The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

aka: Zelda no Densetsu: Mugen no Sunadokei, Zelda ui Chonsol: Monghwan ui Moraesigye
Moby ID: 30522
Nintendo DS Specs
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The Legend of Zelda arrives on the Nintendo DS with The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. This game starts off where the Wind Waker for the GameCube ended. Link, his friend Tetra and her gang of pirates are sailing unexplored seas when they come across a ghost ship. When Tetra wants to explore the ship she disappears and Link, who goes after her, falls into the sea and becomes stranded on an unknown island.

While remaining true to the traditional Legend of Zelda formula, this game's controls are drastically different from other Zelda titles. This time you only use the touch screen to make Link move and attack instead of buttons. For example, swinging your sword is done with a short line horizontally or vertically in front of Link, or by tapping on a specific enemy. Link can somersault forward by having the player draw a small circle on the edge of the screen while running. The boomerang can be thrown in a specific path by drawing its exact route on the touch screen.

You can also use the touch screen to make notes of secret treasures and items on the map simply by writing them down. Sailing across the sea is also done by simply drawing the route on the map. While the route is being traveled, the player can pan the screen around to look out for enemies and other obstacles. The ship's route can also be changed while traveling if something else catches the player's attention. Later on, the player can even go fishing in the sea, using the stylus to pull the rod and reel in their catch.

The game is presented in the same cel-shaded style as the Wind Waker but it is displayed from a classic top-down perspective.

Spellings

  • ゼルダの伝説 夢幻の砂時計 - Japanese spelling
  • 젤다의 전설 몽환의 모래시계 - Korean spelling

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Credits (Nintendo DS version)

94 People (84 developers, 10 thanks) · View all

Director
Sub Director
Planning
Programming Lead
Map Programming
Object Programming
Player Programming
Enemy Programming
NPC Programming
Ship Programming
UI System Programming
Wireless Programming
Design Lead
Player Design
Enemy Design
NPC Design
Map/Object Design
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 88% (based on 107 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 66 ratings with 4 reviews)

When the legend is bigger than the game

The Good
This is the first Zelda for the Nintendo DS system and has many important new features. It uses cel-shaded graphics that really suits with the essence of the DS and a new control system never seen before in a game of the series. The whole game is controlled with the stylus, every movement is done with it and you don't need the buttons. Anyway, you can use the buttons as shortcuts, but you don't need them to finish the game.

That feature is the most important one, with that, this new Zelda is the most different one in some years. When Ocarina of time was released the jump to the 3D never ruined the story and the gameplay, that's why Ocarina of Time is one of the best games ever and probably the best game of the Zelda series. They managed to do a new game with the same old concept that is going to be repeated over and over through the years. Phantom Hourglass is more of the same.

The story is the same as always. You have to save a princess from a monster and you'll need special powers to achieve your quest going through dungeons, exploring secret areas and killing enemies with your sword (and many other sub-weapons like a bow, bombs...) until you find a special sword that can hurt the big boss. It's always the same, and that's why Zelda is so special. They've made many games of the series and it's always the same, but it shouldn't be changed because it always works.

Beside that, the only important change from other Zelda is the gameplay, and that's the main attraction of the game. You use your stylus to move Link, attack, grab things, jumping and everything that Link has always do. The mic is used too in some parts, so, the game uses the potential of the system really well. You can draw things too, to solve puzzles of the game or just drawing something on your maps to remember a code or whatever you want. You can drive in almost every map of the game, and that's a great feature, for sure.

Apart from gameplay, story and other things and focusing on the game, it's a good game. You have many secrets to find, and the game is not short, there are many islands to explore and many things to do like. The game is really easy, but it's funny, so, no problem.

The Bad
Phantom Hourglass is not the best Zelda game ever made, and it's not even one of the best of the series. There's something wrong with this game and it's not easy to know the reason. When you're playing, you'll never feel as you're playing a great game. It's a good game, but nothing more, and Zelda deserves something better, a special feeling like the other games of the series which is not in here. You'll enjoy the game, but you'll miss that feeling, it's hard to describe.

Beside that "feeling", music is not as good as it should, some good songs but nothing special. The main problem is that gameplay is bad. To control Link with the stylus is something different, but not so good. It's obvious that a game like this need to use the special features of a system like Nintendo DS, but maybe the game would be more comfortable if it was played with the classic gameplay, just using the buttons. There are no big problems when you're just walking around and killing some enemies, the problem appears when you need to be more precise because sometimes it's really frustrating. Link will attack many times when you don't want him to do that, sometimes you just want him to go to a concrete point and he will start slashing.

