As promised, a new segment has arrived on the blog – Totally Subjective Reviews!
Here’s how it works. I’ll review the game based on five categories: Graphics, Sound, Story, Gameplay, and a fifth category that I deem appropriate for that specific game. I will score these categories with arbitrary numbers before giving the entire game as a whole an arbitrary score of its own which may or may not have anything to do with the other scores. If you want to know my opinion of the game, you can’t trust the numbers. You actually have to (GASP!) read the review.
Today’s game is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D. This game is a 3DS remake of the game The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the Nintendo 64. Those of you who have never played this game are probably wondering – is it any good? And those of you who played it before most likely want to know – does it measure up? I will do my best to answer both questions in this first ever edition of Totally Subjective Reviews!
Okay, so what exactly is Majora’s Mask? This game follows Link from Ocarina of Time as he adventures to a whole new world called Termina. Here, events leave Link trapped in a constant cycle of the same three days. Link must manipulate time to relive those three days over and over again, traveling to different parts of Termina and interacting with different characters each time in order to free the land from this constant cycle of resetting time – and the real danger hanging just above their heads.
Generally, your first impression of a video game (other than the box art) comes from the graphics. Unless of course you’re playing on a Sony console, in which case your first impression is likely based on how many hours the game has to update before you even get to play it.
Majora’s Mask 3D follows in the footsteps of Ocarina of Time 3D, keeping the art style of the original product but fine-tuning the graphics on a stronger engine. And by golly did it pay off. The world of Termina looks great. The colors are bright and vivid, and you should never have a problem seeing even in a dark area of the game. Character designs are simple but polished, and although the game does have a load screen, you’ll probably never see it for longer than three seconds at a time. I didn’t, and more often the load icon would pop up only for an instant before returning me to the action.
When it comes to camera, there’s rarely if ever a problem. The game starts off with gyro controls activated, so whenever you are looking or aiming you change where you’re doing so by moving the 3DS. Personally, I hate this setting, but it is super easy to turn off by going to the Options menu on the Gear screen. The game has a third person perspective, so you’re always watching Link’s back, but you can rotate the camera as needed and you can reset it behind Link by clicking the L button. If you ever need to look around in first person, there’s a nifty button on the touch screen that does just that.
Speaking of the touch screen, the layout is easily comprehended and interacted with, which is a good thing because you’re going to be relying on this sucker a lot. Switching items and masks is as easy as clicking a few icons on the touch screen, and when you’re not in the menu, you have a helpful map which you can zoom in or out on as needed.
Overall, the graphics are solid and do exactly what they need to do – show you what the heck is going on so you can play the game.
Score – 733/734
I love music, particularly the music of video games. There’s just something about a good background tune that makes me want to jump up and go adventuring through the woods and dungeons of the world. Of course, I don’t, and just sit on my tush while adventuring through virtual woods and dungeons. But the music inspires me, dang it!
Honestly, though, Majora’s Mask falls a bit flat here. It isn’t that the music in this game is bad. Not at all. It’s just that there aren’t many options. Many songs throughout the game are recycled tunes FROM THIS GAME. It’s one thing to head to a location and hear a familiar song from Ocarina of Time. It’s another to head to a new location and hear a slight variation on the song that was playing in the last location you explored. As an example, the music of the main hub of the game – Clock Town – is the same song each day of the three day cycle. As time gets closer and closer to the end, the song becomes more urgent, speeding up and adding darker tones to emphasize the looming threat to the town. Now to me, this choice makes sense. After all, it is the same town. However, the song recycling that does not make sense is the “overworld” music for the four regions of the game. The same song is used again and again, just with mild changes in instrumentation in order to change the feel of the song.
I want to emphasize again that the music is not BAD. It does get somewhat dull always hearing the same tunes, though.
As far as sound effects go, they are solid. Not annoying, not distracting, just adding to the game as one would expect. I will say that I highly recommend playing this game with the sound on. Certain enemies or events are accompanied not by visual cues but by audible ones, and missing those cues can put you into some frustrating situations.
Overall, the sound in Majora’s Mask 3D is good, but can grow dull after having played the game for some time.
Score – .5/.7
I will do my best to keep this section as spoiler-free as possible. As I mentioned earlier, Majora’s Mask takes place over the same three days that you experience again and again. In order to break the cycle, you have to save the four regions of Termina – swamp, mountain, ocean, and canyon. Each area is pretty deep and takes at least one three-day cycle to complete. More than likely two – one to make it to the dungeon entrance, and one to finish the dungeon and any quests that come after completing it.
Each region has unique characters and a unique story, which makes this game somewhat episodic in nature. Each area is tied together by the same overarching plot, but that plot is expanded on very little over the course of the main game. In order to learn more details about the story behind the story, you’ll have to explore the game’s various sidequests. This is where the real meat of Majora’s Mask story lies.
There are a multitude of sidequests in the game, some as detailed and lengthy as trying to complete a dungeon. While a few of these less plot-significant missions are necessary to complete the game, most just add flavor text to the world and give you a better understanding of what is really going on.
Because of the emphasis on side quests and the game’s episodic nature, the story of Majora’s Mask is really quite dependent on how much you are willing to invest in it. The harder you search, the more details you’ll find, revealing that this world and the characters in it are quite fleshed out and detailed. Or, you can just run the dungeons and experience a quick, simple game about the moon almost crushing the earth. Personally, I recommend exploring everything the world has to offer. Talk to everyone, read everything you can, and try out your different masks to make sure you don’t miss a single detail. You’ll be rewarded with a much more satisfying story.
Score – 8675309/525600
Alright, here we are, the meat of the game.
