|The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass|
|Genre||Excellent Portable Celda|
|Score||8 Gameplay: 8
Fun Factor: 9
|Buy from Amazon|
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a recent Nintendo DS release and the direct sequel to Wind Waker. It features cel-shaded graphics and complete control using the stylus, pressing buttons is entirely optional and you can only use them for shortcut keys anyway, no controlling Link. This probably makes Phantom Hourglass the most unique Zelda game in terms of control (even considering Twilight Princess), but other than that it is a pretty standard Zelda affair.
Phantom Hourglass picks up where Wind Waker left off, with you and Tetra sailing the high seas. Of course, something bad happens and we basically get a repeat of the opening of Link's Awakening (a game I always considered to be sort of a sequel to Wind Waker even though they were made 10 years apart with probably no intention of relating to each other). Anyways, the game focuses on exploring the four quadrants of ocean on a treasure hunter ship and saving your girlfriend. Treasure and women is usually a good combination and Wind Waker doesn't disappoint. There is a surprisingly amount of repetitiveness, however, as the game forces you to repeat a particular dungeon something like five or six times over the course of the game. This is the only part in which the Phantom Hourglass actually has any meaning and it just feels a little rushed and slopped together in this sense. Anyways, time for some scores out of 10.
The game excels in this department as Phantom Hourglass features some really unique gameplay. To use your sword all you do is tap the enemy or draw a quick slash on the screen with the stylus (tapping is much more reliable than slashing). But the game really picks up when you start getting the various items, which in themselves are not very original, but the way you use them is. To throw the boomerang you draw its path on the screen, etc. I don't want to spoil too much as the game relies on these unique weapons for variety. Another great thing to note is how the game uses the top screen. There's always an overhead map of the area you are in and you can switch the map to the bottom screen so you can write notes or draw on it. This is an absolute must in some situations as the game makes you solve puzzles with it. Kind of hard to explain but it feels very natural when doing it. The game doesn't get a higher score in this area though because of some questionable design issues. Especially the phantom hourglass dungeon that the game makes you repeat over and over again. I dreaded going there after the second time.
Fun Factor: 9
Phantom Hourglass is an extremely fun game and solved a lot of problems Wind Waker had. The biggest one is the ship travel. In Wind Waker you had to get the winds to go in the right direction and then hope you didn't have to turn against the wind or anything, realistic but not very much fun. Phantom Hourglass solves this by taking away the sail, instead you chart your course by drawing on the sea chart and then Linebeck just drives the boat for you. Now you get to relax and shoot cannonballs at pirates and sea creatures that get in your way, generally a lot more fun. The addition of the map you can draw on anywhere is awesome and really makes for some fun puzzles, hopefully more developers will pick up on this. But once again, the game was too easy. This has pretty much always been a problem with 3D Zelda games as the game gives you way too many hearts and the bad guys do way too little damage. Disappointing.
Graphics and Sound: 9
Phantom Hourglass has pretty good 3D visuals for being on the DS, and they look even better cel-shaded. There's some out of place jaggies and other peculiar graphical choices that bothered me, but the draw distance is very far on the ocean and all the animations and characters look great. The music is wonderful, I love the tune that plays while you're on the ship. Almost feels like you're really there. The sound effects are typical for the last few Zelda games, so no surprises there. All around this game looks and sounds great, a real triumph on the DS.
The game opens up with kind of a long introduction to what happened last game (Wind Waker) so if you played through that, it'll be kind of boring. If you didn't play through that, you'll be spoiled to death, so either way it's a lose-lose (especially because they spoil you on completely pointless things that don't have anything to do with Phantom Hourglass). The game's main character besides Link is Linebeck, a cowardly treasure hunter who serves as your ship's captain. Throughout the game he gets a bit of attention as we learn his backstory, but it's incredibly dull and unsurprisingly. It's too bad because he's such a one-dimensional character and the game hints at more, but never really explores it properly. Other than that you learn pretty early on about the bad guy and what you have to do to stop him so it's just dungeon after dungeon of getting the right pieces to do so. The game also relied heavily on the save-the-girl factor which kind of annoyed me.
There's no way I can not recommend Phantom Hourglass to Zelda fans, it offers a great adventure in a small, portable package. The game has issues and instead of fixing them, decided to build the game around them instead, which is frustrating, but I guess Nintendo was trying something new. The gameplay, however, is wonderful and I really hope we see more Zelda games hit the Nintendo DS. I honestly felt like I was exploring the world when I was sailing, hitting up uncharted islands for buried treasure and stepping onto some faraway island town for the first time was a great experience. If you're looking for a great portable game, look no further as The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is it.