There's another problem leaded by the use of the stylus. Your hand will block your view many times and you'll see just 75% of the screen, it's possible that an enemy hits you just because you didn't see him coming. Maybe because of that they've done a really easy game, far from other games of the series.

Story is not addictive. It's good, but not as great as it should. That's what happens with almost every aspect of the game, a good game but nothing more, no big surprise.

There are many good games with the cel-shaded technique, we can fight incredible battles in the Dragon Ball Budokai Tenkaichi series, unmask a conspiracy to become the president of the USA in XIII or climb walls and do incredible jumps in Prince of Persia 2008. Cel-shaded graphics for those games are just perfect and make them different from many others, but the graphics for this game are simple and doesn't make them different. I don't know if it's just because of cel-shading, but it feels like it doesn't suit with the game. Maybe another concept using cel-shading could be better, or just another alternative technique, but graphics are not remarkable

The Bottom Line
A good game of the series, but not the best one. Link comes again with a new control system which is as necessary as annoying. The game uses the special features of the DS very well, but the feeling is that something bigger should be done. Every aspect of the game is ruled by this sentence, good, but not as good as a game with this name should be. Anyway, is one of the best games for the DS, but it's not better than Zelda: The oracle of seasons/ages for the GBA. The Nintendo DS deserves a better Zelda game, just because of the success of this system and because of the importance of the Zelda series.

Nintendo DS · by NeoJ (398) · 2009

Fun little game that makes great use of the DS

The Good
Visually this game is its bright and colourful with great animations on all the characters. There is some good level design here. The music is good too. Surprisingly this game made me laugh a few times here and there too. The game is almost all controlled with the touch screen and it works well. Without giving away too much you can do some things like slash the stylus across an enemy to hit with the sword and draw a path that you want the boomerang to fly in.

The Bad
Rather than a traditional world map, this game has the player sailing an ocean and going onto various islands. It is not terrible, but I would rather be on dry land. There is one Dungeon that you have to revisit several times during the game. I wish that you could complete an area once and just move on.

The Bottom Line
Like nearly all other Zelda games, this game is a great adventure from start to finish. Complete with hunting down pieces of heart, finding cool new items to use, and salvaging the ocean floor for treasure. Recommended to anyone with a Nintendo DS.

Nintendo DS · by Matthew Melbourne (18) · 2009

Incorporates brilliant touch innovation in classic Zelda gameplay. Get it!

The Good
This game has awesome graphics. The same style as the Wind Waker (to which this game is a sequel) is used. While there are some polygons taken out and some things are simplified for the small screen, the charming cell-shaded style holds up surprisingly well, making it one of the better looking DS titles.

The story of Phantom Hourglass picks up right were Wind Waker left off. Link and his friend Tetra (who is actually princess Zelda) come across a ghost ship. Tetra is taken away by the Ghost Ship so Link goes after her but falls into the sea. When he awakes, he finds himself on an island. Here he meets Ceila the fairy, who is like Navi in Ocarina of Time. This is the start of one of the most unique titles in the Zelda franchise.

When you start the game you will discover that the D-pad isn't used to control Link. You have use the DS' touch screen instead. Actually, everything is done on the touch screen. While this may sound a bit controversial at first, when you try it for a few minutes, you will find controlling Link is a breeze. Walking is done by sliding the stylus across the screen. Where you touch, Ceila will go, and Link will follow her. When touching close to link he will walk slower. Attacking, talking and manipulating enemies, characters and things is done by simply touching them. Quickly draw a line in the direction of an enemy to stab it. Run and draw a small circle at the edge of the screen to roll. When you draw a circle around Link, he does his famous spin attack. You will understand this within five minutes and it makes the game much more accessible for both Zelda fans and newcomers. But the touch implementation is used for other things in many brilliant ways. The most notable ones are the way you draw your route on the Sea Chart. In Wind Waker Sailing at sea was boring, with little to do on trips that could take minutes. This was of the biggest flaws in that game. In this game, however, you just draw your route and off you go. There are plenty of hazards to meet and other ships to board, as well as some uncharted islands to find. While the map is smaller than in Wind Waker, the islands are also closer to each other so you usually get where you want to go in less than two minutes. Another important use of the lower screen is the notation of clues. When you find a clue, you can just switch the dungeon map to the bottom screen and write your clue down, making it easy to remember. Find a route you need to take when sailing through foggy weather? Need to remember the order of switches in that particular dungeon room? Just draw it or write it down on the map. This is used in many fun and exciting new ways that I will leave you to find out for yourself. Using items is also very easy with touch controls. Want to make your boomerang go a special route? Just select it and draw the route on the touch screen. Want to place a bomb? Just tap where you want to drop it and it drops down exactly where you want it. Most of these touch controls work very well and they all make perfect sense.

