The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
From the opening scene to the end credits, The Phantom Hourglass feels like a classic Zelda title: it's filled with an ungodly amount of content and has a deep and complex story that will stay with you long after you've reached the end. It is a worthy addition to the Zelda canon and only strengthens the DS' already impressive game library.
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Phantom Hourglass picks up where the GameCube title Wind Waker leaves off, and as such, it features the same cel-shaded visual style as well, which is definitely a good thing. The cartoon visuals not only look stunning on the DS, but they feel a lot less childish this time around.
A Mighty Wind
Nintendo has also done a good job of fitting the gameplay down to the small screen. The upper screen of the DS displays a map most of the time, and you move Link around by touching the touch screen in the direction you want him to move. Attacks are executed by tapping on the screen in a variety of ways. Though the control scheme felt intuitive and inventive, there are problems: I found that my hand would often block the action on the screen and having to tap with the stylus repeatedly to attack felt a tad clumsy. I eventually got used to it but I wish Nintendo had included an optional control scheme that used the more traditional D-pad and face buttons.
It's all about Accessorizing
Like all Zelda games, the majority of Phantom Hourglass is spent down in dungeons killing enemies and solving puzzles. The puzzles are pretty inventive and make good use of the DS' capabilities: two of the better examples are blowing into the microphone to extinguish candles and stamping a map by closing the DS. None of the bosses or enemies are particularly tough, so the focus on exploration and puzzle solving is definitely welcome.
As in Wind Waker, Link also does a fair share of sailing but this time around, it's no longer a chore. When moving around the gigantic ocean, you must plot a course on a sea chart by drawing a line from your boat to your destination. The boat then goes on auto-pilot and you are left to man your cannon to dispose of any monsters or sea traps that may pop up. It's an interesting addition that really makes those times spent on the high seas enjoyable.
Lock And Load
I also appreciated the way in which the designers took familiar concepts and tweaked them to take full advantage of the touch screen. For instance, you can physically draw your boomerang's flight path with the stylus, which proves handy not only in battles but with puzzles as well. The game also introduces a new weapon to Link's arsenal, the titular Phantom Hourglass, whose function and secret I won't spoil for you.
There is also a multiplayer mode that's reminiscent of Four Swords. It's not terribly innovative but it is fun for short bursts and only requires one cartridge. All in all, the Phantom Hourglass is a successful sequel that improves on everything that its predecessor did right. It is a title that all Zelda fans should get their hands on--it'll make the wait for the next home console Zelda title that much shorter.
PROS: Gorgeous graphics and sound; classic Zelda game play with out all the fetch quests.
CONS: Touch pad control is sometimes tedious.