While plenty of people are still readily awaiting a sequel to Mario Kart DS or New Super Mario Bros., it didn't take Nintendo much time at all to shoot off a follow-up to its 2007 Nintendo DS Zelda adventure, The Phantom Hourglass.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, set 100 years after Phantom Hourglass and set in a very similar cell-shaded cartoonish universe, at first looks like it might be a pale shadow of the first touch-screen DS game, swapping out train travel for long boat voyages. We were a little surprised and skeptical when the game was first announced, especially since train travel sounds a lot more passive than sailing. After riding around with Link for a weekend, did our opinion change?
Scott: I admit, I was originally dubious about Zelda: Spirit Tracks' ability to be as good as its predecessor, Phantom Hourglass. However, to my pleasant surprise, Spirit Tracks is not only a true sequel to Phantom Hourglass, it's also equally good. In fact, in some ways it's even better.
To address first: the trains in this game are set on tracks that traverse a series of small towns and other locations, and pulling up at destinations is essentially the same as docking your boat in Phantom Hourglass. Actually, the train controls are a bit simpler to operate on the go. The rest of the game, including its focus on a central mega-dungeon that unlocks secrets throughout, is very reminiscent of the first DS Zelda. That's not so bad, though--we'd take more of Phantom Hourglass and less of many other crappy DS games any day of the week.
The storyline, which features evil trains, floating towers, and a floating Zelda spirit that helps haunt statues to do your bidding in co-op puzzle solving, is both bizarre and clever, and is closest to the N64 cult classic Majora's Mask in terms of how it feels thematically. Nintendo's greatest achievement is how it adopts charming dialogue and characters to sell us this absurd tale and not have it feel stale or stilted--it's what makes the Zelda games more approachable to a newcomer than some of Square Enix's numerous RPGs.
After a few hours of play, the train riding aspect fades into the background, and Spirit Tracks is about the things all Zelda games are about: finding small towns, unlocking side quests, getting weapons, conquering dungeon puzzles. It's as classic as any Zelda game before it.… Read more