The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS) Preview

By Adam Riley 20.06.2006 15

The release of a new Zelda game is normally surrounded by a huge furore amongst fans eager to know as much information about the title as possible, desperate to get their hands on the finished product. This is exactly what is happening with the first Zelda DS title, an RPG that looks as visually impressive as Wind Waker on the GameCube. Read on for more details...

There had been much talk of a new Zelda game coming to the Nintendo DS right back early on in the system's life. However, many were unsure whether it was to be a full-blown adventure RPG or something similar to the Four Swords spin-off series, since both were mentioned at one time or another. Then earlier this year gamers were blown away as Nintendo sharply drew back the curtain on its 'secret' project

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on Nintendo DS

In terms of the story, which never really seems to be as epic as Square Enix offerings unfortunately, the game continues where the GameCube outing left off. Rather than long, intricate story-telling, the premise is pretty basic. Link, along with Tetra and her pirate cohorts all head off on a journey of exploration, sailing the seas in search of new wonders. However, during their journey they come across an eerie old abandoned ship, which Tetra decides HAS to be searched. Therefore, off she trots...then, lo-and-behold, she finds herself in some trouble. Not predictable so far, right? Hmm...Well, rather than Link being able to save her straight away, he himself ends up falling into the ocean and being knocked unconscious. Cue a Link's Awakening-style intro as we discover our beloved Hylian hero washed up on the shore of an unknown island. This time, though, he is awakened by a little fairy who chooses to befriend him.

When it comes to controlling the game, the initial video shown at the Game Developer's Conference in March did not really show how the behind-the-scenes person was playing the game, so many assumed it was using the D-pad and face / shoulder buttons. However, the keen-eyed folk out there spotted that there was indeed a little fairy floating around, almost acting like a directional pointer for Link, thus giving the impression the title would be touch-screen controlled, similar to Animal Crossing. And, as the demonstration version at this year's E3 event highlighted, Link's movements and actions are actually stylus controlled! Thus, players can tap people to talk to them, make notes on maps for tactical purposes (so you never get lost, for example), draw the path of your boomerang to hit multiple objects at once (easing the brain-ache of certain puzzles) and even take control of your vessel before hitting the wide-open ocean (as mentioned at the start).

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on Nintendo DS

But it not only special uses that the touch-screen proves to be invaluable for, as series leader Eiji Aonuma has stated that the new system he has implemented is one he is so proud of that it will be used in future Zelda games on the DS and will hopefully be re-used for other DS adventure titles. Reports from the E3 demo version are that any fears about holding the stylus down to make Link run proving to be too clunky are unfounded. Place the stylus near his feet and he will simply saunter along, and the further away you hold it, the fast he runs, simple as that! And attacking is a breeze as well, such as make a sweeping, circular motion to spin attack, or tapping on enemies to make Link jab his sword at them and when there are no enemies around, just slash on the touch-screen to make him swipe at grass (for instance). It all seems to work even better than the smooth controls of Animal Crossing and far better than the difficult-to-get-used-to Metroid Prime Hunters controls.

Actually developed by the same team that did the sublime, yet horribly overlooked at retail, Four Swords Adventures on the GameCube, this was intended to be a port of Four Swords, as previously thought, but after seeing how well the cell graphical style worked on the DS, retaining a strong 3D feel as well, the team chose to expand on the game much further instead. Aonuma is also hoping that by taking this direction, mixing in new elements and old classical aspects as well, not only will current Zelda fans be enamoured, but the series will gain several new supporters that enjoy the experience just as much. Looking as damn good as it does, it should at least capture the eyes of graphics whores out there. Along with the gorgeous Final Fantasy III remake and the very tasty Tales of the Tempest from Namco, Phantom Hourglass is right up there as one of the most visually appealing DS titles, and with the audio side appearing to lift classics from Link to the Past on the SNES, this could be the ultimate package on for portable fans.

