Here’s another dual Game Spotlight for the two recent Legend of Zelda games for the Nintendo DS. Expect a couple of more dual reviews in the coming months since No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are on their way down to Australia.
The Wind Waker was a shock to Zelda fans when it was first revealed. Its cartoonish art style didn’t seem to go down very well initially, however after the ranting was silenced and people actually played the game, they realised it was one hell of a game and that the art style itself had a lot to do with why it was so great. I’m personally glad that Nintendo didn’t take what people had to say initially to heart, because the art style of The Wind Waker has lived on and is present in The Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.
From the trend, it looks as if the younger Toon Link has become the official Link of handheld Zelda games while the elder, more serious looking Link is seeing his tour of duty only on home consoles. Going even further, it looks as if the two Zelda titles for the Nintendo DS has Nintendo expanding on The Wind Waker timeline, much like Twilight Princess expanded upon the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask timeline…
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Unlike the first time Nintendo showed off The Wind Waker to the masses, the masses were pleased when they saw that Toon Link would return for the first Zelda DS game because returning with Toon Link would be The Wind Waker’s charm… or so we hoped… From the very first moment the prologue of the game shows you that this Link is in fact the same Hero of Winds from The Wind Waker, even chronicling his adventures from the Wind Waker in a very nice way… however, Phantom Hourglass doesn’t actually transfer over much of the charm The Wind Waker had… but enough of it.
Link, Zelda (aka Tetra) and her pirate crew are back… which is awesome. However Link is quickly separated from most of the familiar Wind Waker characters early on. The new characters of Phantom Hourglass are pretty standard and nothing much to write about… until you meet him! Linebeck! He is single-handedly the best part of Phantom Hourglass for me… the first time Link meets him, Linebeck ends up picking Link up and shaking him senseless… the man was not afraid of child abuse and not afraid to talk big about himself.
By this point in time, we’re all pretty familiar with what the DS can do and it’s no surprise that Phantom Hourglass has you controlling Link using the touchscreen. Controlling Link feels nice and tight and the gestures you make with the stylus to allow Link to attack with his sword as well as performing rolls are done very well… though at times it can be a bit of a hassle trying to control Link and see where you’re going since your hand ends up being in the way of the screen.
Sailing also returns to Zelda, though this time it’s a more restricted experience than you would’ve hoped for. You plot a course on the map using your stylus and then off you go on-rails following the course you had laid out. It may not give you anywhere near the sense of freedom that The Wind Waker gave, however I think it worked out pretty well for itself with Phantom Hourglass.
Phantom Hourglass is an enjoyable game, but definitely not among my favourite Zelda games. The inclusion of The Wind Waker crew as well as the addition of Linebeck carried the story along for me, and the touchscreen controls and clever little gameplay mechanics were enjoyable. I’m glad we were given the chance to see where the Hero of Winds ended up after The Wind Waker.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
The first glimpse of Spirit Tracks, for me, weren’t altogether good. In fact, the first thing I thought when seeing the footage of Link riding a train across Hyrule was that someone over at the development team was taking the on-rails concept introduced in Phantom Hourglass’s sailing element a bit too literally… honestly, I didn’t really enjoy Spirit Tracks all that much and feel it’s one of the worst Zelda games to be made so far…
My reasoning is that while Phantom Hourglass was able to use the novelty of the DS to its advantage, the same old tricks won’t work twice and Spirit Tracks is just the same old tricks recycled in a new game. Sure, it expands The Wind Waker timeline into the future and explains how the Hero of Winds, Zelda and her crew founded a new Hyrule… that’s all nice and everything… but this game really didn’t have much else. The new things it did include ended up being more of a nuisance than anything else.
The first nuisance is the whole train concept. The concept itself seems like a very fun idea, and in my mind it also does seem pretty fun… however, in practice the whole train track idea just served to slow down the pace of the game and curse the game every time you saw one of those bomb trains coming towards you. Since you were in a train there really wasn’t much you could do aside from going backward and forward and following the tracks laid out on the map.
The second nuisance is the dreaded Pan Flute… give me an Ocarina any day compared to the hell I had to go through with that Pan Flute. Most of the tunes you have to play throughout the game are pretty simple, but there are certain moments where you have to learn key songs to make new spirit tracks appear… There were times when I ended up not playing the game for a couple of weeks because I kept on trying to play the song and kept failing. This is the most I’ve ever failed at something in a game ever… Blow into the DS microphone and slide the pan flute using the stylus on the touchscreen to play the right notes… sounds simple… in reality it’ll make you want to throw your DS into the wall. Even worse is trying to play this game on any form of public transport. As soon as you get up to a part that requires the pan flute you’ll have to save and wait till you get to a quieter location to continue.
Playing Spirit Tracks is an exhausting and disappointing experience for many reasons. With games you enjoy, you don’t mind that they end up taking longer than expected to finish because you don’t really want it to end. I’ve found that Spirit Tracks is the opposite for me… it just keeps on going when I want it to end so I can get it over with already!
- Caption Corner 1: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker | 13 November 2010
- Game Spotlight: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword | 11 December 2011
- Game Spotlight: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask | 6 November 2010
- Games that should be: Star Wolf | 25 May 2010
- The ultimate power of art style and direction | 27 May 2010
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