For some this is the most beloved chapter from The Legend of Zelda series. Dark, intriguing, full of surreal undertones - cinematically speaking, we could compare it to some of David Lynch's work - The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is coming back to haunt the dreams of fans via a completely restored offering, which is still full of that very particular mood, the one that characterised the original work and made it so popular despite it standing so far apart from the rest of the series.
Over fourteen years since its European debut on the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, Grezzo are breathing new life into one of the most emblematic games in the history of the series, crafting a higher resolution, 3D port of good quality, which has left us positively convinced after our first hours once again in the company of Link.
At the same time, we still feel like this game is extremely creepy, and perhaps among the more complex chapters of the entire franchise (and personally, for us, the hardest of them all). As for the mechanics, which will be discussed in detail later, this new remaster reveals itself to be a further confirmation of the great ability of the developers to make their mark on the genre, with a classic that - even after almost fifteen years - still feels incredibly current. From the opening sequence onwards, immersed in the absurd and dark world of Termina, we once again assumed the role of Link, this time on the trail of a mysterious character named Skull Kid, after the evil mask he wears.
It seems almost necessary to offer a short summary of the previous games in the series, incase you are new to the experience and don't know the history of this particular title. It's the sixth episode of the series and the second with 3D graphics, Majora's Mask stands as a kind of direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and once again stars Link as the protagonist, this time catapulted to the end of the world (and no longer in Hyrule), on a hunt for a mysterious character named Skull Kid. This unusual elf, wearing a strange mask, seems to have hatched a diabolical plan to crash a monstrous moon into Earth. The task of our hero-in-green is, of course, to avoid the catastrophe all the while being trapped in a loop, one which sees him continually forced to relive a cycle of three days, jumping from one dimension of time to another through the use of his magical ocarina.
The first element which we have had to confront in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is its new graphical resolution; it has been completely remastered. Thanks to the excellent work done by Grezzo, we can see some noticeable improvements, from the brilliant intro that guides us into the darkest chapter of the series, to a far more fluid and solid frame rate. Then there's the more detailed backgrounds and characters, supported by a much brighter colour palette. And then last but not least, there's a transition from 4:3 to 16:9 ratio that substantially affects the visual enjoyment of the overall experience. The Majora's Mask that we have in our hands seems to pulsate with new life, but at the same time retains the experience that most players have had the opportunity to enjoy via the old Nintendo platforms.
The comparison with Lynch's cinema was not mere circumstance: leaving aside the disturbing masks - which act as a leitmotiv for the entire game - the use of brash jump cuts in some cut scenes, and some of the special effects, designed to recreate the surrealism that dominates the experience, allow the player to immerse themselves into a suspended, tense and anxious state, something completely different in tone if compared to the other chapters from the same series.
The blessing and the curse with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is obviously its difficulty. Far higher than most of the chapters of the series, in large thanks to an interesting mechanic of time looping that puts it mark on the whole experience. If, at first glance, this mechanic appaears repetitive and at times frustrating - especially for those playing it for the first time - as soon as you start to get familiar with it, Majora's Mask is revealed for the masterpiece it is. The beauty of the game lies in its difficulty: and compared to the original, it offers more save points - probably due to its portable form. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D remains a challenging game, requiring concentration and patience in order to grow totally comfortable with it.
Another interesting feature is the option of using the Circle Pad Pro. We're prompted at the start about this (with the option of changing it later), incase camera control is of vital importance. We preferred to play without it, because the automatic camera in the game is well balanced and we never experienced anything to make us miss a second analog stick. Finally, it's worth making a special mention in regards to the audio, as it has been cleaned up and once again features a soundtrack and sound effects of tremendous quality.
Our first few hours with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D proved to be just as magical as they were distressing. This is an accurate and respectful remake of the Nintendo 64 classic, and one that shows no signs of its age thanks to some excellent workmanship, demonstrating once again the great potential of this sometimes overlooked chapter. In our opinion, it ranks among the best of the series. We can't wait for February the 13 to come, given what we've experienced so far.