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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass January 13, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews, Video Games.
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The first real Zelda game for the Nintendo DS, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is both a worthy sequel to the Gamecube’s Wind Waker and an all-around great role-playing game (RPG) for players on the go.

Fans of the series will note that Phantom Hourglass is perhaps the most palpable departure from the Zelda formula to have graced a gaming platform in a long time. Here there is no Triforce, no Master Sword (although there is a close substitute), and ultimately no dark wizard Ganon to defeat — all of which happens to be a good thing. That the story takes place following the events of Wind Waker has given the developers an opportunity to craft something refreshingly new albeit still cast in the Zelda mode, resulting in a game just ripe for players new to the series to try out and that long-standing fans (especially those of Wind Waker) will also enjoy.

The game has to be the most impressive release on the Nintendo DS to date. It’s not just the game’s near flawless stylus-based controls; beyond that, nearly the entire range of the DS’s functionality — such as the microphone and even its clamshell design — factor into the gameplay quite thoughtfully. While some players may object to the to the need to revisit a particular area in the game several times over just to push the story forward, it is a quirk of game design executed fairly well.

Although relatively short for an RPG (it can be finished in around twenty hours), a number of extra features ensure that gamers won’t be putting Phantom Hourglass down all too soon. The reason for this, aside from two token minigames within the main story, is the game’s Wi-Fi component. Because it is essentially a seafaring adventure, the game inevitably involves customizing the ship being used to travel from island to island, which can be done more quickly by trading parts with other players via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection. This takes place via a separate online game pitting players against each other in turn-based matches akin to “capture the flag” mixed with “hide-and-seek”, which also happens to be quite addictive on its own.

Nintendo have once again struck gold with The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, a must-have title for the DS if there ever was one.

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