Majora's Mask 3D Review: We Need More Time!
Ohhhh, Master Chief Collection!! they said. Look at all these things that will make you want to buy a Wii U!! they said.
And yet no one gave me the news that I went into 2014's E3 week longing to hear.
“Guess what, Steph? Majora’s Mask was just announced for 3DS!”
SPOILER ALERT: It wasn't.
The biggest overarching disappointment of my life for several years running was the absence of a game to follow up Ocarina of Time 3D.
"This is what a re-release should be like!" I insisted to absolutely everyone who would listen, "a perfect shot to the nostalgia feels, painstakingly updated to suit the 3DS's strengths and capabilities, and with gorgeously detailed environments that still feel like the game I know and love."
Now it's finally here.
And it was not what I expected.
Certainly, Nintendo has given the game a sumptuous graphical overhaul: implementing dense foliage and treescapes into the edges of Termina Field, updating the textures in environments and objects (did you know those turn-switches in the Water Temple were fish?), and tweaking the models for characters and cutscenes alike.
And certainly the story has stayed the same - our intrepid child hero is ambushed during a long journey to find his friend, his body changed into a Deku shrub and his precious horse and magical instrument are stolen. In order to change himself back, he makes a promise to retrieve a cursed mask... and in doing so, commits himself to relive the same three days over and over again to save the world from a falling moon.
At the same time, seasoned players of the original N64 title will be shocked to realize how many changes made to actual gameplay and game mechanics have been changed - Temple boss fights have been altered, a brand new "hint hole" has appeared in the Clock Town clock tower, swim mechanics for Zora Link have been tweaked, the Owl Statues are both more accessible and save more intuitively... the list goes on.
In hindsight, this should not have been so unexpected. While the original Ocarina of Time was lauded as a universal success from the very beginning, Majora's Mask invited criticism that it was not nearly as accessible as OoT.
Many of the original frustrations were removed, and at no expense to the gameplay experience.
It appears Nintendo took that to heart. In fact Eiji Aonuma, the game producer, has been very vocal and conducted several interviews regarding the design choices he has made for this new game, many of which stem from those original reactions in 2000.
While some players may argue that the game has been "dumbed down," I don't think this is the case at all. It's easy to fall into the trap to make a game easier in order for it to appeal to more people, but this rendition of Majora's Mask doesn't feel like it. Rather, it feels like many of the original frustrations were removed, and at no expense to the gameplay experience.
Let's talk about the Owl Statues.
In the original N64 game, the Owl Statues served as a temporary save. You could access one when you had to stop playing, but weren't ready to revert time back to the dawn of the first day. This lasted only as long as you were gone... when you re-accessed that save, if, say, your power went out or your sister "accidentally" stepped on the reset button, and the console shut off, the only save you have will be from the last time you played the Song of Time.
These statues could only be accessed once the owl's wings had unfurled, and to do this, you needed to smack it with your sword. Anyone who enjoys multitasking knows the utter frustration that is trying to start story quest lines in Great Bay once you finally gain access to the beach while your sword is being re-forged up on the mountain.
In this 3DS version, this process has been modified for more intuitive use. A number of extra save spots (but without Owl Statue fast-travel capabilities) have been littered all over the map to facilitate easy saving - especially handy for those for whose battery life is an imminent crisis and for those who game during commutes. These Owl Statues can now be activated just by pressing A, and can be done independent of any race transformation. Yes!
There are a few other changes that have been met with more mixed reviews (i.e. Zora Link swimming and changes to the Water Temple). Personally, these changes don't hinder my experience of the game too much - but I was never one to do crazy Ice Arrow stunts.
Sure, I lost about half a bar of magic trying to figure out why my Ice Arrow was broken and I couldn`t make ice islands. But then... I always shot way more than I needed to anyway since the N64 game was notorious for not making islands if you shot too close to the surface... too far away... too close to a wall or platform...
As for swimming... yes, I have an uncontrollable dislike for the inexplicable inversion of joystick control for Zora Link for up-and-down depth change and utter lack of control settings to adjust this, but old console games like these were what taught me to adapt to new controls in the first place. For the rest, well now if I want to swim fast, I just have to break a few pots - and I look cooler now to boot. I can deal with that.
(EDIT: As one commenter noted, you can change the Y-axis settings for swimming to how they were originally! Thanks for the tip, Autumn Fish!)
This game just keeps getting better.
Majora's Mask, for all its frustrations and flaws, has always been a favorite of mine - not simply because of its conjunction with Ocarina of Time, but as a game all on its own. Its replay value, sidequesting, and thoughtful, sad nature helped shaped my enjoyment of games both expansive and emotional far after that final Final Day.
While the 3DS version may not require you to carry around bits of paper where you've scribbled down notes of Bomber passwords and jam session songs, it is in essence the same game that you always loved - but updated with just a little more of that provocative challenge that Majora's Mask once had and slowly faded with familiarity.
I wanted a remake and I got a remake. And I'm so far from sorry for it. This, Squeenix, is how you bring back an old classic. This.