60 Changes in Zelda Majora’s Mask 3D From the N64 Original

I totally, completely underestimated how long it would take to write this. Blame Monster Hunter.

So I finished The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D on 3DS a couple weeks back, and my oh my, it was quite an experience. This is a game I once called my favourite of all time, so I wanted to make sure I devoted the proper amount of time to revisiting the whole thing. After 36 hours of gameplay (according to the Activity Log app) I had completed the Bomber’s Notebook, collected all the heart pieces and beaten the final boss. As soon as the cartridge was out of my 3DS, what was the first thing that comes to mind about the game?

Well, they sure did make a lot of changes to Majora’s Mask for this remake.

You see as it turns out, ever since Nintendo partnered with co-developer Grezzo to release the 3D remaster of Ocarina of Time in 2011, they were apparently working on this follow-up. Even as Zelda fans went back and forth on the idea that a remake of MM even existed, the developers were tweaking away, rebuilding the creepy, unique game piece by piece. But unlike with Ocarina of Time, which only received a sprinkling of non-visual changes, Eiji Aonuma and his team saw in Majora’s Mask a game with some issues, particularly with regards to a quest structure that may not have been friendly for the generation of gamers who missed out on the N64 original.

As a result, Majora’s Mask 3D is one of the most comprehensive remakes I’ve ever played. It’s still pretty much the same game, don’t get me wrong, but while playing I managed to jot down no less than sixty changes I think are worth mentioning, ranging from miniscule to massive, over the N64 original. And if you ask me, the vast majority of them are for the better. If you’ve played the game before and are tossing up whether to play it again in this new form, this list may help you decide on a purchase. If you’re new to MM, most of these probably won’t make any sense to you, and I may end up in spoiler territory. Regardless, here they are, in the rough order I discovered them.

This list is by no means exhaustive, of course. It just covers what I noticed. All screenshots come from the amazing site known as Zelda Dungeon.
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NOTABLE VISUAL CHANGES

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1. The twisty path that signifies… something (it was never really clear) at the start of the game is no longer an interior-looking corridor, but rather a creepy-as-hell purple forest environment with Disney style creepy branches all over the place.

2.  The walls of Clock Town have been given a tone-enriching makeover, now sporting Carnival of Time advertisement posters everywhere and a few extra decorations here and there. There’s also some appropriately unsettling graffiti splattered all over the walls of the Bombers Hideout, and it’s probably best not to read too much into these.

3.  Just about every interior you can bring to mind has been given a significant facelift, with the Clock Town living areas, the Deku Palace, Darunia’s graveyard and the Zora Hall the biggest standouts. Just about everything that used to be two-dimensional to cut corners is now fully realised, and it’s great.

4.  A very special standalone mention must be given to the game’s shops, which are now bafflingly stunning to look at. Given how little time you will realistically spend in these places, their newfound visual scale is astonishing. The Clock Town Curiosity Shop now has you crossing a detailed boardwalk over what could quite easily be a marijuana plantation, with all kinds of items on various shelves around the room. The Zora shop has the proprietor looking rather pathetic in the middle of a gigantic shipwreck, and the Goron shop now sits on the edge of an underground cliff face straight out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. 

5.  For some odd reason, the previously red balloons in North Clock Town and the Bombers’ Hideout are now purple with a golden picture of Majora’s Mask emblazoned on their surfaces. This does not make a single lick of sense.

6.  All three of Link’s main transformations now change stance when the battle music starts near an enemy. They start shifting their weight on their feet while raising their arms in a fighting stance, which looks really cool on the likes of the Zora but is rather humorous to watch as far as the Deku Scrub is concerned.

7.  The graphical quality of all the transformations has definitely seen a significant bump, but the Scrub takes the cake for the biggest visual upgrade. Not only does his wooden skin look far more realistically textured, but his spin attack now turns the back of his head into some kind of bladed appendage. It’s hard to make it out with clarity since you only ever see it in motion, but it makes a lot more sense that Deku Link would be able to damage things with, uh, something sharp, as opposed to just the tip of his floppy green hat.

