After the beautiful remake of Ocarina of Time, fans have been requesting a return of the cult classic Majora’s Mask. Nintendo has acquiesced and created a fantastic remake that addresses some of the more annoying aspects of MM but leaves the original games oddity and break from traditional formula. For fans this is great news, but for others a disappointing return.
MM takes place after the events of Ocarina of Time. While Link is on a mission to find his fairy companion, Navi, he is waylaid by two mischievous fairies and a skull kid. After knocking out Link they steal his horse and curse him into the form of a deku scrub. Link follows the skull kid into the alternate dimension of Termina; a twisted and dark version of Hyrule. In a departure from Legend of Zelda’s formula, Link is tasked, not with saving a princess, but stopping the moon from crashing into the world in 3 days’ time. This is the unique hooks of MM, the world is on a timer and events will unfold with or without Links intervention. Miss an event or fail to complete something and you are sent back in time to start the events all over again, albeit with the ability to keep items you have unlocked in previous attempts.
Graphically the game is beautiful. Character models are more detailed, the world is sharper, and the draw distance is significantly better. Even the 3D aspect is done amazingly well and more often than not I found myself playing with the 3D on (Something I rarely do). Most impressively Nintendo managed to keep the weird aesthetics and unearthly feelings the game’s art style originally conveyed. It’s a dark and weird world.
There are a lot of interesting little changes Nintendo has made to make the game more accessible. The bank has moved to the center of town, cutting down on the amount of load areas it takes to access, several dialog discussions have been cut down when you encounter them a second time, and the song of double time now allows you to warp to any hour in the future (opposed to just letting you skip ahead to evening and morning). The bosses have also been completely revamped, and universally for the better. Odolwa particularly has been revamped for the better. Finally the save system is much more mobile friendly. You can save at any shrine without having to quit out of the game and they have added in more save points scattered around the world, especially at the beginning of dungeons.
MM really throws out most of the old conventions of a Legend of Zelda game. Instead of the usual 8 dungeons (a mainstay since the original game) you are only tasked with defeating four. This freed the developers to focus on creating a much more feature rich overworld. Every area is a puzzle in itself and often times it can be just as much a challenge getting to the dungeon as it is to beat it.
One of the more obvious changes involves the inclusion of Masks. Donning a mask will give Link access to new dialog, abilities, and more. The three key masks; Deku Scrub, Zora, and Goron, give Link brand new attacks, moves, and musical instruments. The developers did an amazing job of creating puzzles and battles specifically tailored to each of these transformations. Beyond the main three masks there are other cool abilities as well. Like the Bunny Mask that doubles Link’s speed or the bomb mask that let’s Link strap a bomb to his face and detonate whenever he wants.
This game is chock full of side missions. It seems almost every citizen of Termina could use your help and events will unfold thru out the three days. Often helping someone will require multiple days and overlapping events to complete. Helping a young ranch hand defend her cows get give you access to the prestigious milk bar, where you can use your musically abilities to help a depressed Troupe leader, whose prize takes you to another quest.
Figuring out all the complexities of Termina’s cast of characters is fun and rewarding. To help you along Nintendo has revamped the Bomber’s Notebook. This notebook keeps track of events and side quests and the new features help you keep track of these. You can now set alarms to remind you of key events and characters basic schedules are posted to give you hints on when and where to meet people. The bombers themselves will pass along rumors and hints to help you find new side quests and events.
Unfortunately this isn’t a perfect solution. Often times the hints are still too obtuse and the game isn’t always great and helping you find where to go next. I found myself just standing, for minutes at a time, around in areas waiting to see what happens and when. It’s also frustrating to miss an event and restart the whole sequence over, especially when characters are less than clear on what they expect of you. There is even one mission that requires you to replay a lengthy side mission twice just to get all the rewards for completing it. This amounts to a lot of needless backtracking.
Despite all the good this game has, the 3 day mechanic is still the most divisive. Fans will argue that this mechanic gives Majora’s Mask a unique flavor that finally shakes up the stale formula of the Zelda series. For others, myself included, feel that this mechanic ruins one of the key elements of the Legend of Zelda series; Exploration. Being put under a time limit pulls players away from fully exploring the world, which is a shame in a world so feature rich. I found myself rushing past areas to reach my destination quickly. Some people have claimed that the timer adds excitement to the boss battles. But I found it to be a hassle, especially as I would spend time trying to track down a stray fairy, knowing if I didn’t find it I would have to do the whole dungeon over again. In fact the game expects you to play large portions of it over and over again to get everything; including redoing boss fights. A mechanic that gets tiresome after a while. Side Note: I am not knocking the game for keeping this mechanic. I think it would have been a mistake to change it if only to appease fans of the original. However, it does not mean I liked it to begin with.
Not only does the mechanic force you to redo events over and over again, but it is troubling from a story perspective. It’s a touching moment to reunite to long lost lovers in the last few minutes of the third day but the second you revert back to the beginning all that progress is gone. That is a running theme throughout the game, none of you accomplishments matter, at least not to the citizens of Termina. By the time you finish the game it’s hard not to look back and realize that you didn’t really help anyone but yourself. The Gorons are still slowly freezing to death, the Zora’s babies are still captured by pirates, and a woman never finds her son. It feels bitter sweet and incomplete.
However, there is no denying that this game has a lot going for it. I would love to see the variety of side quests and focus on the overworld bleed into the more traditional Zelda games. Although leave the timer to Mario, let me explore to my heart’s content. If you were a fan of the original Majora’s Mask then this is easily a great remake, if you didn’t care for it originally, I doubt this game is going to change your mind. That fierce deity mask is sick, though!
Want to learn more about Majora and Fierce Deity? Check out untapped Potential here.