Majora's Mask has always been a weird game.
It's so weird, in fact, that I was originally very disappointed with it. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time was (and still is) my favorite video game of all time, so 12 year-old me was incredibly excited for its follow-up. But the time management mechanic frustrated me, collecting masks felt convoluted, the more serious tone went a bit over my head and, heck, it just creeped me out.
But now Majora's Mask has been remade for the Nintendo 3DS and my adult self is kicking my younger self for not giving the game more attention originally. Because Majora's Mask holds up remarkably well, and what Nintendo has done for this 3DS remaster makes it a must-play game for the system.
One of the most controversial elements of Majora's Mask -- and the thing that most turned me away as a kid -- is the way it handles time. Most Zelda games don't force you to worry about that at all. Sure, the more modern games have day/night cycles where unique events happen at certain times of the day, but you rarely have a time *limit* to accomplish things.
Majora's Mask is all about its time limit. The moon is going to crash into the world in 72 hours, so that's how long you have to get stuff done. Period.
The twist is that you can rewind time back to the dawn of the first day, giving you all 72 hours back. You can keep a lot of important items (like weapons you've earned) and, more important, you'll have learned a lot in your time playing, but most elements of the world will reset. You met a character before? They won't remember you now. Oh, you removed a curse and turned winter into spring? Sorry, that work is gone.
It's something that could bug you if you don't properly account for it. If you start a dungeon near the end of day two, for example, and find yourself having to lose a lot of work because you lost track of time, well ... Sucks to be you.
Thankfully, properly managing the clock isn't too difficult, especially because you have some extra tricks up your sleeve. You can slow time down to half speed, for instance, giving you a lot more time to complete tasks. You can also jump forward in time, eliminating a lot of boredom if you need to wait around until night time for an event to occur.
The latter of those skills is much improved in this 3DS remake. On the N64 original, you were basically limited to jumping forward to either dawn or dusk of each given day. That was nice, but it still meant a lot of waiting around if you needed to be somewhere at exactly 2:00 in the morning. Majora's Mask 3D does the smart thing and lets you pick exactly which hour in the future you want to jump to.
It's just one of many improvements that, when added together, make Majora's Mask 3D the definitive version of this game. Item management is easier (thanks in large part to the 3DS touch screen), keeping track of side quests is simpler, and on a surface level the game *looks* a whole heck of a lot better than it did on the N64. The save system has been overhauled as well, allowing you to save your game at various points throughout the world instead of only being able to save when you went back in time -- a change that is very welcome on the portable system.
Majora's Mask 3D also has a feature that's exclusive to players on Nintendo's New 3DS XL, which launches on the same day as the game. With the new system's C-stick (a pointing stick on the right side of the system that works like a console controller's second analog stick) you can manipulate the camera the same way you would in a modern console game. This feature isn't a requirement -- the original game didn't have robust camera controls, after all -- but it's a very nice addition if you've got the New 3DS anyway. I personally found myself using it a ton.
It's interesting how releasing the same game at a different time can change someone's reaction to it. When Majora's Mask was first released, I disliked it for the things it did differently from Ocarina of Time. I didn't want different, then. I loved Ocarina and wanted more of the same.
Now, though, after playing through a bunch of Zelda games that have followed Ocarina's style more exactly the weird things Majora's Mask does are incredibly refreshing. I don't hate the game's quirks anymore -- I celebrate them.
If, like me, you're a big Zelda fan that wasn't able to love Majora's Mask 15 years ago, maybe you should give it another shot now. It's a wonderful version of a game that doesn't get enough credit, and it's well worth playing.
A download code for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.