Despite The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time being pretty much a life changing experience for me, I didn’t ever get around to picking up the Expansion Pak for my N64, which added 4MB of memory and allowed you to play games such as Donkey Kong 64 or Majora’s Mask. I was young at the time, and it somehow passed me by in favour of other gaming experiences, meaning that I would miss out on the sequel to my favourite game of all time.
So it wasn’t until I had grown up a bit more that I played Majora’s Mask for the first time, despite having played Ocarina to completion dozens of times by then. It was fitting, actually, as it’s a much darker tale and an entirely different beast to its predecessor, one that cannot be played at leisure and a game that requires your constant attention.
This is due to the time mechanics; rather than travelling between time zones, Majora’s Mask takes place over a three day period – three days which you’ll play over and over again, with the world resetting but your items and progress remaining the same when you restart. At first, I thought that this was a weak point for the game, making you rush through, but on returning to the game I’ve found that it’s truly a unique mechanic, and one that’s smartly and smoothly executed so as to not feel as though the game’s punishing you.
The moon is crashing down of course – something which you’ll probably have noticed by looking at any of the game’s key art – and that’s why you’re kept to this time limit, constantly resetting and altering time to make progress. Those aren’t three real-world days, of course, and it’s actually about an hour of game time, although this can be extended eventually with a time-slowing mechanic.
In the 3DS remake, the timer is much more clear, showing a minute-by-minute representation of time passing along a progress bar at the bottom of the screen. With most of the other information being on the lower screen, in a similar way to the Ocarina of Time remake, this really makes the game screen feel clutter-free, making for a much better and more immersive experience. The time-limited gameplay really fits the handheld well, as you can easily pick the game up and put it down after resetting to the first day, or simply close the machine and pick up where you left off later.
Given that I’ve only played the Clock Town section of the game, I can’t comment on any major changes beyond this, but the Sheikah Stones – essentially an in-game hint system – do make a return and the Bombers Notebook has been refined for a dual screen experience, making tracking sidequests much easier. These appear to be changes on a similar level to Ocarina 3D’s Water Temple or Wind Waker HD’s streamlined triforce quest rather than any major alterations.
The N64 version of the game never quite reached its potential – or at least what they were trying to set out for – in terms of presentation, but the execution of the remake is absolutely sublime. It’s more than just a simple reskinning of all textures, with colours becoming more vibrant and new effects which we didn’t see in the 64-bit era coming into play, making the world even more fantastical and dream-like.
Although it shares a lot of models and textures with it, it’s even more impressive than the reworking of Ocarina of Time from a few years ago. This may not be evident at first, but once you start exploring the world you’ll realise just how impressive the game looks even by today’s standards for handheld games, and it’s really great in motion, particularly without the added aliasing that 3D brings.
So while Majora’s Mask may not have been the one for me in the past – and I’ve still never fully completed it, despite trying several times – something just feels right with this 3DS remake. It might not be for everyone, and it’s probably the hardest Zelda game to get along with for newcomers, but it’s a sequel which doesn’t rely on the successes of its prequel, boldly introducing these new mechanics to make it a much more fast-paced affair at times. And it truly feels at home on 3DS.