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Mark Marrow
04 Jun, 2007

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Preview

DS Preview | Set sail for another watery adventure.
Zelda fans have had a pleasurable last six months, what with the release of the incredibly epic, and truly outstanding, Twilight Princess; the long awaited return to the true Zelda heritage some claimed. Though, in 2007 there are two very good reasons for Zelda fans to get all giddy with excitement: 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of the series hitting Western shores, and Link is hitting the DS later this year in what appears to be one of the most captivating experiences in the series.

Phantom Hourglass takes place several months after the ending of The Wind Waker, where Link, Tetra and her pirates set sail in hope of discovering a new homeland. On their travels they get stuck in the middle of a dense fog, and soon encounter an abandoned ship. Tetra is quickly eager to explore the ship, though is soon enough found in some trouble of her own. Naturally, Link follows after Tetra in an attempt to rescue her. However, Link’s impulsive actions end up putting him in a bit of a dilemma, as he falls into the ocean and soon loses consciousness, washing up on the shores of a remote island. Link is awakening by the sound of a fairy’s voice, whose intentions are to aid Link through his adventure to find his missing companions. While looking for clues to find the ghost ship, Link unexpectedly meets a man named Lineback (the man in the picture below), who is seeking the riches from the treasure of the ghost ship. Since both are looking for the ghost ship, the two decide to work together.

  
Plenty of fun antics ensues.

Plenty of fun antics ensues.
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The game is largely centred on this one ghost ship, acting as one huge master dungeon that you’ll slowly progress through. Despite players spending a lot of their time trying to edge their way through this massive dungeon, Phantom Hourglass will still be comprised of much smaller dungeons that, once successfully completed, will allow players to move further along in the master dungeon. To add a slightly unique twist, and a bit of urgency, to the game, a new type of enemy ironically named ‘Chaser’ will relentlessly chase Link throughout the course of the game. These enemies will follow the player in dungeons and can kill Link with one blow, though Link can receive temporary immunity from them by using certain special pots. The theme of Phantom Hourglass is naturally time - in the sense of being given limited time in the master dungeon, and requiring more time to avoid the Chaser.

Following in The Wind Waker’s footsteps, Phantom Hourglass will once again rely on a lot of sea travel. After the criticism given to The Wind Waker in regards to ocean travel being empty and boring, Nintendo are filling up the ocean scenes in Phantom Hourglass with not only more action, but also more importance on the aspects of traveling from island to island. To tide over the boredom experienced in The Wind Waker, players will no longer have to worry about the manipulation of the wind (thanks to a handy new steamboat) and will be given much more to do during these periods. While sailing across the ocean, the top screen will show the real-time gameplay action. Meanwhile, the bottom screen is where you’ll be able to pull out your stylus and draw a path for your ship to sail. However, if the situation requires it, you’ll be able to switch the action onto the bottom screen, enabling players to use their cannon, or other items, via the use of the touch-screen.

The battle sequences during sea travel are strictly on-rails, allowing players to tap the bottom screen to shoot cannonballs at potentially dangerous enemies. Additionally, before setting anchor on an island, players may have to face mini-bosses that require clever ship maneuvering tactics. Players will also need to perform plenty of precise sailing to successfully make it through tight gaps in dangerous rocks.

  
Scribble your own destination and enjoy the ride.

Scribble your own destination and enjoy the ride.
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The dual screens of the DS work in several unique ways throughout the game. As with sailing, you’ll be able to switch the action during exploring to either the bottom or top screen depending on the situation. You’ll generally use the bottom screen to move Link around, to attack and to pick up items. However, you can also switch the dungeon map to the bottom screen and scribble in some quick notes to aid you in remembering the sequences of a certain puzzle or a location of a certain item. In addition, all boss battles in the game will span across both screens and some cinematics will also make use of the dual screen set-up.

The DS touch-screen adds a lot of versatility to just how players approach certain situations, such as movement, combat and puzzles. Guiding your stylus across the screen will move Link; the faster you move your stylus across the screen will determine just how quickly Link moves. Combat will also make use of the touch-screen, allowing players to quickly tap on enemies for Link to attack them. Of course, you’ll also be able to perform Link’s iconic spin attack by simply sweeping the stylus around him. The majority of the game uses the touch-screen in some form, such as double tapping items for Link to pickup, or drawing a distinct path for your boomerang to follow. Additionally, there will be plenty of puzzles and sequences throughout the game that’ll rely on players to tap and rub the touch screen to progress further. It is also expected that Nintendo will implement the system’s microphone in some form too. The control pad will only be used as a shortcut to access menus or items. While full touch screen use has been used in several games in the past, alas to little success, signs so far suggest Nintendo has hit the nail quite clearly on its head.

