Majora’s Mask – Time is on My Side

Majora’s Mask is a big deal. For many it is the premium Zelda experience. So here at we thought that  a grad re-release such as this needed something a little more special than a stock standard review. With this in mind we managed to convince Dylan Burns to walk us through his Majora’s journey in this episodic feature. So kick back, grab your Ocarina and enjoy Dylan’s adventure. You can check out part 2 here

Week 1

I remember vividly playing Ocarina of Time. Its release close to Christmas is imprinted in my memory, the gold edition cart shining on store shelves like a beacon, and then peeking through torn gift paper on Christmas day. Time was scarce that day, but I just wanted to see it, to hear it. And I did, for a little while, managing to get a few minutes’ fix before Christmas obligations tore me away. But it was enough. I’ll never forget that.

Unfortunately, Majora’s Mask does not occupy a similar memory shelf. I remember playing it, certainly, but the memory is muddy and not connected to anything. Yet, when I load up this remaster and the music kicks in, things flood back. I know this tune, I listened to it for hours. I know this game, except I don’t. I’ve forgotten the details but retained the ghosts of its locations, characters and themes.

It’s an unusual feeling, to come at something you enjoyed long ago, now armed with a wider array of interactive experiences, somewhat wary to smudge memories. After all, isn’t everything you enjoyed when you were younger kind of sacred? Zelda games are the bedrock of my love for gaming, so how can I possibly pass judgement? The thought of reviewing a game never crossed my mind back then, I simply liked a game or I did not. I remember liking Majora’s Mask, if not loving it. Over the coming weeks, I intend to find out if that memory matches my current reinterpretation.

 The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask char1

The First Day

My first play of Majora’s Mask 3DS is short but sweet. I’ve been outside most of the weekend and sunburn’s unwelcome heat radiates across my face, ears and neck. My eyes hurt, but I persist with turning the 3D slider up halfway. Pleasantly, the 3D effect is quite good (I’m using the old console, no XL or New3DS for me) and despite thinking I would turn it off after ten minutes I keep it engaged the entire session.

As I said, my memory of this game is muddy, so I’m uncertain which graphical elements are new and which original. The game certainly looks sharper and I’m pretty sure there are new wall and floor textures all over the place. The character models also seem to have been redone. Tingle, for example, looks far more like a middle-aged man than he ever did to me before.

This game has a surprising darkness to it, with horror-like sequences early on as Link is cursed by Skull Kid. The music supports the off-kilter mood, oozing menace and surprise and uncertainty. It’s a surprise to the player to be transformed into a Deku child, which has the purpose of positioning you as an outsider in the village; the guard still won’t let you wander abroad and the villagers assume you are from out of town, a wanderer.

After the open plains of Ocarina’s world, the tightness of Majora’s Mask is stark. Not only are you trapped inside Clock Town, you’re also at the mercy of time itself, with a clock that ticks away at the bottom of the screen, minutes sloughing off in seconds, an hour gone just like that. Memories of this mechanic hover, for I know this will continue to be a frustrating yet ultimately rewarding aspect of the game, but I ignore the clock for the time being. I’m not too concerned about getting anything done the first roll, I just want to explore and absorb.

So I wander through each location, bereft of rupees and so ineligible for mini-games and shop items. I can’t help the child pop the balloon, I can’t give the Deku in the main square what he wants in exchange for his flower space, and I can’t even wield a sword. So I talk to Tingle, buy a town map with my only five rupees, wander into a fairy fountain and get told I must find the lost fairy in town.

It’s all I have time for.

 The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask art 1

The Second Day

Another short play (hey, it’s a work week), this time seeing me through to the dawn of the second day. I find the fairy, return it and gain the ability to shoot magic bubbles (you know, video games do sound weird when you write these things down). I pop the kid’s balloon outside the temple, which instigates a hide-and-seek game. I remember doing this now, not where the kids hide exactly but the act of looking about town for them, taking part in the childish pursuit.

Equipped with the code for the boys’ secret passage to the observatory, I waddle on through and eventually grab a fallen Moon’s tear. I’ve now got something one of the very first characters I met in town wants, so it’s time to go and swap the tear for a town deed.

While this reads a bit like a walkthrough, it serves to highlight the pleasure in the mundane that Majora’s Mask elicits. Even now, when so many games have figured out more incredible ways to simulate dynamic events, there’s something magical about being part of the clockwork. And while time limits usually shit me off incredibly, Majora’s Mask feels, so far, quite open to manipulation and shortcuts. I can save money at a bank, I keep all my items and now that I know the code to the observatory I need not repeat the hide-and-seek task.

In some ways, I’m reminded of Dark Souls, where each hard-fought metre is eventually rewarded with a shortcut being opened as well as your own incremental improvement as a player. Majora’s Mask feels cyclical in a cathartic way. Mistakes don’t really matter because you can always try again, and you’ll be quicker and better at it.

Until next week, where perhaps my casual acceptance of time limits will become strained.

Dylan Burns

Part 2

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