Extreme Gamer's Best Nintendo DS Game of 2007 | Runner-Up: Best RPG of 2007

Link returns for his first adventure on the Nintendo DS platform. Labelled The Phantom Hourglass, The Legend of Zelda franchise keeps up the high quality and imagination Nintendo is known for. Join Link as he experiences a high seas voyage of exploration in a quest to save Zelda’s alter ego Tetra.

Nintendo might take their time releasing games, but when the finally get one out the door they are usually remarkable. Continuing the impact of first party Nintendo games The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS marks another amazing experience as the hero in green. Phantom Hourglass is the official sequel to Nintendo’s last generation the Wind Waker and has the same visual impact along with a fun and imaginative adventure. If anyone understands Nintendo’s handheld it’s internal and that is predominant in the Phantom Hourglass.

Phantom Hourglass continues Wind Wakers take on adventure on the high seas with a plot line revolving a mysterious Ghost Ship and Link’s unfortunate path of circumstances that puts him on a strange island searching for Tetra. This basically turns Phantom Hourglass into the typical Zelda franchise with the damsel in distress and Link providing the dramatic rescue. Even if Zelda sticks to formula in its plot line the rest of the experience has a familiar and fresh feeling as you start to progress through the story, solving puzzles and defeating monsters. If you needed one character that is a believable underdog that can save the day, it’s Link.

During Link’s quest you will come across a number of interesting characters in the world that provide robust dialog and plot development. Phantom Hourglass is pure classic storytelling that is interesting and oddly original even though we’ve been through variations of this story before. The secret to Nintendo’s success is how they incorporate all aspects of gaming into a cohesive mixture. Phantom Hourglass is not only rich in its graphics and presentation; it also has the most fluid control system and gameplay aspects thrown into a game for the Nintendo DS. If other developers need a “how to tutorial” on making a game on the DS, look no future than the Phantom Hourglass cartridge.

The gameplay in Phantom is based around the DS’s touch screen. The controls are innovative and ultra simple to use. If you’re thinking using the stylus to play an action adventure might be a little challenging think again because Phantom Hourglass is one of the easiest adapted control schemes for the Nintendo DS. I was amazed at the fluid nature of the controls and would never want to return to the old school D-Dad approach. There are only a few tricky control issues with the controls that become second nature once you spend some time with the game. Understanding, you won’t be able to hit a button to attack, or use the D-Pad to move, from the beginning it’s you and the stylus, 100% all the way.

The touch screen also comes in handy for taking notes during you gameplay. Real time note taking is an unexpected addition that allows you to write on the in game map to help you remember clues, or spot locations on the map. Instead of relaying on your memory or jotting down something on paper, Phantom Hourglass has that all arranged in its new touch only attitude. This little feature is a helping hand that a forgetful gamer like myself welcomes with open arms. Not only do you get to control link with the stylus and perform attacks, you get to help yourself through the adventure with real time notes, brilliant.

It’s easy to rave about Phantom Hourglass because it has all focuses its attention on the gameplay, the innovative nature of the DS with its two display screens and touch pad. This is one of the first action oriented games that I actually wanted and needed the two screens. Even the boss battles incorporate the two screens into epic battles that cause you to be attentive and fast with the stylus. There isn’t much Phantom Hourglass doesn’t do perfectly. I’m sure if you want to find a fault in something you can, but in this case you’ll have to work extra hard.

Looking hard you could argue that the gameplay in basics is the same as before. There are a lot of challenges that are familiar to other games and the same dungeon crawling action as you’ve seen before. The gameplay can be a little daunting as you have to solve unnecessary puzzles, run around and revisit some areas. Enemies also regenerate so you’ll be spending a lot of time destroying the same type or variant of an enemy over and over. All these points are rather expected in an action adventure game and really without them would this even resemble a Zelda game. If I had to nitpick then I would choose this area to focus on, however it’s nothing that effects the overall enjoyment of the game.

Phantom Hourglass’s continues its approach to sailing around the world navigating between pivotal locations during the game. This is a lot of fun giving some variety to the land based action. Pirates and merchants will also be patrolling the waters selling you goods in the merchants case and trying to plunder you loot on the pirates side.  For your sea worthy vessel you have the ability to build your change around your floating ride with unlockable pieces that instantly boost the games appeal.

Besides questing in the main adventure, Phantom Hourglass has a number of activities that can keep you busy. This includes the countless mini-games, side quests, searching out extra treasure and a return of an old favourite, fishing. Strangely fishing in games never gets boring and this remains a constant in the Zelda franchise. Fishing in Phantom Hourglass is available after the Old Wayfarer awards you with the fishing rod for solving his mermaid problems. Fishing is simple and fun as you try and bag six different types of fish including the ultra rare Neptoona. The side quests and mini-games have to be found in island locations around the world. If you favour mini-games try the Cannon game, Archery Shooting or the Goron Roll Game. If treasure is the name of the game you can find goodies hidden throughout Zelda‘s islands which includes finding your way through a giant maze on Maze Island.

If you’re still looking for more value in your Zelda title you need to look no further than the added multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode in Phantom Hourglass is a battle arena that places players against each other. Wi-Fi enabled, you can now enjoy some capture the flag inspired game with Phantoms battling Link. The entire online mode is complete with stat tracking, and the ability to battle worldwide which is a nice diversion from the main game. I wasn’t totally sold on the multiplayer aspects since Zelda has always been a lone wolf, however it is good to see the franchise branching out and trying new ideas.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is one of the best games available for the Nintendo DS. Phantom Hourglass ambitious approach keeps aspects of the traditional Zelda franchise and breaks out on its own with its innovative touch controls and use of the DS’s dual screens. Ever evolving, Nintendo showcases its versatility giving gamers another exhilarating experience in the Zelda universe. Phantom Hourglass is the perfect adventure, accessible to all ages from the novice adventure to the hardcore Zelda fan. Link has done it again, and proven that these Nintendo can still pull out the stops when needed. If you own a DS, Phantom Hourglass should be first on your priority list. Nintendo has done it again, pure brilliance.

Gameplay: 9, Graphics/Sound: 10, Innovation: 9, Mojo: 9. Final: 9.5 / 10

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 11.06.07

  • All game control is via the touch screen, and the stylus makes controlling Link more natural than ever. Touch the screen to guide Link through the world, or sweep the stylus around him to swing his sword. Players can even make notes on the map, chart routes for their boat or draw paths for their boomerang.
  • With Tetra missing, Link must enlist the aid of several fairies as he explores dangerous wilds, uncharted seas and baffling dungeons. As he does, he meets an array of fascinating characters, hunts for powerful weapons and collects sand for a mysterious artifact called the Phantom Hourglass. Over time, it will enable him to progress deeper and deeper into the ultimate dungeon.
  • Players compete with a friend over local wireless or Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection as they guide Link through special battle stages to capture Force Gems or command the forces that oppose him.

The Lengend of Zelda: Phnatom Hourglass

Released (US)
October 2007