delivered a game so peculiar that it still stands out fifteen years after its initial release. Its ability to stir up such an array of emotions, whilst not shying away from a solid game structure, is something rarely seen in games, and the way it allows the gamer to dictate and influence each individual's destiny is a marvel to behold.

To say that The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is the stand out best game in the Zelda series is, indeed, a daring - and inaccurate - verdict, given the calibre of the series. However, there can be no doubting that this is the most alluring and positively tortuous game within the series, and for that reason alone, it is worth everyone's time.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Comments

Am sure I will cave and grab this at somepoint. Sounds ace, with a good amount of changes and tweaks to really refine the experience.

Do wish they had some sort of 3DS-player type thing to run it on the TV screen (I cannae afford a capture card atm!), really is one of those experiences that would benefit from the TV/friends-round experience.

 

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

jb said:
Am sure I will cave and grab this at somepoint. Sounds ace, with a good amount of changes and tweaks to really refine the experience.

Do wish they had some sort of 3DS-player type thing to run it on the TV screen (I cannae afford a capture card atm!), really is one of those experiences that would benefit from the TV/friends-round experience.

 

I'd love a way to play 3DS games on the big screen. Monster Hunter 4 is begging for it. Only thing I can think is that a lot of people (investors, even gamers) might consider that the final nail in the coffin for Wii U. Then again, they had this for Game Boy, GBC, and GBA, so who knows. If it's a Wii U attachment it might even help with sales.

Pretty interesting that the GameCube in Majora's Mask has the GBA adapter attached to it. Maybe Nintendo's hinting at something like that coming our way.

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing: http://www.davidjlovato.com

I always loved MM more than OoT, so it's great to see it back and doing so well. It was restricted on the N64 because of 1.) being released late in the day, 2.) using the Expansion Pak (or am I confused there?).

Also really pleasing to see tweaks made to suit portability more!

Great review, Joe! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Thanks Adam! Actually, I think that MM came with the expansion pak when it was released so there's no excuse for having not played it!

Expansion Pak didn't come with MM, but it did come with DK64.

Great review, btw, Joe. I'm hard pressed to give anything a 10, but you make a very compelling argument, and you can see the passion you have for it in there!

The streamlining and conveniences like the Bombers Notebook improvements, and the option to choose which hour to speed ahead to, make completing things so much easier. I've been doing as much as I can in between each dungeon, and it's already lasted me longer than when I beat Ocarina of Time 3D.

I kinda wish there was another older Zelda for them to remake, because it's been such a joy reliving old memories in these games on the 3DS. Maybe TP and SS remasters in the future, perhaps...

I'd like to see a TP remaster over Skyward Sword. If they leave it to the next Nintendo home console, it could look absolutely stunning.

HI Az,

As I was saying to Adam yesterday, in all my years and having reviewed/scored over 700 games, I had previously only given 6 other games a 10/10. Majora's Mask is now the seventh on that list! The chances of me reviewing another 10/10 worthy game are quite low, although I hope I do. After all, we all all wants to be playing 10s!

I'm just throwing this out there.... I'd love to see a remake of Link's Awakening. I adore that game.

( Edited 17.02.2015 23:25 by Joukisan )

Fantastic review, I rushed and went and got this on release mainly because I'm scared of not being able to find it later down the line, plus it was only £24 so why not! 

My favourite Zelda by far and well deserving of a 10, although I can't help but feel a little Zelda overloaded at the moment. I'd rather they concentrate on giving Metroid II a remake instead Smilie 

Just out of interest how many hours have you guys plugged into the game so far. My thoughts are that this is a 20-30 hour game but I just can't remember how much time I spent with this back in the day. 

Although I may never tire of seeing another Zelda, I agree that there needs to be another Metroid game. A new release is well overdue.

Our member of the week

Flynnie said:
Just out of interest how many hours have you guys plugged into the game so far. My thoughts are that this is a 20-30 hour game but I just can't remember how much time I spent with this back in the day. 

