The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Review – Borrowed Time

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Changes, The Awful

In the grand scheme of things, there’s an argument to be had regarding hour-specific time jumps that place it among the casualized concepts brought forth with Majora’s Mask 3D. For example, having those 12-hour time jumps made more sense when the only permanent saves came in the form of using the Song of Time. Temporary saves were permitted only at a select few Owl Statues, which resulted in quitting out the game. The general concept was to have two statues in each area; one in a game quadrant’s central hub and one outside the temple (excluding the one in town).

By expanding save locations, the 3DS team has effectively tampered with the core of the original entry’s soul and repaired it with a rudimentary “solution.”

The biggest bastardization that faces Majora’s Mask 3D is the shift from the post-cycle save towards the proliferation of save locations. The Song of Time no longer saves your game, and now there are additional save stones throughout a new areas progression throughout each section of Termina. At its very worst, there are save points at the entrance of each and every temple, which can be easily accessed by performing the Song of Soaring to its location.

Not only does it fly in the face of the game’s basic concept of rescuing Termina under the pretense and stress of completing tasks under a strict time allotment, but it fundamentally changes the design of story progression. Back on the N64, there was roughly enough real world time to venture forth into a new area of the world map, solve the issues plaguing the locals, enter the temple, defeat the boss and just squeak out in time to use the Song of Time and save your progress. At the very least, getting to the temple was an accomplishment in itself, at times. (Damn, those Zora eggs)

Nowadays in Majora’s Mask 3D, that urgency is gone. Now when you’re outside the Deku Palace, trying to sneak past the guards and into the monkey’s holding cage, you can save just outside the palace and try an infinite amount of times until you get it right. The game was designed to be difficult, to challenge a player that thought they knew the ropes with Ocarina of Time. The idea was to subvert player expectations and provide a contrasting style of gameplay. By expanding save locations, the 3DS team has effectively tampered with the core of the original entry’s soul and repaired it with a rudimentary “solution.”

As mentioned earlier, the graphics have been upgraded to reflect the Nintendo 3DS’ capabilities as a hardware unit. However, a byproduct in changing up design elements was the alteration of the bosses that inhabit the world of Majora’s Mask 3D. Some alterations were necessary, providing a visual enhancement in colorization and lair features. What did not need to be affected was how bosses were defeated, and their combat techniques.

This constant handholding reinforces the notion that Nintendo of today is vastly different than what it was back when the original Majora’s Mask came out.

Odowla marked not only the first boss, but the first indication that such a change would occur. Added to Odowla’s composition was a gigantic eye fixed on his back. Instead of focusing on reading Odowla’s moves and requiring to time out his slashes in order to counter, players can now use the Deku jump pads and drop Deku Nuts on his head, bringing him to his knees. Goht requires the same eye-targeting after being brought down. Twinmold, while changing up a previously bland encounter, now features WWE-style wrestling takedowns.

These changes are completely unnecessary to the game’s design, as they simplify a combat system that was already easy before being tinkered with.

My final big concern also has to deal with the hints system in place. It seems as though it’s commonplace now for Nintendo to provide gameplay options that dumb down the experience for lesser-skilled players. Sheikah Stones make a return to Majora’s Mask 3D, offering video file hints to tell the player how to progress at almost every impasse and screenshots for Piece of Heart locations. Additionally, members of the Bombers’ Secret Society of Justice often run towards the player and provide hints as to find more of the game’s hidden bonuses.

While you don’t have to answer to these kids, and the Sheikah Stone is out of the way enough as not to encounter it without intentionally heading there, they still serve to make the game markedly easier and easier. This constant handholding reinforces the notion that Nintendo of today is vastly different than what it was back when the original Majora’s Mask came out. You had to learn how to play by improving your skills and the ability to apply reasoning and logic towards the game’s puzzles and hidden treasures. Instead, now you can use the in-game video system to guide your way throughout without using critical thought.

It’s Still One Of The Best Zelda Titles

Despite the egregious downgrades between the console and portable versions of Majora’s Mask, it’s hard to deny just how amazing the experience is overall. The game sees Zelda exploration, questing, level design and story elements take unprecedented risks for the franchise, playing with a stark difference to most other entries in the franchise. Ganon wasn’t to be found for the first time in a Zelda console game since Zelda II, helping to expand the idea of sinister evil beyond that of a power-hungry entity seeking the Triforce.

Interactivity with the game world opened up to an extent previously unheard of by morphing Link into more than three other playable races and entities. Allowing you to become Deku, Goron and Zora gave the development team the chance to expand upon its design capabilities with swimming, rolling and flying abilities. The freedom of traversal leads to some fairly interesting choices in encounters, plus it opened up entirely new puzzle possibilities.

An underrated aspect of Majora’s Mask was its sound design. While it still some re-used audio artifacts from Ocarina of Time, the composition efforts of Koji Kondo can not be overstated enough. It helps to know that Nintendo had put years of effort into getting the game as a package done just right once, and the musical choices put forth throughout the game shouldn’t go unappreciated.

The simple reason why Majora’s Mask 3D is one of the best games in the franchise, to me, is due to its existence as a “second try.” Termina is set up as a bizarro-Hyrule, filled with people who look similar and live similar lives. It’s mostly due to the massive Ocarina of Time asset library held over for the new game, but I like to view each side character’s story as a “What if” in a new world.

That existent familiarity driving home the urgency of the end of the world is what gives meaning to your actions. As a player, you feel the impact of your inability to save the world in time (until you reverse time once more) upon interactions with townsmen and women, and they are quite honest and emotionally gripping.

It’s personified best with Cremia, who takes care of younger sister Romani. Just hours before their (and Termina’s) imminent death, big sister lets Romani drink adult milk beverages and sleep in her bed that night. While Romani sees it as a guardian finally letting her hair down, the reality is that she doesn’t know that her life could be over so quickly that Cremia wants to spend their final moments together in sibling comfort.

It’s a subtle touch that has little to nothing to do with Link’s main quest, other than to provide context as to way his task to save the world is important. These sad, depressing moments are hidden throughout the game in the conversations you share with the people, building up to a pressure point where flight is the only option as the Moon becomes so evidently close to ending all life.

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Much is said about Link’s role as a hero within the context of each series entry’s everyday life. The ludonarrative dissonance between story and gameplay is often invoked when discussing the hero’s ability to come into someone’s house, break their pots, and leave none the wiser. Majora’s Mask is the best example of narrative fitting within gameplay by learning the deeply personal lives of those within Termina, giving context to your mission. As such, Termina feels lived in; it feels like a real place.

In Majora’s Mask, Link plays like a real man of the people, even if he’s just a boy with a sword trying to save the world.


The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D captures the heart of the original N64’s gameplay while updating its presentation for the 21st Century. Unfortunately, some of those updates include features that make the game demonstrably easier to play, at the potential risk of diminishing its cultural impact as part of gaming history. It’s no doubt the most technically advanced version of one of the best Legend of Zelda titles in the series. Whether it’s your first time dipping your toes into the cursed waters of the Southern Swamp or taking a familial dive back into the waters of Great Bay, you’re in for one hell of a three-day vacation!

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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