Last week saw the launch of the much-anticipated re-release of the Nintendo 64 classic, Majora’s Mask, for the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve been waiting for this title since the release of Ocarina of Time 3D back in June of 2011. I spent the week re-exploring the land of Termina from top to bottom, and it’s easy to remember why I loved this game so much the first time.
When Majora’s Mask was first released almost 15 years ago it was Nintendo’s first console Zelda game since Ocarina of Time. I had become obsessed with the series at that point, and as a result was more excited for the release of Majora’s Mask than I have been for almost any game since. As Ken can attest, I actually had a countdown hand written into my school workbook that I would diligently mark off with each passing day (Ken’s note: He really did, and he was insufferable). While the game never lived up to its predecessor for me, it was an amazing game and one of the most unique titles in the series. The game’s darker atmosphere and non-traditional time limit/reset mechanic are still memorable today.
The largest change of the release for the Nintendo 3DS is the games graphics, and the addition of 3D. Much like the Nintendo 64 version, Majora’s Mask looks nearly identical to Ocarina of Time 3D, but with some minor graphical improvements. I’ve heard the game runs even smoother on the New Nintendo 3DS models, but as I was not one of the lucky few to snag a New Nintendo 3DS XL Majora’s Mask edition, I played through on my regular 3DS XL. I’ve never cared much for the 3D option on the 3DS, but I usually make it a point to try games with it on. I turned it on at several different points throughout the game, as well as through the few cut-scenes the game has. While the 3D does feel fresh, I still prefer the game in 2D mode. That being said, the graphical updates are very good.
One of the biggest concerns I had going into Ocarina of Time 3D was how the game would translate from the Nintendo 64 controller to the 3DS handheld. Thankfully the new controls were easy to get used to, and Majora’s Mask has copied them exactly. One of the shortcomings of the original game was the constant need to pause the game to access your menu and map masks or items to your buttons. The 3DS version utilizes the touch screen to place the ocarina and pictograph box permanently on your screen so they no longer take up valuable button slots. The game also provides two additional touchscreen buttons that you can map items to which increases your total item/mask slots from 3 to 4 compared to the original title. These changes helped Ocarina of Time drastically, especially in areas such as the Water Temple in which you were constantly removing and re-adding Iron Boots. Unfortunately because of the amount of items/mask in Majora’s Mask, and the variety of puzzle solutions throughout the game, the extra buttons do not help as much as it did Ocarina of Time. It’s still annoying to constantly go to the menu to swap items, but a marked improvement over the original.
The 3DS motion controls are also a welcome change over the Nintendo 64 title. I still prefer aiming with the stick for the most part, but being able to tilt the screen slightly to zero in on a target makes hitting enemies much easier, and the target practice mini-games laughably easy in comparison.
The games producer Eiji Aonuma remarked in several different interviews that the development team was taking the games re-release as an opportunity to make improvements over the original title. He was often tight-lipped on the specifics, but early videos and trailers gave away that at least some changes to the bosses could be expected. There were also press releases indicating that new save features would be available to make the game more mobile-friendly, and a new Bombers Notebook to more easily track quests.
The new saving system is actually just the old saving system implemented in the US release of the original title. Owl statues found throughout the game can be activated as save points in the game while also doubling as warp locations for fast travel. The game also added new save statues located all over the world to make sure you were never far from your last save. These statues however cannot be warped. Additionally, traveling back to the first day no longer saves your game.
I’ve played around with the ‘new’ Bombers Notebook, but I’m not actually sure what has changed over the original title. The game does pull me into the notebook screen every time an event is updated in it, which I guess makes it more noticeable in an annoying “Hey, remember you have a Bombers Notebook!” sort of way. But it seems to track events in the same manner it did before.
The 4 dungeon bosses have been modified as well, though I’m not sure it was necessary. The first two bosses have strategies that are only slightly modified from the original title, but the third and fourth boss are drastically different. In addition to changes being made, it also feels like each fight is much longer than the original as well. However that may just be the extra time taken to determine the new boss mechanics. All other enemies, mini-bosses, and the game’s final boss are unchanged.
One of the game’s more controversial changes was the altered Zora swimming mechanic. Media caught wind of it weeks before the release in some of the preview copies. Now, instead of flying through the water like a jet, you swim in a more normal fashion. The new swimming is still fairly fast, and still dramatically faster than swimming as normal Link. The old mechanic is still present in the game as well, but now it has to be activated with the right shoulder button as part of your magical barrier. I can understand the reasoning behind the change, but I don’t really like it.
A completely new addition to the 3DS version is the introduction of a fishing mini game. It operates essentially like the Ocarina of Time version, however, there aren’t any prizes for catching fish. It might be a nice addition for gamers who really enjoyed the fishing game just for the sake of catching fish, but it mostly just feels like something they tacked on at the last minute.
The best change in the game I’ve found is the Song of Double Time. In the original title the song would send you forward to the next day or night. In the new version, playing the song will bring up a menu to select an hour to skip to within the next day. This has made collecting masks and items that require specific timing so much easier. I remember a lot of times in the original just sitting around waiting for a specific time to proceed with an event (I’m looking at you Anju and Kafei quest). This change alone has removed the need to sit and wait and is a welcome addition.
The game does have several other changes as well (such as some items and masks being acquired in different locations), however much of the original game is left unchanged. I felt that some of the modifications were an improvement, but overall I would have preferred a more unaltered re-release like Ocarina of Time had been.
Overall the game is still loads of fun and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. If you enjoyed the original then the re-make is a no-brainer, but if the original wasn’t your thing there really aren’t enough changes to the game to justify a purchase. If you have never played the game at all then I highly consider giving it a shot. It’s got plenty of Zelda style, dungeons, puzzles, and bosses while maintaining a unique story and time cycle that sets it apart from other Zelda titles. It’s easily one of the best in the franchise.