To celebrate the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, we're running a series of features looking at a specific aspect — a theme, character, mechanic, location, memory or something else entirely — from each of the mainline Zelda games. Today, Kate reminisces about the good, the bad, and the stylus controls of Phantom Hourglass...
You know, I can't decide if The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is admirably brave, or lovably stupid. The handheld Zelda games have always been a little... weird, whether it's Minish Cap's "what if Tingle had a family" or Spirit Tracks' "what if the bad guy was a train", and that's largely down to the fact that Nintendo can afford to go a bit wild on the Zeldas that aren't on the big consoles. They fly a little under the radar, they aren't always 100 per cent canonical, and as a result, they can easily play with the established formula a little more, since no one takes them quite as seriously as a full-fledged title.
Enter Phantom Hourglass: the sort-of-but-not-quite sequel to Wind Waker, in which the world is still A Big Wet, but Tetra the badass pirate is no longer trapped in the body of a blonde woman who's stuck in a basement. It was quite a gamble - Wind Waker was a huge success, and is one of the most beloved Zelda games to this day, so to set a game in its world is a risky proposition.
For the most part - at least, in my opinion, which is what you're about to get several hundred words of - Phantom Hourglass carried the torch well, but what it's remembered for more than anything is its central dungeon. Let's get into that first, eh?
The Temple of the Ocean King, AKA the Bane of the Video Game Player, is a temple dungeon divided into individual levels on each floor that must be done no less than five times. If you thought Ocarina of Time's Water Temple was a pain in the bum, then you ain't seen nothing yet. Each time you revisit The Temple of the Ocean King, you have to re-do many of the puzzles and stealth challenges you've already done - because, oh yeah, the whole thing is a stealth dungeon - although new items gained in the meantime will open up the occasional shortcut.
DID I MENTION THAT THE DUNGEON IS ALSO TIMED? No, I did not. But it is, and going over the time limit will deal damage to Link. Time limits, stealth, and repetition are perhaps my three least favourite game mechanics - and yet, I consider Phantom Hourglass one of my favourite Zelda games of all time. What gives?
Well, many things gives. To begin simply, it's a fantastic use of the DS' technology; the stylus is used for everything, from movement to combat to one particularly great moment where you have to map out an entire island on paper. Sure, that may have been a negative for some people, and I certainly don't think I'd enjoy it quite as much today, what with all that tendonitis I have, but back then, it was a revelation.
Nintendo have always enjoyed experimenting with their console tech, and for the first few years of the DS, the Wii, and the 3DS, we were treated to some novel and creative uses of those technologies. For the Wii, it was games like Wii Sports and Okami; for the 3DS, Luigi's Mansion and Super Mario 3D Land used the autostereoscopic feature as much as they could; on DS, very few games reached the stylus-use heights of Phantom Hourglass.
One of the greatest features of Phantom Hourglass was the way it let players doodle all over the map. Breath of the Wild's map pins and stamps were but a limited replication of Phantom Hourglass' note-taking, which would let you jot down where specific items, chests, and enemies were, or just draw a giant dong, if you wanted. Some dungeons revolve around the idea, and Bombchus in particular (which are far more useful in this game than any other) require drawing a precise path that doesn't touch any walls. Pen-based gameplay? Heck yeah! Sign me up, baby.
But, for a chunky-looking handheld game that was trying to replicate a specific, cel-shaded style on a much more powerful console, Phantom Hourglass is also full of personality. Taking its cues from the cheeky, expressive Wind Waker Link, Phantom Hourglass has our hero pulling all sorts of goofy faces, with a huge deal of humour made possible by the animation, even despite his lack of spoken lines.
There's also Linebeck - the love-him-or-hate-him sea captain introduced in Phantom Hourglass - who fulfils that satisfying trope of "washed-up treasure bastard with a heart of gold", and Oshus, the loveable, grumpy old man who helps Link in his quest and then turns out to be a whale-deity. It's always the ones you least expect. Every character in this game is brimming with personality, stories, secrets, and
Most fans of the game will remember its finest, and most frustrating moment above all others - the bit where you have to transfer a map to another map. For me, I discovered it entirely by accident, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. After a confused 20 minutes of trying to draw, button-press, and logic my way to victory, I closed the console and stepped away - only to discover that that's exactly what you're supposed to do. Phantom Hourglass punched through the fourth wall and broke into the meta-game by insisting that you transfer details from the top screen to the bottom screen by folding your DS in half like a book.
