Monday, May 30, 2016

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D

In my whole time as a gamer, the whole time I've been a Zelda fan, the whole time I've owned a Nintendo 64, I have never once beaten The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. I've beaten Ocarina of Time four times to date, including the remake, and have run through most of the game several times just for the sake of it. It took me a long time to get through the Great Bay Temple, and I spent weeks working on the Anju/Kafei side-quest without managing to get it finished, and while I'd managed to get most of The Desert Colossus cleared, I could never find the boss-room or all of the stray fairies, and I was working with a strategy-guide towards the end of that run.
This time around, I have 100%'d the game. I got every single mask, cleared all the optional side-quests, and gotten every single item in the game. So, if you've been wondering what took me so long to finish this game, that's what.
Majora's Mask didn't sell quite as well as Ocarina of Time did back when it was first released, but damn is it a good game. Majora's Mask was the first direct sequel in the Zelda series since The Adventure of Link. Yes, Link's Awakening was sort of a sequel to A Link to the Past, but it didn't pick up literally right after it ended, it was more of a direct-sequel to the Oracles games, which in turn were both direct-sequels to A Link To The Past. But we'll get to those later. Spoilers for the plots of Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time inbound.
Majora's Mask picks up basically right after the end of Ocarina of Time. Link takes Epona on a quest to find Navi, who flew off into the land of Hyrule after their final journey though time. Link is set upon by a Skull-kid wearing a mask, accompanied by a pair of fairies, who scare Epona and steal The Ocarina of Time. The Skull-kid curses Link into a Deku Scrub, and the yellow fairy, Tatl, keeps Link from following the Skull-kid, but she gets trapped with Link, and winds up teaming-up with him to get out.
Link escapes the strange place in the woods, and meets the Happy-Mask Salesman from Hyrule Castle Town, who tells him about how the Skull-kid stole Majora's Mask from him, and entreats Link to recover the mask. Link leaves the mysterious watery place and finds that he is in another city in another area of the world, Clock-Town within the territory of Termina.
Link travels through the town looking for information on how to get up to the top of the clock-tower. He finds a Deku-flower, but it's occupied by a Deku-salesman, who will only trade usage of it for a rare trinket. Frustrated, Link decides to explore the town and see if there's any other way to get up the tower. In doing so, he finds and re-unites the damaged Great Fairy in the town, who restores his magic powers and allows him to shoot magic bubbles in his cursed form.
Link then uses this to shoot down the map-salesman in town and purchase a map of the town, and to shoot a balloon with Majora's Mask on it. This gets the attention of a local kid who was trying to shoot it down, who challenges Link to a hide-and-seek contest between him and the rest of his crew. Link finds all of them, and they give him the password to their base. Link goes there, meets an Astronomer, looks through a telescope at the moon and sees a rare stone fall out of the moon's eye. He rushes outside to get it, and sure enough, it's The Moon's Tear that the Deku-scrub was looking for. He trades it for the flower, boosts his way up to the clock, and waits for midnight on the final day, where he confronts the Skull-kid and knocks The Ocarina of Time out of the imps hands, and just as the cursed moon is about to fall on the planet and destroy all life on it, Link plays The Song of Time, which catapults him and Tatl back to the Dawn of the First Day. There, the Happy-Mask Salesman teaches him The Song of Healing, which restores him to his normal form, and gives him a mask which can transform him into a Deku-scrub.
Link then travels to the homeland of the Deku Scrubs in the Southern Swamp on the behest of Tatl's brother, Tael, who told him to travel north, south, east, and west to find... Something.
At the swamp, Link finds out that the Deku princess has gone missing, and her monkey friend has been captured on suspicion of killing her. Link talks to the monkey, who teaches him a song to get into Woodfall Temple. There, Link gathers the scattered shards of the local Great Fairy, defeats the guardian of the Temple, and rescues the Princess.
Looping back to the First Day, Link then goes North, but finds his path blocked by giant boulders of snow, so he goes back to town and finds a shop selling bombs, and blows them up. He gets the masks, travels to the temple, gets The Great Fairy back together, takes down the temple guardian, warps back to the first day, rinse and repeat for the rest of the bosses.
Some of you may know that I'm a sucker for a good time-loop storyline, and this game is no exception by any means, especially with the amount of great storylines scattered throughout the game-world. There are only four dungeons in the game, only four bosses, and only four collectible heart-containers. The game makes up for this with numerous optional side-quests to get pieces of heart, and on top of all of this, almost all of them have a cool story attached to them, as do most of the side-quests attached to optional items.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask seems like the kind of game that has inspired a lot of indie horror-games, and at its core, I feel like Majora's Mask is a psychological horror-game disguised as an action-adventure game. There are subtly creepy things scattered throughout the world, from the way the music shifts from upbeat to creepy, to the music that plays as the world is about to end, to the way some characters act, to what's going on in the world, it adds up to a very sad, very creepy world. Some of the stranger characters in the game talk in such a way, and say things that just kinda get to you, even though there's no reason that it should. Ocarina of Time is a classic, and one of the greatest games ever made, but Majora's Mask is as well.
