Warning: lengthy review. Because I wanted to write a long special review for the (3)DS month!
Honestly, I think Dark_Legend would slap me in the face if I would tell him that I did a (3)DS month and that I didn’t cover one of the Zelda games. I can choose out of several games. Phantom Hourglass, Four Swords Adventures 25 year anniversary edition, Ocarina Of Time 3D and A Link Between Worlds. But the 5th Zelda game that has been released on the (3)DS, we shall take a look at today. In my last music article, I talked about how this game has been a laughing stock for trolls. I had a hard time not starting to review the game in that article. So, I decided to give it a review here. This game has a lot of memories for me. I learned about this game through a magazine and after I saw some trailers, I was hyped. Big time. I couldn’t wait. I wanted to play it as soon as it came out. I even made it ship over from the USA so that I was able to play it two days in advance! Yeah. Anyways, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this article and or your opinion on this game.
Doubtful at first
Who wouldn’t be? The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass nailed the boat mechanic. The Zelda games appear to take place in the middle ages. Introducing trains sounds so out of place. I was doubtful at first, because you can’t explore the open world like in all previous handheld Zelda games.
Let us focus on that later, let’s talk about the story first. The story starts with a brief summary of the legend of the rail system. You play as Link, or however you name your character, who is about to do his exam to become a train driver. After you arrive at the castle, you get your license from Zelda and she wants to secretly meet you.
From there, the story takes a few twists and turns, but it keeps it safe. The story is not for the youngest children, as proven by the cover. But don’t expect an amazing tale that other Zelda games can provide. I know what you might be thinking now, is the story bad or not memorable? Honestly, not really.
The power in the story is how they used familiar characters from the Zelda series to forge a decent story. Seeing the old characters back will place a smile on every Zelda fan’s face. But there is more then only a few characters from the previous games that feels familiar. While I was playing, I often got the feeling that I was replaying a game. That got confirmed when I read an interview in that magazine. The game is created with veteran players in mind. So, in a way, this game is a sort of “best of” mix with trains.
Improving the game
One major complaint I have with the first Zelda game on DS is that the central temple needs to be played through several times. Nintendo somewhat fixed this in this game. You can go up the central tower in order to get your next piece of the map.
While I think a sort of elevator would have been nicer, since you take some time to reach the highest floor, it’s a big improvement over the previous game. Now I don’t need to restart at floor one when I want to get the second piece of the map.
Earlier, I talked about that this game is influenced by the other Zelda games. While writing, I realized something. The main core of the game is the exact same as the first Zelda game on Nintendo DS. Just swap the boat for the train and there we go. I can safely say that if you enjoyed Phantom Hourglass, you will enjoy Spirit Tracks for sure!
The controls for this game aren’t very different from Phantom Hourglass but you can feel that there are improvements. This is something I can’t explain without me saying that you need to try it out for yourself. A lot of people find the control scheme a negative since you can’t control Link with the D-Pad. Honestly, I don’t think that should be an issue. Since you get more control over Link thanks to the control scheme.
One thing does bug me a bit, the sections with the microphone are a bit picky. It’s pretty irritating to blow into the DS mic and move the panflute at the same time. That might just be me, but it’s something that annoyed me.
Zelda, more Zelda!
So, I want to talk about the multiplayer for a bit now. I honestly think that the multiplayer is just amazing. I was even able to convince MiseryLC to play a few games with me. He doesn’t even like handheld games one bit. At first glance, it looks pretty much the same then Phantom Hourglass. But in this battle mode you don’t control the spirits, you control Link.
Your goal is to collect as many triforce gems as possible before the time runs out. There are various power-ups that might help you on your quest. There are even power-ups to steal gems from the other players.
I have to say, that playing this is pretty tense. I played this game with my sister when the game was just released. The memories are just amazing. I think the multiplayer is a well made addition to the game.
So, is the gameplay of the main game actually any good? Actually, yes. It has a lot of fun moments that can pull you inside the game. While I was researching about this game, I read a lot of complaints about people that find that the game is too easy. I can agree there. Apart from some bosses, this game isn’t going to give you a challenge. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention. The best way to put it is that as soon as you know what you are doing, the game will be no big challenge.
