Reviews: Better late than never right?
Oh the Legend of Zelda, how you changed my life. The Legend of Zelda franchise can basically be traced back through my life and linked to my current emotional state. It may seem sad or unusual that these titles have left such a mark on me, but how can they not after I spend countless hours on them memorizing the puzzles, finding the hearts and saving Zelda?
Some of my earliest gaming memories are of completing The Legend of Zelda
with my brother and babysitter (a girl no less) almost two years after its initial release. It wasn't until The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
(this journalist's favorite game of all time) that gaming took full hold of me. Only to be reinforced by the incredible venture into 3D space that was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
. But to be honest, my Zelda-fandom has waned over the years, starting with Majora's Mask
. The lapse was mainly due to the annoying boating escapades of Wind Waker
though. After I heard that Phantom Hourglass would not only be a direct sequel to Wind Waker, (as close as Zelda sequels can be) but once again force you to travel via a boat, I fell into a depressed state.
Wind's gone but the setting remained
Thank god the boat thing was removed as a staple of the gameplay! In Phantom Hourglass the boat is more of an afterthought, like Epona. It is used to get around the world but it isn't really a gameplay mechanic, so much as a form of travel. Instead of having to sail yourself around, players simply draw their route on the map with the stylus and let Linebeck worry about the details. Linebeck, aside from being a captain and a coward, also plays the source of Phantom Hourgrlass' plucky, comic relief.
The title is obviously modeled after the artistic approach seen in GameCube's Wind Waker. But there is more of a connection to Wind Waker than the lifting of the previous title's cel-shaded nature. PH sticks with the same humor and - although offers a completely different storyline (*SPOILER* the water world of Wind Waker receded upon completion) - there are a few returning characters. Tetra makes a return, only this time she becomes the damsel in distress when she is turned into stone by the evil Bellum. We also see a Prince of the Red Lions - a cameo of sorts for the King of the Red Lions - and some other minor characters or mentions of past adventure. The story is classic Zelda but fresh nonetheless.
Link via the DS
Phantom Hourglass is Link's first adventure on the Nintendo DS and likely, won't be the last. Nintendo made a leap of faith by abandoning the D-pad in Phantom Hourglass but managed to get the stylus to work spot on. Slashing foes, picking up items, pulling and pushing objects, all the staple Zelda gameplay mechanics are easy, intuitive, and well implemented throughout the title. The designers went so far as to incorporate every feature that makes the DS a DS into the game, sans using the wireless connection during the single-player experience. But if you want to kill some time you can battle it out in the fun multiplayer mode.
The power of the DS also allowed the designers to create a much richer and more visually appealing title than the Gameboy Advance
ever could. The graphics are fine and dandy but what really takes the cake are the boss designs. Numerous boss encounters use both screens brilliantly, filling the screen with their girth or forcing the player to move great distances to get the killshot. The boss battles encountered in the DS title are far from cliche, instead they are arguably the best group of encounters in the Zelda universe.