There have been a bunch of games in the meantime (and before Phantom Hourglass) that used clever console trickery to force players into trying new things. There's the (abandoned) Banjo-Kazooie Stop 'N' Swop feature, which required players to switch out cartridges while playing, or Metal Gear Solid's trick where you have to switch controller ports to stop the boss from "reading your mind". These weird little fourth-wall-breaking tricks are annoying when you're playing the game, for sure, but become legendary as time goes on, and nostalgia's erosion rounds off the sharp edges.
Writing this has made me realise how much I miss stylus-based gaming. There's nothing quite like the verisimilitude of a touchscreen, or the instantaneous way it lets you interact with things on-screen. With a brain, a finger, a button, and a game, there's always a slight delay between each, but brain-touch-screen is satisfying in some deep-seated primal way. Don't ask me why! I'm not a scientist, despite claiming multiple times to be good at science.
Plus, as a gamer and person with a terrible attention span and a love of fiddling with things to stay focused, you can't beat a stylus. You can draw little doodles with it, and some of my best work on Phantom Hourglass - as ephemeral as it was - was lovely to see, every time I would return to a map with a big Toon Link sketched across it.
Phantom Hourglass, overall, is both admirably brave and lovably stupid, you see. That's why it's so great: like many of the best Zelda games, it tries new things, and even though it often falls over its own feet like a puppy learning to chase a ball, you can't help but smile. The repeated dungeon might not be the most fun, but it's certainly interesting, and the riddles and puzzles are so frustratingly smart-yet-obvious that Professor Layton himself would be proud. It's not the riskiest Zelda, and it's not the most well-polished Zelda, but it's so full of heart, charm, and wit that it stands alone as potentially the funniest of them all.
I hope, one day, that we get back some of what we lost after the heydays of DS-based Zeldas: the stylus controls, the goofs, and the freedom to doodle all over the map. We've done horses, boats, and trains, so how about, er, a Zelda game in a car? Or a plane? Hit us up, Eiji Aonuma. We've got some fantastic ideas.
Spirit Tracks is better
Due to the DS gimmicks Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass are on the bottom of my Zelda games list.
I don’t really like either of the ds zeldas, but I prefer spirit tracks over phantom hourglass just due to the fact that the temple of the ocean king exists.
I don't mind DS and Wii gimmicks, for me, most of the time having gimmicks in these consoles specifically result to a plus point for me. They give a flair to the game, and sometimes make it more fun.
This is a reach imo. Yes, it low key has some interesting elements, but the stylus controls really aren’t good for this kind of game at all. Plus there’s like no variety
Temple of the Ocean King proves that is a lie.
Eh imo it isn't even the best handheld Zelda game
Not only do I think Spirit Tracks is WAY better but A Link Between Worlds and even The Minish Cap easily outclass pretty much every other handheld Zelda game imo
Future Nintendolife articles:
"Wallpaper Paste is Secretly One of the Best Pizza Toppings"
"Clear is Secretly One of the Best Colors"
"That Perpetually Burning Gas Fire in Siberia is Secretly One of the Best Vacation Spots"
To me it's the best handheld Zelda, shame it's a secret to everyone.
Spirit Tracks has a special place in my heart.
There are some nice elements to the game, but one of the best? Not by a long shot. It's extremely repetitive with the visits to the Temple of the Ocean King that exists only to stretch it's length to something similar to a console Zelda game.
To me it always felt like it was Wind Waker lite. At least Spirit Tracks tried to shift the formula a bit.
I remember getting this game before it came out over here in the uk. Zelda has always been my very favourite series of all time and this came out when I was 12. My brother, who would’ve been about 26 at the time, came over to my parents house and had something behind his back. He handed it to me and it was a brown parcel. No idea what it was, I opened it up and it was a US copy of Phantom Hourglass. I had no real understanding of the concept of importing or even what their release date was over there, I just knew this game was coming out soon and I was so excited for it and to suddenly just have it in my hands felt like some sort of surreal dream. From my brother of all people, who never got me gifts outside of the token gift for my birthday and this wasn’t even an event.
I really loved it. Outside of the Temple of the Ocean King, which I even vehemently hated back then when I was a blind fanboy, I adored having a sequel to what was, at the time, my favourite Zelda game.
I went back and played it recently and I now see it as a decent fun little Zelda title that isn’t especially extraordinary but still does enough to justify its place in the series. Regardless of my current thoughts, those memories are so special and one of the main reasons I am so glad I grew up with games. I don’t have many joyous memories quite like the ones I created playing games during my childhood
It's among the top 42 best Zeldas. I'm also not a fan of the gimmicks of the DS and Wii era. I also hate the sort of fourth wall-breaking things mentioned here. I hated the idea of hitting reset for X-Men on Genesis. I still consider the Metal Gear Solid controller switch to be both creative and a terrible game mechanic. For Zelda on DS, while I did enjoy it, the entire time I thought it would be better with proper controls. And I never liked having to use the microphone.