8.  For reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, the guards in the stealth maze section of the Deku Palace no longer have visible front-facing spotlights to indicate their field of vision after night falls. Maybe the developers wanted to make the section more difficult?

9.  Most of the masks have seen a pretty noticeable visual upgrade, but the Garo’s Mask deserves a mention for the fact that it now looks completely different – instead of resembling a normal garo enemy, it looks just like the head of the garo master mini-boss, complete with gold beak and purple robe covering.

10.  The ever-present day/time counter, which you understandably look at a lot during gameplay, now takes the form of a straightforward linear bar with colour coded sections denoting all three days and nights. It’s always on the top screen, and it’s much easier to understand than the elaborate lace-like sun and moon design of the original counter.
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OTHER CHANGES

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11.  The game is now portable, and in full stereoscopic 3D! Obvious, yes, but a change nonetheless. I will say that there are some pretty cool 3D moments in the game, particularly the Song of Time restart sequence, the stories told by Anju’s grandmother and the introductory boss cutscenes.

12.  The game now features three save files instead of two. Um, yay? Admittedly not the greatest change, especially given the portable nature of the remake, but if you have the space on the cartridge, why not, right?

13. On a technical level, the game now runs at a much more consistent 30 frames per second. With 3D on, which is how I played almost the entire game, it does drop south of that mark on a few enemy-heavy occasions, and in the Stone Tower Temple it was almost never stable, but the game’s performance is still miles ahead of the N64 version. Whenever I did turn the 3D off, for the record, the frame rate was solid as a rock.

14. When playing with the New 3DS’ built-in “C-Stick”, or with a Circle Pad Pro attached to one of the older 3DS models, you are able to control the game’s camera manually a la The Wind Waker. This is an awesome feature during most gameplay, because in most locations you can use the stick to zoom out and take in the game’s fresh coat of paint. I especially enjoyed looking around while airborne as the Deku Scrub. Doing this unlocks the camera, however, meaning it will no longer automatically follow Link right behind him. Thus precise Goron rolls and underwater Zora movement become much more difficult. Pressing L locks it again, however, which is easy enough.

15.  A weird one I noticed straight away – the Options menu is considerably more substantial than it used to be, now offering multiple camera control options and, in a strange move, the ability to increase the volume cap to a higher threshold. The game warns that this may damage your 3DS speakers, and indeed at maximum the sound did distort a little at this higher setting. So it’s mainly for headphone users, then, and since that’s normally how I play 3DS games, it’s definitely a nice option to have.

16.  Much like in the Ocarina of Time remake, there is now a giant Sheikah Stone, this time inside the clock tower next to the Happy Mask Salesman, that Link can crawl into to receive a hint on where to go next. This is mainly for newcomers to the Zelda franchise and while I ignored it completely, it’s a useful crutch for frustrated players.

17.  South Clock Town, the area in which you start at the beginning of each new cycle, has been expanded for convenience. The area behind the clock tower is now much bigger, accommodating the banker, who has moved from West Clock Town, and a slightly shifted owl statue for saving and fast travel. This makes a lot of sense, as you use the banker a lot.

18.  Speaking of owl statues, they now function in a very different way. They no longer require you to hit them with a sword to activate them – meaning you can save on your first three day cycle as the Deku Scrub – and they save your game completely, rather than simply functioning as restore points. As a result, playing the Song of Time no longer saves your game. Owl statues do everything. So if you mess something up, you don’t have to restart an entire cycle to fix it if you’re smart about saving. The new system is in my opinion an essential change, because portable games require tremendous flexibility by their very nature.

19. There are now additional statues scattered around Termina, with quills instead of owls at the head of their design. These are also used to save, but cannot be used as fast travel locations. Most of these are found in the first room of dungeons, but there are a few extra ones in the overworld too, and weirdly at least one instance of a statue that was formerly a full owl but has been downgraded (just outside the entrance to the Woodfall area).

