Friday, January 29, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review

In 2007, Link transitioned onto the DS smoothly with the release of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. However, the game is often lauded as the worst Zelda ever made because of one huge problem: there's a dungeon that you have to visit over and over, having to restart at the beginning each time with all the traps reset, and it gets worse because you're timed. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks aims to fix these problems and more, and for the most part, it does.

Set 100 years after the events of the first DS game, the water has all drained and now Hyrule is a field once again. You play as the young boy Link, who is heading to the Castle to get his Royal Engineer Diploma. Here you learn how to control your train, which feels like the boat, but is a lot more fun and interractive. You can't just draw a line to anywhere a la the first game, you're restricted to the lines of the track. You would think than would lower the exploration, but while riding your train, you find hidden secrets all around the rails, and you soon become consumed into finding every last secret. You can't just sleep through rides, you get to switch rail lines in turns, blow your whistle to get animals off the tracks, and (later) be able to shoot enemies with a canon. On land, the game controls very much like Phantom Hourglass, but it has a few minor inprovements. Instead of having to draw a circle to roll, you just double-tap the screen. The controls are intuitive and work great. Also another inprovement in the plot; PH's plot often felt a little forced, but ST's plot is grand and intuitive, but nowhere near as epic as the consle's plot line. And in a shocking twist, Zelda's spirit is sucked out of her body, and she joins you throughout the whole game, letting you bond with you better. You also find out that the land's central dungeon, the Tower of Spirits, is falling apart, and you need to visit level by level, PH style. But the timer's gone, and you don't have to replay parts you've already done, making the tower a lot of fun. Another thing that's great in this game is the music. Not only is this the best music ever to hit the DS, you get a Pan Pipe that acts a lot like the Ocarina in OoT. It's fun to play, and the songs you play to uncover secrets are pretty catchy.

All the rails aren't perfect though: the items you get from the dungeons are nothing new (except the Sand Wand), and the dungeons are the standard fire, forest, and water-type generality. Also, some of the sidequest require tedious backtracking that get annoying fast thanks to the train's relatively slow pace.
Gameplay: Improved over PH. There's a lot to do and it controls fine. Great for on-the-go sessions. 9.0
Graphics: Impressive 3-D artwork that looks very good on the DS. Well done. 9.5
Audio: Fantastic. Some of the best tunes on a handheld in awhile. 9.75
Overall: This game is what Phantom Hourglass isn't and more. Easilly one of the best games on the DS and one of the best Zeldas ever.
9.5 out of 10

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