Video game remakes… they’re a controversial affair, a discussion that can generate starkly opposing opinions, but rarely an event that has legions of gamers over the moon…

Majora's Mask 3DS
Operation Moonfall was a success! Next: Operation AdamSmithforPayRise! No? …anyone??

And ‘legions’, with its connotations of organised and united militia, is a fitting term to describe many of the gamers who have welcomed the Nintendo 64 cult classic Majora’s Mask back onto the eye-popping portable that is the 3DS, as so many have been actively campaigning for its re-release since July 2011. Operation Moonfall, as the online campaign became known, gained traction early after Nintendo‘s director Eiji Aonuma mentioned during interview that he wasn’t entirely ruling out remaking Majora’s Mask some time in the future. Within a week, Operation Moonfall’s petition pulled in over 10,000 signatures, and began a three-year quest that Link himself would have been proud of. Almost poetically, on November 5th during Nintendo‘s latest ‘Nintendo Direct’ – a monthly/bi-monthly online presentation used as a platform for gaming announcements and updates – the gamers who had been fighting tirelessly for their treasure could light their fireworks: Majora’s Mask 3DS was, at last, marked on their dungeon map.

Set for release in the spring of 2015, the hype and hysteria is already unprecedented, especially for a remake. Yes, The Legend of Zelda is a series that always generates slightly more than a ‘Tingle amongst the Nintendo demographic, but so too do the games attached to a certain portly-plumber. Yet, when Super Mario 64 DS donned its dungarees 8 years after its original release, it was greeted with a lukewarm embrace by many who, though not displeased by its re-release, perhaps would have preferred a new outing from the Bowser-bashing brothers. Majora’s Mask 3DS conversely, with at least 5 months until dawn of the first day, is heading for our shelves much like the moon above Termina: burning up on entry. It’s hotter than hot; there truly seems to be something extraordinary about Nintendo’s tale of magic and masks…

 

Majora's Mask 3DS
As if a remake wasn’t enough, Nintendo are offering a special edition with Majora goodies aplenty

Whether this early eagerness will translate into remarkable sales remains to be seen, though for the true Deku-nuts out there, the special edition steelbook version containing pin-badge and poster will no doubt have them spending their hard-earned rupees on a pre-order. Mario’s primary outing for the DS was still a commercial success despite a mixed reception, though this was aided by its bundling with the brand new console, so comparisons are difficult to make between the two. In fact, comparisons to any re-release is difficult, even one from the same series. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was incredibly well-received both critically and commercially, which wasn’t unexpected for a remake of arguably the best-loved  Zelda title since the series’ inception in 1986. Considering this was the game’s fifth iteration, though, the anticipation and intensity with which it was received was considerably quieter and more reserved than the bolero of fire that has been the welcome thus far for its spiritual successor. What is it about this instalment of the longest-running action/adventure series of all time that has got everyone so hypnotised? Is it worthy of such worship?

The story of Majora’s Mask plays out over 72-hours as Link finds himself tumbling into an unfamiliar reality where he must find a way to beat the seemingly insurmountable odds he is faced with: the impending doom of a falling moon set to destroy the world (no sweat for a pre-pubescent boy with a slingshot, right? …right?!!). If that wasn’t compelling enough on its own, where the true fascination lies is in the antagonist: the Skull Kid. Only a child himself, the eerie imp steals an ancient mask from a travelling salesmen, before being possessed by the evil within it and used as a puppet to the mask’s will. Majora’s Mask, the true antagonist of the game, is unlike any other evil Link has faced: Ganon, Demise, Zant, and Vaati all have clear motives for their wrongdoing, yet Majora is dead set on absolute, reasonless destruction. This darkness overwhelms the game, and is not akin to anything before seen in the Zelda canon. These three elements – the premise of time, the curiosity of evil for the innocent, and the incomprehensibility of pure evil – are what I believe make Majora’s Mask so poignant and desirable, especially in today’s society.

