Friday, September 28, 2007

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2007
Systems: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Reach out and touch some Link.

0:01 Bird fly over an ocean that spans two screens. Familiar Zelda tunes rise over images of a pirate ship. Who's riding on the jib but Link. Hey, that's dangerous! Get back on the deck, Link?

0:02 The game asks if I'm right or left handed. A very nice touch. Every DS game should have it, not just the Nintendo-made ones. I love the paper cut out aesthetic on the intro. (see picture above). It'd be even cuter if it moved.

0:03 The intro. tells a very condensed story of Tetra and Link that will be familiar to players of The Wind Waker. I won't spoil it... you can look it up elsewhere. Love the sparse, classic Zelda tunes.

0:05 Turns out one of the pirates was telling the story with paper cutouts. Link fell asleep and Tetra wakes him and tells him to get to work. "Ha, some legendary hero you are." The cel-shaded polygonal characters look a bit rough around the edges... some weird shading going on here. I'm not that impressed.

0:07 So we're out in the middle of the ocean looking for a ghost ship. Tetra (who's actually Zelda) makes fun of the rest of the crews' superstitiousness. Heh.

0:08 Wouldn'tcha know it, a fog rolls in and none other than the ghost ship appears. HA! Who's superstitious NOW Zelda? "It's just a ship... But it does look like it could be the Ghost Ship." OPEN YOUR EYES PRINCESS! IT'S GOT A HUGE SKULL ON THE FRONT!

0:09 Zelda goes aboard to look and we hear her scream. Not again... Link goes off to rescue her, but falls in the water instead.

0:10 Aw hellz no.... I wake up to the annoying "HEY!" of Navi from Ocarina of Time. Kill me now.

0:11 Oh, it's not Navi, it's Ciela the fairy. Her "HEY!" is just as annoying though. She's asking all sorts of questions and generally getting in the way of ADVENTURIN'.

0:12 Running around is as easy as pushing the stylus where you want to go. Tapping on people to talk and tapping on barrels to pick them up is incredibly intuitive. Who needs buttons? The top screen is an ever-present map... a necessity for a game like this.

0:14 Ciela's grandpa, Oshus, tells me not to go after the Ghost Ship. Right... like that'll happen.

0:15 So I'm off to the harbor to find out more about the Ghost Ship. Ciela's coming along too. Fine... as long as she stops with the 'HEY!"

0:18 Grumble. I click on a sign from the side and it says "You can't read it from here." Look, if I can see it on the screen and I can tap it, just tell me what it freakin' says, OK?

0:20 So in Oshus' storehouse, it says to ask before taking stuff. OK... but when I go talk to Oshus he just tells me to go to the port. But I want your stuff! Wah!

0:21 Hmm.... an earthquake broke the bridge, so I have to go through a "cave of monsters" to get to the harbor. Also, conveniently, Link can't swim anymore.

0:22 Oshus suggests waiting for the bridge to be fixed. "Don't even think about braving the path to the North." I can just picture some poor gullible player watching the DS, waiting patiently and obediently (and fruitlessly) for the bridge to get fixed.

0:24 Oshus: "Tried the path to the North, did you?" He acknowledges the problem with monsters encroaching on the town, but still won't give me a freakin' sword to deal with them. ARGH! I'M THE LEGENDARY DEFENDER OF HYRULE! LET ME DEFEND!

0:25 "If only you found a sword, then you could show those monsters." YES THANK YOU CIELA!

0:26 Are you kidding? Ciela finally remembers that, to get in the storehouse, you have to write a number on a sign. "I think it's the number of palm trees on the beach." When did this game become Link's Counting Challenge DS?

0:27 1...2...3...7 palm trees. That was fun... if you're in preschool. Also, someone explain to me how writing "7" on a wooden sign opens a big stone door? And don't just say "magic."

0:28 Sword get! Tap an enemy or slash across the screen to use it. A few practice swings seem pretty responsive.

0:30 Oshus insists on training me in sword use. Sigh. Let's get on with it already. I've got places to go, princesses to save.

0:32 Heh. Too many spin attacks in a row makes Link dizzy. He stumbles around dazedly for a second.

0:33 Apparently the rolling attack I've been accidentally triggering is done by making "tiny circles on the edges of the screen." Now that I know how to do it I have trouble pulling it off reliably...

0:34 Cave time. Tapping on octoroks to kill them is amazingly easy. Maybe because they're barely mobile.

0:36 "Pull the four levers in the correct order... or else!" OK... and the correct order is...?

0:38 Despite not having found wherever the correct order was hidden, I manage to get it on the third try. Lucky! Also: I know what a door opening looks like. Do we need a five second unskippable cut scene every time I open one?

0:42 Cute little puzzle. I need to use a block to stop a fast-moving snake with a key on his tail. It takes a while but I get it. Also: You don't need to tell me what a key is EVERY TIME I GET ONE. Once should be enough.

0:43 Cave = conquered!

0:44 Chickens are back in this game. Of course, I can't resist slashing them and causing a barrage of chickens to come out and attack me. Heehee.

0:46 I'm not welcome in the bar until I "get a bit farther in life." Oh come on. I rescued Princess Zelda for god's sakes.I think I deserve a vodka tonic on the rocks!

0:47 Wait, a guy outside says he "Can't wait to sit at the milk bar." I'M NOT OLD ENOUGH FOR THE MILK BAR?

0:48 Aw nuts. The shield is 80 rupees. I have 79. Time to go grass cutting...

0:50 The sailor I need to talk to, Linebeck, went off to the "Temple of the Ocean King." The locals tell me to steer clear. Yeah... like that'll happen.

0:52 Octoroks bounce off my new shield with a pleasant "boing" Hee!

0:53 I find an obviously bombable wall, but I have no bombs yet. Mark it with a B on my map to remember. Useful!

0:55 A cute skeleton of what could be Linebeck sits at the entrance. I should be creeped out, but really I'm just enchanted =)

0:56 Nope, Linebeck is alive and trapped behind some small, rather non-threatening spikes. Oh, also, the temple sucks the life out of you unless you're in safe zones. Thought you should know that.

0:58 I open a chest, the "You got an item" music starts, Link does his characteristic item-getting pirouette and... there's nothing there. I'm laughing here.

0:59 "Hey kid, you're pretty brave for someone so short." Hey, Linebeck, you're pretty brave talking that way to a kid with a sword.

1:00 Some nice slapstick humor here as Linebeck pretends to have a sprained ankle and shakes Link silly. Nice to see some believable characterization from this series.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? I'm looking forward to Zelda's characteristic puzzles and using the touch screen in new and exciting ways.

This review based on a retail copy provided by Nintendo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, there were signs in that cave that tell you the order of three of the levers. But it's okay; I don't think any less of you. ;)

I agree with every word you said in this; I had nearly identical thoughts, especially about the spikes. I'm looking forward to playing more of the game.