The end is near

“The Legend of Zelda” series’ latest game faces apocalyptic challenges

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Following in the footsteps of “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D” and “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD,” “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”—originally released for the N64 back in 2000—has officially received a remake in the form of “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D.”

The original “Majora’s Mask,” the somewhat lesser known sequel to “Ocarina of Time,” was dramatically overshadowed at its release. However, thanks to the internet and stories such as the famous “Ben Drowned” Creepypasta (a tale of one gamer’s haunted Nintendo 64 game), its popularity has spiked in recent years. Following the success of “Ocarina of Time 3D” and the vocal expression of demand over the past few years, it only made sense that Nintendo would eventually remake “Majora’s Mask.”

“Majora’s Mask” is a fantastic game that built upon the successes of “Ocarina of Time” and, in a number of ways, surpassed it. It’s an incredibly unique entry in Nintendo’s lauded “Legend of Zelda” series, albeit one that proved divisive with fans upon its original launch, as many of its aspects go against the so-called “Zelda formula” that most 3-D Zelda titles adhere to.

In this installment, there’s less of a focus on dungeon-crawling, no sign of a princess named Zelda nor a villain named Ganon, no mythical Master Sword and the setting is not even Hyrule, but a parallel land named Termina.

Now, the game places more of an emphasis on the wider game world and how Link and the player can influence and interact with the world and characters. In this installment, Link is not on a quest to rescue the princess, but instead must stop the mysterious Skull Kid wielding the titular Majora’s Mask. Skull Kid attempts to force Termina’s moon to fall out of the sky, destroying the world and everyone in it in the course of three days, a cycle which can be repeated as many times as necessary until Link finds the correct sequence of events to save the world.

This three-day repeating cycle may sound like a limitation of the game, but it actually works to its benefit. Because the three days are explicitly mapped out, seeing all the characters’ routines and how you can interact with them in various ways makes the game feel more alive than almost any other role-playi out there. Seeing the characters’ various reactions to their impending apocalypse is very moving, especially when you realize that they go through this emotional turmoil every time you reset the three-day cycle.

According to series producer Eiji Aonuma, “[‘Majora’s Mask’] was made for those who have played ‘Ocarina of Time,’ so I felt like there wasn’t a need for step-by-step instructions.” To rectify this, in the remake, there are many more small hints than in the original. It’s not very intrusive or painfully obvious, but it’s enough that new players won’t ever feel unclear as to where they should go.

Other changes in the remake include two fishing holes that weren’t in the original, a change to the way you can jump ahead in time, an overhaul to the quest-tracking system and an overhaul to the save system. Previously, you could play the “Song of Double Time” to skip ahead to 6 p.m. of the current day, or 6 a.m. of the next day; whichever came first. Now, you can skip ahead to any hour in the three-day cycle, a feature that reduces the amount of time spent waiting for events to happen. In addition the quest-tracking Bomber’s Notebook -has a large overhaul, being much more explicit in the sequence of events and providing a way to keep track of various rumors provided to Link.

The save feature overhaul is a lot more debatable in its usefulness. Previously, you could only save the game when you reset the three-day cycle or by creating a temporary save at statues that forced you to quit and deleted the temporary save upon loading the save file.

In the remake, there are several more statues throughout the game, and each saves the game on the spot without requiring you to quit the game. While this does ease up on the difficulty and helps add to the “pick up and play” aspect of being on a portable console, some fans of the original may object to the easier save system, as this reduces the tension of needing to complete as much as possible in one cycle.

Overall, though, “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D” is a magnificent remastering of one of the finest “Legend of Zelda” games to date. The visual overhaul, the streamlined features and other improvements make this version an even more enjoyable and accessible experience than the original N64 release. The changes are all mostly positive ones, although there are some that are a lot more welcome than others, particularly to fans of the original game. Nevertheless, the brilliance of its source material still shines through, and it’s this that makes “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D” a fantastic game that is a must-have for a 3DS owner.

Minor flaws seem insignificant, as the superb concoction of timeless game design truly shines: the unique gameplay ideas, the dark and haunting theme and a cleverly crafted game world enable this updated version to provide a near flawless experience.

Game: “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D”
Release: Feb. 13, 2015
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Rating: ★★★★★