Majora’s Mask was a product of product of Aonuma’s boredom

This is something I meant to write about a long time ago, but never got around to it. Back in 2015, Majora’s Mask was released for the 3DS. I even talked about it a little bit back in the day when it was just a rumour.

Anyway, the topic I wanted to talk about was this chat (or interview, if you want to be formal) between Satoru Iwata and Eiji Aonuma for an episode of Iwata Talks around the time of the launch of Majora’s Mask on the 3DS.

Iwata: First let’s start by asking you about the Nintendo 64 version. If I remember correctly, the development for Majora’s Mask began when somebody requested that it be made in one year.

Aonuma: You’re right. Since we already made The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, we had 3D models that we invested a lot of time in to build. This all started by (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san asking whether we could make a game in one year if we repurpose the models. But we were already talking about trying to make Master Quest for Nintendo 64DD

Iwata: At the time when Ocarina of Time came out, there was a plan in the works of releasing Master Quest for 64DD.

Aonuma: Correct. We were told to repurpose the dungeons from Ocarina of Time and make a game out of it, and I was handed the baton to make that happen. However, when we made Ocarina of Time, we made those dungeons thinking they were the best we could make. That’s when Miyamoto-san asked me to remake them, so I hesitantly obliged… but I couldn’t really get into it.

Iwata: You just made the ultimate dungeon, so you didn’t want to ruin a perfect formula.

Aonuma: …So I secretly started making new dungeons that weren’t in Ocarina of Time, and that was much more fun to me. So, I grew up the courage to ask Miyamoto-san whether I could make a new game, he replied by saying it’s ok if I can make it in a year.

So in summary, the reason why we got Majora’s Mask and not Master Quest (at least not until years later) was because amending the current set of dungeons would be to break what was already perfect. You can tell this is quite true when playing OOT vs playing MQ back-to-back.

Later on in the interview, Aonuma also says that MM is based mostly on concepts that weren’t touched much upon in OOT such as masks or the daily cycle. Originally they were going to make the cycle be seven days, but the time constraints made it be only three instead.

Iwata: You needed a completely new idea to make something in such a short turnaround like one year, and that was the “Three-Day System”. Aonuma: Right. But at first, it was one week.

Iwata: Three days was originally one week?

Aonuma: That’s right. But when you returned to the first day it was like, “Do I have to go through an entire week again…?”, so we thought three days would be just right.

Iwata: Wait, it got decided just like that? (laughs)

Aonuma: (laughs) In this game the townspeople do different things each day and many different things happen, but when the timespan becomes a week, that’s just too much to remember. You can’t simply remember who’s where doing what on which day.

Iwata: Moreover, you probably wouldn’t have been able to make it in a year if you were aiming to make a game filled with so much content for seven days.

Aonuma: Right, we never would have been able to do it. We felt it would be best to make it a three-step process, and we compressed all sorts of things we had planned for over a week into three days.

Iwata: That’s how it led to the game feeling like it’s packed to the gills with content. You squished all sorts of ideas you were originally planning to use in a week into only three days.

You can read the full interview here (it’s paginated into several pages). It’s really worth the read if you like all the little details of Majora’s Mask.

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Aonuma and Iwata have a look back at Majora's Mask 15 years after its original release on the Nintendo 64 and reveal a few secrets about its development.
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