REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

By Jorge Figueiredo - February 18th, 2008

Developed and published by Nintendo for DS.

My introduction to The Legend of Zelda series was through The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker for GameCube. I can’t tell you why I had never been interested in the series before. Given the number of hours I poured into Wind Waker, you’d think I was a devoted fan of the series since the beginning (you can ask Shaun how obsessed I was with finishing this game).

So you can imagine my glee when Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass debuted for the Nintendo DS. Go ahead. Imagine!

Are you done imagining? Good.

Phantom Hourglass picks up where Wind Waker left off. Link has just finished saving Hyrule (once again), when suddenly he comes into contact with the legendary Ghost Ship. His captain, Tetra, leaps aboard in search of booty, but is essentially kidnapped. In an attempt to save her, Link leaps aboard the Ghost Ship, only to be hurled overboard and lose consciousness.

When he is revived, he finds himself on an island he doesn’t recognize. From here, you’re in control of Link and you must help him find the Ghost Ship and rescue Tetra.

Gameplay essentially switches between transit mode and dungeon-crawling mode. You will either find yourself sailing one of the four seas (on the S.S. Linebeck steam-powered paddle boat), or running around on islands exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and talking to people.

Like Wind Waker, the production quality of Phantom Hourglass is very high. It’s what we’ve all come to expect from this series. The cel-shaded graphics are tight, and due to the simplistic nature of the design, the animation quality is incredible. It’s a bright, cartoony game. But that doesn’t take anything away from it, in my opinion. In fact, I would say it is very effective at drawing players into the fairy-tale nature of the story. The dual screens are used very effectively, too, allowing a new visual twist to play that wasn’t present in Wind Waker. It’s nice to have access to maps on the top screen.

The sound is also clean and crisp. The music drives the story along, whether you’re dungeon-crawling or sailing on the ocean. The tone of the music reflects what is going on, like a good score should. Sound effects fit the cartoony theme, and add to the overall fun of being “Young Link.” And of course, what would a Zelda game be without all the familiar fanfare? That’s all here, too.

The controls are where this game really shines. Buzz on the web was quite polarized when the stylus control scheme was announced for Phantom Hourglass. The departure from the D-pad scared a lot of people. I, however, find this control scheme to be so intuitive that I would bet that anyone would be able to pick this up and play with very little difficulty.

This blend of graphics, sound, and ease of control all add up to make this game a lot of fun. Zelda fans will not be disappointed. There are puzzles aplenty, and in the usual style we’ve come to expect from the series, the main plot-related puzzles are just hard enough to be challenging while some of the side-quest puzzles are nice and difficult. Plus, the rewards for completing these side puzzles make them well worth the effort.

My only problem with Phantom Hourglass is the lack of replay. In Wind Waker, once you finished the game, you could start over again in a new mode where some of the tools you had to discover are already in your inventory. In Phantom Hourglass, the game merely saves before you take down the final boss, allowing you to do all the side quests, but not allowing you to play the game over again with added benefits. While not the most horrible thing, it was a little disappointing for me.

Overall, I highly recommend this title. Nintendo certainly knows what it’s doing when it comes to creating an enriched RPG-type gaming experience! As far as I’m concerned, the series has batted a thousand. Next, I’m going to tackle A Link to the Past, which I missed out on when it was first released but can now enjoy thanks to the Wii Virtual Console.

Score Breakdown:

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9
Control: 10
Fun: 10
Replay Value: 7


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