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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) review

"Things starts how they always start in the Zelda multiverse, with the kidnapping of that dappy bint of a princess whose only point of existence is to be spirited away by dark forces at the start of every new adventure. In a new development twist for the series, Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel from Wind Waker on the Gamecube, meaning that it inherits the THE BIG TWO flaws that chapter suffered from"

Itís hard to keep a straight face when the latest Nintendo die-hard is playing Mario Party 106 while lecturing you on how their preferred brand is the biggest innovators in the business. Itís especially hard not to sneak out a stray snigger when the list of titles they look forward to Ė the brave new titles that will change the world Ė are Mario this, Metriod that. Itís all well and good having systems that allow you to do brand new things, but whatís the point when, at the core, youíre still doing the exact same thing you were effectively doing three decades ago?

Phantom Hourglass suffers from this problem more than most. There are no complaints to be had to how itís been converted to Nintendoís brave new handheld. Guiding Link with the stylus is as easy as prodding the screen in the direction you want to travel and some of the sword strokes work pretty well, like drawing a circle around your stumpy hero to execute the obligatory 360* spin attack. Using tools takes on a new dimension, too, when you have to draw their paths of directory or tap the screen the ready your bowstring. And while it does start to feel gimmicky when you start solving puzzles by blowing on the mic to snuff out candles or closing the DSís screens together to make an impromptu press, being able to write notes and draw routes on the map is such a simplistic but great idea you can expect it to be copied for the rest of the systemís lifespan.

It also has you yelling at a dwarven ship-maker to half his prices; the best way to look like a lunatic is to yell "Drop the damn price, you diseased little gimp!" into a little black box on a train or bus, the very thing the DS was designed for. But the biggest problem faced is that itís the same game youíve played a dozen times before but with a new control method. Thatís it.

Things starts how they always start in the Zelda multiverse, with the kidnapping of that dappy bint of a princess whose only point of existence is to be spirited away by dark forces at the start of every new adventure. In a new development twist for the series, Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel from Wind Waker on the Gamecube, meaning that it inherits the THE BIG TWO flaws that chapter suffered from. A lazy reviewer would use this as a chance to build a small checklist, so that's exactly what I'm going to do.

  • Cell-shading: Wind Waker caught a lot of flak for the new look it adopted as soon as Nintendo hopped aboard the Cell-Shade bandwagon and made their latest Zelda game look like Link and cast all suffered from some huge brain tumour, enlarging their heads to a freakish prospective. Despite a lot of whining fanboys, that look returns here, only on a much smaller screen ensuring that it looks fuzzy and squished.

  • Sailing: The monotonous treks across vast expanses of water with some retarded sentient boat spewing lines of unwelcome gibberish are the least enjoyable aspect of Wind Waker bar none. So, instead of doing away with the concept everyone and their toothless grandma's complained about, itís instead kept and carefully redesigned to make it even duller. Now you draw lines on the DS touch-pad and your ship follows them leaving you to, well, watch. For minutes on end. But don't think you can leave the DS unattended and go do something fun! You need to keep a constant eye on your surroundings in case you're attacked by angry fish or an aquatic hurdle pops out of the water which you must make your ship jump over. At least it doesn't talk now though. No, now all the annoying dialogue is now spat out by the clichťd 'cowardly' captain of the craft.

  • But at least Wind Waker made the effort to try and mask the fact that it (all every other game in the series) is simply one big fetch quest; Phantom Hourglass assumes that, by this point, you're so in love with Linkís pallet-swapped adventures that you'll either not notice or you won't care if they dump the faÁade completely. You'll start off in a dungeon that saps away at your health via magical ANTI-ELF tiles which can only be nullified by activating the titular hourglass. This keeps you safe as long as the ancient timer still contains sand, which you recover from other dungeons as the game goes on. Thusly, the entire adventure revolves around doing a level of this special dungeon, leaving it for a different stage and then returning when you have more sand and a new, obligatory tool like a boomerang or a shovel. You know, the really epic trinkets you can buy from any car boot sale.

    Even though you've already collected all these items in Wind Waker. Turns out Link lost them or something.

    New sand means you can spend more time in the special dungeon, which you'll need because every time you enter the bloody thing, you need to delve a little deeper than your last visit, yet start all over again from the start. Meaning that you'll do nothing but tread the same floors over and over again before exploring a few new floors. If that wasn't bad enough, the dungeon is filled with unkillable beasties that you need to sneak past looking like Solid Snake in unconvincing drag.

    Just as annoying is the inclusion of a helper fairy that may as well be called Navi. Revisiting Ocarina of Time's most annoying character must have seemed like a good idea to someone, but I can't quite see it. In their defence, the sheer blood-from-the-ears annoyance of hearing Navi scream "HEY! LISTEN! HEY! LISTEN!" throughout has been cut right in half with new fairy, Ciela, this chapter. All she shouts is "HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!" like an especially talentless rapper.

    Nintendo seem to have decided to take all the worst parts of the series and throw them into a game thatís only shining point is a genuinely tight control scheme, but what good is being able to move around cleverly when I don't want to go to the places it will take me? Obligatory FIRE dungeon? 1980 PC RPGs rang and wants its clichť back. What's that? Nintendo bought the copywrite to all the overplayed, elementally-aligned dungeons? I guess itís screwed then.

    This is the brave new innovation? That I move Link around with a plastic pen rather than a d-pad? Thanks, Nintendo, but you can keep it. Perhaps Iíll show more interest when you make good on your promises of Ďsaving gamingí rather than suffer your barely-concealed attempts to rehash it instead.


    EmP's avatar
    Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 01, 2007)

    Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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