- Nintendo 3DS / Rated E10+ / $39.99 / released February 2015
- OFFICIAL SITE: zelda.com/majoras-mask
- PURCHASE LINK: Amazon
- FINAL: You WANT this game. 4 out of 5 stars
Out of all of the “Legend of Zelda” games, “Majora’s Mask” is an anomaly. Originally released in 2000, “Majora’s Mask” has a fascinatingly weird central structure that asks the player to time-travel through the same three days over and over again. Standard “Zelda” fare can be found – treasure chests, dungeon bosses, general sword-and-sorcery type stuff – but the framing is so unique that it stands out among the line of “Zelda” games. With “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D,” Nintendo has polished up the 15 year old game for a brand new release on the 3DS.
Yes, the game is now in 3-D, but that is the least of “Majora’s” secrets. The main draw is that Link has to figure out how to stop a mysterious and malevolent moon from destroying the world. He arrives in a sleepy little town three days before the moon crashes to earth. Thanks to his time-warping ocarina, Link is able to restart those three days. This gives you the chance to tackle near-simultaneous quests in order to halt the lunar landfall.
The trick is that only certain inventory items will carry over throughout each cycle. The people and creatures inside the town actually do the same things every time you restart, while you retain your knowledge and some key collectibles. Your mission is to get to know their schedules so that you can help them at just the right point over the three day period.
At this point, “Majora’s Mask” feels less like an adventure game and more like an intricately balanced puzzle game. An in-game appointment scheduler helps you keep track of what happens during the three days, and you can set an alarm to remind you to go visit a particular townsperson. Helping people out (and defeating dungeons) nets you those special items that will persist across your time traveling, and eventually you’ll be able to stop the moon and save the world.
While this structure makes “Majora’s Mask” compelling, it also makes it particularly stressful. A ticking timeline is always on the screen, reminding you of just how little time you have left to accomplish your tasks before having to reset the clock. Additionally, the world is large enough and some mission triggers are so brief, it’s entirely possible to overlook many of the optional sidequests that would make your core goal so much easier. “Majora’s Mask” is best played with a solid walkthrough or players’ guide handy, unless you really enjoy watching your time vanish with you not being sure of what you should be doing and where you should be doing it.
Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to do so, because “Majora’s Mask” is a completely unique experience. The time travel gimmick is cleverly orchestrated, turning you into an omniscient narrator of the three-day lives of the townspeople. While their stories may be small, they cover a wide and interesting range, from lost loves to alien abductions. Taken together, they form a patchwork web of interactions allow a hero to stop the moon and save them all.