The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS) Third Opinion Review

By Athanasios 23.06.2017

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

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has been characterised by many as a low-res Wind Waker, and, in some ways, that feels like a correct statement… but is it? Yes, it uses the same cel-shaded, cartoony style of its predecessor, albeit rendered in a portable and thus weaker platform, and sailing through the seas is still its main major component. However, are these enough for it to be compared with one of the greatest Zelda titles ever made? Join Cubed3 as it goes swashbuckling Nintendo DS style.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker lends its cartoony, cel-shaded look to its younger Nintendo DS brother, and the result is… pretty nice, as this is not a typical 3D Zelda game of any sorts. Yes, everything is fully three-dimensional, but Phantom Hourglass follows the old-school approach of the top-down, bird's eye view, which is certainly not a flaw, as this also plays like an old-school Zelda... albeit with touch controls.

What separates this from the rest of the series is simply the fact that everything will be done using the stylus. Tap and hold towards a direction to make Link run, tap on an enemy to let him hit it, tap an item to grab it and point where you want to throw it, and so on. It will feel somewhat strange at first, but it's a control mechanic that will slowly become second nature, with a level of precision that is spot on 99% of the time.

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

Typical of Nintendo's handling of its most popular franchises, Phantom Hourglass is part Zelda game, part tech demo, as it takes advantage of the many bells and whistles of the DS. The good thing is that most examples don't end up feeling gimmicky, as the game incorporates the platform's various features into the whole puzzle solving, with many of them requiring drawing a shape on screen, blowing into the microphone, and then some.

By far the most common thing, though, is the usage of the stylus to make notes on the many maps that can be found, which is very helpful as it enables marking locations of potential treasure, or memorizing the solution to a riddle. Needless to say that, like all great Zelda titles, this is a mechanic that's extremely simple, but also one that successfully manages to bring out the inner child adventurer in us all.

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

For those who haven't had the chance to play it, this can safely be divided between two parts. First, we have the standard Zelda gameplay. Explore the overworld, enter dungeons, solve puzzles, kill bosses, and acquire new shiny equipment. The second half, and the one that makes this and Wind Waker stand out, is the whole seafaring business, as Link can actually explore a vast (in a way) ocean, fight sea monsters, find various secrets, and collect all sorts of underwater goodies.

Like the rest of its kind, it's nothing that revolutionary, but it manages to be quite the immersive experience, and one that's hard to let go before the very end. Things are far from perfect, though. For starters, not only is this not as non-linear as Wind Waker (and how could it be so?), but it's also very, very easy, even when compared to its already piece-of-cake sibling. The first couple of way-too-handholdy hours, especially, will feel as if they were made for the youngest of gamers.

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

The next problem, which is not really a "true" flaw, is that while almost every single Zelda instalment has been very… by the numbers, this probably does so in a less successful manner, as most of the time it all feels like this: talk to gather clues on where to go next, find a sea chart, sail on the newly discovered land, enter the dungeon, return to the central temple, go a little bit deeper in it, rinse, and repeat all over again.

Sure, it's as formulaic as the rest, but maybe a bit too much this time around. Make no mistake, however. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is, without a single doubt, one of the better Zelda titles, as, for all its simplicity and lack of challenge, it's an extremely addicting time sink that's hard to let go once it begins. The thing is, though, that, although definitely a joy to play, it's not really a joy to return to - not too soon, at least.

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

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Compared to the rest of this… well, legendary franchise it belongs to, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is certainly not amongst the best, as better, more innovative, and far more challenging ones have seen the light of day. Compared to the rest of the DS library, though… just find a copy, and start exploring the high seas now!






Action Adventure



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   


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