Link returns in the Phantom Hourglass

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The long awaited Zelda title for the game boy DS has finally arrived. With the combination of a new method of game play and a renowned game genre it already looks set to be a classic.

Link’s latest adventure continues where the “Wind Waker” (for GameCube) left off. Link’s pirate friends are merrily sailing the high seas and Zelda has once again renounced her title and returned to her former life as Tetra the pirate. The adventure begins when they are attacked by the mysterious Ghost Ship and (surprise surprise) our beloved Zelda is kidnapped once more. The game player is thrown into a world of pirates, sailing and swashbuckling.

Although true to it’s Zelda roots in many respects, including the music, there are a number differences from previous Zelda titles.

Firstly, and probably most obviously, is the method of game play. Nintendo have made the most of their DS console, utilising the tall split-screen, microphone, hinge and responsive touch screen during gameplay. The control is almost entirely through the touch screen which is a very peculiar sensation for those used to the previous portable titles. However, it becomes second nature within minutes. Scribbling on maps could be seen as a gimmick but it does become useful later in the game.

Secondly, the Phantom Hourglass is remarkably easy to play for a significant proportion of the game. Admittedly it does get rather complex further into the game but for the first few hours of game play there is little to challenge the hardened Zelda fanatic. Although newcomers may love this some die-hard Zelda fans have been less than amused. The in-game world is also much smaller than in previous Zelda titles, mirroring the compact nature of the portable device it runs on. This is actually one of my favourite points of the game as even lengthy journeys are reasonably rapid.

The most notable feature of the Phantom Hourglass is it’s remarkable charm and playability. It feels similar to playing on the Wii for the first time. At first the strange controls and new ideas seem peculiar but very soon you realise that you have been playing for 5 hours and have forgotten about the beer sitting next to you!

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