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The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Action/RPG

Release Date: 10/01/07

Fans of the Zelda series have another major edition of the series to look forward to as Link comes to fight his battles on the DS. I was able to play some of the demo at Nintendo’s exhibit this week and I have to say, it made good use of the touchpad’s unique abilities, but still holds it’s own as being a strong member of the Zelda series.

The brand new touch control system works by dragging Navi, Link’s trusty fairy, around with the stylus. Link will move towards Navi depending on his distance from the fairy; drag the fairy farther away to get him to move faster. He’ll take care of the jumping himself by automatically leaping over anything you try to drag him over. Attacks are done by tapping on the enemy you wish to stab, and at least one special move is done with a specific motion of the stylus, that being the circular slash, which is done by drawing a circle around the hero.

Carried over from Windwaker, along with the stylistic cel-shaded graphics, is a similar boat portion of the game, where Link travels to different islands. The boat’s actual direction is created by drawing out a course on a map, and the boat’s speed is set with the stylus: slow, fast, or stopped. On the boat, numerous enemies are encountered, which must be hit with cannonballs, also launched with the stylus controlling speed and aim. Boss enemies may also be encountered, which must be taken down in a puzzle fashion as with all Zelda bosses. Players have to maneuver around these enemies by drawing routes around them on the map and then attack with cannonballs while still avoiding attacks.

Once on shore, things got a lot more familiar. A lot of actions are covered with the double tap, including picking up and throwing objects as well as talking to people. The map is important for navigation, and the stylus can be used to make vital markings on it to be used later. Inside the dungeon I found the boomerang, and it’s quite possibly the coolest edition of the boomerang yet. Instead of just throwing it, you draw out its course, and the boomerang follows it and returns to you. In this way, you get it around objects and take out groups of enemies.

The final part of the demo had me fighting a flying boss, and made more use of the picking up and throwing with the stylus. The boss had to be defeated by picking up and throwing bombs at little whirlwinds, which carried the bombs to the boss overhead. The stylus made link easy to control and felt very natural and easy to use, even in this tense situation.

I also got a chance to play the multiplayer with fellow writer. Andy Thivynathan, and while this game may not be the next multiplayer craze, it did add a bit of fun you could have with friends. In the multiplayer mini-game, one side is the evil guards, and the other is Link. Link is directly controlled by the player and has to grab large yellow gems by double tapping them, and then return to his safe area very slowly while hauling the gems. The other player must direct each of their 3 guards toward the player by drawing routes for them on the map based on Link’s last known location.

The game feels very much like a sequel to Windwaker, in touch mode. The DS’s graphics capabilities continue to amaze me, as the game looked quite slick, especially while having to emulation a Gamecube game. Zelda fans and anyone with a DS should keep a very close eye on this title.

By Andrew Bruck - 05/14/06
ESRB Details: Fantasy Violence
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Screenshots for The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass

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