The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Nintendo DS version
Incorporates brilliant touch innovation in classic Zelda gameplay. Get it!
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.
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!
by Rensch (203) on November 15th, 2007