Majora’s Mask 3D features numerous changes from its original version on the Nintendo 64, and it in turn offers us unique insights into how the minds behind the Zelda series have changed over time. By examining differences between the remake and the original, we can explore the possible motivations behind these changes and learn how the perspectives and opinions of Nintendo’s finest may have shifted and varied over the past fifteen years. Specifically, through the study of certain magical abilities that have been altered for Majora’s Mask 3D, we can reveal a fundamental shift in the mindset concerning magic power in the Zelda games.

We began by discussing the Deku Bubble and how its changes show this shift by degrading one of the game’s early lessons about conserving magic. Today we’ll be continuing our study of magical abilities by focusing on the next of Link’s transformations, Goron Link. Although his particular ability has not seen such obvious changes as his Deku counterpart’s, there is still much that we can glean about Nintendo’s mindset by looking at the more subtle differences in the remade title.

Without further ado, let’s begin today’s analysis.

Goron Link: The Spike Roll

The Goron Mask is a fan favorite in the community, in no small part due to one of its primary and most-used abilities in the game: Goron Link’s capacity to curl into a ball and roll along the ground at ever-increasing speeds, until he takes off like a rocket and spikes shoot out of his back. It’s an exciting and empowering moment when the player first takes off like that, suddenly able to fly across almost any landscape with a speed they could never have expected of the big and bulky Goron form.

Players of the original game are likely well-familiar with how this mechanic functions, but let us recap for those who have not yet managed to experience it. When Link takes on his Goron form, holding the A button allows him to curl into a ball; moving the control stick at this point enables him to swiftly roll in that direction. Should he roll a long enough distance without hitting any bumps in the road, he will eventually charge up the roll and enter Spike Roll mode, a much faster roll that can damage enemies and use specially-placed ramps to leap over certain pits. The Spike Roll does require magic power, however, and once it runs out Goron Link is forced to revert to his standard roll speed until this magic is refilled.

Given its usefulness and positive reception, any changes made to this ability would no doubt require careful consideration and need to be minor so as to retain the mechanism’s appeal. Two such changes managed to make it through to the 3DS version: a functional change involving the controls for the Spike Roll, and an aesthetic change to the visual effect associated with this ability.

Neither of these are major changes, and players should not expect them to have any substantial effect on gameplay. But when considering both together, we can observe yet another way in which Nintendo’s thinking about magic power has changed over the years.

Functional Change: The Curl Button

The change in controls related to this ability is very slight, so much so that few gaming sites and previewers have bothered to even mention it. It is a simple change to the curl button: no longer are gamers required to hold the button down. One press will have Goron Link curl, and releasing it does nothing; it is only with a second press that the mode is exited and Link returns to his upright position.

Much like the changes to the Deku Bubble, the shift in controls for the Goron curl and roll makes sense from a useability standpoint. In the original

Majora’s Mask, if the player is rolling a fair distance, their fingers might tire from holding the button down for the whole journey; their thumb might also slip off the button from time to time, exiting the Spike Roll automatically and forcing them to charge it up again. This simple change allows gamers to relax a bit while rolling from place to place, and it ensures that unintentional motions of the hand won’t unexpectedly end the mode. For many gamers, this will likely be seen as a big help.

But what do they show us about the game from a design standpoint? When we look at the original version and the remake’s controls, what can we infer about Nintendo and its change in mindset?

Let us first examine the other half of the Spike Roll’s changes, and come back to these questions after we have the rest of the big picture in mind.

Aesthetic Change: The Charging Animation

By “charging animation”, I mean the familiar fiery aura that appears around Goron Link as he rolls in the original game. The aura begins as only a small pinprick at his sides, but as the roll continues it grows until it encompasses Goron Link’s form completely, at which point the Spike Roll is achieved and the orange-red hue vanishes from around him.

For the remake, Nintendo has opted to redo this animation in a surprising way: they have actually made the aura

less noticeable than its original version. You can see it in this video below:

The aura now starts off full-sized, surrounding Link completely, but at the beginning it’s only a few tiny orange streaks in the air that can hardly be seen. As the charging animation continues, additional lines are added so as to cover a wider area, thus making the aura stand out a bit more, but it still remains rather translucent up until the point that the charging completes and you enter the Spike Roll.