As for the layout of the dungeons, look at this: there is only ONE dungeon! Quite shocking, right? Well, it is not quite as bad as it sounds as there are several peripheral ones that must be worked through in order to penetrate the heart of the main dungeon. The question has to be exactly how long these subsidiary areas actually are. Hopefully this will continue the trend being started by the lengthy Twilight Princess. Another little addition is that there will monsters called 'Chasers' that will hunt Link down as he wanders round these dungeons. The path of these can be tracked via the map on the top screen, letting Link plot his escape routes whenever necessary. The reason being is that they are 1.) Invincible, 2.) Capable of taking Link out with the slightest of touches! Thankfully there are sanctuary zones where Link can hide out of sight, as well as special jars to create temporary zones when in dire straits.

But it does not all end there as Phantom Hourglass has a very intriguing multi-player aspect included as well. Presently it is a one-on-one type affair, with one player taking the role of Link and another taking charge of three enemies that roam around the arena, being directed by the opposing player drawing the route on the touch-screen. The aim of Link is to collect as many gems (of which there are three types, each with different value and once picked up all slow Link considerably) as possible without being caught on his way back to his areas at the side of the maze. If caught, the roles are reversed and the game goes on like this. It is worth mentioning that for this mode Link can either be controlled using the touch-screen or D-pad and buttons. Whether this option is available for the main adventure is currently unclear. It all sounds rather simple, but again the reports from those who played it at E3 are all favourable, even somewhat surprised, as many doubted how addictive it would turn out.

Final Thoughts

So it is all looking extremely rosy for Phantom Hourglass at the moment. There are still a few elements of doubt that linger, such as the dungeon length and how the multiplayer will hold up in the long-run, but the positives far out-weigh the seeds of doubt right now. Zelda fans definitely should put this on their Christmas lists now...

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (39 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It seems great and I'll definately get it at some point although I may be a bit too busy with Wii when it comes out!

Ace preview and this is looking like a fab game at the moment :Smilie

Got a bee in my bonnet at work today and rattled off the Chart Highlights and this...Can't wait for it, but really wish Flagship would be doing a DS Zelda instead of the new Kirby DS. The Oracle Zeldas and Minish Cap are some of the finest in the series (IMO).

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

*gulp* I STILL haven't played minish cap. Maybe I'll get it once I get my shiny DS lite Smilie

Minish Cap is AMAZING, but I never even managed to finish it because I was too busy at the time... :-(

I'm really happy this is using music from LttP...bodes well that they're using some older games for inspiration. I'd still love to see a full remake of Zelda II...I just get the feeling the game would be appreciated much more.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Well ive had the intention to go through ALL the Zelda games in my possession this year in for time of Twighlight Princess. But then it was pushed back to Winter so i decided on some Summer loving.

Ive completed OoT for the first time ever this year, and im nearing the end of MM. During the Summer WW,MC and 4SA will be completed...

im sure you all wanted to know that.

Anyway i was thinking "what the hell" when i first read the title.

Anyway good write up, ive learned a few things.

Antitipation rating 4.5
When you expecting your baby then raz? :lol:

Christmans lists?! You gotta be kidding me! I'm buying THIS Bitch on launch day!!...

Maybe... :-(

Anyway. YAY for Zelda games!!

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

EDIT: No Edit button!? :eek:

Well, the only Zelda games that I've never managed to complete are Zelda 1 & 2, mainly because I never know where to go next, it can get frustrating dying & going all the way back to the begginning of the field... but apart from them, I've managed to complete every other Zelda game at least twice (woo!)

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I want Final Fantasy III and Tales of the Tempest more.

I'm not sure about this game, I'll have to wait and see whether the control scheme works well. To be honest I probably wouldn't be picking up this game if it didn't have 'Zelda' in the title.

People stayed away from Four Swords Adventures unfortunately as well, but that's a superb game...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

wonderful

somebody add wen its goin to be released

people that run this site add when this games coming out

never played minis cap, but if this is any good I'll buy it.

Enoch Powell was right, and you know it.

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