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SummaryFun game, but very long.
The GoodThe Phantom Hourglass once again proves that Nintendo can make excellent games which make the most of their consoles. It is perfectly tuned to the DS's capabilities and turns the stylus and touch-screen into a fantastic control mechanism. This is the main way of playing the game, using a clever indirect control mechanism of moving a fairy character who Link follows. Further swipes and circles and Link draws his sword and slashes, making fighting fun as you enact combat moves. It all feels so natural it is a wonder not all DS games are so easy to control.
The story is a direct sequel to the Wind Waker, which may be because of the graphical style. The simple cell-shaded characters transfer well to the DS and create crisp, clean worlds that are beautiful to look at, especially at sea.
The plot is dense and as with all recent Zelda games it has a certain plot device to it. This time it's boats, again like the Wind Waker except without the sailing. Once again you appear in a mysterious land which is under the grip of some terrible evil and Link must travel from one island to another sequentially freeing them. This he does with the aid of his trusty steamboat and its rather conniving captain. The boat is customisable and you'll find yourself carrying out many side-quests to power up the vessel and fight off marauding pirates.
The second literal plot device is the titular Phantom Hourglass. Early on you discover the entrance to a subterranean world which must be conquered to save the land, except your time down there is limited by the amount of sand in your hourglass. To spend more time in the dungeon you must liberate the islands, turning their captors into sand. Of course some of the items needed to liberate the islands are in the dungeon, and so the gentle back-and-forth unravelling of the plot happens.
The BadIt is this unravelling that really is a solid games undoing. Whilst the control system is good and graphics excellent, the game is just too long. I got bored with the side-quests and endless to-and-fro-ing of the islands. It started off feeling like exploration but towards the end just made me feel the developers were milking it.
This is especially true of the end, I don't think I've ever played a game with such a long finale. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the credits and knew it was finally over.