Nintendo has slightly touched on multiplayer in previous games in the Zelda series, though never to such calibre to match its single-player endeavours. Phantom Hourglass's multiplayer, however, has enough pedigree to steer interest into making it highly successful. The multiplayer in Phantom Hourglass is a two-player battle mode, where one player will control Link and the other will control three enemies in a small arena. The goal for the person playing as Link is to pickup as many Triforce shards as possibly and to secure them at their coloured base. Meanwhile, the person playing as the enemy will have to capture Link, resulting in an end of turn and the players swapping characters.

  
Multiplayer mayhem!

Multiplayer mayhem!
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The person playing as the enemy will have to trace a path out on the touch-screen to guide where they want each of their three guards to go. If used effectively, this can be used to corner your opponent, and eventually trapping them in your decisive plan. For Link though, when he picks up a Triforce shard his running speed will slow down, which depends on the size of the shard he picks up. Smaller shards are worth fewer points, larger ones are worth more.

Arenas are full of hidden tunnels, safe zones and a handful of items to pickup too - with certain items increasing run speed or offering limited invisibility. To add that little bit of extra icing to the already delicious Phantom Hourglass package, the game will support online play via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection service – oh joy!

Phantom Hourglass appears to implement plenty of The Wind Waker’s excellent flair, ranging from its superb visual style, gameplay elements and returning enemies such as Octoroks, Keese and ChuChus. Chances are players will come across a few familiar faces along the way too.

If previous Zelda instalments are any indication, we'll only have a short delay from Phantom Hourglass's Japan release. And with the game readying release in Japan later this month, we PAL gamers can expect the game to be ready just before the Christmas holidays – a present any ‘real’ gamer will want in their Christmas stocking.
Overall:
A fresh new take on the successful Zelda series that is likely to snag Game of the Year rights for handhelds, and possibly consoles, if all goes well.

Related The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Content

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Review
21 Oct, 2007 The hourglass is half full.
Fresh batch of Phantom Hourglass screens
28 Apr, 2007 The clock is ticking.
Zelda series goes online?
12 Mar, 2007 Phantom Hourglass to feature online play apparently.
33 Comments
6 years ago
Two words

Can't Wait.
6 years ago
Sounds very very cool. I didn't know it was coming out in Japan so soon. I really hope we don't have to long a wait for this to hit down here (or the US so we can import icon_smile.gif)
6 years ago
wow, looks good.

might have to buy a DS for this.
6 years ago
Damn....looks like I have to buy another Ds-Lite after all. It was really gonna come down to how much I could resist this game....but as soon as I saw that isometric perspective (ala Link to the past) I was sold. Also the sailing aspect and the wind waker graphics imo are the best things ever about the Zelda series so I gotta get it for those features alone.

Also really impressed with the 3d graphics there on the Ds because from what i've seen in the past they were quite horrible.

I wonder how long the adventure will be? Knowing Nintendo/Zelda it will be quite lengthy but i'm wondering with graphics like that how much they are able to squeeze onto a Ds cart.

Edit: EWWW! I just found out the whole game will be stylus controlled and the control pad will be used for menus and crap. This is the sort of rubbish that really pisses me off! What's wrong with using the control pad? I guarantee it would work better than the stupid stylus! I take back everything I said....the game looks awesome but with gimmicky 'touch' controls....I couldn't care less. Man how dissapointing....also that time limit thing sounds stupid aswell.
6 years ago
ugh the boot wrote
Edit: EWWW! I just found out the whole game will be stylus controlled and the control pad will be used for menus and crap. This is the sort of rubbish that really pisses me off!
haha

that's the only thing that ever kept me interested in the game

should be awesome
6 years ago
Playing Animal Crossing with that isometric perspective really showed me how inaccurate stylus controls are compared to using the pad (just lining up your spade to hit a rock or to shake a tree etc was so cumbersome with the sylus...and don't even get me started on catching bugs and fish with the stylus!). Seriously sometimes I feel like just jabbing that little stick through the screen!! With Zelda's isometric viewpoint I don't see how this is going to be any different because they are both Nintendo games. Atleast in Animal Crossing you had the choice (stylus or pad).
6 years ago
So you have to play only with the stylus?! icon_sad.gif

