The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Review

The next big thing lands in your hands. (It's the moon.)
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The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D on Nintendo 3DS

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Ever since Ocarina of Time 3D was announced, Zelda fans have been clamoring for a similar treatment to cult favorite Majora’s Mask. So, after 15 years since its initial release, Majora’s Mask 3D is now in the hands of the public. Does it live up to the astounding amount of hype?

Well, yes and no.

Don’t lose your head– as a remake, the game is as good as can be asked. The graphical updates are wonderful and add an incredible amount of depth to the world of Termina as well as those living in it. For example, one of my favorite details is that in the Clock Town Bomb Shop, there is a small note on the wall theorizing about creating a rocket to the moon using bomb-powered flight. This note was in the original game, but now added to the wall are a series of sketches labeling their plan to get the rocket to the moon and back. It’s a small detail but the amount of charm it adds to the game is immeasurable. These details are especially important for a game like Majora’s Mask— the depth of Majora’s Mask comes from the minutiae of each NPC and the settings they’re in, so adding these small details only serve to improve the game.

Majora's Mask 3D
“Okay, instead of travelling to the moon, let’s bring it to us.”

Alongside the graphical updates, there have also been a lot of touch-ups to Majora’s Mask gameplay structure. The changes overall are minor, but they serve to help pace the game a lot better and make it much more manageable for those new to Majora’s Mask. In particular, the Bomber’s Notebook has been changed drastically from what it was in the N64 version. Rather than just showing the schedules of 30 different NPCs, the Bomber’s Notebook now keeps track of every side-quest in the game. There is still a schedule for the time-sensitive side-quests, and more NPCs have been added to the schedule for completion’s sake, but otherwise you just get a list of side-quests that are either finished, ongoing, or something you’ve heard about from another source such as the Bombers.

While it may seem like a lot to juggle, it’s very well thought-out and makes it clear what side-quests you’re in the middle of, how far you’ve progressed in them, and what more you need to do to complete the side-quests. This new organization doesn’t really do anything different to the side-quests themselves, but it makes completing them much more manageable and more entertaining because no matter what you’re doing it feels like you’re getting something accomplished.

Other than that any changes to Majora’s Mask gameplay are even more minor than that. Some side-quests will have new requirements to advance, such as needing the Goron’s Mask to start Anju and Kafei’s side-quest; other side-quests and locations have been moved around to make them more useful, such as the Stone Mask now being located in Pirate’s Fortress and the Great Fairy in Woodfall giving you a larger magic bar rather than the advanced spin attack. The best change is to the Song of Double Time; instead of fast-forwarding you to the next 12-hour block, you can now choose which hour to specifically fast forward to in the day that you are on currently. This eliminates a lot of the waiting for events that was present in the N64 version and makes the game a lot smoother and more palatable both to those who found the N64 game repetitive and newcomers who have never played Majora’s Mask before. However, all of these changes do not mean that Majora’s Mask is now a perfect package.

Majora's Mask 3D
Why become a Zora to swim like a human?

As was the case in the N64 version, the Great Bay area remains completely un-fun, but a few changes to its structure actually serve to make it worse. The main change is that swimming with the Zora Mask on is completely different. Whereas Zora Link would always swim at the same speed in the N64 version, there is now a great difference in speed between swimming normally and using the Magic Power attack. Great Bay is by no means a small zone, and that was the reasoning behind  swimming as a Zora being so quick on the N64. The speed was put into place so that you would be more inclined to use the Zora Mask to get through the zone quickly.

In the remake to get through the zone at the same speed you need to use a great amount of Magic Power, and using that much Magic just to get from point A to point B is a complete waste. The worst part about this now is that no matter how you swim as a Zora, it is no longer as satisfying as it was in the original Majora’s Mask. This defeats the purpose entirely of being a Zora, and many will question why the change was added in the first place.Every other aspect of Great Bay remains more or less the same. The Zora egg fetch quest is still un-fun because it still feels like padding to make the game longer. You need to make two trips between Pirate’s Fortress and Pinnacle Rock at the very least, and that’s assuming that you got four bottles before beginning the quest in the first place. If you didn’t get four bottles, you’ll need to make at least two trips to Pirate’s Fortress as well as a trip to Pinnacle Rock…and so on. No matter how many bottles you go into the quest with, the quest still feels like a slog; the mandatory stealthiness required through Pirate’s Fortress is finicky and uninteresting. It becomes far too easy if you use the Stone Mask to make yourself invisible, which the game encourages you to do by placing the person who hands it out in Pirate’s Fortress itself. It’s a pain no matter how you approach it, and the fact that this was left almost completely unchanged is completely baffling.

Even more baffling than that is the fact that Great Bay Temple also has remained almost completely unchanged compared to the N64 version. In the Ocarina of Time remake, the Water Temple had a very clear pathway lit up to show you where the next water changing switch was. It was a minor change, just like any change in Majora’s Mask, but it helped make the dungeon much more navigable. An attempt was made to do something similar with Great Bay Temple; pipes that had water flowing through them now light up. In theory, this would mean that following unlit pipes would lead you to where you need to go next…but in practice this did not work. Great Bay Temple still looks largely the same until you’re too far in to prevent having to backtrack through several rooms, and there are lots of unseen hookshot points that make the dungeon much less sensible than it needed to be. It’s really disappointing, because of all the things many expected them to change in Majora’s Mask, Great Bay Temple’s structure was at the top of the list.

Majora's Mask 3D
Not pictured: plaque reading “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.

Remakes and remasters are a chance to listen to fans and make requested changes (as long as they’re within reason). Leaving the Great Bay Temple largely as is, when it was a known trouble area, displays a rather large missed opportunity. Considering the amount of polish that went into other areas of the game it’s almost as if they were unwilling to deal with this large, and almost universally disliked section of the game. Not just that, but actively making the zone worse by radically changing how Zora Link functioned seems like a huge step back in comparison with the rest of the small positive changes that the game made.

All of that having been said, issues with Great Bay are relatively small frustrations in the face of the rest of the product. There is so much that Majora’s Mask has to offer, and almost all of it outshines any of the game’s shortcomings. The unchanged Great Bay serves as a reminder that Majora’s Mask was not a perfect game when it was released, and it is still not a perfect game now. What Majora’s Mask is, however, is a game that has stood well against the test of time, and will continue to stand out as the most interesting Legend of Zelda title to date. Majora’s Mask is not to be missed, for veteran or newcomer alike, and deserves a spot in your 3DS.

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Chris Jecks
Chris Jecks has been covering the games industry for over eight years. He typically covers new releases, FIFA, Fortnite, any good shooters, and loves nothing more than a good Pro Clubs session with the lads. Chris has a History degree from the University of Central Lancashire. He spends his days eagerly awaiting the release of BioShock 4.