Majora's Mask 3DS
Not the moon landing you’d hoped for? Fear and consequence pave the way in Majora’s Mask 3DS

In this age of insistent immediacy, it seems like there is quite literally no limit to our potential as humans. Things that, fifteen years ago, would have been relative impossibilities for most of the population now, at the click of a mouse, are available for all to behold. And though on the surface, this explosion of excess in which we play out our lives seems wonderful at times, the pressure of sheer possibility may very well be the thing that crushes us mentally and emotionally. We often feel like we could be doing fifty other things aside from whatever it is we’re doing, and part of us feels like we should be doing more, that we should be making more of ourselves, especially in the midst of this maelstrom of opportunity. We’re more aware of celebrity now than we ever were, more aware of what our friends are doing at every waking moment, and more aware that there simply isn’t time to do everything. Majora’s Mask is laced with side-quests that all act as distractions from the imminent end of the world, and what’s worse is that the game encourages you partake in these diversions by tugging at your emotions: these characters have needs too, and if Link doesn’t help them, they may well perish unfulfilled or without their loved ones.

O THE GUILT!!!

Something about how physically exhausting responsibilities can become in a time crammed with accountability rings true to us, and this is something very few video games have been able to capture. It is the incessant tick-tocking of the clock that is enough to wrinkle even the most hardcore of gamers’ brows.

Majora's Mask 3DS
Sometimes it’s not what’s behind the mask we need to be afraid of…

Curiosity is another key player that makes Majora’s Mask stand out in an ‘art imitating life’ fashion. No person living today can say that they haven’t been tempted to stray from the cobbled path and explore the depths of the untamed wilderness, and the Skull Kid represents each and every one of us when faced with a moral decision. Do we take the mask, or don’t we? Are we compelled by curiosity, the excitement of the unknown, or do we dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s? The power of the mask in the game is a representation of the hold such action can have on us, but also of the costs we may pay should we continue along the path of evil for too long. A mask is a face we conceal our true identity behind, and from within its disguise we can feel blameless, anonymous, and powerful. Power in the wrong hands is dangerous: a theme The Legend of Zelda addresses regularly with the battle for the Triforce, but this time, the ‘wrong hands’ are a faceless evil. And a faceless evil is an evil far harder to destroy.

Majora's Mask 3DS
If you go down to the woods today… …avoid that hole to another reality, okay?

Fear is oddly irresistible for many, at least in small, controllable doses. Horror films have made a killing (excuse the pun) based upon that psychology alone for years, and this fear is similar to the exhilaration we feel when we do something we know we shouldn’t. And sure, Skull Kid is probably pretty happy about his theft for a short time, but once the mask is on, suddenly there’s no pressing pause and the horror film won’t end and it’s getting louder and more horrific by the second – the irresistibility fades: fast. Suddenly the fear becomes disabling, and we shut down, unable to comprehend what we’ve unleashed. Fear is one of the most powerful motivators known to man, and as Zelda games go, this sure as hell ain’t another Windwaker…

To conclude, we’ve been walking in the sunshine for some time now, and we’re longing once again for the storm clouds to gather. Windwaker was glorious, but we needed the brash, calloused, overcast catacombs of Twilight Princess to reset the scales. And the radiant Skyward Sword was released 3 years ago this month, and has left us with the craving for depravity all over again. Zelda U isn’t gracing our gaming gullets until later in 2015, and that means Majora’s Mask 3DS picked the perfect time to remind us just how fragile the balance of the world really is. For many of us who are eagerly awaiting the remake, the original was a disorientating ordeal we overcame as young children, but this time around, we are older, wiser, and able to much more coherently appreciate the depth of the psychology that stems from the wearing of masks, and the turns good men take when they are afforded too great a power.

Is Majora’s Mask 3DS worth the hype? Absolutely. Even as a straight re-release, the game offers a near-perfect experience unlike any other of its genre and depth. With the amendments in graphical quality, content, and whatever else Nintendo may have up its sleeve, this is a must-own title, whether you’ve strayed from the path into the forest once before or not.

After all, we all need some darkness so we can better appreciate the light…

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