The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass DS Preview - 14/09/2007

So far in the DS’s life, there have been many great games. Phantom Hourglass is looking to be the best yet.

LOZ: PH is the direct sequel to the Gamecube classic Wind Waker, and is set a few months after. The game begins with Link and Tetra in search of a Phantom Ship that is causing devastation to the nearby island. Tetra believes that this disturbance is merely a group of Pirates, and so wants to find them and put an end to their doings. Eventually the pair become separated, and it is in Link’s hands to find his lost friend. The story seems to be the usual Zelda fare, with lost damsels and evil demons. There are supposedly a lot of plot twists and turns throughout the adventure, which makes the game seem even more appealing. PH seems to have a deep story, which means that fans of WW will enjoy discovering what their favourite characters did next.

The game doesn’t feature voices, which means that the developers have had a hard time getting emotion into the characters. The DS is limiting when it comes to facial animation, but Phantom hourglass seems to forget this. A lot of the subtleties that were honoured from the first game make an appearance here. From small eyebrow movements, to eye flickers, it truly looks like a sequel. All of the cell-shaded graphics have made the jump to handheld too, with Link looking just like you remember him.

The game is also in full 3D (In the same vein as FF3), and looks great on the system. When you see the game running, it’s really smooth, and the style really suits the system. The small screen makes the game come to life, with bright colours and lots of detail. The environments look great as well, with scenery that stands out. For a DS game, PH seems like one of the best looking. It’s nice and colourful and the DS picks this up well.

As the second Zelda in a row to feature a new control method, a lot is riding on PH being as good as the Wii controls were. It seems that it will live up to the hype, with some of the best controls on the platform. The entire game is controlled with the stylus, from movement to swordplay. You move Link by dragging the stylus around the screen, and he will eventually catch up to the stylus if you leave it still. If the movement controls work as well as FF3 did, the game will feel great, with full control over your little green friend. The swordplay is where the game looks very interesting. You draw arcs on the touchscreen to swipe at enemies, while a double tap will make Link do the series' standard jumping attack. Drawing a circle, which will hopefully feel just as good as shaking the nunchuck in TP, performs a spin attack. These ways of controlling the sword look like some of the most responsive yet, and make the game even more accessible.

There are even more touch screen controls in the game, and all seem to add to the experience. All of the classic Zelda items use the touch screen, but the most interesting is the boomerang. The player draws a path, and the boomerang will follow it exactly. This is used to solve many of the puzzles in the game, which opens up another dimension in the gameplay. It looks like the best control, for a weapon that had started to become tiresome. Bombs can also be precisely aimed at a specific point, which remedies many of the problems that were apparent in the console iterations.

Every feature of the DS is used to a full extent, with even the most loved one, the microphone being used for a good purpose. Be prepared to look stupid when shouting into your DS on the bus…. again!

The overworld map retains its watery feel from Wind Waker, with a massive sea to explore. This can be traversed with your handy steamboat, which doesn’t rely on the wind to ride. Before you set off, you draw a course onto a map, and the boat will follow your route automatically. This will allow the player to shoot rival ships or the odd octopus. The sailing sections are gorgeous on the DS and will hopefully recreate what was the best feature of Wind Waker.

The game also promises one of the best games to play over Wi-Fi. In battle mode, players are assigned the role of either Link or an enemy. What follows is a game of cat and mouse, with the cheese as pieces of the triforce, and the enemy that captures Link becoming him the next time round. It looks like it could be really fun, and will be both the first competitive Zelda game, and the first online one. All of this is very exciting, with special items that are only available in this mode. Battle mode may be just the thing that this Zelda needs to push it into the Classic category of games.

Of all of the games on the DS so far, Zelda: Phantom Hourglass looks like the most promising one yet. With an epic scale and some of the best controls on the system, could PH be the hit of the year?

We’ll have a full review when the game comes out on October 19th.

- Sam Atkins



Nintendo EAD