I liked it better than Spirit Tracks. The limitations of the train sucked. I didn't mind the Temple of the Ocean King either. I seem to remember everyone moaning about the time limit, but it was always 'just challenging enough' for me. Still, I only played the game once.
Don't mind the stylus controls but the game is just generally unmemorable in my opinion a 6/10 zelda
Temple of the Ocean King is the worst thing I've had to endure in a Zelda game.
This is one of those games where the only parts I remember are the things I didn't like.
The ocean going is particularly bad - instead of Hyrule field you've got this big pile of blue and it's just... empty. I would draw these tight routes to cover every inch of the game map and there really isn't anything out there. It basically a minigame during a loading screen.
I started on the original LoZ and while I loved the tightness of gameplay that came as the games got more linear, this was where the bloom came off the rose for me.
Spirit Tracks was, to my mind, a better version of the same ideas. The central dungeon wasn't as repetitive, the train leaned into the linearity rather than pretending the game was open, and I actually have vague memories of some of the dungeons, but no memory of anything in Hourglass.
Linebeck was cool though
I personally approve of this article.
I loved Phantom Hourglass! 😊
It was pretty good but the stylus pushed people away.
Not one of my favorite Zeldas, but still a great game nonetheless. Temple of the Ocean King was tedious, but I still enjoyed exploring the seas and the actual dungeons themselves were good. Also really enjoyed the final boss fights.
It would've been without the temple of infinite replays.
"Most fans of the game will remember its finest, and most frustrating moment above all others - the bit where you have to transfer a map to another map. For me, I discovered it entirely by accident, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. After a confused 20 minutes of trying to draw, button-press, and logic my way to victory, I closed the console and stepped away - only to discover that that's exactly what you're supposed to do. Phantom Hourglass punched through the fourth wall and broke into the meta-game by insisting that you transfer details from the top screen to the bottom screen by folding your DS in half like a book."
Cing's Another Code: Two Memories was the first DS game to use this trick as the solution to a puzzle. It was similarly brain-taxing - I remember closing the lid of my DS in frustration only to reopen it for another shot to discover I had inadvertantly solved it.
You guys it's like April 3rd give it a rest already.
I absolutely loved phantom hourglass and agree with many of the points touched upon in the article. It used most of the ds features in cool and creative ways which for me added an extra layer of wonder and excitement. I think it had a lot of charm and a great sense of discovery. it controlled well and especially liked how quick and easy it was to draw paths, for some of the items. I love how the handheld versions can bring their own magic wether it is Minish caps shrinking, turning into a painting in A link between worlds or phantom hourglass' fantastic use of a great handheld console.
Adventure replaced with chores
Annoying touch screen controls..
Yes, it is the best zelda alright
Good read as always but this is personally my least favorite main series Zelda title of the lot I’ve played. I just couldn’t get used to the controls, I wasn’t a huge fan of the dungeons, and the backtracking was super annoying. Plus the fact that it was marketed as a “sequel” to Wind Walter yet there were little to no references to that game just added to the salt.
It’s not a bad game by any means but it just wasn’t my thing. Glad others enjoy it though.
I thought this sucked big time when I played it and I stand by that. It felt... Unimaginative to me and I can see why one would disagree but that's me. Spirit tracks on the other hand was phenomenal to me. It felt like this game but it had good fresh ideas.
@Dezzy I think you mean the temple of "it gets shorter and shorter every time you revisit it" 😘
It was the first Zelda I finished (not played) and I love it. I was always confused when some people suggested it's not one of the greats. I loved all the stealth stuff with the Phantoms too.
If Nintendo can make Skyward Sword without motion controls, they can make the DS Zeldas without stylus control.
(Unofficially there's already a way for both)
It absolutely is one of the best zeldas. I was expecting wind waker lite out of it and it was exactly what I got which i loved. It was fun exploring what felt like a mini open world. And i really liked doodling my terrible looking maps. I fully enjoyed it much more than BotW
Never understood how people could love spirit tracks and hate phantom hourglass when it was basically the same game except PH didn't force you on linear rail roads having to avoid trains which was tedious and annoying more than anything.
