Thursday, November 23, 2000

Zelda Phantom Hourglass | 9.0

t's been a while since I enjoyed a Zelda title on a handheld. This selection doesn't disappoint.

I'm only a few hours in and I'm hooked. The story line, graphics, music and the characters are all excellent. This title, like Wind Waker, uses the cartoonish/younger set of characters versus the young adult set from Twilight Princess.

For now, here is what I like and don't like. Of course, I'll update the review as I get deeper into the game.

Pros:

- Picks up where Wind Waker left off. A great story!
- Having the map on the second screen is brilliant. Being able to jot down notes on it is even better. This is by far the most useful tool in the game.
- You can save at any point in the game.
- Puzzle mix is pretty balanced. Nothing too simple and nothing aggravating to the point I want to put the game down. I really dig some of the creative elements they've added to the dungeons. That's all I'm saying; I don't want to give away any spoilers. :)
- The boomerang. I love drawing the path out on the screen. Not only is it used to complete certain actions/puzzles, it's a vital tool in fights. Tip #1: Go slow when drawing the path. If you hit walls or obstacles, the throw is not completed. Tip #2: You can hold down the left shoulder button to instantly switch to the boomerang. This is a great way to quickly arm it.


Cons:

- I feel like I'm always running out of "screen". This just boils down to the stylus control and limited real estate of the DS.
- Getting Link to "roll" is quite difficult for me. Others may have this move down. I'm still struggling.
- You can "fall" into water (you lose a heart piece) and off of cliffs. One stylus touch too far and Link can be sent flying off a cliff forcing you to start a map from where you landed. For me, that always seems to be the beginning. :)
- Other than accessing menus and flipping the screens, the direction pad is pretty much unused. In similar games, I prefer to use it for "moving" characters on screen. It was a little disappointing to see this left out. Not a deal-breaker, just nice to have.
- Using the microphone. I don't think you need to incorporate this into every game. It's great for its intended purpose, but frankly, I don't want to have to blow on my DS to make candles go out as part of a puzzle. Is there a button that will do the same? If there is, I haven't found it yet. I'm still blowing. Just a minor annoyance.

So far this game is a lot of fun; more to come soon, if I ever put this thing down.

***UPDATE 10/08/07***

The game continues to rock. The story is getting deeper and I've very into it. I also like how the ocean-going portion of the game is panning out. (E.g. Upgrading the ship, plotting courses, ocean battles, etc.) The addition of "treasure hunting" or "salvaging" is like a mini-game in itself.

The versatility of the items you acquire continues to impress.

Examples:

- The bombs (oh, how I love the bombs) can obviously be used to blow up enemies, but they are equally useful in blowing up crates and walls so you can gain access to new areas and treasure.
- The bow and arrow (my new favorite) is not only a fast and accurate weapon, but a vital tool fot activating dungeon "eyeball" switches.

***UPDATE 10/14/07***

More great items, more great adventure.

Here are some highlights from the last week (hopefully I don't spoil anything).

- Fishing is great. I found myself a fishing rod. Well, I was actually given it. It is little hard to control at first, but once getting the hang of it, provides a lot of fun and there is a nice surprise waiting for you if you "catch 'em all".
- I'm hooked on the Grappling Hook! Like the boomerang, it's a vital tool and is used for much more than just grappling. One great example, think "Human Slingshot."
- I finally died (fire and ice dragons were tough until I figured out what to do). It was nice that all I had to do was walk back through the blue portal and I was right back to the boss fight again. Thank goodness I didn't have to do the entire dungeon again.

***UPDATE 10/28/07***

I finished the game on a flight to LA this weekend.

- The storyline continued to develop and really kept me interested; all the way to the end.
- The new items (especially the hammer) were perfect additions to the already creative arsenal. (Hint: Be sure to hold down the stylus for a second or two and the hammer doubles in size and punch)
- A couple of the boss-fights were actually in 3D-mode versus top-down 3rd person. The graphics during these sequences looked great.
- There were even some really funny moments towards the end. When G'Pa snatched the hourglass from Link mid-spin, I cracked up.
- Lastly, the final boss fight was excellent. Not too hard, multi-leveled (literally) and actually really fun. No frustration.

Kudos to Nintendo for making one of the best games I've ever played on the DS. Thank you!

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