20.  Just like in OoT 3D, the bottom screen of the 3DS is used as a touch interface to assign items/masks to different buttons, use said items directly during gameplay via virtual “I” and “II” buttons, as well as access maps and options. The most notable difference from the OoT setup is the addition of the Pictograph Box as a permanent fixture on the top left corner of the touch screen (once Link gets it within the game of course), replacing the normal first person view input. Additionally, the Ocarina of Time icon changes to depict pipes, drums or a skeleton guitar depending on what form Link is inhabiting, and finally, masks and items are no longer fixed in a set order on the screen, and can be moved around for easier access.

21.  You now have to be wearing the Goron Mask in order to impersonate the travelling Goron that coincidentally shares Link’s name and get into the reserved room at the Stock Pot Inn. In the original, you could get in just by talking to the Inn’s owner, Anju, even if you were just regular Link. And that kinda didn’t make sense.

22.  The bubble attack that Link’s Deku Scrub form unlocks the first time you save a Great Fairy is now far more useful, and I found myself using it in regular combat quite a lot in the game’s early stages. Whereas in the N64 version the bubble had an unpredictable flight path and barely any range, it now travels more or less in a straight line before hanging in the air for a second (assuming it doesn’t hit an enemy first) and then exploding with a surprisingly large blast radius.

23.  Staying on the Scrub, lining up platforms and bombing targets while airborne from a deku flower launch is now infinitely easier, thanks to the introduction of a down-facing camera view option. By pressing R while in flight, your view switches to a bird’s eye perspective, complete with a nice-looking target overlay. When combined with its improved bubble attack, this makes the Deku Scrub a transformation that players might actually want to use, rather than one that makes them feel helpless.

24.  The locations of the five Bombers that you have to find during the first three-day cycle have changed up a bit. Some of them are in the same positions they were in the original but others have definitely moved. Also, you can no longer use deku nuts to stun the Bombers, and they explicitly tell you this.

25. The Bombers’ Notebook is no longer given to you by the Bombers themselves, but by the Happy Mask Salesman, just after he heals you and gives you the Deku Mask. This completely erases the need to catch all five snotty kids twice.

26.  In a massive and very welcome change, the aforementioned Bombers will now relay rumours (essentially vague hints) to you throughout the game about sidequests leading to masks, pieces of heart, rupee rewards and so on. They will never tell you a rumour about a sidequest you have already finished, and any rumours they tell you will be recorded in a special section of your Bombers Notebook. Speaking of which…

27.  The Bombers Notebook is much more useful now. Devoted entirely to the START button, the notebook now takes up two screens and has three modes – a split-category summary of every ongoing, rumoured and completed sidequest, a live-updating breakdown of different characters’ schedules and finally an alarm screen, which is an absolute life saver as you can choose to let the game remind you when you might be missing something.

28.  Some sidequests or activities that used to give you rupees as a reward now give you Fishing Hole Passes instead. These are consumables that show up in your Gear screen, and it doesn’t seem like there is a cap on the amount you can have at one time.

29.  Why would they do that? Because, in a rather strange change, there are now two fishing holes in Termina – one on the road to the Southern Swamp and one in Great Bay. These locations are very similar to the fishing hole in Ocarina of Time, though they have a much wider variety of fish (each of which requires a different mask to attract) and aren’t connected to any significant in-game reward. As a bonus, the Fierce Deity Mask works in the fishing holes!

30.  Whereas before, the secret time-manipulating songs known as the Song of Double Time and the Inverted Song of Time were completely unacknowledged by the game even after you first discovered them, they now appear on your song sheet along with the rest of the game’s songs after you first talk to the scarecrow about their existence.

