The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Hands-On Preview
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks 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: Q4 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
The Spirit Train Is Coming Through!
by Amanda L. Kondolojy

June 9, 2009 - Although the new Zelda game was confirmed to be in development at this year's E3, it was not formally announced. However, even though this future title did not make an appearance, we were treated to a play session with the upcoming Legend of Zelda handheld: Spirit Tracks.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks screenshot

The core dungeon puzzling gameplay of this title is very similar to 2007's Phantom Hourglass, but with one very notable exception. Link now has a very large suit of armor following him around. You can use this suit of armor to walk through hotspots, block traps, and step on otherwise inaccessible switches. The level we saw was actually pretty simple, but it showed off some of the basic gameplay that we have all come to know and love from the Legend of Zelda series.

The control scheme in Spirit Tracks is all stylus-based, which works well if you have played Phantom Hourglass. If not, dragging Link around with the stylus can take some getting used to. One cool thing that they did with the control is they used the trail drawing mechanic used in Phantom Hourglass and applied it to your phantom counterpart. Since you will be in control of both him and Link for the duration of the game, you have to control the Phantom by selecting him and then drawing a path for him to follow, highlighting any switches or other items he needs to hit along the way. The control scheme feels very tight, and controlling two characters at once actually is a lot easier than it sounds.

After we wandered around the dungeon for a few minutes solving puzzles and pulling switches, we decided to try out the game's travel mode. Since the name of the game is Spirit Tracks, it is all but assumed that the train system will be very prominent in the gameplay. The actual train riding mechanic is done in a sort of mini-game style, and you'll have several objectives to complete during your train runs.

The first order of business will be, of course, to get your speed up. You can do this by sliding a train gear shifter on the right side of the screen. Of course, sliding up will increase your speed, and sliding down will decrease your speed. After we reached an optimum speed level, we then were presented with an obstacle in the form of an animal standing on the tracks. This animal was a cute and cuddly cow, so we couldn't just run him over. Using a touch-screen rope, we were able to blow the train's whistle nice and loud to scatter the cute cow, as well as some other animals who had decided to take up residence on the train tracks.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks screenshot

After all the animals were cleared off of the tracks, we were presented with a new set of animals who were darker in color and a little less cute. Of course, this means that these animals are supposed to be destroyed! This is where the train's big cannon comes into the play. You can shoot enemies on and around the train tracks by targeting and shooting with the stylus. Taking out enemies is very easy, and the train's cannon was powerful enough to take out the enemies in the demo with only a few hits.

Although I had lots of fun with the puzzling, I have to say that I was not immediately impressed with the train mechanic. It was amusing to play through the first time, but if the train is heavily implemented into the game, I can see where it might get a little monotonous or annoying if your only goals on the train will be to blow the whistle and shoot the cannon. I am still hopeful that the mechanic will evolve, but as it stands, the train aspect of the game feels a little extraneous to the core dungeon-puzzler gameplay.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks screenshot

Though I was a little bit skeptical of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks when it was first announced earlier this year, after finally getting some hands-on time with this game, I have to say that I was really impressed. Instead of just being a Phantom Hourglass or Wind Waker Clone with a train in the middle, this title looks like another solid entry in the Legend of Zelda series, and I can't wait to try the full version when it releases this fall!

By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor

Game Features:

  • Link has a valuable new companion. While navigating dungeons, he’s accompanied by a Phantom, a hulking suit of armor that responds to his commands. Players can tap the Phantom to take command of him, then draw a line on the touch screen to direct him where to go. The stout Phantom can walk through fire or lava, be used as a platform to carry Link above dangers, or even run interference to block Link from harm.
  • When Link conducts the train, players enjoy a satisfying combination of action and real-time puzzle solving as they determine which track to take and how to best manipulate their speed. When on the train, Link must plot the best route to the end of the line around ever-moving obstacles. While en route, Link might need to fire an onboard cannon at enemies who attack the train or sound the whistle to scare animals off the tracks.
  • Link uses a variety of new items and weapons, including the Whirlwind, which players activate by blowing into the microphone of the Nintendo DS or Nintendo DSi system.

  • Screenshots / Images
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