For the last many years I’d always say to whoever would listen that Majora’s Mask was the only Zelda-series game that I’ve never beaten. Yes, I’d played it in the early 2000’s but my only feint memories of it were a little confusion, a strange clock system, and a general disinterest. While the iconic angry moon and even the Majora’s Mask itself has dominated Zelda lore imagery, I just never went back to play through this one because of my (admitted) distaste for the N64 and it’s early-era 3D graphics.
Then, in 2014, Nintendo announced that the long-awaited Majora’s Mask 3D remake was coming in February 2015 and…here we are. A month ago I went out and bought the new game and, as if to make up for the 15-year-long slight, got the Majora’s Mask Limited Edition 3DS hardware, too. So I’m all in. Gotta beat this, right?
Alright, I beat it. And I have quite a lot to say about it.
This Game is Awful
My immediate impressions of Majora’s Mask, aside from the fact I remembered virtually nothing about it, were that the game still looked dated despite the graphical refresh. After a short story introduction, Link (well, he’s ZaBlanc when I play) is transformed into a Deku Scrub. This is…wait, what? A Deku Scrub? OK…this is a weird way to start the game even if it’s important to the story. In every other Zelda game you start as a young boy that gains skills over a progression of time. It’s always wonderful and expected. Here, you start as…well, a Deku Scrub.
Continuing on, I found myself being completely lost at the beginning. You’re dropped into a large town with no real direction aside from knowing that you need to go beat up that Skull Kid who stole Epona. There’s only one town in the whole game…which is great, actually…but that town is rather large with lots of doors to open and explore and it’s overwhelming. Eventually you talk to enough people and you get your sea legs and you make it through three days of timeline and you fight the Skull Kid and you reset time and…what? Wait, all my money is gone? My bombs? What? WHAT?!
Again, the world shakes beneath you and you’re just not certain of anything anymore. It would take me hours to ultimately get a feel for what stuff I would keep through the time change and which would go away.
I really didn’t like this game initially. Are you getting that impression? I wanted to quit, but seeing that I had the new golden 3DS hardware I felt like I just had to continue and finally beat this forgotten game.
But damn this game was awful. Awful, awful.
Alright It’s Feeling Like Zelda Again
Once you make it into the first temple you start to get into a comfort level. Finally, something I’m familiar with! And the temples here are great, too. The usual puzzles are present, but because of the game’s 3-day timeline you are challenged to beat the temples at the game’s pace and not your own. This is where I got frustrated once more. I was close to getting to the boss when I was forced to reset time and…sadly…play the temple all over again. This almost got me to quit the game once again. I had to run through the temple a few times before finally getting through it and, perhaps unfortunately, become committed to seeing the game through.
I don’t know how I feel about the 3-day timeline thing. In some ways, it’s interesting. I like that the world map is tiny in relation to other Zelda games. It’s easy to memorize. I can tell you where everything is and I got into a nice routine of turning into a Goron and circling the town to grind out some rupees. The negative aspect is that the temples become a race against time. It’s really hard to stay focused on the task at hand when you’re getting slowed down by enemies and you feel like continuing is futile because you’ll never beat it in time. One nice thing is that the temples all have required equipment to find and, once you find it, you don’t need to get it again when you inevitably reset time. (The temples will be faster the second time through, too.)
I wasn’t sold on the game at this point, but I was starting to like the small world and idea that there would only be four temples.
The whole middle of the game had me frustrated and yelling at my 3DS. Just ask my wife. After finally beating the second temple, it took me a long time to finally get to the 3rd temple (a week of real time) and then…a WATER TEMPLE?! So obnoxious! And along the way when you race those two guys in the water? I think I did that about 50 times. Lost a lot of sleep on that for sure.
By this point I was simply playing the game in order to beat it. I wasn’t going to quit anymore, but I was not enjoying it…or life for that matter…much at all.
I’m Getting It Now, I’m Getting It…
By the time I was finally past that damn ocean area and hunting down the 4th temple, I was really starting to get into things. Now, I wasn’t falling in love with it, but I was seeing why some YouTubers regard this as their favorite in the series. When time is reset, you can choose what your goals are all over again. Will you hunt down quarter-heart containers? Check your Notebook for rumors and see what you can find? Collect rupees and deposit them in the bank? Explore more of the town? There’s a lot to choose from and I think the game is best enjoyed coming up with small goals from time to time and taking a break from the main storyline. Not only will it ease some frustration, but it will improve your character’s chances of succeeding. Improving your vitality, arrow quiver, bomb bag, or adding to your empty bottle count…more than any other Zelda game, this one feels like a true RPG.
And I still wanted to finish it. My god. Just get through it, John. Just get through it.
Final Temple Agony
The final area was easier than the third (though perhaps because I looked up a hint or two). When I got to the Stone Temple, I was ready to beat this game already. And I had an easy time with it, too…I blasted through the temple and almost made it through in one try until…I don’t know…something went awry. After flipping the temple, and getting through the second part, I got lost. I got to the “end” where you hit the crystal and a treasure chest appeared and, I don’t know, something didn’t register with me and I ended up leaving that room thinking I had to go elsewhere. I spent way too long trying to find the boss (I already had the key) and just couldn’t do it. On top of that, I was never sure if I had the temple flipped the right way and after a few hours I simply gave up. The walkthrough wasn’t helping so I had to just reset time and do the temple all over again. Ugg!
I (reluctantly) followed the walkthrough from beginning to end and, as it turns out, I did everything right. In that final room is the boss’s entrance door and I simply missed it. I felt better about myself, and whatever outrage I should’ve had was mitigated by the fact that I was about to get past the darn thing!
And I did.
Finale and Final Thoughts
I won’t spoil the ending to this game, but let’s just say that it’s somewhat expected that you find all the masks and I found — less than half of them. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to beat the final boss (headwear) but it only took two tries and it really wasn’t that hard. That was about 30 minutes ago. I can’t tell you how relieved I am right now. So glad it’s done.
I have to say that, while this isn’t anywhere near my favorite Zelda game, I can see why many people really love it. Ironically, I think you have to beat the game to truly enjoy it. Even now, I’m tempted to go find those other masks. I have absolutely no idea where they are, and I’d surely be tempted to just look it up, but I see a lot of completionism in this game more than any other Zelda game. Except for A Link Between Worlds, I never have any inclination to keep playing once I’ve beaten a Zelda game. This game is definitely different. What masks did I miss? What do they do? Where could they have made the game easier? How was I supposed to become part of that milk bar club? I’d love to know the answers to those questions…
In the end, I didn’t have the most fantastic time playing Majora’s Mask but I am thankful to have finally consumed the experience and enjoyed it nonetheless. I’m not sure I’ll ever play it again, but I’d actually welcome it I think. I’d pay more attention to all the side quests. I’d be intent on searching out those other masks. Having the concept of the three-day timeline down pat would alleviate a ton of frustration on a second pass.
This is a game that’s quirky, different, a technical achievement (the game was made in just one year), and while it may not be the best game in the Zelda series…it’s certainly the most interesting.
If I replay it, though, it’ll be in a few years.