31.  This one is gigantic. When you play the Song of Double Time, instead of skipping forward in time by twelve hours, you now get to choose exactly how many hours you want to advance forward, up to the end of the current day. This just straight-up eliminates most of the game’s unnecessary waiting periods and cuts down the completion time of sidequests like the Anju & Kafei saga from around an hour to mere minutes.

32.  While we’re on songs and time saving, you can now skip the majority of the animations that play out after you play the aforementioned time manipulation songs, as well as the Song of Soaring. The Elegy of Emptiness animation now freezes you in place for less time than it did before, and there are other such song changes I’m probably neglecting to mention.

33.  Remember that really, really annoying animation of the flying Deku Scrub that played whenever you got anywhere near the yellow flower just outside the clock tower entrance in Clock Town? Well it’s now considerably shorter every time after the first time you see it. Mercy has prevailed.

34.  Kaepora Gaebora, everyone’s favourite twitchy owl guide, no longer waits for you outside the entrance to Woodfall to teach you the Song of Soaring. He now gives you the song way earlier, at the very entrance to the Southern Swamp. Handy.

35.  Near the Deku Palace, in the hole where you purchase the magic beans necessary to progress in the game, there is now an additional warp panel that drops you right outside the entrance to the building once you’ve made your transactions, saving you the time that used to involve deliberately getting caught by the guards and such.

36.  Partially as a by-product of the new touch screen real estate, the dungeon maps in this remake have been improved considerably. They can now be zoomed in and rotated so you can get your bearings easier, and in their zoomed state they showcase more room contours and details than ever before. What’s more, they pinpoint the locations of the stray fairies you have already collected, which comes in real handy when, like me, you are a moron and forget to give all the Snowhead Temple stray fairies to their host before resetting the day counter.

37.  Some of those dastardly stray fairies have changed location from their N64 homes, pretty much just to mess with returning players. It does give things a nice dash of freshness though.

38. All of the game’s bosses now have a giant red and yellow eyeball somewhere on or inside them, which swells up whenever the boss is stunned to present an obvious weak point to the player. This is now the only way to damage the bosses, unlike in the past when you could mostly just slash whatever. The design of the recurring eye resembles the eyes of Majora’s Mask itself, which is a cool way to reinforce the idea that the mask’s evil influence is linking everything together.

39. Odolwa, boss of the Woodfall Temple, has changed up his attack pattern significantly. He is now less predictable with what moves/allies he will call in and when, at least as long as you fight him as normal Link. On the other hand, he is now more predictable when you’re airborne as a deku scrub. As soon as you launch into the air he will stand still and look around like an idiot until you bomb him, land and damage him with your spin. When combined with change #22 and #23 on this list, this behaviour arguably “corrects” the thematic problem in the original version of the game wherein donning the mask matching the whole deku theme of the dungeon area actually used to put you at a disadvantage when compared to just using the un-transformed protagonist.

40. The Deku Butler chase to obtain the Mask of Scents is now slightly less frustrating, as the maze bit near the end has replaced the harmful walls of fire with metal bars. These kind of came out of nowhere in the older version, knocking you back and letting the butler get away, which was particularly annoying with the locked camera. Now, less so.

41. The sidequest involving shooting at the witch on the broomstick while on the swamp cruise boat now gives you an Empty Bottle as a reward rather than a Piece of Heart. I think this is because the game now seems hell-bent on giving you as many early opportunities as possible to gain Empty Bottles, so you have enough to avoid tearing your hair out with multiple Zora egg transportation trips later on in Great Bay. This is definitely something I can appreciate. The minigame is now laughably easy as well, mostly due to the precise gyro controls. Oh yeah, did I mention the game has gyro controls now? There’s that, too. As for how this change-up affects the structure of the rest of the game, the Empty Bottle you used to get from the gravedigging quest in Ikana Canyon now gives you a Piece of Heart instead. That squares things up nicely.

42.  The three-hit melee combo of Link’s Goron form is now noticeably faster to execute, making it a much more viable way to dispatch the super-agile, super-irritating Wolfos enemies in Snowhead. You are no longer locked into that agonising final butt slam animation for what used to feel like several seconds.

