"My professional obligations completed, I forgot about Hourglass. It's easily done because, as I alluded to earlier, it's crap. But now, bollocks to it, I'm going to tell you why."
There comes a time in a reviewer's career when they have to acknowledge professionalism. And now I've got a swanky job title and a fake bronze nameplate on my desk (one you have to look at really hard to know its fake brass), it should apply to me more than anyone, right?
It should, but a lot of the time, it doesn't. In this game we all pretend that we’re not inherently biased pricks who chose this profession because our opinions carry more weight than yours, but that fact is, we are and we do. I can use loquacious prose like salmagundi, for Christ's sake, while you're all so bloody dumb the best you can do is spit out ridiculous DBZ/Anne Frank fanfics. Frankly, each new day that passes I'm shocked to see a statue of me hasn't been erected in major cities for you, the great unwashed, to worship. "I wish I was EmP!" Yeah, yeah, join the queue, kid.
But I digress. Professionalism. Right.
I don't like Phantom Hourglass. Hell, I don't much like Zelda as a series. The entire premise has been to rehash the same tired formula over and over again and the formula’s foundation wasn't without cracks to begin with. You're always going to be playing as a cross-dressing turd with the personality of a goldfish wandering around almost aimlessly on one giant fetch-quest.
Voicing this sentiment was sure to anger the vast majority of you cretins who know no better than to like these titles, so, apparently, saying all this would be deemed 'unprofessional'. And we can't have that, can we?
So, being the responsible Senior European Editor that I am, I took the game out of my DS, placed it back in the box, rolled it in bubble wrap and sent it off to Ben, who wrote a very fair-minded review. Those of you starting to feel a little insulted by this point should probably bugger off and go read that instead. It can be found here.
My professional obligations completed, I forgot about Hourglass. It's easily done because, as I alluded to earlier, it's crap. But now, bollocks to it, I'm going to tell you why.
It starts as they all sodding start, 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 Zelda adventure (at least one to be released per Nintendo system -- by law!). In a new development twist for the series, Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequal to from Wind Waker on the Gamecube, meaning that it inherits nothing but 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.
But at least all the other Zelda’s are clever enough to try and mask the fact that they're simply one big fetch quest; Phantom Hourglass assumes that, by this point, you're so in love with the series you'll either not notice or you won't care if they dump the façade 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 sand remains in the ancient timer, and you recover more sand from other dungeons as the game goes on. Thusly, the entire game revolves around doing a level of this special dungeon, leaving it for a different stage and then returning when you have more sand and the 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. The plank.
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 tread the same levels over and over again. 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.
About the only thing they did get right is fitting the title onto the hardware. Guiding Link with the stylus is easy enough and some of the sword strokes work pretty well, like drawing a circle around your stumpy hero to execute the obligatory 360* spin attack. Solving puzzles by blowing on the mic to snuff out candles and being able to write notes and draw routes on the map are also cool touches that blah blah blah blah blah. It also has you yelling at a dwarven ship-maker to half his prices which and 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.
Professionalism would insist that I make full mention of the pros on the above list but, really, 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 cliché back. What's that? Nintendo bought the copywrite to all the overplayed, elementally-aligned dungeons? I guess it’s screwed then.
As are we, because Nintendo will keep pushing this crap on us from now until forever. Because someone keeps buying it.
Community review by bside (November 30, 2007)
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