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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Video Game Connoisseur: Hourglasses Aren’t Very Accurate

The Legend of Zelda:The Phantom HourglassSystem: Nintendo DSPublisher: NintendoPrice: $29.99Rating: E (Everyone)

I dream of a day when a group of Nintendo developers are sitting around a conference table hashing out the next “Legend of Zelda” and one of them says, “Ya know what? Let’s make this one rated M.” My fervent dream of a Legend of Zelda game geared to a slightly older audience will probably never come to fruition. Or it will and it will suck horribly. Either way, it came damn close with “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess”. I believe that we will one day get another Legend of Zelda along the same lines as Twilight Princess: darker, grimmer and higher rated. For now we have Phantom Hourglass. I shall persevere.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Phantom Hourglass. I just would have liked it better if it had been released after Wind Waker rather than after the series high point, Twilight Princess. Wind Waker used cell shading to give the game a cartoon-ish look, which, combined with some slapstick comic-relief, made the game visually appealing to a somewhat younger audience. While a great game, it is the stylistic opposite of Twilight Princess (for more on Twilight Princess, my review written last semester can be seen in the Mass Media archives online).

Getting back to Phantom Hourglass, the reason I think it should have been made and released after Wind Waker is that it is the direct sequel to Wind Waker. This is only the third time that a direct sequel has been made in the Legend of Zelda series; the rest of the games are more or less one-offs (Authors note: I say third time because it is generally held that Zelda II takes place after the original Legend of Zelda, and Majora’s Mask is the sequel to Ocarina of Time. There is debate over whether or not Link’s Awakening takes place after Link to the Past, and the order for Oracle of Seasons/Ages. In fact the Oracle games were made by Capcom, and their place in Zelda canon is debated).

Phantom Hourglass takes place an indeterminate amount of time after Wind Waker. None of the characters (Link, Tetra/Zelda and her pirate crew) have aged at all, so it seems to have been a relatively short period of time. While sailing, looking for a new land (what the characters set off to do at the end of Wind Waker), they encounter a ghost ship and Tetra jumps aboard to look for treasure. The ship disappears with Tetra crying out for help, and Link falls overboard trying to save her. The next scene begins with Link being found by a fairy washed up on a beach (at this point I had horrible flashbacks to Navi in Ocarina of Time). The game then proceeds like any other Zelda game. Go through three dungeons, enter the ghost ship, do another three dungeons and eliminate an evil spirit hiding in a temple. Like Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass takes place on a series of islands. However, instead of sailing from island to island, you now have a steamship which you navigate by drawing a course on a map, then just sit back and shoot monsters with your cannon. Wind Waker’s ocean was a 7×7 grid that literally took hours to cross. Phantom Hourglass has a 2×2 grid that takes twenty minutes.

Phantom Hourglass is short, its story is rather simplistic and it maddeningly ignores character development. However, it excels in two ways: first it’s great as a handheld game. You can easily stop wherever you are and put it away then quickly pick up again an hour, day or week later, which makes it good for playing while commuting on the train or bus. Also, it has a very unique control scheme. You use no buttons at all. Everything is done with the stylus; you drag the stylus across the screen to make Link move, tap on an enemy or draw a slash through it to attack, and when you use the boomerang you draw its flight path. The controls are a little difficult at first, but the learning curve is gradual. Each dungeon seems to do no more than give you a new item and teach you a new way to interact with the world, or show you a new way to control your character. If they can do this with the stylus on the DS, imagine what they can do with the Wiimote for the next Legend of Zelda. Phantom Hourglass is a great game-I just feel that it was released at the wrong time in the series, and that it’s way too short. If they had tacked on a few more hours and a couple more islands, I’d be overlooking the whole released-after-the-wrong-game thing. Buy or rent it as soon as you can.