This game has some great characters. The aforementioned Ceila is a somewhat bold but helpful Fairy. Besides Ceila there is Oshus, who is, in typical Zelda tradition, the 'wise old man' in this game. Then there's Linebeck, a Jack Sparrow-like sailor more interested in precious treasures than saving the damsel in distress. Linebeck is cowardly and a bit rude but he will take you across the many different islands. These are the main characters but there are dozens more and everyone you meet has his or her own characteristics. Like in Wind Waker, the characters are extremely expressive, making them much more attractive to the player and a delight to look at, even on the small screen.

As always, the dungeons are a delight and to complete them, you need to find new items to solve puzzles and defeat certain enemies. Although similar to the ones seen in previous Zelda titles, the innovative controls make all-new puzzles possible. For example, there's a door. There is no way to open it and no keyhole to put a key in. But wait! There is that strange symbol you found in another room that you wrote down. When you write it on the door, it opens. This is an example of many moments that you will notice the control scheme does really add a lot of depth to the game. At the end of each dungeon there is a boss that you need to fight. All of these bosses are a lot of fun and make use of the touch screen controls in different and fun ways. Another important addition in the dungeon/overworld structure is the Temple of the Ocean King. this is a dungeon you will have to revisit multiple times during the game. There is a life sucking curse in this temple that slowly draws your hearts. After a while you get an item that protects you: The Phantom Hourglass. Once all the sand is in the lower part of the Hourglass, however, you are no longer protected. Luckily, you can find extra sand after beating bosses or finding it in secret places. In this temple there are various safe zones that stop the time and make you invisible for the Phantoms; unbeatable knight-like spirits that guard the temple from intruders. This makes for a fun and exciting stealth game. Once you get more items, you can get through earlier floors easier and you will be able to go deeper into the dungeon. At the end of the game you will be able to easily reach the lowest floor where so you can reach the last boss. This dungeon really is a fun addition to the gameplay as well as the storyline.

Music is epic and you will want to put your headphones on. Sound effects are classic Zelda effects, like the puzzles solving sound, but are crisp, clear and up to date. When you are in a dungeon or cave, you hear echoes, adding to the atmosphere.

Although short, Phantom Hourglass has plenty of stuff to do besides the main game, such as finding ship parts to customize Linebeck's steamship and finding secret treasures.

The Bad
Rolling doesn't always work out as fine as other actions.

This game is too short and easy compared to some other Zelda games such as A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. You will probably finish it in about fifteen hours. It feels somewhat like the creators felt that the new and unexplored control scheme had to be compromised by making the game easier. But the controls work out well enough for a more challenging game than this. There is a decent amount of replay value but it still is a shame. You just wish there was more to this great game.

The temple of the Ocean King has only one save point halfway through the dungeon, forcing you to do a lot of floors over and over. Although they are easier than before because of newly acquired items, it still is annoying if you want to save precious time for lower floors. One or two extra save points would have been nice.

The Bottom Line
A brilliant blend of classic Zelda gameplay and innovative touch screen-controls that will keep you hooked for hours. One of the best Nintendo DS titles so far!

Nintendo DS · by Rensch (203) · 2007

[ View all 4 player reviews ]

Trivia

1001 Video Games

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Awards

  • GamePro
    • February 2008 (Issue #223) - Best Handheld Game of 2007
  • GamePro (Germany)
    • March 28, 2008 - Best Handheld Game in 2007 (Readers' Vote)
  • GameSpy
    • 2007 – #10 Game of the Year
    • 2007 – Handheld Game of the Year
    • 2007 – Nintendo DS Game of the Year
    • 2007 – Nintendo DS Game of the Year (Readers' Vote)
    • 2007 – Nintendo DS Action Game of the Year
  • Golden Joystick Awards
    • 2008 - Bliss Handheld Game of the Year

Information also contributed by Big John WV.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Rensch.

Wii U added by Michael Cassidy.

Additional contributors: Alaka, gamewarrior, Cantillon, Jason Strautman, Patrick Bregger, Grandy02, piltdown_man, FatherJack.

Game added October 6, 2007. Last modified November 5, 2023.