I call this change surprising because, if anything, I’d have expected Nintendo to do the opposite – given the smaller screen size this game will be played on, it would not have been unreasonable to make the aura

more noticeable so that players could easily determine how close they were to entering the Spike Roll state. The charging animation for the Goron Roll serves as a visual cue for the player, informing them at any moment just how near or how far away they are from achieving the Spike Roll; by opting for a less visually noticeable animation, Nintendo has weakened one of the key methods for tracking this progress.

Granted, this won’t matter much in practice, though it still could affect the gameplay a bit. All this does it make it a tad trickier to keep track of how close you are to obtaining max speed, and that’s not a very big of a deal; most

Majora’s Mask veterans will be able to adapt to the change without much difficulty, and newcomers won’t know anything else anyway. So it’s not really something worth complaining about.

But then…that’s not why we’re looking at these changes, now is it?

The Meaning Behind the Changes

So there are two rather minor difference to the Goron Roll that we’ve zeroed in on for today’s discussion: first, the Curl button no longer needs to remain pressed in order to keep Link curled up; second, the Spike Roll’s charging animation is now much less visually noticeable.

As we said yesterday, the changes observed in these articles

are not necessarily bad ones – especially not the minor ones we’re looking at today. Even with the other alterations we have and will discuss, we won’t know if other tweaks and alterations have been made to compensate for these discussion points. Indeed, if these were poor decisions, in all likelihood we’d have seen articles and videos about them from gamers who have already received review copies. No one has really bothered to mention this article’s changes at all, so chances are good that any effect they’ve had on the actual gameplay of Majora’s Mask is negligible.

Yet that is not what these articles are trying to focus on. Rather, we are attempting to use these differences to see how Nintendo’s stance on magic has shifted over the past decade and a half. These two changes are especially telling once you start to consider them from the stance of a player who learned well the lesson that the Deku Bubble originally sought to teach:

that magic is something to be conserved.

For players who focus on conserving their magic power, the Goron Spike Roll has never been something to use on a constant basis; rather, it was a tool to be reserved for only the moments when it was required to complete the task at hand. Only when that speed was a necessity – when racing your opponents, as in the Goht battle or the Goron Races, or when ramping over gaps, as seen prominently in the Snowhead Temple – did they rely on the magic-consuming Spike Roll. At all other times, they would avoid letting their roll reach full speed so as to avoid using magic.

Such players should quickly see that these two tiny alterations will make things just a tad more challenging for them. Before, they could watch an easily-discerned visual cue on their roll’s progress and simply release a button to avoid spending magic on the Spike Roll; now they must pay close attention to an easily-ignored aura and press a button in order to exit that rolling state. Before, avoiding the Spike Roll occurred when they relaxed (observe the aura, release the button); now they are required to work to save their power (focus on the aura, press the button). To put it simply, the game design reveals the following about Nintendo’s mindset:

In Majora’s Mask, using magic required the player to exert effort; in Majora’s Mask 3D, they must exert effort to avoid using it.

Again, this “effort” is marginal, and the real focus should be on what the default state of the game’s play and controls are. The passive response is now to use magic; before, it would avoid magic usage. Nintendo has made it so that cancelling magic usage requires effort and intent by the player, where before it was the opposite – players had to purposefully hold the button, intending to use magic, in order to enter the Spike Roll.

This lesson is somewhat echoed in our previous focal point, the Deku Bubble: the many risky factors of using the Bubble in the original game served to force the player to exert effort to use it effectively. It was on the player to judge the distance, aim correctly, account for the wobbling flight path, and ensure they had enough time to get the bubble large enough. For the remake, while avoiding the use of the Bubble does not require much effort, it is quite clear that the effort involved with actually using it has been greatly lessened.

We will be able to see another example of this much more clearly, and in a much more pronounced way, during tomorrow’s discussion. I imagine those of you who have recognized the pattern of these articles can already take a good guess at what we’ll be examining then. Hope to see you all back here as we continue.

Until then, this is Alpha, signing off to go do…stuff.

The Transformation of

Majora’s Mask

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