|The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass|
Release Date: Out Now
Innovation is a brilliant thing. It improves things that have become tired and well worn and inspires others to try harder. But it often takes time, another try or even someone completely different to take those innovations and to implement them perfectly in a better game.
For me, the now ancient Zelda: Link to the Past is the greatest game I have played in the series, even more so than Ocarina of Time. It had the best tunes, the best atmosphere and was the most addictive to play but without sticking points or running out of ideas. And itís that kind of game, with that kind of depth and playability that should be being made in fresh form for the DS, but with the quirky abilities of stylus and microphone added seamlessly. So does The Phantom Hourglass achieve that?
From the off everything is familiar and I almost instinctively knew how the game was going to be played. I scribbled this down on a piece of paper before I even loaded the game - ĎIt will involve talking to quirky characters, finding a sword and then retrieving something from a dungeon to help further your quest. The main story will probably involve rescuing a princess from some evil tyrant too.í
And those traditional Nintendo production values and design elements seduce you even further. The dungeons and landscapes look nice and sailing across the sea is fun with the use of a pen and a sea chart to plot your course. Writing notes on your map so you donít forget the location of treasure is simple genius for a muddled old fart like me, so much so that I continually wrote a memo in the top left hand corner saying - this is a brilliant game remember, give it a fabbo score. Indeed, it is one of the best adventure games on the DS and I can heartily recommend it. But itís not perfect, and for all its control innovation itís not quite brilliant. This is something that I came to realise after prolonged play and all the introductory delight had settled down.
For a start, moving link about solely with the stylus isnít actually all that intuitive when it really matters. And as the game gets tougher and requires more speed and response it becomes a messy chore that aches the wrist and fingers and causes mistakes. When this is combined with some strange game design decisions such as adding time limits, level restarts and invincible guards who you have to avoid constantly the game becomes a downright pain, leaving you no other choice but to shut the DS up and attack it later when your blood pressure has settled down.
With all of this said, Zelda fans wonít be too disappointed as the core mechanics are here in the dungeon crawling and countless clever things like blowing out torches via the microphone will always add an element of fun and delight to new players. But this game could and should have been much more. One feels that Nintendo took the guise of an over enthusiastic interior designer and slapped all manner of budget, flair and ideas on the lounge whilst forgetting about the important needs of the whole house.
- Innovative use of the stylus and DS hardware
- Some of the nicest 3D graphics on the system
- The usual Zelda characters, mechanics and style that you know and love
- The boomerang is brilliant fun
- Useful map marking function
- Constant use of the stylus does become irritating during long play
- Repetetive locations and dungeons
- Small scale islands and game world
- A strange lack of atmosphere and exploring freedom