The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass Hands-On Preview
The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Nintendo 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Nintendo 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 1, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Getting in "touch" with your inner hero
by Jason Nimer

July 6, 2007 - Every time Nintendo releases a new console or portable, everyone wants to know how long it will be before fans are treated to the three games that make up the Big N's holy triumvirate: Mario, Metroid and Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass screenshot

The DS has been out for nearly three years now and two of the three franchises have seen at least one release. Mario launched the system with a port of the classic Mario 64, and since then DS fans have seen Mario and his pals do everything from playing basketball to running an amusement park. Metroid has had a good run on the DS as well, with a surprisingly excellent pinball adventure and a full-fledged 3D shooter in the vein of the Gamecube Metroid Prime titles. Now, come October 1, it will finally be Zelda's turn to shine on the little handheld that could.

As previously stated, American gamers will need to wait until the fall to traverse Hyrule on their DS systems. What you might not know is that the game is already available in Japan. We imported it, we played it, we loved it and now, faithful CheatCC.com reader, we'll let you know why The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass might just be the best DS game to date.

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A lot has been said concerning Phantom Hourglass's controversial control scheme, which is mapped entirely to the touch screen. I, too, was one of the detractors; I just couldn't see how controlling Link with the stylus could be anything but an unmitigated disaster. Within minutes of starting up the game, my tune completely changed. Controlling Link with the stylus is extremely intuitive and easy. Within minutes of starting Link's new adventure, you'll be an expert on controlling him. Fans of Pokemon Ranger will feel right at home with the Phantom Hourglass touch screen controls, in which you use the stylus as a "guide" for letting Link know where you want him to go. For example, if you want Link to move toward the top of the screen you can either place the stylus right in front of him, which he'll follow as you draw his path, or you can simply point the stylus at the top of the screen and he'll find his way to you. Tapping an object makes Link interact with it and if the object is something lifted, like a jar, another tap will make him toss it. You'll also be using the stylus to map your boomerang's path around rooms, solve puzzles and a few other functions I don't want to spoil for you. There will be folks who lament the change in control but, like the naysayers who came out of the woodwork when Starfox Command was released, they'll be totally off base and simply unwilling to try anything new. Lay your fears to rest, DS and Zelda fans, Phantom Hourglass controls like a dream.

The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass screenshot

With that out of the way, we can move on to everything else that makes Phantom Hourglass great. We'll start with how the game looks and sounds. The graphics are near identical to Wind Waker, Link's first appearance on the Gamecube, and the cel-shaded, cartoon style fits the game's tone wonderfully. Be ready to be blown away by just how good the game looks; the only other DS game that looks this good is another popular import, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker. Until you see it for yourself, you won't believe that the DS could possibly handle these graphics. The game's soundtrack is equally impressive, mixing new tunes with remixed versions of the classics. Following the look of the game, the music also brings to mind what we heard in Wind Waker. The sound effects are all in place as well. Like always, Link has very little to say and instead, you'll be listening for his occasional grunts and yelps. All the dialogue in the game is handled with text instead of spoken, but since this has been the standard for the Zelda series since day one, it is easy to forgive the lack of voice acting.

Before we get into what the game is about and how it plays, it needs to be said that I don't speak a single word of Japanese. Being that the only version of Phantom Hourglass is completely scripted in Japanese and only available as an import, I won't be able to explain everything as perfectly as I'd like. You start in the game in your village and the action is viewed for an almost overhead perspective, much like the SNES Zelda classic, Link to the Past. Unlike like Link to the Past, the game is all 3D and, as I said before, looks simply amazing. As you make your way around the village, you'll be talking to various people and solving a few small puzzles. Soon enough, the story will take off, you'll get your trusty sword and shield and it is off to the races.

The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass screenshot

I won't ruin any of the plot for you, but it needs to be said that, like in Wind Waker, you'll be spending quite a bit of time sailing across a massive ocean to different islands and locales. However, the control of your boat in Phantom Hourglass is a bit different (and arguably more fun) than it was in Wind Waker. You'll be using your stylus to plot your course instead of changing wind direction and hoping for the best. The old method had players simply sitting and letting the wind do its work but in this game, sailing involves the player much, much more.

The game also features online play over Nintendo's WiFi network. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned language barrier, I wasn't able to delve too deeply into what seems to be a "Capture the Flag" style game involving something called Force Gems. Though it seems like it could be fun, Zelda fans know that the single player experience is what really matters. We will just have to wait until the game's American release to truly see how the online mode stacks up.

The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass screenshot

From what we've seen in the import version of Phantom Hourglass, it is poised to be one of the best DS games available when it hits our shores this October. So the next time a video game store employee is pestering you to preorder something, put five bucks on The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The clerk will be thrilled about squeezing a preorder out of a customer and you'll have a truly remarkable game to anticipate (not to mention a moment's peace). Seriously, do their employees get paid extra to push preorders on people who don't want them? Anyhow, watch out for The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass to make waves this fall.

By Jason Nimer
CCC Freelance Writer

Features:

  • Get In Touch!: All game control is via the touch screen, and the stylus makes controlling Link more natural than ever. Touch the screen to guide Link through the world, or sweep the stylus around him to swing his sword. You can even make notes on your map, chart routes for your boat or draw paths for your boomerang!
  • Adventure Time!: With Tetra missing, Link must enlist the aid of several fairies as he explores dangerous wilds, uncharted seas and baffling dungeons. As he does, he meets an array of fascinating characters, hunts for powerful weapons and collects sand for a mysterious artifact called the Phantom Hourglass. Over time, it will enable him to progress deeper and deeper into the ultimate dungeon.
  • Link with a pal!: Compete with a friend over local wireless or Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection as you guide Link through special battle stages to capture Force Gems or command the forces that oppose him!

  • Screenshots / Images
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