Posted by: beansai | December 1, 2007

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

    This review of Phantom Hourglass is long overdue on my part. I have had the game for little more than a month now and have had ample time to play it. I am a slow gamer. In fact, I don’t think I have ever beat a game in my life, or even followed it through to completion. So you can fairly well consider me the casualist of gamers. But I do enjoy a well made game. I’m a late bloomer, so I didn’t really latch on to the Zelda series until I had a Nintendo 64 and bought Ocarina of Time. After that, I floundered. I think I rented Majora’s Mask, but I couldn’t really tell you for sure, since I didn’t even remember such a game existed until a couple of months ago when my roomies and I were discussing what games might be coming out for virtual consoles on the Wii. Then I tried playing Wind Waker on Skunkie’s GameCube awhile back, and I just didn’t take to it. After I bought my DS Lite though, I of course was more than willing to give the W.W. style another chance.

    All in all, my experience with Phantom Hourglass has been a positive one. I enjoy the ability to sail the open seas, slash a sword, and watch cute lil cartoony Link run around and make funny faces when something big happens. How could I possibly resist those big blue eyes? For a gaming baby like me, the fairly consistent style between the Zelda games is a plus, but I can see how some people would be bored of it by now. Another plus is the fact that Link has a seemingly bottomless purse…wallet…pocket…whatever. Or at least I haven’t reached a maximum of how many rupees I can hold, and I’ve collected well into a thousand. There also seems to be more random stuff to purchase with all those shiney jewels than there seems to be in Twilight Princess. And I love spending money on useless shit.

    While I am enjoying P.H. over all, I definitely do have a few gripes with it. One major one, for me anyway, is the use of the stylus. Sure, it’s more interactive and can be fun at times, but one of my major concerns when I first started playing P.H., was the saftey of my screen in the excessive use of the stylus. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a button masher and uber sword swinger when it comes to playing Zelda games. My problem is that you have to draw a complete circle around Link if you want him to do a spin attack (forgive this gamer if her terminology isn’t dead-on) and it doesn’t always take. So there I am, in the midst of a slew of enemies (and yes, I count two as a slew) and I’m panicking, trying to spin attack them, and I have to draw a circle around Link a few times before he actually performs the action. Then, if I spin attack too many times in a row, he gets DIZZY and becomes inept for a few moments. Meanwhile, the badies are still after you. Same goes for a lot of the sword actions. I find myself swinging zealously and scratching at my screen (as gingerly as possible) in the same spot more than I’d like to. A solution to this is, of course, to use a screen protector, which I do. But I find the screen protector diminshes the clarity of the screen and it’s ability to register stylus movement. And it also betrays how much you would be scratching up your screen if it wasn’t there. Mabye though, I just don’t have the right protector. I’m due to buy another soon, so I’ll let you know if I find something better, though I am using a Nintendo approved one.

    While I like the idea of the stylus, I just don’t feel that it is appropriate for constant use in a game like P.H. I wish there was at least the option to switch controls to the a/b/x/y buttons and d-pad instead. My biggest petpeeve with the stylus is the fact that it doesn’t always register your strokes or misinterprets them and sends you jumping off a cliff. One spot that I can never seem to get the stylus to register my actions is when I want Link to roll as he’s running. You have to take the stylus to the edges of the screen and make squiggles or little loop-de-loops to get him to somersault. I can never get it to do this on cue and it seems to happen randomly sometimes, rolling me right into enemies, when I was trying to slice and dice them. But enough about the stylus, lets move on.

    Once you get beyond the control issues, the game is charming. The sceneries are wll done and I’m just a sucker for cute, which P.H. definitely is. The variety of characters and their design is interesting and enjoyable. Picking up chickens and flying with them or throwing them is just as much fun as ever. The ocean is a lot of fun to sail, though those damn obstacles pop up unexpectedly sometimes and damage your ship. It took me a bit to get the timing down to jump the ship over these rails that pop up. You can jump a lil early (and even land on the fence thingy) and be fine, but don’t you dare jump a lil late, because then your ship will take a bit of a battering.

    Now for a few more of my beefs with this game. One is the way they relay information. I don’t know about anyone else, but it annoys the crap out of me when people talk about you like your not there, and that’s something this game does. Instead of talking directly to you, you are stuck between a couple of fairies (literally) describing the dangers of phantoms or whatever other phatty baddy is lurking around. Instead of just saying, hey don’t be seen or you die, they have to go through this whole spiel of “Baddies bad” (says fairy #1)…”Oh so if Link is seen that’s bad?” (says fairy #2)…”Yes, he shouldn’t be seen, because he doesn’t have the power to defeat these enemies yet.” (says fairy #1)…”Did you hear that Link? Don’t let the baddies see you!” (says fairy #2)…No shit sherlock, says me. It’s really annoying, and there really isn’t a way to skip the dialogue. I even have it set to the fastest speed available for the time it takes the dialogue to appear, but let me tell you, it isn’t fast enough.

    My final major annoyance with this game is the necessity of returning to the Ocean King’s Temple. It isn’t the going back to the temple to gain access to new levels within it, but more of the fact that you have to start ALL over every single time you enter. The intial door remains open, but after that, everything is up for repeat. That means each level that you’ve been through before, you have to find the key AGAIN, to unlock the door to the next floor, go through the same puzzles all over again AND do all this on a timer. It’d be one thing if it was just smash and bash your way through the phatty baddies, but it isn’t. Instead you are stuck sneaking around these Phantoms that you can’t kill and they send you back to the beginning of that level with one stroke, so you have to take your time and wait for those perfect moments to get around them. Meh. And all this on a timer.

    Other minor issues are things like: where the hell has auto-climb gone? Sure, they let you auto-jump over gaps, but you can’t climb up a step that is slightly too tall for you to walk up. I don’t recall any other version being like this, but I also didn’t make it very far in W.W., so maybe someone could let me know if it is just the W.W. style that does this. The strengths to this game really lie in the classic goods of the franchise. Things like insistence on strictly using the stylus for the game and dialogue are a bit of a downer, but all in all, this game is still worth a play if you are a fan of the series. It isn’t extremely challenging (at least I haven’t come across anything that is as of yet), but it still provides, I think, a decent times-worth of game play. I fully expect more serious gamers to be able to complete the game in a day or two, but if you’re a casual gamer like myself (and a total baby like me too), then I think you will enjoy a few months, at least, of gameplay.

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