Video Game Review: Majora’s Mask 3D

It’s not exactly a secret to everybody that those of us here at Outright Geekery, and especially me, are massive fans of the Legend of Zelda series. The franchise served as the focus of our first ever Geekly Debate  as well as our first installment of Video Games You Should Have Played By Now, which centered around to most bizarre and haunting of all Zelda games, Majora’s Mask. For those of you who haven’t read it, suffice to say that I’m a pretty big; of all the Zelda games I have ever played, Majora’s Mask is without a doubt the most artistically made, delivering a dark, bizarre experience that manages to still be both beautiful and captivating. But as much as I loved playing the original on the N64, the game had a number of glaring issues: the gameplay has not aged gracefully, certain tasks are excruciatingly tedious, and most of the dungeons (all 4.5 of them) are not quite up to the high standards of the franchise.

I said in my first post that Majora’s Mask was the Zelda game in most need of a remake.

Well, as luck would have it, we that very remake has just been released.

Those of you with a 3DS can now go out and claim a copy of Majora’s Mask: 3D. But does it manage to make improvements while still maintaining the magic of the original?

The most obvious distinction between the remake and the original is the improvement to the graphics; utilizing 15 years of technological advancement, 3D boasts gorgeous sprites and fluid animation the N64 original couldn’t manage at the time. There’s also a number of tweaks to the color pallet that one can notice sprinkled throughout (my favorite being the blood-red sky that sets the mood perfectly for the Night of the Final Day), but for the most part, the game’s fundamental presentation has been left largely unaltered.

But really, though, that’s probably the way it should be; the most memorable aspect of the original, after all, was its tone and atmosphere. The journey through Termina seeped its way into our memories because it was so strange and off-putting. One can understand, then, why the developers might be hesitant to meddle too deeply with the presentation that was the core of the original game. So while I do think that they did miss an opportunity to implement some modern cinematography, Majora’s Mask was already a masterpiece of mood and storytelling, so fine with me that they just polished up the existing world and game sprites.

That being said, the game certainly did have a fair share of problems. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the fact that the N64 version’s controls and mechanics have not aged well. Having completed a playthrough as recently as last summer, I remember all too well the frustration of steering Epona and the somewhat unwieldy nature of manually aiming your bow. In 3D, however, these wrinkles have been ironed out, allowing for a game with much smoother and tighter controls than before. In addition, the games menu system and inventory have been reworked to take advantage of the touch screen, giving a player an easy interface to work with. All told, 3D offers a more intuitive interaction with the game, which is a welcome improvement.

Another weakness that the original had was the scarcity of good dungeons and bosses, both because of the small amount (just 4 main dungeons and 5 boss fights), and because the ones that were there weren’t particularly good, with a few exceptions.  Where the dungeons are concerned, almost no real changes have been made at all; for better or for worse, you will be dealing the dungeon’s puzzles and items just as you would have on the N64. The bosses on the other hand, have received a pretty drastic overhaul; sadly, though, the results here have been a mixed bag.

While some of the new approaches have strong merits (you actually have a reason to use the Deku Mask against Odolwa, and the new Giant’s Mask mechanics are quite entertaining), others don’t pan out as well. The fight against Gyorg still sucks, but for entirely different reasons; on the N64, you were just bludgeoning each other and hoping you outlasted his high damage, but now you have to rely on dumb luck to get bombs into his own. Perhaps more aggravating, though, is the way that the best boss from 2000, Goht, is actually less enjoyable this time around. The original fight was great because it was a high-speed chase in which you furiously shredded into your opponent in Goron form. In the remake, however, the action periodically slows down when you are forced to transform back into Link to shoot the boss’s week point. Here, adherence to the new formula undermines the defining characteristic that made the original great. It didn’t ruin the whole thing for me or anything, but it was still a frustrating change.

Also, the fact that I can still discuss 80% of the game’s bosses in one not-too-oversized paragraph is probably a good indication that the relative lack of encounters is still an off-putting issue.

So there have certainly been some fairly sizable changes to the game as it gets imported to the 3DS. Even beyond the updated graphics and tweaked encounters, though, the things that stands out the most to be are not these large-scale updates but rather the totality of the small changes that have been made to improve the experience. It’s great that you no longer have to play the Bomber’s hide-and-seek game twice to get their notebook. It’s great that the Great Fairy of Magic can be found after the first dungeon now, allowing the player to more easily get the magic-bar upgrade before fighting Goht. It’s great that you resume a save file without deleting your previous save. These changes and many others don’t stand out individually, but taken together, they add up to significant improvement. Moreover, they indicate a conscious effort by the developers to reflect upon what they made before and find ways they could improve, even if in small ways.

And really, that ties in neatly with the core question of any remake: does it improve on the original? And on the whole, I would say yes. Does Majora’s Mask 3D address all the issues that the original had? No. But it does give players improved controls, crisper graphics, and a number of minor tweaks that make the experience better.

At the end of the day, Majora’s Mask on the N64 was a masterpiece, and this is a better version of that great game. Players who have never traveled through Termina before owe it to themselves to give this a try, and while there may not be a lot of brand new content to pull in returning players, they will still be pleased by the improvements brought to the table. So whether you’re meeting for the first time or returning to visit an old friend, you’ll be glad that Majora’s Mask is back for another haunting.

Recomendation: Buy It

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

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