Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is good. I mean, like, really good. As in, I am astounded.
I guess it’s my own fault that I’m surprised; for some reason I had it in my mind that it would be more akin to Four Swords — you know, charming but shallow and broken into bite-sized chunks. Wrong! It’s actually a full-fledged Zelda game, with actual dungeons and puzzle solving and lots of NPCs to talk to and obstacles to surmount in order to open up new areas. In fact, there might actually be a little too much talking; this is not an import-friendly game, because you have to be able to solve light riddles in order to progress.
The important thing, though, is that the new interface works perfectly even within the context of this game. It felt fine when I tried it out last year before E3, but in that time they’ve seriously refined it in small, subtle ways so that it feels almost perfect. Almost, mind you. Sword slashes and rolling attacks still feel a little clumsy, but the basics are impeccable. Running with the stylus makes the simple act of moving around more engaging, because feels incredibly fluid and forces you to be more mindful of potential hazards; drawing on maps is genius; and plotting a path for the boomerang is much more effective and satisfying than dropping into a first-person perspective. Oh, and also, the graphics look really great for DS, but I suppose that was a given.
I’ll write up a full preview in a few days, but I just had to express my amazement. The DS has already developed such a great library, and that this raises the bar even further, etc. etc. Nintendo, you magnificent bastards.