Zelda kicks (hourgl)ass

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.

25 thoughts on “Zelda kicks (hourgl)ass

  1. Hm. I don’t know. I didn’t like Twilight Princess that much (it was just another Zelda to me), but this one could be a different story, as I actually liked Wind Waker. It wasn’t perfect, but at least it took the risk to be different. And I find Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass Link more appealing than “classic” Link.

  2. I’m quite looking forward to this. Is there a US release det firmed up yet? Either this of FFXII:RW may be when I break down and buy a *second* DS so I don’t have to fight over it with my wife. (And people wonder why the DS sells in such ludicrous numbers…)

  3. Didn’t they say that it would be released this year for sure? I’ve got my money for an October release.

  4. I too really liked Wind Waker, although stylus movement makes me wince a bit. Stylus-based aiming was why I rented Starfox for about 2 minutes before sending it back, dreams shattered.

    Honestly, the touchscreen is my least favorite part of DS and if you’re going to use it, I hope you have a good reason. Sudoku, crosswords, and card battle games have good reason. Zelda, ehh. I think part of this is how many times I’ve accidentally turned off the system by rubbing the pen against the power switch since I went to a Lite.

  5. The map drawing aspect is possibly the coolest idea ever. Makes me think of the fold-out map that came with the original Zelda for NES, with lots of blank spots for you to draw in and add commentary (someone wrote “NWSW to get out of Lost Woods” in mine; guess they couldn’t remember that much?). And I’m glad to see they didn’t abandon the Wind Waker look outright, it’s a much more visually compelling style than anything else they’ve come up with.

  6. “Sword slashes and rolling attacks still feel a little clumsy”

    This is still my biggest concern. Videos of the game on Youtube seem to justify it, too. It seems like you can easily destroy enemies if you abuse the spin attack, however that shouldn’t be necessary. With Twilight Princess, the waggle-slashes were effortless and responsive, and while the spin attack has it’s place, often it and normal slashes were ineffective, and you’d have to use the backslice.

    Twilight Princess may have been guilty of having a bunch of techniques that were overkill, since you almost never needed them, but they were still fun and super-responsive.

    However, when you have two main attack options–standard slash and spin attack, and one appears to be overpowered and one of them doesn’t seem to responsive–that’s an issue, IMO.

    Starfox Command was extremely clumsy because both buttons and stylus control were used. If it were one or the other, there would be no problems. Star Fox on SNES worked fine with a d-pad and buttons (of course, Nintendo should have made a real Star Fox game, or hell, enhanced and ported Star Fox 2). Command’s use felt really forced and resorted in hand cramps for me.

  7. I’m glad that you touched on the sword slashing: I’m finding that I have died in areas that I normally wouldn’t have in the original games because, whereas before I was pressing a button, I am now trying to slash with a stylus that also controls where link moves. It has been getting easier with longer play, but damn it if it isn’t the most intuitive of mechanics. But that boomerang? Fan-fucking-tastic!

  8. (Wow, I need to proofread more, based on my last post.)

    So, based on what I’ve seen of the controls, stylus holding/dragging is movement, scribbling over an enemy does a standard slash, and drawing a circle does the spin attack. But the scribble doesn’t seem to work very well. How’s rolling done? Does it have a purpose? I mean, other than the expected smashing of crates?

  9. sword slashes seem to have taken a back seat to stabs, which are performed by tapping a foe. so it’s not like the game is broken – you just need to change your arsenal a bit.

  10. I wondered why he poked the enemy sometimes and slashed others. I guess it’s just my fumbling knowledge of the Japanese language that has kept me so well in the dark. Thanks for illuminating me; maybe, now, I can actually kill an octoroc.

  11. From what I can tell there are a few different ways to use the sword, and it’s similar to TP I guess. If you drag a centimeter or two away from Link, he’ll slash the same way you dragged. I.e., if you drag counterclockwise, he’ll slash to the left (forehand slash?). Clockwise would do a slash to the right/backhand. Also, you can do a straight drag in the direction he’s facing and he’ll do a short jab. Big circles do the spin, and tapping a foe has him jump at them. Can’t figure out how to roll, though. >.>

  12. As far as I can tell, you roll by making a long stroke to the edge of the screen, then quickly make a second stroke. But maybe I’m wrong!

  13. Yeah, it seems to be something like that. I got better at it by just wiggling the stylus near the edge…

  14. Nope. You’re spot on. As I’m running, I just do a double-slide (is that proper english?) on the edge of the screen, and little Link tumbles, head-long in the direction the faerie is going.

  15. I’m actually saving myself for this game >_>;;. I’m not checking any trailers or gameplay videos and as few screenshots as I can. I want to discover and enjoy it in the most pure way.

  16. I can’t speak for videos, but screen shots do this game little favors. It is a brilliant game in action.

  17. I was already pretty excited about the game, but, man, seeing that shot with the drawn boomerang path *really* makes me want to play it

  18. Hey, don’t hate on Four Swords. The game might be shallow as all hell, but it’s definitely one of the most fun cooperative/competitive multiplayer experience I’ve had. I’m still waiting for them to do Four Swords on the DS. I still feel burned that they gave the idea up to work on Hourglass (regardless of whether it’s good or not)

  19. So I hear you meet the “fairy of power” or something in the first dungeon. Please tell me that the fairies task you with collecting 5 or 6 shiny objects sealed in dungeons after the first three. As opposed to, you know, reaching the final dungeon after the first three.

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