Majora’s Mask is a great example of how breaking the mould can create a classic and unforgettable experience. The innovative mechanics were ground-breaking when the game was first released, and the remake for Nintendo 3DS nails the feeling perfectly. However, with the liberties taken in adapting large portions of the game, Nintendo may have gone too far. Majora’s Mask takes place soon after Ocarina of Time.
Our hero, Link, leaves Hyrule on a soul-searching adventure to find a lost friend. Before he completes his quest, he gets attacked by a mysterious masked figure who steals Link’s horse. Giving chase, the assailant leads Link quite literally through the rabbit hole, and they both end up in the doomed land of Termina. As a final slap to the face, the masked figure transforms Link into a pitiful deku scrub, stripping him of his humanity and leaving him unarmed in a new land fated to be destroyed in a mere three days.
Majora’s Mask has Link trying to find a way to save Termina before the clock runs out. He is granted the ability to roll back time to the dawn of the first day, resetting everything back to its original state aside from new equipment he collects. While seemingly restrictive, this mechanic actually opens up the game and allows a more immersive world to manifest. From the second you step into Termina, the clock is ticking.
Unlike most other games where you can take a break from saving the world to go fishing,Majora’s Mask punishes you with the clock’s steady march to doomsday. On your first run through you may not notice all the small interactions between the faces you see across Termina. As you traverse the three days in game, these characters change from faceless non-playable characters to individuals with interwoven stories of fortitude, heartbreak, and loss. As much as it is a gift for Link to return to the first day, it means he must also face the Superman dilemma. No matter how much he tries, he is still one person, and cannot save everyone. Say what you want about villains who want to destroy the world, Majora wants to make everyone suffer in cruelty before wiping them off the face of the earth.
The remake isn’t perfect, however. Nintendo listened to concerns about Majora’s Mask‘s difficulty, but they may have gotten carried away. They fixed some minor frustrations with gameplay, however they also reduced many puzzles down to quick blurbs about how to get past the next challenge, coddling the player. Five minutes into the game you’ll be handed a tool that tells you where to go next. The user interface is nicely adapted from the original, making it a lot easier to manage masks and items. The controls are comfortable, but there is a lot left to be desired. The largest difference is Nintendo’s decision to significantly change the final bosses of each dungeon. While it provides a new experience, it was a disappointment seeing these hulking monstrosities in a more goofy light. In the original Majora’s Mask, each boss was dark and powerful, and had a feeling of immense power. The drastic changes that Nintendo made to each fight felt more like they nailed on a gigantic neon sign saying, “Apply weapon liberally.”
Majora’s Mask boasts impressive complexity in narration, unparalleled in the Zelda universe. Its non-linear story, as well as the cleanly implemented three-day timeline, forces the player to carefully form strategies. Featuring dozens of optional dungeons, collectible masks, and side stories, Majora’s Mask has something to offer to every fan of the Zelda series. If you’ve previously missed out on the opportunity to give it a chance, or want to delve into the popular fan theory that the game is actually a metaphor about Link coming to terms with death, it cannot be recommended enough. For the full experience, however, play the original.