Confession time. I am a little bit new to the Zelda games. I have started the other games in the series. I also pick things up REALLY quickly. I have to say, pretty much all Zelda games are great. Each game basically has the same layout: A compelling story with tasks ranging from simple to, at times, strategically challenging.
When I played Phantom Hourglass, I immediately fell in love with the fact that the game doesn't keep you from taking your time. You can, say: find the Spirits of Wisdom and Power. Then, you can go ahead and do a side quest or some treasure hunting. Or even go back to another place to visit an old friend. The game doesn't force you to move forward if you don't want to at the time. It gave both hardcore and casual gamers a great experience. But back to Spirit Tracks.
When you begin the game, Link (well, it's Link, but they call him by your name) is graduating as a train engineer. When he gets to Hyrule Castle, Princess Zelda asks Link to go with her to the Tower of Spirits, a large tower that connects the railroads in the land. But when they get there, darkness takes hold of the tower, seperating the floors and making the Spirit Tracks disappear. The game's antagonist, Chancellor Cole, appears and separates Zelda from her body (or, in a way, he "kills" her). Link then sees Zelda's spirit and she decides to go with Link on a journey to restore the tracks and stop Cole.
The game uses a unique story and completely lets every aspect flow through with no plot holes. The game not only lets you control Link, but also Zelda. Or, at least when she is a Phantom. The Phantoms are the guardians of the Tower of Spirits whom Link can attack and let Zelda take control of them. In this form, she is invincible, so she can be the front linesman against some pretty sick enemies.
The game lets you control a train, letting you map out your own course for the journey. Not only that, but you can change tracks, spped, and even control a cannon that keeps ememies at bay. But the most fun part of the whole thing, as silly as it sounds, is the whistle. Even hardcore gamers will have to fight the temptations to blow the whistle, as it kind of makes the kid inside even more excited about controlling the train. If any other publisher even tried to use a train like this, it would simply turn into a gimmick, so Nintendo did a great job of designing the gameplay.
As you progress throughout the game, you have the chance to carry passengers and freight. This is a neat concept since it is not only rewarding, but it can actually make work look pretty darn fun.
You use Link's famous sword and sheild (well, as long as a Like Like doesn't eat your wooden shield). The game also gives you a chance to use other equipment as well: The Whirlwind is a little pinwheel that Link uses to make cyclones that are used for various purposes. The boomerang is the best weapon, though. It gives you the ability to draw out its path and hit things out of reach. The whip is mostly for swinging across gaps. The Bows in the game are also long range, and highly effective.
The Spirit Flute is an instrument that you use to play the different songs that aid you as you go along. When you meet a Lokomo, who are the guardians of the Tracks, you must play a song with them to restore some of the railroad. It is an interesting concept since it give impressive control and sometimes challenging songs to play that require you to skip to different parts of the flute very quickly.
The multiplayer goes like this: Up to four Links (yes, the famous red, blue, and purple too) compete to collect Force Gems in rooms guarded by Phantoms. Players attempt to sabotage the others so they can grab the loot and run. Although I haven't really gotten to play it, I have heard good word of it. And going back to Hyrule to keep collecting treasures to trade in for rupees and more train cars opens up for a tremendous amount of replayability.
While hardcore and veteran Zelda players might have a little to no trouble with the difficulty, it gives a welcoming to newcomers like myself, paving Link and Zelda's path to new generations to come.
Hypothesis score: 9.8
Final score: 10
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