Zelda goes nautical (again!)
The game-play system features some of the best uses of the DS for any game on the platform;
Naturally, everybody yelled the same things when Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass was announced; ?Wind Waker!? and ?Sequel!?
Well, they were partially right at least; Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass is cited as being a direct sequel to The Wind Waker, but other than the oceanic setting (which is parallel to the Wind Waker world) there is very little else which suggests a chronological sequel.
Taking the role of?errr?Link, you set out on a quest to free your friend ‘Tetra’ (ahem) from the curse of the evil Ghost Ship (oh, that was in Wind Waker too wasn’t it? 😉 ). In doing this you find yourself stranded on an island in the middle of the ocean accompanied by Ciela, your new fairy. After meeting Ciela, you are introduced to her Grandfather and acquire your all famous sword, before setting out on what will prove to be one of Link’s darker adventures.
So, what’s this ?Phantom Hourglass? all about?
Well, the Phantom Hourglass is a nifty little piece of kit which stops the unspeakable evil of Bellum draining the life out of you whilst in the game’s brand new, multi-level, puzzle packed, timed dungeon; The Temple of the Ocean King.
Every time you defeat a boss, 2 minutes are added to the glass, which you’ll need when exploring the temple, as staying in any part except for the safe-zones causes Bellum’s curse to drain your life away slowly. Luckily, so long as there is time in the hourglass, you needn’t worry about this, but the curse drains the time away instead, so you better watch the seconds!
This dungeon is definitely the most challenging dungeon in the whole game, but not nearly as brutal as some that the series as seen as a whole.
The unfortunate thing is that you have to start the dungeon from the beginning for the first few times you enter, and then from the half-way point later on (taking away however much time from the glass it took you to reach the half way point).
No need to despair however, as the new items you unlock during the course of the game allow you to shortcut through the dungeon each time around.
The rest of the game’s dungeons are addictively fun, but relatively easy, each having its own unique theme, layout and puzzles.
Puzzles have always been a series strong point for Zelda, and this game is no exception with a new puzzle around every corner. The only issue really is that whilst some of them do take a little thought, even for the most experienced Zelda player, the majority conform to the standard archetypes you would expect from a Zelda game.
Of course, this game takes bosses back into the realms of old school (as you would expect from any Zelda title); hulking giants with specific weaknesses and attack patterns.
During the course of Link’s adventure you’ll face off against bosses such as Blaaz who requires rather novel though to defeat, Cyclock, whose weakness is fairly obvious, and Eox, who requires fast action and quick reflexes to take down.
A Zelda game would definitely not be a Zelda game without a menagerie of items to find and use, heart containers to obsessively hunt and ship parts to salvage.
What? You mean to tell me that ship parts aren’t in Zelda games? Ah, of course, they never have been, but this is where Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass really makes itself stand out from the rest.
Given command of the S.S Linebeck (by cowardly Captain Linebeck himself), you are tasked with obtaining the usual range of sacred items, one per dungeon.
The ship itself is completely customisable, with ship parts for the prow, bridge, paddle, chimney, hull, cannon, rail and anchor obtainable by salvaging lost treasures from deep within the sea, or finding them in treasure chests scattered throughout the world.
It’s very easy to be proud when you find a new part, and be even prouder when you complete a set. Using a full set grants your ship three extra hearts (which is a lot considering that one hit will always use up one heart), and using a full set of golden ship parts grants another heart on top of that, allowing for a maximum of eight. If you’re into ling sea trips then the extra hearts will always be more than welcome.
The rest of the game’s items fall into various categories such as;
Useable – some of these are classics like the shovel, bow and arrow and bombs, and some are new or are used in new ways such as the hammer, grappling hook and Bombchus.
Heart containers ? in a massive u-turn away from a series convention, Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass doesn’t feature any heart pieces, just whole containers which can be brought, won in mini-games or obtained by defeating bosses.
Treasures ? new to the series are treasure items, these are just various pieces of paraphernalia scattered around, including Goron amber, Zora crowns and Helmaroc feathers and are simply sold for rupees.
The battle system also takes a slight turn in Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, with the stylus controlling everything, and a dead enemy usually being a simple well timed tap away.
Tapping an enemy causes Link to lunge, slicing a line between you and an opponent allows Link to slash, and drawing a circle out quickly enables Link to use his signature spin slash.
This might sound like a recipe for disaster, but the game has been done in such a brilliant way that the context sensitive tapping is very rarely misinterpreted.
To aid in you in this quest of defeating evil by prod-power are the fairies that you find early on in the game; Courage, Power and Wisdom (which are of course, the three elements of the Tri-Force, and the powers of the three Gods).
The spirits are first activated by collecting ten of their respective power gem and taking them to a secret island, they can then be powered up to their most powerful forms by collecting twenty of their respective gems.
Each spirit grants Link a different power when selected;
Power: increases attack damage, Wisdom: increases shield defence and less damage is taken from attacks, Courage: Gives Link his other signature ability, being able to shoot beams from his sword.
The game-play system features some of the best uses of the DS for any game on the platform; including the ability to blow out candles using the microphone, blow away dust and dirt, scratch away thin paper and even fold the DS back down to create an ink-press on a map!
The puzzles in Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass not only keep you thinking about what you can do with the items in the game, but also what you can do with the item that Nintendo has placed in your very own hands. If you say ?ah, that’s clever!? to another game this year more times than you do with Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass then I’d love to hear about it.
Two new races feature in Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, notably the Anouki (some form of Eskimo) and their rivals the Yook. It is clear that the development team definitely made the right decision bringing in these two races above any other, as they are humorous, entertaining and come with their own arctic environment.
Also making a more than welcome return are the Gorons, as well as violent, pitchfork wielding Zoras, Octoroks and Stalfos, sadly the Dekus are nowhere to be seen!
This is a Zelda game which sticks to the formula, takes z
ero risks and pulls off with certainty everything new it may try.
Anybody who dislikes the Zelda series won’t find much to change their minds here, but it is a definite must have for any fan, and is a great place to start if you’re looking to get in (or get back in) to the series.
The Bad: Short; very short; too short; relies solely on the stylus for everything; doesn’t make enough use of the new environments and races; pretty easy.