From a guy who already knew extensively the original and was only delayed by the few new stuff in the game, according to my activity log it took me a little over 26 hours to beat the game and have everything... save for the fishing pond, which I haven't even inspected yet, I will be doing so shortly Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

C3-2-1, Rudy? Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

@Rudy - thanks matey, that's brilliant news, I need to find some time to play it now! I reckon I'll be spending a lot of time in that fishing pond! 

I think that the length of the game will really depend on your own experience with it and how you decide to tackle it. If, like me, you try to get every mask and heart and then finish the main quest, you could spend a good 60 hours on it. If you decide to go main quest just to see the ending, then maybe 20 - 25 hours... maybe!

Put 35 hours into it and finished the game, all hearts, all masks. Already last as long as the time I spent on Ocarina 3D, when I beat the normal AND Master Quests one after the other!

I left fishing till last, and boy is it hard to get some of these fish XD

Our member of the week

I guess I just had a pretty good memory of the original then, since it took me less time to get absolutely everything Smilie. I kinda gave up on the fishing part personally, the fact you can't lock onto fishes anymore really is disappointing. I've got Link Between Worlds to play, wish is more fun than the fishing in Majora's Mask proves to be for me, I'm affraid XD.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

In my head I feel like I remember the game quite vividly but I wonder what it will be like in reality. I can't see myself putting 60 hours into it though. 

Our member of the week

A lot of the stuff can be still very vivid, but other stuff like the locations of the fairies inside the dungeons or the location of certain pieces of heart which are not referenced inside the bombers' notebook can be a bit trickier to remember. Stuff that's more generic and not tied to some plot element are often what leaves the memory first Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

I messed about too much on some parts, and somehow got a bit stumped looking for the final boss door of Stone Tower.

Couldn't get the inn key trigger moment to occur either, even when I thought I knew what I was doing. Spent too much messing around on that one.

Just total noob moments.

Our member of the week

Azuardo said:
Couldn't get the inn key trigger moment to occur either, even when I thought I knew what I was doing. Spent too much messing around on that one.

Just total noob moments.


That's because there's a change in that latter one compared to the original N64 game methinks, I couldn't get it right first time either

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Our member of the week

Flynnie said:
@Rudy - thanks matey, that's brilliant news, I need to find some time to play it now! I reckon I'll be spending a lot of time in that fishing pond!

For the record, I just finished 100% The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, for the first time, and that only took me 18 hours 36 minutes, without any exterior help. That goes to show how more feature rich Majora's Mask is, cause I had already played the latter before multiple times.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Had you played a Link to the Past before by any chance?

I've got a big Zelda backlog, i've got ALBW, PH, FSA (DSi) , LA  and the Oracle games to go through yet! But I am starting Majoras tonight! Oooh canny wait!

Our member of the week

Flynnie said:
Had you played a Link to the Past before by any chance?

Yep I had done so. it only helps as far as overworld exploration goes, pretty much, cause the overall map is very similar. The dungeons have little to do with their original counterparts, but I did find the dungeons much shorter and easier to navigate. All the stuff to collect like heart pieces are most of the time in plain sight too and, what makes it very easy to finish quickly, and which I didn't like so much, is that you can rent most items right off the bat. I know they did so for accessiblity purposes but it makes the game shorter as a result, just rent them all as soon as possible and start looking around the world for everything you can find. That's what I did anyway Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

I've been more psyched to play Majoras, that and Smash Bros are the only games I have bought on launch in a long time. Fire Emblem Awakening and Pokemon Y were probably the last before that. I have had ALBW for a while but it hasn't pushed its way to the top of my list like MM has.

I've been playing through it and only got an hour through it or so, just been messing around in Clock Town and collecting rupees, but all does feel very familiar. I still think it will be an enjoyable ride.

I really hope Nintendo have Grezzo working on a Super Mario 64 or dare i say it... Donkey Kong 64 remake!

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