Majora’s Mask is a Zelda game, which means there are a number of classic Zelda elements you can expect. Swords and magic, dungeons, puzzles, and powerful monsters are all part of the game. Unlike your typical action game, Zelda is rarely about mashing the attack button until you win. Or mashing the attack button until you need to press the counter button. Defeating monsters requires you to use your head. Attacking head on is rarely the solution – instead, you have to use the tools and abilities you’ve discovered along the way to expose the enemy’s one weak point and capitalize on it.
Dungeon puzzles work much the same way. You’ll need to learn every application of each piece of equipment or character ability. The cool thing about Majora’s Mask is that the items you collect throughout the game are generally needed throughout the game and not just at that particular moment. So you always need to be aware of all of your capabilities, and ready to learn some new ones.
A big difference between this Zelda compared to others is transformation. Over the course of the game, you collect special masks that don’t just cover your face, but rather transform you into a totally different form. Each of the three main forms in the game has special abilities and certain situations that it excels in. In each area, you’ll generally find yourself relying on one form more than the others, but you’ll have to revert back to your older forms from time to time as well. In addition, some areas will require quick switching between all of your forms, putting your full range of abilities to the test.
Luckily, switching is pretty easy. Even though I had to open the item or mask menus a LOT of times, it never took me more than a couple of seconds and it barely interrupted the flow of the game. And once you’ve seen a transformation animation one time, you can skip it so the act of putting on a mask takes only a moment.
The game’s difficulty curve is pretty solid. I found each dungeon more tricky and challenging than the last, in every aspect. The puzzles get trickier, the stray fairies are much better hidden, and the bosses are more challenging and require more careful approaches. The only point where I thought the difficulty was a problem was the ending. After nearly losing to the boss of the penultimate dungeon, I figured the final boss would really push my abilities to their limit. Instead, I found that the final boss was pretty easy to figure out and took little effort. And that was WITHOUT the game-breaking item that makes the final boss a total joke.
I mentioned that side quests are important to the story of this game. They are pretty important to the gameplay as well. Getting more masks means you’ll have more ways to get heart pieces, important items that in quantities of four increase your life meter. This is particularly important in Majora’s Mask because it has fewer dungeons than most Zelda games, meaning that if you ignore every heart piece and only get heart containers, you’ll only have seven hearts to face the final boss. That is pretty scary, so you’ll want to hunt down those heart pieces.
Luckily, the game’s journal makes that somewhat easy. While the journal never outright tells you what to do to solve a problem, it does keep track of all your quests so you know what you need to do. When a quest is completed, you get a nifty symbol telling you not to worry about it any more. So you know if you don’t see that symbol that there’s still more to do and more rewards to reap.
My main complaint as far as gameplay is concerned is that certain transformations are hard to control. I felt in particular that the more aquatic sections of the game were very challenging because the swimming controls were difficult to perform with any precision. The swimming tutorial also leaves out a key skill that, while not really necessary to complete the game, is necessary for some side missions such as fairy-finding.
Overall, the gameplay is the main selling point of Majora’s Mask, and it is not disappointing. There’s a lot of fun to be have and if you like to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and help people, this is definitely the game for you.
Score – 13
Okay, so the fifth category for this game is “Remake.” Which is to say, if you’ve played Majora’s Mask 64, what does this offer that the original didn’t? Is it easier? Harder? More fun? More annoying?
To emphasize my point about this section, I want to take a moment to discuss the concept of difficulty versus hassle. Difficulty in a video game is the idea that completing it requires a certain amount of skill or wit. A game that is difficult challenges the player, pushes their technical ability and their intellect (or their ability to Google) to its maximum.
Conversely, hassle can be difficult, but it isn’t because the game challenges your skills as a player. In fact, hassle comes from some aspect of the game being technically below average. If you can’t make a jump because the camera won’t look at the jump at the correct angle and cannot be properly adjusted, that’s hassle. You’re not failing because the game is challenging – you’re failing because you can’t see. That aspect of the game is bad.
A big complaint about Majora’s Mask 3D that I have heard from series veterans is that this game is not as difficult as the original. The reasoning behind this complaint? You can save more often, you can skip to specific times instead of only skipping to certain benchmarks, and the journal keeps track of way more quests so you don’t have to remember them yourself.
I hope you can see where I am going with this. See, what Majora’s Mask 3D did is remove elements of hassle from the game. Saving more often means that you’re less likely to lose your saved data because your 3DS battery dies or your kid knocks the handheld off of the couch and jostles the game cartridge. Skipping to specific times means that instead of having to sit and wait and not play the game at all, you can skip to the time you need to be at so you can get to the real gameplay faster. The journal tracking more quests means that you can remember what you were doing if you step away from the game for a few days. None of these things make the game “less difficult.” They eliminate hassle, which actually should make the game “more fun.”
If anything, as someone who played the original multiple times, I found this version of Majora’s Mask to be more difficult than the original, and to have a better difficulty curve. Bosses were changed so that early game bosses weren’t too hard to face while late game bosses have more challenging strengths to overcome.
My point is this: a game can be hard for two reasons. It can be hard because it is good and challenges your skills, or it can be hard because it is bad and tests your patience. Majora’s Mask 3DS improved elements of the original in order to make the game hard for the former rather than the latter. Less hassle, more genuine difficulty. Better game.
Score – 1334
In the end, Majora’s Mask 3D is a very fun game. For those playing for the nostalgia, this game brings back all your favorite characters and gameplay elements while improving on the original formula. For new players, this is a great way to experience the fun of Majora’s Mask. It’s a challenging and rewarding adventure game with interesting characters and a story that becomes more rewarding the more you invest in it. I highly recommend this game to any 3DS owner.
FINAL SCORE – 1 flobbity jillion/1 bluebillion