Is this game short? That’s another complaint I read a couple of times. My answer to that is, not completely. The full game will take you a few hours to complete. I think I was able to beat Spirit Tracks in a ~ 25 hours. So, it isn’t short. But since the game is a bit on the easy side, you can finish the dungeons rather quickly. This might leave you with the hunger for more. And that might be the cause of the dungeons being too short.
A negative to me is that there aren’t as many tools to play around with, compared to your standard Zelda game. You can actually count the amount of items in your inventory on your two hands. That feels like the game is lacking in content. Also, one item is almost never used outside of the dungeons. That is the sand wand. At the other hand, the dungeons do use the items pretty well. Apart from the sand wand, I never got the feeling an item was under used.
There is one mechanic that this game has that I adore. In Phantom Hourglass, you always had ghosts that hunted after you. Well, in the central dungeon. Well, in this game, you will become able to control a spirit. How this exactly works, I will leave up to you to discover, but believe me, it’s such a blast to play.
The puzzles in this game are excellent. They won’t be too hard for veteran players to figure out. But they will challenge the target audience of this game, which are children between the age of 7 – 10.
So, this game has besides the usual dungeon exploring, also some quests. Before you can enter the dungeons you need to do a challenge. One of them is figuring out how a cursed woods works and another one is pairing up citizens for patrol duty.
They are a fun distraction from the dungeons and they are really fun to do. You will be able to make use of the feature that you can write on your map.
There is also a big side quest. While riding with your train, you might see bunnies hopping around. In this side quest, you will get a net to capture those bunnies. When you see them, you need to play a mini-game to capture them. After that, you can deliver them to RabbitLand. Believe me, it’s worth doing this side quest. Because the reward to capture all the bunnies is really worth it.
Review the rest?
So, now that I have talked about the gameplay and the story, I have a few things left to talk about in this review. Let’s talk first about the replayability of this game. Because this is an adventure game, they replay value is rather low. I have replayed this game a few times since I actually enjoy playing this game.
Graphically this game looks stunning to be a DS title. Each area looks detailed and alive. The art style of this game has the potential to draw any Zelda fan in. I didn’t had any moment where I thought that the visuals weren’t good.
The animation of this game is really smooth and well done. Together with the pretty visuals, the game is eye-candy for the DS. What I mean here is that this is one of the best looking games on the Nintendo DS in it’s genre. I even dare say that visually, this game is better then Phantom Hourglass.
Last but not least, the music. When I heard the orchestrated version on the special music disc that I got with Skyword Sword… Well, it made me emotional. The soundtrack of this game is really amazing. I listen to it from time to time, remembering how much fun I had playing through this game. The soundtrack is one of the strongest points in this game. Together with the amazing sound design, I have nothing bad to say about it.
Well, I think I will leave it here for this review. I covered almost everything of what I wanted to cover. And don’t worry, I left something for you guys to discover when you play this game. For now, it’s time to move on to the conclusion.
– The microphone sections are a bit too picky in my taste.
– Too few items to play around with.
– I expected a bit more of the story.
– The game is a bit too much at the easy side.
+ Great length.
+ Amazing visuals.
+ A veteran will feel right at home.
+ Amazing music.
+ Interesting gameplay. Both in single and mutliplayer.
+ Great side quests.
So, another one of my longer reviews. I honestly think that this game is one of the best games in the Nintendo DS library. Too bad that so many companies dumped their “games” on the DS. For this reason, gems like this game get lost underneath the pile of shovelware.
This game is an excellent title for each DS or 3DS owner. It comes highly recommend. Even after 5 years, it’s still pretty great to play. So, I truly urge you to play this game. When you have played Phantom Hourglass, you will be really happy with the updates they did to this title.
If you would ask me what my favorite game is, Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks… Well, I can’t tell. I honestly enjoyed both games equally. And with that bit of knowledge about me, I want to say thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed read this as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to welcome you in another article in the future. If you want to be kept up-to-date with everything I do, I recommend that you follow me on Twitter. My username is @nekojonez. And when you don’t have a Twitter account, you can just bookmark my Twitter to see my latest updates!