Had some really cool concepts, but after the 3rd time of going back to the temple of the ocean king, it easily became one of the most annoying zelda games. I loved spirit tracks far more since it didn't do much to waste your time and it had all the same concepts that PH had.
First game I got for my DS and my first Zelda Game. Disliked it so much that I couldn't finish it and haven't played another Zelda game since.
I like Phantom Hourglass but I was really young so nostalgia is absolutely a part of it.
@dmcc0 they're all much better. Its a shame that was your first experience since it's one of the more weaker entries imo. Certainly do what you will, but if you could listen to some rando on the internet, please give others a shot.
I hope they paid you well for this hot take
It's better than spirit tracks at least
Frankly I found the control scheme in this game made it literally unplayable.
Touch screen controls have no place in action games is what I think.
@NintendoByNature My son has the Switch games; he's currently about 120 hours into BOTW and finished Link's Awakening just before Christmas so will probably play them at some point - just not that high on my priority list at theonent though.
Analog controls is the only chance that i would replay it again
I recently played it for the first time. I thought it had a lot of good ideas, but each one was terribly executed. Dungeons were beyond basic, with the Temple of the Ocean King being the only interesting one. I didn't mind repeating it as each time I came back there were new ways to go. Everything else though... trash.
Temple of the Ocean King was actually my favorite part of this game. So many new shortcuts and areas open up every time you come back that it's a new experience each time. It's also satisfying to slowly get better at it and save as much time as possible. You can even get to the end with the max time remaining if you plan it out.
Everything else about this game is really safe and by the book though. I disagree that it tries new stuff, except for some short-lived gimmicks. The dungeons are probably the most boring and straightforward in the entire series. I didn't have any problem with the controls, not sure why it gets so many complaints about that. Overall it's a pretty standard Zelda to me that really isn't much more than "Zelda on DS". Spirit Tracks was decently better in some ways.
There is a patch for d-pad controls on romhacking.net. I feel like barely anybody knows this. Spirit tracks too.
I just replayed this on my 3DS and it was as good and as much fun as I remember. A very enjoyable game with alot of cool elements.
Im about to start Spirit tracks as part of my own Zelda anniversary celebrations haha
Respect for all the hard work and dedication that Kate is doing ^^ . Phantom Hourglass is a lovely game, but for me its not the best Zelda. Majora's Mask is still number one for me, then Oracle of Season/Ages. I hope so much that during the E3 events, Nintendo confirms the remake of both games like the did with A Links Awakening. The game Phantom Hourglass was fun to play, but Spirits tracks was the winner for me for the Ds handheld version.I still have the Spirit tracks full prisma green guide, bought it to have it as a collectors item.
It’s been a while since I played either (I.e. since their launches, really), but I remember enjoying this one more than Spirit Tracks (hate the panpipes, hate the bunnies, hate the linearity of the train).
Never really got the hate for the Temple of the Ocean King - it always seemed just the right side of challenging to me, and gave a tangible feeling of progression.
Controversial opinion: Both of the DS Zeldas are bolder and more inventive than the Oracles.
They’d be in my Top 10 DS games, but not Top 10 Zelda games.
The game had some good ideas. Never liked the controls and would have liked to have traditional movement controls. Temple of the Ocean King is the thing that just added padding to the game when it didn't need it.
There is nothing wrong with having a shorter experience and sometimes padding can help a game also but here it left a sour experience IMO where it isn't bottom tier game but not a good one either. I would say just a middle of the road experience.
Honestly the only memorable part for me was the part you said in your artical kate where I spent ages trying to figure out a puzzle. I was doing the same things. Closed it in frustration and opened it again after that bit of anger only to find out it was completed.
Phantom Hourglass is much better than Spirit Tracks.
Excluding the CD-i Zelda's and two spin-offs I've never played (Tri Force Heroes and Hyrule Warriors), I rank this one dead last.
The two DS Zelda's were C games in a franchise I expect much more from. Thank Heaven that these experiments ended up a dead end and Nintendo regained their sanity with the Zelda franchise on the 3DS.
Both DS entries were/are great games, different but great. I rate them higher than Skyward Sword myself as I never got on with that Zelda's "gimmick"...
Let's say it's a lot better than Triforce Heroes, but clearly towards the bottom of the list. And Spirit Tracks is a lot better.
The forced gimmick DS stylus and microphone controls are the sole reasons I hate both DS Zelda games.
I liked Spirit Tracks a lot (even despite my broken 3DS microphone making the Spirit Flute segments an absolute pain) which made it hard to go into Phantom Hourglass afterwards given the quality of life improvements ST made. I do plan to play Phantom Hourglass eventually, but I wish I did it first, before Spirit Tracks.
