The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Hands-On) (Nintendo DS) Preview

By Karn Spydar Lee Bianco 24.06.2009

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

With the conspicuous absence of a full-fledged new Zelda title for the Wii at E3, it was left up to The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks to satisfy gamers' need for a hero garbed in green. Sprit Tracks was first revealed for the Nintendo DS by Satoru Iwata at the 2009 Game Developers conference and is slated for release by the end of the year.

The game's E3 demo is split into three distinct parts, respectively demonstrating dungeon gameplay, a boss encounter, and the new train mechanic. The former should feel familiar to anyone who played Phantom Hourglass; everything is controlled using only the stylus. Link is manoeuvred by simply tapping the screen, sword slashing is achieved with quick swipes of the stylus, and items can be used by selecting the appropriate on-screen icon. A new item called the 'Whirlwind' was used to demonstrate as much. Upon selecting a direction via the touch screen and blowing into the microphone, the Whirlwind unleashes a gust of wind that can stun enemies, flip switches, etc..

The most prominent addition to dungeon gameplay, however, is the introduction of a controllable Phantom. Unlike the map-based system featured in Phantom Hourglass's multiplayer mode, Phantoms in Spirit Tracks can be controlled from the standard in-game perspective. After tapping an on-screen icon, the Phantom will follow any path drawn on the screen. While it's doing so, Link is able to continue moving freely. Invulnerable as it is, the Phantom can be used to navigate by otherwise impassable obstructions such as fire. For example, Link can jump atop the Phantom and "ride" him through lava pits while niftily fending off any foes with his sword and items.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Before Link can reach the boss segment of the demo he must first use the Whirlwind to clear a path through a cloud of poisonous purple gas. Upon entering the battle arena, a large insect-like creature descends from the sky (crossing both screens as it does so) and lands just ahead. In true Zelda fashion, the creature can only be bested by using a recently acquired item, namely the Whirlwind. A few well aimed blows at the creature's rather prominent weak-spot and it ascends to the ceiling in order to rain down spiky explosives. These can then be activated with a sword swing and flung at the boss using the Whirlwind, a surprisingly satisfying endeavour.

The final part of the demo introduces a steam powered train to the Zelda universe. The train's direction can only be altered at set intervals, leaving the focus on using the onboard cannon to destroy obstacles and fend off wild animals. An on-screen lever can be used to adjust speed, but even the highest setting results in little more than a leisurely pace. Just when things verge on becoming dull, however, the train enters a cave and Link is attacked by a large one-eyed rock creature that can only be dispatched with a volley of carefully aimed cannonballs. Hopefully the final game will balance the slower-paced riding sequences with plenty of these action-oriented sequences.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Final Thoughts

Spirit Tracks may bear a striking resemblance to Phantom Hourglass but its new controllable Phantom mechanic is shaping up nicely, and the on-rails train gameplay - if spruced up with a healthy dose of action-oriented sequences to prevent monotony - also has potential. Anyone who enjoyed Phantom Hourglass (or missed out on it but wanted to enjoy it) would do well to keep an eye on this, but there doesn't seem to be a great deal here to win over anyone else.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (15 Votes)

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


Good stuff Karn, and good to see Nintendo mixing it up a little with the Phantom, and also the boss battles sounding a little bit more innovative too. Hoping they'll pull through with more unique ideas and mechanics.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Anyone who enjoyed Phantom Hourglass (or missed out on it but wanted to enjoy it) would do well to keep an eye on this, but there doesn't seem to be a great deal here to win over anyone else.

I wont like it then. xD

Agreed with edracon... I mean I will like it, but I\'ll be disappointed again.

Although, any word on the music? PH\'s horrible bland music was one of the worst things about it. If Spirit Tracks had a great soundtrack it would instantly redeem the whole title IMO.

( Edited 25.06.2009 01:54 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I don't have the same feeling about Zelda anymore. I'm not exactly hyped up for this game. Things just seem to have gone disappointing on the Zelda front for me. I'm sure I'll enjoy this game but I get the feeling I won't be feeling like I did when I played through the likes of Majora's Mask or the Oracles for the first time.

Hands-on needs moore Linebeck.Smilie

As nice as Phantom Hourglass was as an achievement (replicating Wind Waker style on DS) its still pretty hideous 3D imo. Why is this style wasted on DS? After playing proper Wii games with decent textures and animation, or even popping the Wind Waker disc in, Twilight Princess seems more visually dated than ever. And conversely, Phantom Hourglass didn't look as nice to me as Minish Cap.

Gameplay wise I enjoyed it. Even the Temple of the Ocean King. I thought the controls rocked. I loved Linebeck. I would have liked the game to have been longer and for ship customization to have had more meaningful impact if they were going to bother with that at all, but it was a solid game. So I'm looking forward to this.

I'm still gutted that Flagship was dissolved and re-integrated into Capcom. For me, the two Oracles games and Minish Cap have been my favourite Zelda games of the past decade.

Phantom Hourglass was definitely still fun, though, and from what I played of this it looks like the formula is being expanded upon, which is only a good thing in my eyes Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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