The Nintendo Resolution: The Legend of Zelda – Majora’s Mask 3D

majora cover
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Start Date: February 13, 2015
End Date: February 20, 2015

After hanging on to my old first-gen 3DS since its release five years ago, I’ve finally upgraded to a shiny new “New 3DS XL” and oh man do I love this thing.  It has a huge screen!  It has a second thumb stick!  The 3D actually works!  Everything about it is fancy and new to me, so of course the first thing I used it for was to play a remake of a 15 year old game.

But, at least, it’s a game that I’ve never beaten.  I played The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the Nintendo 64 back in college, but only very briefly.  I don’t even think I made it up to the first dungeon back then.  So for me, this was unexplored territory for the most part.  And I should warn you that if it’s also unexplored territory for you, beware of serious spoilers ahead!

For those of you unfamiliar with this game, it is a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, but with a structure wholly unique among the Zelda series.  Link only has three days to stop the moon from colliding with the land of Termina, but the gimmick is that he can rewind time with his magical ocarina, and relive those three days over and over again, Groundhog Day style.

Photo Credit: Google Image Search

Photo Credit: Google Image Search

The game only has four proper dungeons – only around half of what’s offered in a typical Zelda game – but that’s because, due to the Groundhog Day gimmick, a larger focus is put on side-questing.  This mostly involves observing the activities of the non-player characters during the three-day cycle, and then interacting with those activities once you’ve rolled back time.  Once again, imagine Bill Murray figuring out the flow of the day in the movie, and then using that knowledge to save people or have sex with Andie MacDowell or whatever.  One of these sidequests, a long one which involves a married couple who have become separated, is one of the most emotionally resonant storylines I have ever seen in a Zelda game (which is to say, it’s only slightly less emotionally resonant than a typical episode of Thundercats or whatever).  Unlike most games in this series, where side-questing is just the dumb shit you have to do to get heart pieces in between the fun parts, in Majora’s Mask it’s almost mandatory, and it’s also the heart and soul of the game.  Ironically, for a game which constantly threatens you with a ticking countdown clock, this approach leads to the whole experience being way more contemplative and meandering than most Zelda games.  Here are just a few of the little things I accomplished during my journey:

majora shooting gallery
Getting a perfect score in the shooting gallery

Majora eggs
Trying to collect all these fish with just one bottle (instead of the four that the game clearly assumes you have), and succeeding with less than 4 in-game hours to spare

Majora goron bridge
Stopping to take in the view on the way to the mountain dungeon

majora throne
Pretending to be Joffrey Baratheon

The game is just chock full of these small, beautiful moments, and the New 3DS’ C-stick allows you the camera control to really take it all in.  I played through the Ocarina of Time 3DS port without this second control stick, so I guess it’s possible to do so, but man this is so much better!  The improved 3D visuals on the new machine also make the game incredible to look at, although they do occasionally cause goofy-ass visual glitches…

majora glitch

All this side-questing is also how you collect the game’s many wearable masks, each of which gives Link a new ability.  At first I thought that, like collectible items in most games like this, getting all the masks was optional.  And technically it is optional, but collecting all of them makes a huge difference in the difficulty of the endgame.  In fact, I got up to the final boss and got so brutally slaughtered that I decided to take a few more hours to go back and get the masks I’d missed.  I eventually got them all…

majora masks

…went to the surprisingly lush and tranquil surface of the moon…

majora moon

…traded my masks to a gang of creepy Moon Children to receive the Fierce Deity Mask…

majora fierce deity

…and proceeded to slay the Final Boss in literally 30 seconds.

Then, having saved the world, I didn’t even get invited to the fucking after party!

majora afterparty

Fuck you, fairy!  Oh well, they say it’s about the journey and not the destination, and that was certainly the case with Majora’s Mask.  On paper, this thing looks weird and stressful and short, but it’s really a super fun and unique game, and I wish Nintendo would apply this kind of outside-the-box thinking to the Zelda series a little more often.

I’m also proud that, between finishing Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker, I can now say that I’ve beaten every 3D Zelda game!  And in fact, I’ve beaten every console Zelda game except for Zelda II (one day!).  It only took 15 years, but better late than never!

Thank you as always, Mr. Miyamoto.

majora credits

majora the end

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

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