Super Mario Sunshine Is a Top 3 Mario Game?
Urgh, I'm going to be That Guy. Hate being That Guy. Was hoping someone else would have been That Guy first then I could sneak away.
Tingle's weird family were in Wind Waker before Minish Cap.
I didn't care much for Phantom Hourglass nor Spirit Tracks. And the stylus touch controls was part of the reason why I couldn't get into them. Both are definitely NOT in my Top 10 Zelda games.
One hour of fiddling with the stylus controls in the demo was enough for me to never touch this game again. This game is a clear product of the times with them trying to shoehorn in touch controls where they didn't belong.
Spirit tracks is not CDi lvls bad, and it was a fun game, one of the best Zeldas? Not really but if this is a bad Zelda game then the bar is very high.
These two games will forever be my least favorite. In the bottom 3 of the most hated Zelda games right alongside Skyward sword.
Linebeck was Link's best sidekick.
Yeah, no. Nowhere near one of the best Zeldas. I couldn't stand this game for years due to the absurd touch screen controls. Only recently have I been able to get any enjoyment out of it thanks to a patch that lets you play the game with the dpad and face buttons. With that patch applied I got a little more mileage out of it but ehh. Don't really see how anyone can consider this anywhere near one of the best Zelda games unless they've played very few Zeldas. Between this and the pushing of Skyward Sword, I feel like NL is reaching way too much with these articles. But opinions I guess.
The DS games were fun. But not some of my all time faves. Though I do have affinity for Spirit Tracks. It's the only one I've ever replayed. It was just so weird and fun
I absolutely 100% agree! Such an underrated classic!
I've only tried Spirit Tracks and thought it was... kinda boring.
Despite the fact that, as mentioned, the central dungeon was HORRIBLE, with its repetition and timing, and also that blowing the DS mic is another horrible idea, this was the first Zelda I've ever actually finished - and I've been playing since the SNES days. Crazy.
Spirit Tracks was definitely better though.
@Pavil I’d absolutely put Sunshine in my top 3 Mario games. Super Mario World, Sunshine and then either Galaxy or Odyssey depending on my mood.
"Phantom Hourglass punched through the fourth wall and broke into the meta-game by insisting that you transfer details from the top screen to the bottom screen by folding your DS in half like a book."
Hotel Dusk was the first to do that afaik and I absolutely loved it! Though I didn't see that as them breaking the fourth wall, but more as them making the game(s) even more immersive.
Loved it, really good memories of playing this game, and spirit tracks, enjoyed the gimmicks, can’t remember the temple of the ocean king so can’t have been that annoying! Fingers crossed for remakes ... of all the zeldas! ... or just put them on a virtual console...
" or 's trick where you have to switch controller ports to stop the boss from "reading your mind". These weird little fourth-wall-breaking tricks are annoying when you're playing the game, for sure, but become legendary as time goes on, and nostalgia's erosion rounds off the sharp edges."
I guess this sentence meant to include "MGS"? How were these things ever annoying though? Back then they were also amazing. Slightly frustrating to figure out? Yes. But super satisfying when you do, more so than most "puzzles".
The thing I liked most about Phantom Hourglass was collecting all the boat parts. There were some really fun designs and bonuses to be found, and since you spend so much time travelling on the boat it really added variety. Other than that, it was alright, if gimmicky. And to me the biggest offense was not the notorious dungeon but the dreadfully dull soundtrack.
This and MM are two of the worst Zelda games, when you put a time limit and deny people the chance to explore at their own leisure you effectively kill the game for so many!
This was one of the most underwhelming zelda games in my eyes. There is very little about it that has had any impact on the franchise as a whole. The story is super inconsequential and formulaic (in fact don't they pull a 'it was all a dream' stunt at the end) , there weren't really any memorable characters beyond Linebeck and I don't think any of the music from this game is remembered or celebrated by series fans. PH always seemed like a feature length tech demo to me.
I will however, come to the defense of the central stealth dungeon as it offered something unique to the series.
I did get much more joy out of Spirit Tracks which felt like a fully fleshed out and realised version of PH.
@Pavil or....."Kirby star allies is the most underrated switch game to date." That'll be next week's article 🤣
@RevrsblSedgewick I went into the comments to see if I'd have to be That Guy, so thank you for saving me.
Also like... with Spirit Tracks being 'PH, but better', I think that'd be more deserving of the title.
@link3710 wasn't tingles family in MM too? At least his dad was I believe.
