The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was first released on October 26, 2000 in North America. The game was impressively developed in roughly one year, recycling assets from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in order to get the game out in the time needed. Because fans of the franchise had lamented the wait between releases of each title, Majora’s Mask was given its short development time. The game was intended for players who had already completed Ocarina of Time and were looking for the next chapter in the story.
Majora’s Mask spans the length of three days, following Link as he tries to prevent the end of the world before the moon comes crashing down. Players will learn (or relearn) the Song of Time, allowing the green-suited protagonist to return to the dawn of the first of three days. This mechanic is not a suggestion but rather a necessity in order to complete the game. Within each of the three days, different events occur within the game’s world between the different characters. Many of these events are timed to a specific section of a particular day, and most require a prerequisite in order to complete them.
Majora’s Mask utilizes a unique mask system, in which Link is able to swap between different masks that grant him certain powers or abilities. The beginning of the game shows Link racing through the forest before being struck by Skull Kid, the game’s main antagonist who steals Link’s ocarina, his horse, and imprisons him in the body of a Deku Scrub. By reclaiming the stolen instrument, Link is able to travel back in time and remove his curse which unlocks the ability to swap between masks. Once Link has reached this point at the beginning of the story, the game begins.
I was first introduced to The Legend of Zelda on the Game Boy in the form of Link’s Awakening. A friend of mine had the game and loved it, sharing that love with me despite me never really getting into the series. When he received Ocarina of Time, I would play it at his house and my interest in the series really took form. I eventually received a copy of my own and it was one of the first games that I can remember completing. Growing up on the NES, I never really completed a game but rather replayed familiar sections almost endlessly. Ocarina of Time wasn’t the first game I finished, but it was the first that gave me a sense of extreme satisfaction.
When Majora’s Mask was first released, that same friend was the first I knew to get it. I, again, played a bit of it at his house but I never got my own copy. The game felt so familiar but it just seemed weird and strange. Why was Link transforming all of the time? Why did the game force you to restart over and over? Why was that terrifying moon lingering over me and implanting nightmarish ideas into my head? I never quite appreciated the game for what it was and with its release so late in the Nintendo 64 life cycle, I was ready to move onto other platforms and newer ideas.
In the fifteen years that have passed since its initial release, Majora’s Mask has held this legacy as the “weird” Zelda game, and by some as the “best” Zelda game. I had never returned to the game to experience it, but it’s always been that one game in the series that I lacked experience with. I had wanted to go back to it, but after playing my old copy of Ocarina of Time and seeing how terribly dated it has become, I knew that playing Majora’s Mask would yield the same results. When Nintendo remade Ocarina of Time for the 3DS, I could only hope that the same would be done for Majora’s Mask and that I would be given the opportunity to experience this game in a modern setting.
Fortunately, it has been remade and it has now been released. The remake began development just after the team at Grezzo completed work on Ocarina of Time 3D, and it has taken them three years to finish remaking the game that famously took one year to develop. Playing through this title almost immediately shows reasons for the longer development time. There have been many changes to the game, obviously those that improved on the appearance of the game, but also changes that make Majora’s Mask more approachable. The fans of the original game love it because they could love it, while a lot of players had experiences closer to my own. The game was either too weird or too difficult; too esoteric to appreciate and withstand. Perhaps many of us were so fresh off of Ocarina of Time that we didn’t feel that we needed another title to dive right into. Regardless of the reason, it was the game that didn’t lend itself to ease of play.
The remake for the Nintendo 3DS has quickly reset my expectations of the game while creating new ones as I play. As I write this, I have put roughly seven hours into the remake. It’s been a strange experience because while I hadn’t played through the game outside of the handful of sessions at random moments at my friend’s house, this game feels incredibly familiar. Exploring the world has often triggered memories in my head that I didn’t know I had. For the better part of the beginning of the game, I inherently knew what to do and which events were needed in order to obtain particular items. Conversely, the game feels brand new in so many ways.
A significant contributing factor to the freshness that Majora’s Mask 3D holds is the changes made to the difficulty of the game. The game still boasts quite the challenge, but in-game systems have been retooled in order to accommodate a modern play style. The Bombers’ notebook is one change that is notable, now making events within the game more easily accessible and defined. Additionally, the game’s dungeons (at least the few that I’ve wandered through) have been slightly redesigned and modified so that they are easier to navigate and complete.
In-game models have been redesigned so that the character models and textures look much more polished than their fifteen-year-old counterparts. The art within the game is still dated in many ways, but the game looks fantastic on the 3DS. Playing on the XL model, without upgrading to the recently released New 3DS XL is still a great way to play, although the addition of the New 3DS’ C-stick surely adds refinement to the camera controls, which are the game’s most obvious flaw. That isn’t to say that the camera is unusable by any means, but when breaking down the game, the camera is by far the weakest control system in the game.
I’ve enjoyed most of my time inside of this world, however I can’t help feeling overwhelmed or anxious when I see my clock nearing the end of days. Playing the Song of Time in reverse allows you to slow down the progression of time, but I tend to easily lose myself in Zelda games and often wander about freely. This game does not allow nor reward that type of behavior, and in some ways feels like the antithesis to my traditional experience with the franchise. As I progressed further into the game, this system became much more manageable and I have been able to roughly plan out my adventures so that I do not find myself exceeding the time needed to complete a task.
I’m currently struggling a bit to get through the current section I am in, and a lot of it has to do with the worry that I will miss something crucial. There is so much that can be overlooked in the game, yet I feel guilty every time that I open a guide for a bit of a hint. I’m hoping the game opens itself up a bit or that I can become more attuned to what it wants me to do. A game like Majora’s Mask is meant to be played in a specific way and I think that with a little patience, I can adapt to its systems. I just hope that my want for completing this game and seeing its story to the end outweighs my draining attention span.