The gameplay is basically identical to that of Ocarina of Time, as are the interface and controls. The only change between the original versions of those two games was that the GUI was given a metallic gloss and bevel. Between the remakes however, the B button has been removed from bottom screen for some reason, the buttons to change to a first-person view and the fairy-buttons have been separated, although for some reason the button to talk to Tatl has been moved to Right on the D-pad, which is better than being attached to the first-person button on the touchscreen, but still not as good as it being Up on the D-pad. The Ocarina controls remain unchanged from Ocarina of Time and Ocarina of Time 3D. The only major addition is that of Circle-Pad Pro support, and a Gear screen which doesn't really serve much purpose. I was never able to figure out what that section under the Gear button was supposed to be, it seems like something is, or was supposed to go there, but either I didn't find it or it wasn't included in the final version of the game.
I must say, I was disappointed with the Circle-Pad Pro support in this game, all it really adds is camera control, which seems like a pretty major thing, but hang on for a second. ZL and ZR do exactly what L and R do. I was hoping there would be additional functions mapped to them, such as additional slots for items. The triggers are ripe for usage as buttons for the hookshot and bow, which would free-up the face-buttons for things like the Fairy Sword and bombs, or additional masks, or The Eye of Truth, which would make it less annoying to swap between different transformation masks in The Desert Colossus, or other places you need to swap between transformations in. As it is, the triggers having the same function as the shoulder-buttons makes it somewhat easier to swim around as Zora Link, but that's a small thing.
Something that seriously irritated me is that whenever you close the 3DS, the Circle-Pad Pro disconnects from the game, and you have to press one of the buttons on it to sync it back up. This could have been gotten around if there was some kind of feature within the system to pair the system up with a Circle-Pad Pro, or if the Circle-Pad Pro just didn't exist, and was instead just a part of the system... There's ample space for another joystick on the Old3DS below the face-buttons, and if they had made the system a bit thicker and curvier, they would have both made it more ergonomic, and had the space for the additional triggers, which would have solved a lot of problems with the system in the early days. If I'd bought the system at launch and gotten Resident Evil Revelations and Snake Eater 3D hoping to play them, I would have been seriously ticked that I needed a twenty-dollar accessory to a three-hundred dollar handheld to play them properly.
As it is, the game isn't unplayable without the CPP, like Snake Eater 3D is, but I would have had a much harder time with the camera otherwise, as I did in Ocarina of Time 3D. Rather unfortunately you still can't walk around in first-person despite support of the Circle-Pad Pro, so
An especially strange thing is that, in both comparison to the original game and Ocarina of Time 3D, the physics seem utterly borked in places. Goron Link has a tendency to not want to steer particularly well in some places. (Which is odd, since he steered fine on the N64, and I was playing with a practically destroyed joystick) Sometimes this seems like it's the controls not responding as quickly as the really should, and sometimes it's obviously a collision issue with the game-world. This is especially apparent in Showhead Temple and other areas around it where Goron Link should be able to roll around smoothly, but somehow winds up getting caught on the walls, which either leads to the rolling taking longer than it should, or an unintended fall, which wastes even more time, and in this game, time is of the essence. I can't even remember how many times I had to reload Snowhead because the physics screwed me out of time to finish the dungeon by causing me to fall to the basement of the dungeon and making me trek all the way back up to where I was. Then there's the fact that in the Beaver Races, Zora Link can get caught up in the guide rings because some moron in the development studio decided to turn on collision for them, which leads to no end of delays when you're trying to finish the race on time. Which is kinda the purpose doing the side-quest in the first place. Meanwhile, collision is turned off in places it shouldn't be, such as the Odolwa dungeon at the end of the game where you can just clip through the pillars at the center of the rotating platforms for no reason at all.
Another fairly major change I noticed was that all of the bosses have had giant Majora eyes stapled onto them, and almost all of them have been made significantly easier. Odolwa is just easier to damage, while Goht has been nerfed significantly. Goht's defeat was so feaking awesome in the original game, but here it's just kind of token.
The last two boss-battles have actually been made significantly more difficult with the addition of an entire first and second stage in the Twinmold and Gyorg boss-fights respectively. The additions to the those fights makes them impossible to beat with The Fierce Deity Mask alone, since for some reason, the incredibly powerful god-creature can't breath or fight in water, or break through the carapace of a giant flying bug with his magic sword-blasts. Or his sword. If The Fierce Deity could just walk and breath underwater it'd be perfectly fine, he is a god after all. Or he could just be Adult Link with a sword shaped like DNA, either way, it doesn't make any sense that he can't use the same items Link could, especially since Adult Link had his own gear in Ocarina of Time which stuck around when you went back in time, and since Link has basically infinite inventory space, he doesn't really have any reason to leave stuff like that behind. Maybe The Skull Kid stole it all while he was knocked out or something.
