The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Name: The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass
Platform: Nintendo DS
There has always been a gap between the console and handheld iterations of The Legend of Zelda franchise. While games like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess focus on combat and exploration, their partners Link’s Awakening and The Minish Cap are more about dungeon delving and puzzle solving. No matter what platform Zelda has been on one fact remained: it has felt like a Zelda game.
The Phantom Hourglass marks a dramatic shift from the traditional hack and slash adventure that gamers have become accustomed to. While the Wii version of Twilight Princess had motion controls it was still built to be a typical Zelda adventure. From the ground up, The Phantom Hourglass is completely different.
Plotwise it is more of the same. As a straight sequel of Wind Waker it takes place in the same world with many of the same characters. The graphics are cell-shaded and make this feels like the first true sequel to a Zelda game yet. In other words: the plot isn’t what sets this game apart.
All of the controls are mapped to the touch screen with no option to change it. Although there is some optional button input for hot-keys, fighting, and some advanced movement, the majority of Link's action will be performed by swiping the stylus.
At a glance the game looks to be more similar to Diablo II than any Zelda when it comes to moving around the world. Taps on the touch screen bring Link where you want and swipes slash his sword. Drawing a circle does spin attacks, and within minutes maneuvers like these are second nature and as natural as pressing a button would be.
With this version, even alternate weapons like the boomerang are done with the touch screen. Now, more then ever, Link has complete control of where his boomerang goes, and the new controls work flawlessly. Not all character movement functions as the player would like, and some features, such as making Link roll, which had always been an easy affair, can often be misconstrued as a sword slash by the touch screen. I guess that is the price you pay for change.
The reward for this control setting is a nice new experience, as the promises of the Nintendo DS come to fruition. Things that could never be done without a touch screen are now effortless. This includes, but is not limited to, the many puzzles that utilize the screen.
The other main use of the touch-screen is to draw on the levels maps, reminding players of enemy locations or numbered levers used for puzzles. Sure, a sheet of graph paper and a Sharpie can do the same job just as well, but the touch screen makes for a fantastic substitute. Also fixed to the touch-screen is the sailing from Wind Waker, which is quite enjoyable this time around thanks to the novelty of touching the screen.
Compared to some of the other games in this series, Phantom Hourglass is on the short side. At about 15 hours it is a quick but enjoyable adventure. Like the other Zeldas it has good replay value and since it is a portable it has been expanded even more. There is multiplayer as well but it isn’t a high point and is lackluster compared to The Four Swords games that came before it. The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass maintains all that works with the franchise and adds an innovative and intuitive control scheme to a formula that is yet to get old.