43.  The Goron curl mechanic now works differently. Instead of holding down the A button to roll and stay rolling, it’s now a toggle, meaning you press A once to go into the ball and press A again to exit. Not having to hold a button down all the time while rolling does take some getting used to at first, but it does make tough, precise rolling sections like the Goron Race less frustrating and allows New 3DS players to use their freed up thumb to rotate the camera while moving at high speeds, which is pretty cool.

44.  Though it has undergone the least amount of changes from its original form (and for good reason), the highly memorable Goht boss does see an alteration to one of its attacks. The giant mechanised beast’s annoying homing lightning attack now only occurs when it gets far enough ahead of you to stop running, look back and, you know, aim the lightning. This makes more sense, but it also means if you’re good enough to stay in hot pursuit for the whole fight you will only have to deal with its somewhat more manageable stalactite and bomb attacks.

45. This one may just be all in my head, but I swear Mikau’s floating nearly-dead Zora body is now further out to sea than it used to be, and the unskippable animation of his slow final walk is now over much quicker.

46.  This is almost certainly the single most controversial change to the game among fans. Link’s Zora form now has completely restructured swimming controls, with the fancy marine acrobatics of the past no longer tied to the standard A button “Swim” command. Said command now involves a much slower, easier to control swimming style not unlike that of Super Mario 64 or Banjo Kazooie. The older swimming style is still in the game, but requires you to hold the R button to activate the Zora’s magic barrier attack. This significant change does make sense within the tight underwater corridors of the Pirate’s Fortress or Great Bay Temple, but makes traversing the open waters of Great Bay a bit more of a chore and increases the difficulty of the game’s infamous beaver race, because you have to keep track of your magic meter in addition to trying to line up the spinning rings. It’s also very difficult to reach the New 3DS’ C-Stick while your two most used right-hand fingers are occupied by the A and R buttons, making manual camera control not nearly as much fun as it is during the Goron roll.

47.  Much like with the Goron transformation, the Zora’s standard melee combo has been changed up a little. Zora Link now ends his combo with a roundhouse kick, and his jumping attack is now an angled spin kick, which looks much more powerful and impressive than that weird rigid frontflip thing ever did.

48. In that one part of the Pirate Fortress where you need to step on a switch and then run to a cage below before it closes, the time limit has been noticeably increased. You no longer need the Bunny Hood or a carefully planned psychotic rolling route to beat the clock.

49.  The invisible soldier who gives you the Stone Mask has completely relocated. Instead of finding him inside the circle of stones at the entrance to Ikana Canyon, you now find him in the very centre of the Pirate Fortress courtyard in Great Bay. Considering the number one use for the mask in the game is to make you invisible to the pirate guards, the relocation makes complete sense.

50.  In a similar move to the Deku Palace change near the magic bean seller, there has been a slight space shuffle inside the Pirate Fortress. Just after you clear out the pirates in the hookshot chest room by shooting the beehive, you can just run down a platform and jump right down to the chest. Before you needed to exit the room and re-enter the compound from a lower door outside.

51.  After the seahorse shows you the correct path through the murky water to the lair of the giant eels, the shiny creature will now do you a solid and mark the exact pathway on the map sitting on your bottom screen. What a guy.

52.  What used to be the least useful mask in the entire game, the Circus Leader’s Mask, has now been renamed as the Troupe Leader’s Mask. In addition, it now has its very own dedicated sidequest, which activates once you wear it and talk to Gorman (the so-called “troupe leader”) while he is sleeping in the inn on the morning of the second day. He gets all nostalgic and asks you to get a bottle of “mystery milk” (an entirely new item) from his brothers on Milk Road. You then have to run back and deliver the milk to Gorman within a certain time limit, upon which he drinks the milk and tells you to keep the bottle. Thus, yes, there is now a seventh Empty Bottle in the game. A note, though: This new quest does not activate if you have time running slower via the Inverted Song of Time – I learned this the hard way.

