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DS: Zelda - Phantom Hourglass

Reviewed by: Andrew Klose

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is the first direct sequel in the Zelda series. It picks up right after the end of Wind Waker it shares a lot with that title, most notably a lot of sailing around on a massive ocean and cel shading. While those were considered weak spots in Wind Waker by some, they actually turn out to be strengths on the portable DS. The cel shading is a great style for the small screen of the DS, a realistic shader wouldn't look too good given the limited hardware, and going completely 2d would probably have been too far of a step into the past for the majority of people. As for the sailing it's been much improved instead of having to control the wind you simply draw on your sea chart the path you want to take with your stylus and your ship goes on autopilot leaving you to occasionally shoot at enemies with your cannon.

In addition to giving your ship navigation points the stylus is used for almost every other control in the game. The developers could have gone the easy route and simply used the dpad and buttons to control Link instead you point your stylus where you want him to go and he'll follow it. Attacking is done by tapping enemies or making short slashes across the touch screen. It may take you a couple of minutes to get used to but once you do controlling Link becomes second nature.

Besides moving and attacking with your stylus You'll also be using it to take plenty of notes as pretty much every map alows you write on it using the touch screen. In fact you'll have to use this feature at several points since there's a few puzzles of the "X marks the spot" variety.

The use of the DS hardware is very innovative, some of the puzzles might actually be a little too innovative for those of us that have twenty plus years of video game conventions trained to the point of muscle memory. One example of this *minor spoiler alert* was a map that you find is shown in the top screen with a seal on it, it turns out that this map is a mirror image of a Sea Chart you already have. You have to find the Same sea chart and transfer the seal from the top screen to the bottom, I spent a good 15 minutes trying to draw the seal and hack and slash my way to get it to appear on the lower screen. Only after a further hint did I realize that you have to physically close the DS to "Press the seal" from the map you found to your Sea chart on the lower screen. */minor spoiler alert*

Besides all these DS specific enhancements if you're like everybody else in the world and have played a previous Zelda game before in your life the actual flow of the game will be pretty familiar. Go to Dungeon, get new item, defeat boss, get heart container, repeat. The major difference in Phantom Hourglass is that between get heart container and repeat you'll have to go back to the same dungeon, go down all the levels you beat before plus an additional one or two to advance the plot. While you eventually get a save point halfway and items you pick up on the way help you find shortcuts it is still annoying to have to go through the same floor half a dozen times or more.

At about 12-15 hours this isn't one of of the longer Zeldas, but for a portable system that's actually quite a bit of time. if you've got a DS Phantom hourglass is a must own, or if you are a Zelda fan this game makes a DS a must own (as if you didn't have enough reason already)

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