@NintendoByNature His father was the swamp center tourist guide, yes. But not his crazy outfit wearing wacky family that was introduced in WW, like Knuckle, Ankle or sorta David Jr.
@Curbie Here, let me help you with that:
Stick it on the iPhone and charge £20 for the privilege.
The stylus controls actually work surprisingly well, but there is one reason Phantom Hourglass kinda sucks (or at least isn't as good as Spirit Tracks) - the timed hub levels. They had absolutely no place in a Zelda game. Ugh.
@AJWolfTill The stealth sections would have been a million times better without the time and with a lesser penalty for failure. Simply terrible.
I never finished this game and because of that I skipped Spirit Tracks entirely. I remember I got tired of the stylus antics and just stopped playing. I would be curious to give it another shot as an adult but there's no way I'm tracking down a used copy of it for whatever it goes for these days. I'm not even 100% sure I have a DS anymore....
I will say I'm not entirely against stylus controls. One of my favorite DS games was Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, and Severed on 3DS was likely my favorite game on the console, period. Nintendo put a lot of thought into their stylus controls, I think it was just difficult to separate my expectations for Zelda from the game I was playing.
I don't like either of the DS titles, but it looks like I'm alone when I say the only thing I liked in Phantom Hourglass was specifically the Temple of the Ocean King?
I really enjoyed my time with Phantom Hourglass when it released. At a time before touchscreen controls were commonplace, Phantom Hourglass felt really fresh and novel. The DS was such a different handheld than anything that came before it.
I wanted to like Phantom and Spirit..I really did. The only way to have movement through the stylus is what made me not like them as much. I love the Cel shade looks a lot and the story was fine in both and a nice breakaway from traditional Zelda plots but that stylus movement...not for me.
I disagree that it was one of the best zeldas, secretly or otherwise. But it was a very creative game with some real bright spots. To me it was held back by the ocean palace and the fact that it was never able to make me stop wishing I could use the dpad.
@link3710 ah yeah. Makes sense.
Phantom Hourglass is, overall, a decent game. The problem is that the Zelda series sets such a high bar that this one is still near the bottom of the pile for me. (Though Tri Force Heroes is the only inhabitant of my "Nope" tier) It probably doesn't help that I played it AFTER Spirit Tracks; the QoL improvements of the latter were made all the more apparent when you go backwards in time.
Many of the positives of the game are mentioned here, and the Anouki are nice (if safe) additions to the Zelda canon. But the Temple of the Ocean King is indeed a slog, Ciela is perhaps my least favorite partner in the entire series, and I'd argue that the touch controls were a little TOO much so, like a lot of earlier DS games.
Gotta brag on myself with a certain 4th wall puzzle though; that one only took me about a minute. I already knew that the DS could detect when it was sufficiently closed by the time I played it. So was that fair? You decide, dear reader.
Absolutely agree with you @KateGray . At the time the stylus controls were a revelation & the issues with the Ocean King dungeon have been waaaay overstated imo. I think my fave handheld Zelda is ALBW but PH is definitely in the conversation.
I think I remember my friend playing Phantom Hourglass and I tried it a little bit, but never really dived into this and Spirit Tracks.
Kind of a shame since I love the art style.
I always thought it was openly one of the worst Zeldas.
Damn. Of the 30+ zelda games, I've only played the legend of zelda, zelda II: adventures of link, a link to the past, and botw. LttP to completion. Will nintendo ever make the others accessible? Either remasters or rereleases. Just kidding, it's nintendo, not holding my breath.....of the wild.
😂😂😭😭..I made myself sad..😔
The DS zeldas never did anything for me when they came out but I’m willing to revisit & see what I missed out on
I loved Phantom Hourglass back in the day but can't go back to it now. I never could play the Spirit Flute though.
@PhhhCough Of the 30+ zelda games, I've only played the legend of zelda, zelda II: adventures of link, a link to the past, and botw. LttP to completion. Will nintendo ever make the others accessible? Either remasters or rereleases. Just kidding, it's nintendo, not holding my breath.....of the wild.
Let's see the 3DS has the NES games, the SNES game, the N64 games and the Game Boy Color games. The Wii U has the Minish Cap from the GBA as well as some remasters of the Gamecube games and the NES, SNES, N64 and Wii games.
So uh, which game are you looking to play?
@Judal27 Yeah, this is sort of how I feel. Admittedly, you got to listen to some pretty great music while being stuck on the rails, but... you were still stuck on rails all the same.
