The timely tweaks in Majora's Mask 3D

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask will be nearly 15 years old by the time it returns in remastered form in February, coinciding with the launch of Nintendo's New 3DS XL. First released for the Nintendo 64, the unorthodox adventure has since steeped in praise for its strict structure and melancholy premise. Traveling back and forth through time, the hero of Majora's Mask helps the doomed inhabitants of Clock Town escape their final 72 hours, just days before they're crushed by an evil head from outer space. It's almost the saddest Star Trek episode.

Considered a classic for many reasons and frequently protested by pro-lunar groups (for its intense vilification of moons), Majora's Mask is nevertheless a creaky product of its time. Revisiting it now raises a question faced by many remakes, especially those with seniority: Is accurate preservation the best way to serve a cherished game, or can the game be meaningfully improved to match the embellishments of a fond memory? Nintendo has decided, as it did with 2011's Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remake for 3DS, to pursue slight improvements alongside an obvious graphical update.

A New Quest Log

Key in advancing through Majora's Mask is proper time management, with Link eventually dashing through Clock Town on a schedule of sorts. People still have their lives in Clock Town, even as they're winding down to their last three days in Termina. If Link is to succeed, he has to listen to rumors, be in the right places at the right times and adhere to a plan – and he gets better each time he restarts his loop through time.

To help keep track of who needs what, and when, the "Bombers' Notebook" item has been changed to resemble a modern quest log, with menus split into ongoing quests, rumors that may point to new quests, and completed quests. Before its 3D facelift, the notebook, given to Link by a gang of feisty boys calling themselves the "Bombers Secret Society of Justice," depicted a summarized timeline of events, with stickers denoting Link's progress in making appointments, completing tasks and finishing all tasks for an individual. Now, you have an organized view of quests and timely appointments, and can even set alarms to warn you of impending events and meetings. It's just like real life!

Simplified Saving

According to Alison Rapp, Product Marketing Specialist for Nintendo's Treehouse team, Majora's Mask 3D is also streamlining the save system. The only way to save progress is to visit an owl statue, though Rapp says more of them have been scattered around the land of Termina to allow for a swift exit from the portable game.

Time Travel by the Hour

Link's magical ocarina (and other instruments, depending on which mask he's wearing) again plays a central role in his movements through time, with different songs altering the world or time in several ways. The Song of Double Time pushes the clock forward if you don't have anything else to do, for example, but it would only advance you in 12-hour increments in the original game. This time, Rapp says, you can speed up to any hour of the current day.

And Finally

Beyond the tweaks to how time is handled, Rapp says Majora's Mask 3D also makes substantial adjustments to boss battles (making it harder to exploit failings in their attack patterns), the map screen and ... fishing poles. Now you've got two fishing poles, meant to catch ten types of fish each.

Well, they didn't mess with that part of Legend of Zelda. In the literal face of impending earthly doom, there's still time for fishing in Majora's Mask.

[Images: Nintendo]