Just six months ago, the very idea seemed like an impossibility. But, on February 13, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D will finally be here. I've written about it. I've podcasted about it. Now the damned thing just needs to come out.
Still, there's plenty of things left to say about Majora's Mask 3D, even if I've seemingly said enough about the original game for several lifetimes. And, since yesterday's Nintendo event actually gave me the chance to sit down with the game for half an hour, I find myself in the enviable position of actually having something new to write about this 15-year-old Legend of Zelda.
If you played 2011's Ocarina of Time 3D, the improvements made to Majora's Mask shouldn't come as too big of a surprise: Once again, Nintendo has set out to create the ideal version of an old release, rather than a new experience altogether. And while I wasn't the biggest fan of how dreary Ocarina's remake looked, after seeing Majora's Mask 3D in action, I can definitely say that's entirely due to the source material. Majora's original N64 release went for much wilder choices with its visual design, so the world of Termina translates much better under Nintendo's straightforward approach to their Zelda remakes. I'm a little disappointed they didn't use this version as an opportunity to bring the 3D models closer to their original 2D designs—an impossibility on the N64—but if you're accustomed to the original or Virtual Console releases, seeing Majora's run so smoothly feels downright shocking before your eyes get used to it.
Thankfully, Nintendo didn't mess with the three-day cycle that makes Majora's Mask so special; instead, they've given players additional tools to make time management more... manageable. Previously, Majora's provided Link the ability to jump forward to 6:00 A.M. or P.M. of the next day, but now, he can jump to any hour in the future—using the right Ocarina song, of course. And the Bomber's Notebook, used to keep track of the many side quests unfolding in real time, now offers additional information to make Link's goals less vague. In the original, this in-game Notebook displayed the windows of time characters would be available for their specific side quests, but not much else. Majora's 3D also tells you where to find these characters, which will definitely come in handy for some of the trickier quests—and since this information lurks behind a button on the UI, you can still choose to figure out everything for yourself. And if you don't want one of these side quests to slip through your fingers, you can now set an in-game alarm to remind you of upcoming events—a fantastic addition for a game that's essentially about being in the right place at the right time.
Majora's save system has also received a bit of an overhaul, but, thanks to the 3DS' sleep mode, these changes don't feel all that important. Previously, you could only make a "hard save" after restarting the cycle of time, though certain statues dotted throughout Termina created quick saves that would end your current session self-destruct upon loading. Now, you can simply save your game at any of these statues, and Nintendo has expanded their number to cut down on the tedium of backtracking. I'm guessing these improvements will make the most difference to Japanese players, who could only save after restarting the time cycle in their version of the game.
I've said it before, but it's pretty heartwarming to see Nintendo finally embrace Majora's Mask—the series' conservatism following its release tells me they might not have been all that happy with this strange sequel's reception. Regardless of its shaky past, Majora's Mask 3D will soon be the ideal version of this great game—no doubt a relief to anyone not excited by the prospect of staring at muddy, smeary N64 graphics for 30 hours. If you've suffered through 15 years of this lousy millenium without giving it a shot, you're in for a real treat.