53.  Navigating everyone’s favourite dungeon, the Great Bay Temple, is now a tad easier to understand on account of the changes to the Dungeon Map inside the temple. The map now illustrates, in conveniently colour-coded fashion, the exact pathways of the water pressure tubes throughout the building, letting you know at a glance what you have and haven’t turned on.

54.  The Ice Arrows now function a little differently when freezing water to make platforms. Whereas before you could make platforms just about anywhere on the water’s surface, there are now designated glittering spots where you can freeze the water – shooting an unmarked section will no longer do anything special. This does eliminate the risk of not leaving enough room for the right amount of frozen platforms on an approach to a difficult ledge, but the potential for icy shenanigans is also minimised now. There is one place where you can freeze any part of the water, however, and that is in the Great Bay Temple’s boss room. Which brings me to…

55.  Gyorg, the formerly pathetic boss that did not do a great job of following up the awesome fun of fighting Goht, is now much meaner. The fight against the oversized nightmare piranha has seen a pretty significant overhaul, with the lengthy second half of the battle taking place entirely underwater. In this part you are required to swim around as the Zora and cut the chains holding down a selection of landmines, which are inhaled by Gyorg if you time the severing correctly (which is easier said than done) until you are able to damage his giant red eye. While any change to the Gyorg fight was always likely to be an improvement, the newfound scale of the whole ordeal definitely makes the game’s third boss fight feel more like a natural progression in difficulty and, for lack of a better word, “epic-ness”, from its second.

56.  The item requirements of the labyrinthine Gibdo well in Ikana Canyon have been shuffled around. Whereas you could get to every room with a Blue Potion, 10 magic beans and your wits in the N64 version, you now need to bring a Red Potion and, mercifully, only a single magic bean in terms of outside supplies. The rest you can find inside the mini-dungeon, providing you have enough bottles of course.

57.  The crucial act of literally flipping the Stone Tower Temple on its head in order to complete the dungeon is now much easier, as you no longer need to play the annoying Elegy of Emptiness just to reveal the mark that does the trick. It’s now sitting right above the temple entrance, ready to be shot by a Light Arrow. Additionally, several rooms of the Stone Tower Temple have been either tweaked or changed entirely, but I don’t have a strong enough memory of the original version of the temple to list them all definitively. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s by far the most altered dungeon in the game, though.

58.  The Twinmold boss battle has seen an even greater change than the Gyorg one. The entire fight is completely different. The first sign of this is that the Giant’s Mask is no longer found in the temple proper, but inside the boss room itself, and even then it only appears in a treasure chest halfway through the battle. Before then your objective is to shoot the weak spots of the blue half of the boss as it sails over your head, all the while dodging its attacks. Then things get real, because as soon as Link puts on the Giant’s Mask he turns all brutish, punching the crap out of pillars, Twinmold underlings and of course the boss itself, complete with deep, distorted cries of “Hyaaah!” The epic fight even ends with a spinning hurl Super Mario 64 style. There is just no contest as to which version of the Twinmold boss is better. The 3DS version actually feels like the intense boss of an intense dungeon, rather than a wimpy little worm.

59.  The Zora section of the mini-dungeon inside the moon has thankfully had a structural change-up. It now involves segmented rooms with switches that open gates that you can only reach by “dolphin diving” out of the water onto each corresponding ledge. The new structure is also much more forgiving on players who take the wrong underwater fork, usually taking them straight to a dead end rather than making them choose further forks that only lead to nothingness. Additionally, not all forks are left-or-right choices, with the final one taking on a top-middle-bottom choice instead.

60.  There is an all-new orchestral arrangement that plays during the second half of the credits (when the staff at Grezzo get their moment in the spotlight) and it is amazing. I especially love the brief Song of Healing flourish that caps it off. Listen below:

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