|By Matt Gulbrandsen||Tuesday, 13 Nov 2007|
First things first, I have not finished a Zelda game since Link to the Past which in my opinion is the flagship of the series. Many would
argue that title belongs to Ocarina of Time so we’ll just agree to disagree. My problem with Zelda games is they’re exciting for the first couple of
hours and then quickly become a chore. I’ll usually make it up to the 6th or 7th dungeon before calling it quits or I’ll find something more enjoyable to play. That’s just how I roll so this review may be a little unfair in some ways. So ask yourself, are you a die hard Zelda
fan? Then avert ye eyes. If you’re a jaded old gamer with a severe case of ADHD (hey look, that squirrel has a poofy tail!) like me, then continue, my friend.
Ever since the announcement of Phantom Hourglass, I was intrigued on how they would implement the next Zelda game on the little handheld that could. My curiosity got the best of me so I picked it up on launch day. To my surprise I was sucked in for the first couple of dungeons and couldn’t put it down. Here’s why:
The story is your standard fare. Zelda is a dumb cunt with a zest for adventure and finds herself being taken captive on a ghost ship and it’s your duty as her knight in clothed armor to rescue her. I won’t get into it anymore because quite frankly, I don’t give a shit. It’s all about the gameplay in Zelda games.
Phantom Hourglass’s controls are very intuitive, which was refreshing. It should definitely be the model of more stylus driven games. Controlling the boomerang is pretty satisfying. You simply draw a line of the path you want it to go. Yes, you can draw a dick and it will kill your enemies by outlining the shape. Unfortunately, there aren’t many other weapons or items that are quite as fun. One problem I did find with controlling Link is his somersault controls. You have to draw a quick circle at the edge of the screen and of course, he never does it when you want him to. Fortunately, one of the only times you’ll need to perform this is for knocking trees to expose their sweet delicious rupies. Boss fights are what you would expect from a Zelda title – easy, short and fun. In fact they were so good, I was hoping they might throw in a time attack boss battle mode similar to the two Castlevania DS titles. One thing that is a HUGE improvement over Wind Waker is sailing. You can use the stylus to plot your course and the ship goes on autopilot leaving you to man the cannon, a blast indeed. There is also a vast array of parts you can use to customize your ship – another worthless collection side quest.
Puzzles are what you would expect. You will most likely breeze right through them but the new controls make a lot of them stand out.
Additionally, you can draw on your map to help with puzzles that require you to remember certain number sequences.
One major gripe I have with the game is a little dungeon by the name of Ocean King’s Palace. It’s a nice enough place at first. Just make sure you’re well acquainted with it because you will be visiting it for what seems like 87 more times. Every time you defeat one of the games main dungeons, you will be able to unlock another door in the Ocean King’s Palace which is necessary to advance. It will get increasingly difficult each time with little added challenges. On top of all this, you have a time limit set by an hourglass. To be fair, there are ways to increase the time limit but here’s the kicker, you start from the beginning each time until you eventually open up a warp that allows you to start at a midway point. I may be nitpicking here but little annoyances like this can be enough to make you put the game down and forget about it for months.
As for Phantom’s score, it’s actually a little bland and repetitive. It’s not really that memorable and some of it sounds pretty familiar,
and the familiar parts will probably make you feel nostalgic about classic Zelda tunes. That’s a good thing, but it definitely could have been better.
For the visual look of the game, it’s impressive to think that they essentially pulled off the same graphics as Wind Waker from Gamecube. Nintendo really seems to be squeezing the life out of the DS’s GPU now, and it’s impressive to see this game in motion. At the same time, it’s also hilarious to see Wind Waker’s naysayers warming up to cat-eyed cartoon style they once loathed. Regardless, this is one of the best looking games on DS, and the high production values really pay off.
I find it hard to recommend this game to anyone but the Zelda fanatics. The series seems to be getting tired and though the controls do open up a bit of excitement, it certainly isn’t enough to push the series in a new direction or break any new ground. If you’re like me, you might lose interest very quickly, especially since we’re into the holiday season and there are so many titles to choose from. Save this one for a rainy day.