Review: The Legend Of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass (DS) ~ My first DS game

the_legend_of_zelda_phantom_hourglass_game_coverWikipedia entry

This game has a very special place in my heart. I love the Zelda series and Nintendo’s handhelds. In my eyes, they couldn’t do anything wrong. So, when the DS was released, I waited until the upgraded DS Lite was released  to buy it. My first game was this game. But, does it still hold up today? If you are a fan of the Legend Of Zelda series, should you play this game? Well, let’s take a lot at this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The Ocean King Temple

phantomhourglass_sslg4.jpg

While sailing with Tetra and her crew, you are talking about a ghost ship that’s sailing the seas. Wouldn’t you know it, you run into said ghost ship. Tetra jumps from her ship to the ghost ship. After you hear her scream, you want to you over the ship’s railing to try and rescue her. But, you fall into the water. A fairy awoke you and your adventure began. Your objective is to save Tetra from the ghost ship.

The story is refreshing in my opinion. Since it breaks from the usual Zelda story where you need to save Zelda from Ganon. In fact, Ganon only gets introduced in the opening. When the story of The Wind Waker is recapped.

In any case, the story consists out of two main quests. But, I’m not going to spoil them. Both quests take you on a big adventure and prepare you for the big final battle on the ghost ship.

The writing in this game is perfect in my opinion. I wouldn’t change anything about it. But I didn’t expect less from Nintendo. When I first played this game, I played some parts of the ghost ship late at night. I was supposed to be sleeping, but it was in the middle of the holidays. That night, I had nightmares. The story pulled me in that much. And the fact that I remember an event from almost 10 years ago, is saying something about the game.

If you talk to people who have played this game, a common complaint comes up. That’s the Ocean King temple. It’s a nice idea in concept, but it was done a lot better in Spirit Tracks. It’s a central temple you go through to get a new part of the ocean map. Yet, you have to redo the temple several times making it boring from time to time. Thankfully, some floors had shortcuts with newly acquired items. While the puzzles in this temple are great, the central dungeon in the sequel  had one major upgrade. You could skip to the last floor easily.

Draw on that map

gfs_74258_2_2The controls are not perfect. If you are used playing Zelda games with a controller in hand or by pressing buttons, you will be in for a surprise. Apart from some functions, this game is fully controlled with the touch screen. You can swap between the screens by tapping down on the direction pad. It does take some getting used to, but as a right-handed person, it works. But, it’s a bit awkward to control sometimes. Also, I had issues trying Link to roll. I wasn’t always able to roll him out of harm’s way, which lead to some cheap damage. But that might be just me.

So, in this game, you can make notes on your maps. A feature that returns in a few other Zelda games that followed. This is really helpful since you don’t have to remember sequences or where a certain treasure is buried. You can even find an unmapped island, where you have to draw your own map. This island has a special reward on it, so look for it while you are sailing on the wide sea.

So, you have two major gameplay sections. Firstly, I want to talk about the boat sections. While exploring the endless ocean can be relaxing and fun from time to time. I sometimes wished that the boat you sail on was a speedboat. In my opinion, it goes slow from time to time. Yet, if it had a speedboat feature, some parts of the story wouldn’t have been possible.

You can upgrade your boat by finding parts in dungeons or in caves. Well, honestly, customize the look for your ship. The more you had of a kind, the more hearts your ship has. Your ship gets automatically repaired as soon as you dock at an island. The sailing gameplay works similarly to the gameplay in the Wind Waker. You can jump, shoot cannonballs and similar things. You can also fish for fish and sunken treasure. The fishing mini-game for sunken treasure is different from the mechanic in the Wind Waker. In this mini-game, you have to avoid obstacles and guide your grabbling hook down to the bottom and back up.

The second gameplay part is the exploring of islands and the dungeons. Each area has two major dungeons. Apart from the Ocean King temple, I greatly enjoyed this part of the game the most. The puzzles were creative and they forced me to use some old-school Zelda items in new and interesting ways. It also has a puzzle that took me too long to figure out. One that is solved by a mechanic of your DS itself. That’s all I’m going to say.

Look at that

screen-1For some reason, when I got this game all those years ago, I was convinced that this was a port of The Wind Waker to handhelds. But, now I know that it’s set in the same universe. Visually, this game gives off a Wind Waker-vibe. And it honestly works amazingly well on the DS. I played this game on the DS Lite and on the 3DS. The game doesn’t look dated in my opinion now-a-days, if you have some love for retro games.

The world is colorful and bright. The color pallet makes the world pop even more. While some character models look a bit sharp and early 3D with a lot of polygons, I honestly don’t mind it. This game is eye-candy in my opinion. And the animation is even better. Before this game, I used to play the 2D Zelda games, and seeing everything animated in a 2,5D was amazing. And when the 3D cut scenes came on, man, I couldn’t stop watching them.

The soundtrack for this game is good yet… There were a few tracks that really got on my nerves if I listen to them for an extended period of time. But, these moments were so far and few, I’m not going to fault the game for it.

The sound design of this game really shines when you play this game with a good pair of headphones. Together with the visuals and the soundtrack, it helped to pull me into the game even more.

If you are a veteran Zelda player, this game isn’t too difficult. Yet, to first time Zelda players, this game might be difficult here and there. I think I have died 10 times tops in my whole playthrough. So, yeah. Most of the challenge lies in the puzzles you have to solve.

So, this game also has multiplayer. And I highly recommend it! It’s a lot of fun and it can be really hectic. It’s a two player game. One player controls phantoms and another player controls Link. Link’s goal is to try and get as many gems in the safe zone as possible. The phantom’s goal is to stop Link from doing just that. If you get Link gets hit by a phantom, you have to swap sides.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time to wrap up this review with the conclusion and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Great art for the DS.

+ Good soundtrack and sound design.

+ Great design.

+ Lovely story and writing.

+ Great puzzles and items.

+ Great multiplayer

+ …

The bad:

-Sailing can be boring sometimes.

-The Ocean Temple could have been so much better.

-The controls aren’t for everyone and need to get used to.

Final thoughts:

When I got my DS back in 2007, I got this game as a bonus present. I tried to avoid being nostalgia-blinded in this review, but I failed in my opinion. I played and replayed this game a lot. It’s one of the favorite DS games ever made.

While I admit that this game has flaws, I had an amazing time with this game. The flaws didn’t hinder my personal experience with the game too much. But, I can understand that some gamers are going to have less fun with this game today. Personally, I highly recommend this game to everyone who loves the handheld Zelda games since it’s a blast to play. There are a lot of collectables to keep you going after you finished the main story.

Also, if you want to play or replay this game… This game can be easily found as a eShop download on the Wii U! Just saying. You can easily start playing this game.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing this one. Thank you for reading this review and I hope to be able to welcome you another time on my blog. Have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

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About NekoJonez

I'm a Dutch video game blogger. I play old and new games. On my blog I give my opinion and views on them. These are my personal views. I say what I think. I also talk about more then just games. I talk and discuss the gaming industry or elements of games. To get to know me better, you should come on my blog. :) Keep the most up to date with me on my twitter: http://twitter.com/nekojonez Reviews, first impressions and more. Visit my blog: https://arpegi.wordpress.com/ http://www.arpegi.be/ Besides blogging, I also act on stage, have a job in education, play games and study to become a better IT guy.
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