How do you follow what has become one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time? As we journeyed through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time‘s heroic tale, Nintendo was already beavering away with their existing game engine to craft a far darker successor in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
We join Link several months after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time‘s concluding events, the young hero having departed Hyrule to investigate Navi’s unexpected disappearance. That search leads him through a darkened forest, where he soon becomes victim to Skull Kid’s insatiable lust for power. As accomplices Tatl and Tael unsettle Epona to knock Link from his steed, Skull Kid ransacks his belongings from which he steals the Ocarina of Time. A chase ensues but Link is outmatched when Skull Kid uses the evil power housed within Majora’s Mask to curse him, permanently transforming him into a far less heroic Deku Scrub.
“You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?” The Happy Mask Salesman’s understated remark is the first gibbered words that Link hears when he scurries his way into Termina. Recognising Link’s plight, he tells of how Skull Kid has been overwhelmed by the power that shrouds Majora’s Mask, who now plots to destroy the world by bringing a menacing moon crashing down upon it in just three days time.
The adventure that awaits you is one that revels in displaying its menacing undertones, a perpetually elongated Groundhog Day that, once you recover the Ocarina of Time, will see you repeatedly retread the same three days over and over again. That will allow you to speak to Clock Town’s residents, themselves obliviously preparing to celebrate the Carnival of Time. Each time that you rewind the clock, you will have the chance to learn their daily routines, numerous side quests allowing you to free them of their troubles to then greet the impending apocalypse head on.
To avert disaster you must journey through Termina’s surrounding regions where you will descend into dungeons to release the Four Giants, who have been ensnared by darkness. Woodfall, Snowhead, the Great Bay and Ikana Canyon riff on the usual elemental influences used for The Legend of Zelda series, but it is the many mask transformations that present The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D‘s more unique interplay.
The Deku Scrub, Goron, Zora and Fierce Deity masks lend their aerial, strength, aquatic and wrathful supremacy to your quest. These four masks are core to resolving many of Termina’s challenges, but there are another 20 to collect beyond this – each presenting their own gameplay twists. Whether that be running faster with the Bunny Hood, the Blast Mask that explodes on command, or the Mask of Truth that lets Gossip Stones reveal their secrets, these work like built-in cheat codes ready to be flicked on and put to use whenever needed.
Those reliving The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D‘s stark tale can’t entirely rely on previously scrawled walkthroughs. As with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Grezzo’s intricate remaster has also been a welcome opportunity for Nintendo to help tinker with this timeless classic. That sparks more novel changes, whether that be the Garo’s Mask’s new crow-like design or how the more obscurely hidden Stray Fairies awaiting rescue in dungeons are now placed in plain sight.
The inconspicuous Stone Mask has similarly moved, still received by healing wounded Clock Town soldier Shiro but who now lies stranded in the Pirates’ Fortress’ central courtyard. It seems a somewhat insignificant alteration but sees your entry to the Gerudo’s base become all the warier as a result – a tense adrenaline rush that most could easily avoid the first time around.
Dungeons, aside from a few Stray Fairy locations, remain largely unchanged, methodically planned labyrinths posing plenty of puzzling challenges. But Nintendo has taken the chance to rework the boss fights, most significantly with Great Bay Temple’s gruelling encounter with Gyorg. Not wanting to spoil the surprise, these changes are for the better and result in the tyrannical monstrosities being far less confusing confrontations.
This refinement continues with the Bomber’s Notebook, the trusty tome now being gifted to you by the Happy Mask Salesman when he returns you to human form early on in your quest. This lets you automatically scribble down rumours and any events that you wade into, marking them for investigation and noting which are either ongoing or completed.
These are largely optional quests, although completionists will want to see them all through to claim all Masks. A schedule tracks the movements of Termina’s inhabitants, with players now able to set an alarm that will see Tatl remind you of an upcoming event. It’s a welcome improvement, although still lacks the transparency to help you witness every secret that The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D hides. Instead, those unfamiliar with the game will have to rely on Clock Town’s Sheikah Stone to repeatedly give pointers and reveal solutions to direct your adventures.
You’ll be pleased to know that there’s no need for a 4MB Expansion Pak. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D‘s reworked visuals retain the diverse nuance and whimsy that the spruced-up Nintendo 64 iteration so readily displayed at every turn. It’s comparatively on par with Grezzo’s work on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, although Termina amounts to a far more vividly colourful world to explore. Koji Kondo and Toru Minegishi’s captivating scores are retouched, although fail to linger in the mind despite clever nuance over the game’s three-day cycle.
As the timeless classic that introduced us to the immortal words “Tingle, Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah!”, what makes The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D‘s return all the more exciting is that it’s waiting to be discovered by an entirely new generation of players. What is lost in accessibility is immeasurably gained through the game’s bleak but heartfelt tone, luring players into a world that’s just as much about experiencing the characters that inhabit it as the impossible adventure that you embark upon.
The definitive version of a game widely seen to be far ahead of its time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D stands to portray the daring and playful inventiveness that beats ever strongly at Nintendo’s very core.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo