The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was a great game considering its development cycle was only slightly longer than one year. It followed in the footsteps of the seminal The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and diversified Zelda’s gameplay hook, by focusing on side quests and a novel 3-day cycle. However, the original game clearly could have been released with more polish. This takes into account the glitches in the game, the game only having four dungeons, and how generally relatively difficult it was to become engrossed in (the start of the game is notoriously unwelcoming). Nintendo tried to fix some of these problems with a remake on 3DS in 2015 and despite still reviewing really well, the game divides hardcore fans. This article looks back at the original and the 2015 games. Was the 2015 version a good remake?
One Year to Develop a New Zelda
After Ocarina of Time, which could be described as a ‘traditional Zelda’, Miyamoto wasn’t sure about whether to develop a new game for the N64 or work on an upgrade to the original Ocarina of Time. This upgrade would contain mixed-up dungeons and other features, which eventually became Ocarina of Time: Master Quest. Eiji Aonuma convinced Miyamoto to let him develop a new Zelda for the N64, but Miyamoto only gave him one year to develop the game. This title, which was known as The Legend of Zelda: Gaiden (meaning Zelda side quest in Japanese), eventually became The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
Majora’s Mask’s gameplay revolves around a novel 3-day cycle, where NPCs have schedules that they go about fulfilling through the days. This cycle means that Link can interact with them to change events. This was so ahead of its time and complex, which really makes Majora’s Mask what it is. Clock Town, the central hub, is where most of these events take place, but there are also settlements located in each of the four compass directions. The world really feels alive, and you get to know the strange, sad, but hopeful lives of its inhabitants.
After the release of Ocarina of Time 3D in 2011, people were really hoping for a similar remake of Majora’s Mask. In 2015, we received that in Majora’s Mask 3D. Developed by Grezzo, a great development team with people who had worked on the Mana series, the Zelda remakes are highly polished, however, people take issue with some of the changes to Majora’s Mask 3D.
Changes: Graphics and Bosses
One of the major, universally appreciated, changes to the remake are the graphical changes. The 3DS is a powerful system and Majora’s Mask 3D boasts GameCube level graphics. The colors ‘pop’ and the vibrant world of Majora’s Mask look even better on the 3DS. The stereoscopic 3D also works similarly well to Ocarina of Time 3D. Textures have been improved and 3D models were completely redone. Even so, this isn’t an HD game, and who knows how long we’ll have to wait until we get Ocarina of Time HD and Majora’s Mask HD. Maybe we’ll see these titles come to the Switch’s successor.
Also, the bosses have been redone both graphically and in terms of game mechanics to defeat them. Now, each of them boasts a huge, colorful eye that sprouts out of them when damaged, which Link then has to proceed to attack them to damage the boss. The boss models have also been redone but remain loyal to the original artwork. Gyorg is slightly easier than in the original, and in the case of Twinmold Link, can now punch and brawl his way to destroying it, rather than slashing with his sword like in the original. In general, the bosses are much easier which has been criticized by some but in my opinion, makes the game more accessible. The game in general is easier, however, mainly this is due to quality-of-life improvements.
Changes: Quality of Life Improvements
Many of the changes to Majora’s Mask 3D include ‘quality of life’ changes, including better aiming with the bow (even more improved than in Ocarina of Time 3D where it had already been improved). An increase in frame rate has also been added. Generally, control of Link is much more fluid, and because of this the game, in general, is as well. The mini-games specifically are much easier than in the original thanks to this increased frame rate. The aforementioned eye that appears on the bosses makes the game easier, and combat with enemies is fluid, feels satisfying, and generally works much better. Some glitches and crashes, (like in the Gamecube re-release) are gone and the game runs much better.
The bomber’s notebook, which charts the routines of the NPC, has been redone and is much easier to navigate. In general, it is much easier to follow the routines of the characters in the game. Collecting all the masks is still difficult, but because of the ‘quality of life’ improvements, it’s all much more fun. Overall, purists moan about how the game has been made so much easier, but this lowers the bar of entry and makes the game more accessible. However, the biggest change that many disagree about is the changes to the save system.
Changes: Saving Almost Anytime
In the original Majora’s Mask, the only way to permanently save was to play the song of time and return to the start of the 3-day cycle. I understand this was integral to the game and feel that the addition of ‘feather owl statues’ throughout the game kind of dilute the experience. However, it also makes the games more suited to portable gaming, and again, makes the game more accessible. There was a certain feeling of doom of starting up Majora’s Mask on the original systems (N64, Gamecube, Wii VC) and hearing the music and seeing the screen say day one, seventy-two hours remaining.
Purists might feel the changes to the time system dilute the experience because they are attached to the original and that’s understandable. However, the changes make the game open to a wider audience, which is only a good thing. The game is such a unique experience that it’s good that another generation has gotten to experience this classic.
Was It a Good Remake?
Overall, the changes brought in Majora’s Mask 3D have made the game much easier and more accessible. There’s no doubt that the graphical and frame rate changes are an improvement, and the game runs so smoothly on 3DS. ‘Quality of life’ changes make the game much more fun, and it’s now easy to ping off arrows and hit your targets. The changes to the save system could be seen as a negative because they impact the game’s aura and atmosphere, and this is one point where I agree with those who prefer the original. However, because of the reasons given above, I think Majora’s Mask 3D is the best version of the game.