The sensation that comes to mind when I think back on Spirit Tracks is ‘confined and cramped’, while Phantom Hourglass is ‘open and adventurous’ (albeit on a smaller scale than the Gamecube game it was inspired by).
I could never get that sense of ‘Zelda adventure’ in Spirit Tracks, as the roads were essentially prescribed, whereas Phantom Hourglass blew my little mind by fitting the ocean in the palm of my hand.
To me, a Zelda game is largely defined by how well it balances the inherent claustrophobia of its dungeons and caves with the thrill of traversing the expansive overworld. I found that PH balanced these aspects much more satisfyingly that ST. I don’t even recall being particularly frustrated by the Temple of the Ocean King.
Judging my other comments, this seems to be a rather minority view, but Phantom Hourglass is easily one of my favourite handheld Zeldas.
"There's the (abandoned) Banjo-Kazooie Stop 'N' Swop feature, which required players to switch out cartridges while playing, or 's trick where you have to switch controller ports to stop the boss from "reading your mind"."
Ah yes, Kojima's most famous game, "" I will always remember my time playing the "" series and my time with the characters from the "" universe.
@PhhhCough Just searching for ‘Zelda’ on the Nintendo store brings up 27 entries.
Between the Wii U and the 3DS you can play pretty much every major Zelda game ever released. Last gen was very good for rereleases and remasters of old games. Nintendo is dragging its feet a bit with the Switch, but it’s not like they’ve ‘never’ been made them available, and neither console is particularly difficult to obtain if you’re really keen on replaying the oldies.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if we get a few more ports/remasters on Switch for Zelda’s 35th anniversary after the fanfare surrounding Skyward Sword has died down a little.
Definitely not one of my favorites. The stylus controls allowed for a lot of quirky ideas but killed it as a Zelda game for me. And that dungeon ranks as one of the absolute worst times I've had in a Zelda game.
Worth playing for the experience, but not at all a great Zelda in my opinion.
I didn't mind the stylus controls at all, but the repetitive dungeon was a deal breaker.
@Chlocean OMG, this is the single greatest piece of writing ever produced by human hands! The passion, the dedication, the creativity!!!
The DS Zeldas are enjoyable for what they are, to give the article credit. Not even remotely close to being among the best, "secretly" or otherwise, but there is a certain charm.
Wow, in my opinion it's clearly one of the worst.
A fun game for sure, but a bad Zelda.
"“Most fans of the game will remember its finest, and most frustrating moment above all others - the bit where you have to transfer a map to another map. For me, I discovered it entirely by accident, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. After a confused 20 minutes of trying to draw, button-press, and logic my way to victory, I closed the console and stepped away - only to discover that that's exactly what you're supposed to do. Phantom Hourglass punched through the fourth wall and broke into the meta-game by insisting that you transfer details from the top screen to the bottom screen by folding your DS in half like a book.”"
This is without a doubt the greatest puzzle in any Zelda game ever. I figured it out and when I did, I screamed with joy! For this puzzle alone Phantom Hourglass is an A+ experience (though Spirit Tracks is a tad better. Spirit Tracks theme song top 5 Zelda song)
Now THIS is something I can agree with Nintendolife here!
Phantom Hourglass is my favorite Zelda period!
sorry to disagree, but i consider the Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass along with Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword the worst/weakest Legend of Zelda, i don't feel engaged to play again this games, after i complete them, Spirits Track is way better then Phantom Hourglass.
the Ocean Temple is what dragged Phatom Hourglass down, i hated hate to go in this temple, after i completed a dungeon.
Map drawing and the like is fine (I love Etrian Odyssey) but having to control my character with the stylus just annoys me if it's more than simply moving them around. I think that's the reason I decided against buying it when I got my DS.
I actually liked the Temple of the Ocean King! The main reason being it's non-linear approach for a dungeon. Every puzzle has multiple ways of completing, rewards are constantly found everywhere, and you're always up and running because of the time limit. I found this to be fun.
But... Spirit Tracks improved upon everything from Phantom Hourglass, most notably the soundtrack actually being a soundtrack.
Imo, it's much like Mario Sunshine:
If you don't actually have to play it, it sure is one of the best.
Same goes for the original Wind Waker.
It's atmosphere, tone and charme are unmatched and in your memory, it's one of the best experiences you had, might as well play it again... And then the boat hits you, and the wind gimmick, and the camera side quest, and...
I appreciate the win waker sub-series for being a little different, but no, thank you.
"Please just let me go, I can't write anymore!!"
I low-key absolutely adore Spirit Tracks.
@Menardi I agree! I enjoyed the article, especially considering it is vouching for an oft-forgotten or underappreciated game that I happened to love!
