All-aboard! Link and Zelda embark on a new adventure in Nintendo’s last The Legend of Zelda's offering, Spirit Tracks. In this all-new story, Link and Zelda team-up to battle a new source of evil that is threatening the land. It’s not shocking that Nintendo would dip back into the “save the land”, “rescue the princess” pot of motivation, but it’s not always the context of the story, it’s the delivery. Hop on board the Link express as we take a ride down the mysterious Spirit Tracks.
As you might have guessed The Legend of Zelda series returns to familiar fiction as Link becomes the hesitant hero, once again. This means our green hated hero will have not only have to rescue a princess (what would a Nintendo game be without a damsel in distress), he will also have to save the land from impending doom. Obviously there is no reason to worry as Link has filled those shoes plenty of times in the past, and one more time playing the daunting protagonist is not going to hurt.
The storyline begins with a younger version of Link heading into town (the palace) to become a certified train engineer. On the day of his graduation, Link falls into several of uncontrollable circumstances that involve Princess Zelda being captured by an evil entity named, Chancellor Cole. The Chancellor uses dark magic to separate Zelda’s body from her spirit in his quest to take over the land by liberating an imprisoned Demon King! If this sounds familiar, it is pretty much every other Zelda game recycled and then rearranged. Even though Zelda's fans have been in these circumstances before, Spirit Tracks musters up enough motivation to make you want to rescue the princess, and save the land-- one more time.
Come with me Princess
The twist in Spirit Tracks is that Princess Zelda is going to escort you on these travels in spirit form. This means that she won’t be visible to everyone, and she won’t be able to interact with real-world items. However, she has a few new abilities that help you turn the tables in your favor. To save the world Link and Zelda will have to work at wearing many hats while working with the ancient Lokomo people. The goal is simple, save the spirit tracks that connect a series of magical temples which keep the evil Demon King at bay. As you can expect, this is easier said than done! Without spoilers, expect an epic adventure with some very possessing powers lending a hand.
Do the Locomotion
Having a spiritual Zelda as your companion makes the journey a lot more appealing, plus it also feels less lonely to travel with someone else. Spirit Zelda is the first twist in Spirit Tracks, and the second is Link’s travel mechanism, the train. In Spirit Tracks, you will go about your business as normal until you want to move to different location. Then it is time for Link to dawn on his engineering cap, and get aboard his trusty locomotive. It seems like Link always has to be tied in with a certain type of transportation, and for the record, I'm digging the train a lot more than the sailboat in Phantom Hourglass.
In the beginning, the moments in the train are slow to kick off, however once you move further along in the story this will change. This doesn’t mean the slower paced train navigation won’t be enjoyable to all gamers because it is not that bad, just a little tedious. This being said, the train mechanics are fun and inventive. It is bright how Nintendo approached the addition of the train and not only incorporated it into the gameplay, but the storyline as well. Like other Zelda titles, the mode of transportation doesn’t define the game, but I can see people looking back at Spirit Tracks in the future saying, "oh, that Zelda game with the train."
The Next Wave-- Flute-Hero?!
The third twist in the gameplay adds a microphone controlled item to Link's inventory. Unlike all the other twists, this is one I could have done without, and I am sure the majority of gamers who have played the game will agree. What we are dealing with is blowing air into the microphone on your Nintendo DS to activate a magical flute. It's really like a novelty move, and strangely feels like a Flute version of Guitar Hero, complete with coloured keys to timely blow into.
Blowing on the DS can be frustrating and seems like a scheme to use all the Nintendo DS's functionality. Yes Nintendo, we know the DS is fantastic and all, but leave the heavy blowing out of gaming. Qualms aside, the flute portions of the games aren't too frequent, and ultimately it doesn’t hinder the overall experience.
While I’m on the DS functionality, I wished Nintendo would have kept the DS-pad open as an alternative to control Link along with the touch screen. In the game, the D-Pad is mapped as a quick go-to pop-up that can activate things you can get to by tapping the screen. Navigation is solely done by moving your stylus around the touch screen. Having the choice to walk around with the D-Pad, and use the touch screen for combat would have helped my bad posture when I am playing the game held in the air. It would have also freed up some of the muddling responses you get when you engage in combat (also handled by the touch screen).
Slicing up enemies, and trying to hit special moves, all while moving Link around can be frustrating at times. It is not so bad when you are dealing with an enemy one-on-one.. However, when you add in a bunch it can be a little hard to make precise movements. In perspective the battles are fun even with some slight control qualms. Like the Zelda games in the past, Link can become very engaging on the small screen, and you will be entertained with some awesome boss fights that will feel as epic as they look (that's after all the blobs, and birds).
The Puzzle facet of The Legend of Zelda has always played a big role in the series, and in Spirit Tracks magnifies this fact. The puzzles quickly kick into gear in the game, and you will have to be ready to think while you act. One issue with Spirit Tracks being more involved is that younger gamers might feel too overwhelmed, and might need help from time to time.
In perspective, the added difficulty will be fine for older gamers, and you will probably even find Spirit Tracks more challenging, and enjoyable than Phantom Hourglass. The duality of having a game aimed and younger children, and a hardcore audience of 30+ year old Zelda's fans are a hard combination to deal with, and it shows. Again, like Phantom Hourglass you will be able to call on the touch screen to draw on certain maps to write clues as you replay segments of the game multiple times. Unfortunately, for those who can’t navigate the styles good enough to solve all the puzzles, this is all the help you are going to get.
The only real warring I can stick to Spirit Tracks is that the difficulty could be a little too hard for younger gamers, so judge their skills wisely-- nothing is worse than a frustrated youngster, and an expensive piece of electronics! Apart from the bump in difficulty, and an overwhelming want for Nintendo to show off the DS’s capabilities, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a winner that reinvigorates our love with the Zelda series. Hands down, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is another solid entry into its long list of great releases. The Spirit Tracks is a must own title for all those with a Nintendo DS.
Gameplay:9.0, Graphics:9.5, Sound:8.5, Innovation:8.5, Mojo:9.0 Final: 8.9 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown JImmy | 12.11.09