Overall, the game is fine, and it's a decent remake to say the least, and while most of the side-quests remain just as hard as they were on the N64, the bosses have been completely imbalanced to the point where they're legitimately either way too easy or impossible to deal with. The changes to Gyorg wouldn't have been so bad if he didn't just swim around the arena for most of the second stage of combat, wasting your time. The Twinmold fight basically just becomes incredibly frustrating in the second stage. It's not particularly hard, since by that point in the game you should have all of the bottles in the game and at least six of them filled with fairies, so even if you do die you can just keep going. I'm not opposed to the idea of having to find the Giants Mask inside the boss-room, but they make you kill one of the worms before you can get to it. Now, hiding it inside the boss-room would be a clever idea if you had to solve some kind of puzzle under pressure rather than covering the underbelly of one with a bunch of Majora eyes that you have to shoot with your bow. Then we get to the second stage of the boss-fight. Thanks to the fact that you've been slowed down significantly you can't react as well to the movements of the red worm as you could in the original, and since you attack with your fists instead of your sword, your range has been reduced significantly as well, which makes it harder to hit the worm.
There have also been a few changes to the dungeons, for instance, a lot of the stray-faries have been moved around, and a few of the puzzles have been changed around a bit as well. There's also been a side-quest added to give you a seventh bottle. I can only presume this was because there weren't enough items to fill the entire grid in the inventory and they couldn't think of anything else to add. The side-quest is great, just like all the other side-quests in this game, but having seven bottles is a bit strange considering how most Zelda games have an even number of bottles.
They've added fishing to the game, which is even more irritating than it was in Ocarina of Time, but without much purpose, since there aren't any items connected to it, or any pieces of heart, since all of those were previously allocated to existing side-quests.
Now we come to the things they've rather oddly left out. For instance, there's no Master Quest, second world, or New Game+. I know I ragged on that a bit in the Ocarina of Time 3D review, but it'd be something. I'd actually love to see some kind of arrange-mode in this game, maybe something with some new side-quests, some new dungeons, or something like that. There's also no boss-challenge mode and no boss-rush mode, despite Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword both having each of those respectively. I know there are only five bosses in the game, but still. No developers commentary, no playable sample of the beta version of the game, no development history or developers notes, no concept-art, no in-game music playlist and no in-game bestiary. There's also no Retro-mode to play the game with the old N64 graphics, and the soundtrack is only a remastered version of the old sample-based music on the Nintendo 64 as opposed to a CD-quality re-recording with an actual orchestra, this is once again reinforced by the fact that they play a CD-quality medley of the games soundtrack during the Grezzo credits.
As with Ocarina of Time 3D there are rather inexplicable instances of slowdown in the most ludicrous of places, which I'm sure are probably cleared up on the New3DS despite the fact that the N64 original didn't suffer from slowdown. You know, despite the fact that it had about a million things going on and had to have extra RAM to actually work and didn't suffer from any slowdown whatsoever. None of the subsequent releases for other systems managed to pull that off, even on consoles that were capable of even more than the N64 was, mostly because they were being emulated for some reason instead of being a proper port.
All in all, while Majora's Mask is a damn fine game, and this is overall a good remake, it's also somewhat disappointing because they didn't include many significant extras or extra content. The changes that they've made have made the game a bit too easy, while simultaneously not clearing up some of the less intuitive issues with the game. They lengthened the amount of real-time it takes for in-game time to pass, but that just made the game easier, rather than clearing up any kind of actual issue. The lengthened game-time, combined with The Inverted Song of Time means that only ever came up against the end of The Final Day by accident once, the first time I was fighting Twinmold. Every time before that I went up against the last six hours of the game on purpose for a quest, or just because I was trying to get something done before I went back in time.
Another rather strange change to the game is that it no-longer saves when you go back in time, which led to me accidentally repeating sections of Snowhead a couple of times.
In the end, while it's still a really good game, especially if you've never played it, veterans who have beaten the game will both feel a little too different and not different enough, and not in the good way. I'd love to give the game credit for the astounding depth, but all of that is left over from the original version which was released fifteen years prior to the release of this game. I can't really call it lazy, since much of the game had to be remade from scratch, but I'm sure they did what they did with the original and re-used and re-skinned plenty of assets from Ocarina of Time 3D. The changes that have been made will certainly throw-off veterans who have memorized the game inside and out, and anyone who's played the game at least once will find the first two bosses rather insultingly easy. However, the game is still fun, and if you've never played the original, this is a good version to pick up. I'll give it an 8.9* rating.

Cover from, screenshots taken by me.