Link is out of the water and onto a train in this all new adventure in the land of Hyrule.This time, Link has to team up with a phantom Princess Zelda to fight the forces of evil. Does The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks brings new ideas to the Zelda franchise while keeping the overall charm and feel that many gamers have come to love from this series? Read more to find out.
The game's story is like most Zelda games. Spirit Tracks is on par with many other fan favorite Zelda games such as Majoria’s Mask and Link’s Awakening, even though it's not a major installment like the Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess. Spirit Tracks takes place a hundred years after the events of Phantom Hourglass. After recognizing Link as an official train conductor, Zelda asks Link to sneak her out of the castle. As always, trouble follows and Zelda is zapped out of her body by Chancellor Cole, who reveals himself as an evil sorcerer. Cole turns Zelda into a phantom and makes the world's train tracks, cleverly called Spirit Tracks, vanish. Link must now stop him from using Zelda’s body as a vessel to resurrect an ancient evil.
Spirit Tracks follows in the footsteps of Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass with its cel-shaded graphics, and is one of the best looking DS game to date. The levels and overall design are the best visual offerings of a Nintendo game on the DS. The visuals definitely received an upgrade from the previous DS installment - gamers can clearly see the smoother character animations and cleaner character models. Much like previous Zelda games, facial animations are detailed allowing characters to be much more expressive and show more emotion.Other details within the environment also show the beauty in this game. One such detail is the smoke that come out of the Link's train as players guides their way on the Spirit Tracks.
The music is charming, staying true to the overall musical style from previous games. Players can experience new tracks that are unique to this entry as well as tracks from Phantom Hourglass. While the music is fantastic, characters still make the same grunting and one word responses. While these voices provide a nostalgic feeling to the game, it would be refreshing to see a little more work in the voiceover department. It would have been interesting to see some of the minor characters get a voice of their own and have actual line of dialogue.
Much like Phantom Hourglass, players must guide Link through dungeons with the stylus. Wherever the player points, Link will follow. This works well enough given the touch screen's controls, but players won’t get the sense and feel of controlling Link as much as in other Zelda titles. Players can hack and slash enemies in other Zelda games by pressing face buttons, but in Spirit Tracks, players must tap the screen to attack enemies, or slide the stylus across the screen to perform rolls. The stylus controls are definitely unique compared to other Zelda games that weren't on the DS.
While having control of Link is a given in any Zelda game, there are opportunities in the game when players can indirectly control Zelda herself. In the Spirit Tower, players must use Link’s sword to stun the tower’s phantoms. Once this is done, Zelda can take control of the evil phantom's armor. The player can then switch between Link and Zelda in combat - a first for the Zelda series. This charming new feature brings a refreshing new element to an already impressive game.
Players also have the opportunity to guide Link along the Spirit Tracks. Using the train given to him by Spirit Tower's keeper, Link can traverse the land of Hyrule. The player can trace a path for Link's train on the world map, and then the player can speed up or slow down during the journey. The player must blow away obstacles on the tracks with the train’s cannon, which is fun, but has been seen in Phantom Hourglass. In order to visit new areas, Link must explore a myriad of dungeons in order to restore new train tracks.
Like all Zelda games, dungeons are an important element in the gamplay. Each dungeon has a certain elemental theme to them, such has fire or water. Dungeons usually have a specific new item that Link can use to solve puzzles and the enemies including the boss. For example, as an new feature to the Zelda series, Link can use a whip to fight off enemies and swing between platforms. At first, dungeons are fairly easy for experienced gamers and can prove challenging for newcomers. In due time, however, the game's dungeons will become challenging for experienced gamers as well; meanwhile, newcomers will adjust to the game's learning curve in time to have fun, rather than be frustrated at the dungeons.
Spirit Tracks is not limited to a single player experience. This entry in the Zelda series has a multiplayer option. Much like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, four different players can battle offline. Instead of the cooperative gameplay from the Four Swords games, players must race around the same map to collect power gems and avoid phantoms in the map. If a player gets spotted by a phantom, the player will be chased by the phantom unless he or she passes by another player on the map. While having a multiplayer feature is fantastic addition, it doesn’t really stand out. The mulitplayer feature seen in the various Four Swords incarnation were much more developed in the objective that players must accomplished. In Four Swords, there were much more options players can take advantage of, such as having a cooperative as well as a competitive experience. It is also sad to see that Nintendo hasn't developed a multiplayer experience using the Nintendo Wifi connection. Players have yet to see a Zelda game take advantage of online play. We can only hope to see this in the next installment of the Zelda series.
Bottom Line: Intended Audience Rating
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a solid entry into the Zelda franchise. This entry is a must have for Zelda fans. It keeps the Zelda formula while adding a few changes to keep things interesting. The newly added features, like the ability control Zelda is a refreshing change. It’s about time we see a princess taking charge of the situation and putting a little more effort into her rescue; I’m looking at you, Princess Peach. Any Zelda fan will want to go out and purchase this great addition to the series.
4.5 out of 5 Phantoms
Bottom Line: Overall Rating
Newcomers to the Zelda series will probably come to like this game. It is easy to pick up and not as long as other games in the franchise. The controls are easy to learn and casual gamers uncomfortable with long gaming sessions will find this game's length satisfying. Some of the puzzles, while frustrating for newcomers, will still be easy enough that they probably won't break any DS systems over them.. Action adventure fans will want to have Spirit Tracks in their DS libraries.
4 out of 5 Phantoms