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Let's me just say straight out of the gate that I'm not a big fan of RPG games.
What's that you say? You want me to wander aimlessly around a strange village talking to weird townfolk carrying a magical sword. Umm, no thanks. There's just something about this type of gameplay that has never appealed to me.
Okay, okay! If you really want to know the truth, I'm just not very good at them!
Yet somehow, the Legend of Zelda series grabs my attention from time to time, even though it's an RPG game. Does that make me a hypocrite? Oh, most definitely! But it's my right as a crotchety old lady. Now, get off my lawn!
(Clears Throat) Now, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, "The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass", is the latest Zelda for the Nintendo DS. And let me tell you, it has been the object of my obsession/affection/and sometimes utter frustration for the past 2 weeks now!
Phantom Hourglass is a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It is an action-adventure role-playing game with a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving. And not just any puzzles some are really tough mind bending puzzles let me tell ya!
Yeah sure, essentially it's an action game, but the real meat and potatoes of gameplay is figuring out how to best get to from point A to point B in the quickest amount of time. Time?
This is the kicker, there's a timer! Yes, a timer. When that timer runs out, your health does too.
If you've already worked your way through Wind Waker, you might be thinking that you've seen enough bombs, boomerangs, bows and arrows to last a lifetime. Well, you haven't, so sit down and start playing.
All of the events here take place after the ending of Wind Waker. Link has rescued Princess Tetra, and all seems to be going swimmingly as the two set sail on the high seas. Don't worry I'm not throwing in any spoilers here folks.
They come across a patch of ocean covered in a dense fog, in which they discover an abandoned ship. Long story short, Tetra gets herself pirate-napped by the Ghost Ship. So what does Link do? Why he gets a sword, a shield and an annoying new sidekick, of course!
No one explains why Link, a hero of Winds, and wielder of the Master Sword, must be taught the simpler points of swordplay by an old man... but I suppose that's beside the point. Moving on.
He must now set off to find Tetra - and make his way back to the seas he once knew. And so Link's next adventure begins, and let me tell you it's quite the journey.
Like Wind Waker, a lot of time is spent on the open seas as you travel from island to island. Doesn't sound very exciting, now does it? Oh but it is. To keep things fresh and exciting, they have added many obstacles that you'll need to watch out for while sailing. There are creatures to shoot (cannons are fun), barriers to jump (I didn't think ships could ever be so flexible), and giant killer fogs. I won't even try to explain what I mean by that, so you'll just have to play the game and find out.
Unsheathe Your... Stylus!
Is there anything a stylus can't do these days? Everything in this game is done with the stylus and touch screen. Everything.
Stylus only?! Yup, you got that right pilgrim!
Look I can tell you're a little skeptical. But trust me,all of your doubts will be completely washed away after about 5 minutes, when you see just how good it all works. Like a trained monkey you'll soon be tapping and dragging on the screen to make Link move like a pro.
Tap an item and Link will pick it up. Tap again and he throws the item. Tap an enemy and Link hits it with his sword and so and so forth.
There are also many clever uses of the touch screen, such as making "notes-to-self" on your world map. Sounds odd, but believe me it's smart to keep notes, make sketches, it may be important later on. I found it very useful many a time when I got turned around and discombobulated, it reduced a lot of annoying backtracking let me tell you.
Enter dungeon. Get item. Kill boss. Repeat.
If there are any bad points in this game, I would have to say it's the fact that the game forces you to do events more than once. Now this wouldn't be a problem if things were changed up, but they're not.
For example, you must leave and come back to the very first dungeon you discovered more than a few times.
As I made my way back to this dungeon several times I found that I had to go through the same levels I had already beat. Granted, it did get easier as I discovered new items later on, but I still had to get though the levels again!
It took a little (and I do mean a little) away from the overall feel of the game.
Well, at least the action is cool!
At one point, I was faced with a gate that wouldn't open "until the candles were out." On either side of this gate were torches, and I must have spent 15 minutes trying to figure out what I had to do to put these things out. I swung my sword, I threw my boomerang at them, I ran to other places on the map looking for water, but nothing worked because I was still thinking in terms of what I was able to do within the game world. The solution was real world-the game is played on the DS. The DS has a microphone. All you need to do to blow out the candles is simply blow out the candles! Ingenious!
"Duh" moments like this are what make this game so unique.
SideNote: I must admit, here and now,that there were a few (dozen) times that the game really had me stumped and I had to pass it along in desperation to my friend to help me out! Thanks MC!
The game is getting some flack for its length (or lack there of) which isn't really a drawback for me, but I need to mention it anyway.
You see, Phantom Hourglass is a fairly short game. It can be beaten in less than 20 hours, but like I said, this is a good thing rather than a bad thing for me. Some people are happy to play games that take them months to beat. Phantom Hourglass will definitely disappoint them. Not me... I have a lot of games to play and reviews to write. I can't be wasting my time with a long drawn out RPG snooze-fest thank-you-very-much.
Graphics: when I first started to play Phantom Hourglass and saw the graphics I have to that I was very impressed and amazed. There is so much detail for such a little screen and colors seem to jump off the screen.
Sound: simply put, the game sounds like a Zelda game. There's that familiar jingle when you find an item. There's Link's signature grunts and cries. There's the familiar music from all the other titles. The game just sounds like a Zelda game, and that's never been a bad thing.
When it comes to the nostalgia card, Nintendo always plays it perfectly.
And, as an extra feature, the developers have added a multiplayer mode called Battle! It plays pretty easily; one player controls Link while the other controls three baddies. The Link player has to run around the map while avoiding baddies and collecting Triforce pieces to bring back to the base.
It's a cute little game of cat and mouse/capture the flag. It's nothing to truly rave about but it does add some nice new alternatives to gameplay while you're waiting on the long line at the supermarket. Oh for the love of Pete! It says Express Lane- 10 Items or Less Lady!!!
After all is said and done, I love Phantom Hourglass. It's now one of my favorite DS games, even though it is an RPG game! (Sticks out tongue)