I hope the tongue-in-cheekedness of my original comment came across! Much respect.
Sometimes I feel like the only one who loves Phantom Hourglass and the Temple of the Ocean King, though I have a friend who likes them, but I still find the complaints silly. The controls are fine. Going back to the TotOK to use your new items to find secrets and shortcuts is fun. Thought it was a clever idea too.
Also, I think it's better than WW. Linebeck and Ciela are better than King of Red Lions. Dungeons in PH are generally better. It's more challenging. The world is better.
mmm yea no. temple of the ocean king really brings it down several spots. i love the style and music and characters though
Another good read.
Phantom Hourglass is brilliant. Really enjoyed the use of the DS features and the game overall. I think it snuggly makes my top 10 Zeldas, which is a big accolade as Zelda is my fav series in gaming I would say. Glad others loved the game like me. The article makes me want to dig out the cartridge and play it again.
(Spirit Tracks is good as well but is fundamentally the same game but with a train. It often just effectively copies PH in many ways and at many stages. It didn't compel me as much as PH did. Actually found it surprisingly boring at times. Maybe because I had already played through PH twice in the DS era).
@Maxz @Crono1973 mainly the n64 and the gamecube ones. But I'm not looking to buy the consoles required to play said games. We're getting skyward sword, so hoping for ports or remasters of the others. Like others have wished, a "zelda 3d allstars" would be nice, OoT, MM, etc.
@PhhhCough You don't want to do what it takes to play them but you want to act like Nintendo is the lazy ones who will never remake or port them.
Jon already covered why Spirit Tracks was better back when he was part of gamexplain.
makes me think of why many people hated Spirit Tracks. I got no clue
This and A Link Between Worlds are my favourite handheld Zelda games.
@Crono1973 well, they do have the virtual consoles and the ability to allow people to download them, at hand. I don't really know why you're taking this so personally. I know damn well you have no ties to Nintendo, let alone that you exist to them. Hell I didn't know you existed til you commented. And now I'm worse for it. Take it easy. Game on.
Phantom Hourglass usually is the Zelda game I would say is my favorite. I believe it was the first Zelda game I played and definitely the first one I beat. I love the controls that the Nintendo DS brought to many series, and both Zelda games did a great job of making use of the system in fun, creative ways. Eox, Gleeok, Cyclok and Crayk are some of my favorite bosses in the Zelda series for how the system was used. Bosses who tower across two screens aren't really anywhere but on the DS, and it made the scenarios much more impressive and memorable for me. I prefer Phantom Hourglass to Spirit Tracks because the travel in PH is open in comparison and I felt the mic controls were a little finicky sometimes in ST. I do want to give ST another playthrough in the future though. It could end up as one of my favorites too.
I really don’t remember that temple being an issue even remotely. Every time you revisited you got a shortcut to skip the bits you’d already done. It was absolutely fine. How anyone could have issue with that but enjoy the travel mechanics of Spirit Tracks is beyond me. I feel frustrated just thinking about them!
Is it a bad game? Not necessarily, is it one of the best Zeldas? Definitely not.
The DS Zeldas felt like such a regression after the Game boy games content wise and gameplay wise. They're basically just ultra casualized games made to cash in on non Zelda fans with its gimmicky and simplistic control scheme, but in the end it failed to please both the casuals and longtime fans.
Personally I go as far as saying the DS/Wii was a dark age for the series.
@MoistWeever Trust me, stylus for everything was a terrible idea in the DS Zelda games was a terrible idea!
@Muh-ario Eh, Twilight Princess was cool!
I don't like games where controls work only half of the time.
Minish Cap > Spirit Tracks & Phantom Hourglass
"Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Is Secretly One Of The Best Zeldas"
Lol i think they mean the worst, and twilight princess on the wii is the best.
Lol whoever wrote this article is either on drugs or just never played the game, but fear not someone retrofitted real controls to those games making them playable now. Check out romchaking.net for more info.
I didn't think it was a secret that Phantom Hourglass was among the best Zeldas, it's the love for the truly awful Minish Cap that baffles me.
@GamingDude800 i totally respect that it might not have gelled with everyone but i liked it fine
@GamingDude800 true but I consider that a Gamecube game first. I mostly just meant the DS Zeldas and Skyward Sword.
Author, I love you. You summed up exactly why I love Phantom Hourglass. It's my favourite game from the series because it's so unique and so damn charming! It tried something different while not completely jumping into the unknown and it showcases the mechanics of the DS perfectly.
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