Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

It's taken a while but Link is finally ready to embark on his first DS adventure. Can he work his magic on the small screen?

No doubt many of you have already seen the many positive reviews for The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass dotted all over the Internet. We realize we’re a bit late with our own critique of this highly anticipated videogame, but with a series like Zelda you simply have to take your time. It wouldn’t be wise to rush things when dealing with something as beautifully crafted as this.

As you might guess from that rather flowery opening paragraph, we quite like Link’s latest outing. From the moment the first screenshots drifted into view we instinctively knew that it would be a sumptuous treat. Although many people struggled with the cel-shaded visuals of Wind Waker and the vast amounts of (often tiresome) ocean travel, here at NintendoLife we lapped it up; it was a fresh and brave new take on the franchise. Therefore, when it became clear that the DS edition would be a direct sequel to the GameCube classic, there was a fair amount of whooping and cheering to be heard around Nlife towers.

Upon firing up the game, the first thing that strikes you is the control system. It’s completely stylus-driven, with the buttons and d-pad only being used for shortcuts. Although it’s initially jarring, within the space of a few moments everything falls into place; it’s a wonder that no one has attempted to craft such an interface on the DS in the past. No aspect of control is compromised – Link responds wonderfully to your stylus movements and gestures, and at no point do you find yourself wishing a more ‘traditional’ control scheme had been included.

Such a revolutionary interface is a wonder in itself, but the fact that it’s backed up with one of the most robust and satisfying Zelda adventures of all time certainly helps matters. As was the case with Wind Waker, the story is set in a ocean world dotted with many tiny islands. Those of you that took issue with the constant travelling and manipulation of the wind in the aforementioned prequel will be pleased to note that everything is much more streamlined this time round. You simply tap where you wish to go on the map and your vessel follows the route; occasionally you will have to avoid obstacles or fire at advancing enemies. Treasure hunting – a neat feature in Wind Waker – also makes a return, but this time you have to be a little more ‘hands on’ and guide your crane down to the seabed in what turns out to be a throughly entertaining little mini game.

The plot revolves around a mysterious Ghost Ship that kidnaps the gutsy pirate captain Tetra (who, as Wind Waker players will be aware, is actually Princess Zelda). Link receives the titular Phantom Hourglass early on in his quest, and using this item he is able to enter the Temple of the Ocean God – a multi-level dungeon that forms the focal point of the game. When inside the dungeon Link’s energy levels are under constant bombardment, and only using the magical properties of the Hourglass can he expect to withstand damage. As you successfully progress through the game and defeat various bosses in other locations, sand is added to your hourglass, which in turn allows you to descend a little deeper into the oppressive Temple. This obviously means there’s a little bit of repetition, but thankfully as you unlock abilities and items your path to the lower levels is made easier.

We’ve already touched upon the fact that PH replicates the cel-shaded look of Wind Waker, but it’s worth expanding on this point, as the game is arguably the best looking 3D title on Nintendo’s handheld. Granted, some of the textures are a bit blocky and many of the character models lack detail, but Link is superbly animated, losing none of the charm he possessed in the GameCube instalment. Although the world is rendered in three dimensions it’s worth noting that the viewpoint is classic ‘top-down’ Zelda – something that will please fans of Link to the Past and the more recent Minish Cap.

Conclusion

There’s plenty more to talk about here but we’re not going to launch into a review of essay-like proportions; you already know PH is a must-own and there’s a good chance most of you already own it. For those of you that don’t – and we assume you have a perfectly valid excuse for missing out on one of the most essential videogames of the past ten years – you’d best ask Santa to pop a copy in your Christmas stocking. This is a legendary game that blows away anything yet experienced on the DS, raising the handheld gaming bar to previously unheard of levels. Most fittingly, it’s proof that Nintendo is simply untouchable when it comes to crafting pieces of electronic entertainment.

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Game Trailer

E3 2007 Trailer for Phantom Hourglass

User Comments (25)

motang

#1

motang said:

Great game I am enjoying every minute of it. Only thing I didn't like is that how you are forced to go back into the Temple and starting from the beginning each time in order to advance (which is a minor setback). :-(

Zenman

#2

Zenman said:

nice game, i liked all the little interactive features like blowing out candles and yelling into the mike

nelsonle10

#3

nelsonle10 said:

i have it but it sucks becuse the online play is gay becuase its only two ppl playin

DamoAdmin

#4

Damo said:

Thanks for the constructive and well-worded feedback, Nelson.

breaderer

#5

breaderer said:

This game was fun, but going back to the ocean king temple got so annoying that I stopped playing the game all together..

Adam

#6

Adam said:

I agree with Breaderer. I also find Zelda has become too puzzle-oriented. The 2D games weren't like that, unless you count, "Which of these random blocks do I have to push to open the staircase?" ;)

Actually, the multiplayer is what kept the game in my DS for weeks after its release. In fact, I really think it rivals Four Swords Adventures, though they are completely different types of fun. A game like PH's multiplayer (whether Zelda-themed or not) would make for a good DSiWare release, especially if AI opponents were included for once the online mode sees a drop in players. Then again, maybe the new DS Zelda will have a similar mode.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#7

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

I completed this game and must say its one of the best games I've played (and I've played tonnes in my time!). I'd probably give it a 94%

nintendolover88

#8

nintendolover88 said:

well i prefer Twilight Mirror( graphiclly and because i find it more fun)but this game is great - 9.6/10

James

#9

James said:

Twilight Mirror? Not played that one.

I tried to get back into Phantom Hourglass a few days ago but just couldn't bring myself to do that bloody dungeon again. I know it's the last time I'll ever have to do it but I can't punish myself like that.

citizenerased

#10

citizenerased said:

Bit late here, finished it a few days ago. I absolutely hate the main dungeon, it's awful. To make matters worse, a time limit? Everyone knows time limits should be completely removed from games because they're really annoying.
It's classic Zelda but they screwed up big time with these 2 things; I'd rate it 7 or 8 out of 10.

FATEM

#12

FATEM said:

Extremely late but I absolutley loved it. I think I was the only person who didn't mind going back to the Ocean King Temple over and over again. The only problem I had was having to draw the hourglass in the fight with Bellum inside the temple.

fishman100

#16

fishman100 said:

Too bad nintendo couldn't raise the replay value and length in PH, and now it's really pissing me off in spirit tracks, too!

PristineQueen

#17

PristineQueen said:

i haven't finished this game yet, but intend to soon. i love the use of the stylus in this game, very cool. i also found it very fun to travel around in the ship around the ocean. wanted to finish this before i bought spirit tracks, but i suggest buy this game if you are a zelda lover like i am!

Dodger

#19

Dodger said:

Just finished last night. Amazing. I got it from gamestop used. I really can't say anything other then amazing. It is my first Zelda title and I certainly want to get another now.

Dodger

#20

Dodger said:

It does lack replay value in the main game but I still find myself playing it for the really fun wifi and to try to collect the spirit gems. I find it annoying that you can't go back to the awesome boss fights again but oh well.

After playing a couple more Zelda titles, I can see how some people say it is the worst in the series (CDi doesn't count) but I think that shows how great the Zelda series is because it was really amazing.

I've also had a lot of fun playing it with my dad too.

Samholy

#23

Samholy said:

i agree with nine.
the main dungeon gets old at mid game.
everything was top notch. characters and animations was quite well made.
more humorous than all other Zeldas.

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