It doesn't seem right to move AND slash with the stylus. ACWW was a good example of how awkward it is. But apparently Ninja Gaiden on DS controls well like this (controlled entirely by stylus) so...
6 years ago
Its Zelda, a copy is mine icon_biggrin.gif Thats all I have t o say
6 years ago
I seriously doubt it's sytlus all the way. And if it is, I'm sure it's done well. I can't see Nintendo forcing players to use the stylus though.

In any case the graphics look amazing, I've been playing through FF III and cannot believe what they are getting out of that awesome little system. Bring it on I say!
6 years ago
If you're not forced to use a stylus (as it says in the preview) then I will buy another Ds-Lite and a copy of this game, otherwise I might give it a miss. Nintendo really need to do a couple of things to appeal to the oldskool (or 'hardcore' as some call it) gamer in me, cuz my interest in their stuff is really waning and whenever i'm given the option I always give them a miss where previously I always gave them the benefit of the doubt.

I have to admit those graphics look frickin' awesome, I had no idea the DS was capablae of such complex 3d graphics.
6 years ago
The graphics look sick and the Zelda series is really fun. I still havent beaten Twilight Princess on Wii though lol icon_sad.gif.

Im definately gona get it. The day it is released in america i will be playing it wooot.
6 years ago
LeonJ wrote
I seriously doubt it's sytlus all the way. And if it is, I'm sure it's done well. I can't see Nintendo forcing players to use the stylus though.
It does force you to use the stylus, but it apparently works really well.
6 years ago
This is a little silly. Why not give gamers the option to play it both ways?

As was ugh, I was also looking forward to this game, but won't buy it till im satisfied with these forced 'touch' controls.
6 years ago
I recall reading somewhere that initially Nintendo was designing the game around the directional pads and so on, but that it didn't work the way the game designers were hoping.

As an alternative, they turned to the stylus, which is used for movement, drawing on the screen, and utilising weapons.

The limited information out there says that the stylus works really well for this game.

I'm willing to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt on this one.
At a time when my general interest in video games is waning, the core Nintendo games always remind me of why I'm into video games in the first place, and the games haven't dissapointed me yet.

I'd guess they're not about to mess up a franchise like Zelda - sure, it's possible, but the game looks great from what I've seen so far (albeit, I haven't seen much).
6 years ago
LeonJ wrote
I seriously doubt it's sytlus all the way. And if it is, I'm sure it's done well. I can't see Nintendo forcing players to use the stylus though.
You doubt the preview? icon_razz.gif

As Andronicus mentioned, the game was originally going to feature minor directional pad features, though Eiji (the producer) believed that full touch-screen use would be ideal for this sort of game. Plus he believes that Phantom Hourglass will be a reflection of future DS Zelda games, which I'm guessing would be the full touch-screen usage.

I'm betting they'll be able to pull it (full touch-screen use) off successfully though. Besides, it's not as though they've applied this control method without press feedback - it has been demoed at several events over the last year, and the controls have never been a criticism.
6 years ago
Who knows where Zelda is heading these days. The new Wiimote, the general been-there-done-that attitude with Twilight Princess.....

Anyway Mark whats with the new av/sig set?? I thought you hate Final Fantasy (or maybe that was Jeremy). Does look good though.
6 years ago
I agree, I'm viewing the Stylus controls as a positive thing, from what I've experienced in the past, they should work great. Games like Viewtiful Joe DS go sort of 50/50 on this sort of thing, it's not completely controlled with the stylus, but you can't beat the game without it, and it's a core element.

Good implementation of the touch screen is one of the things that makes the DS a standout console. Of course they're going to utilise it, they wouldn't have bothered putting it in. icon_smile.gif

As for the graphics, I remember Nintendo stating as part of the advertisment of the DS that it could produce graphics better than the N64, so it's great to see them proving it!

PS: Awesome new sig/av set there Mark! FFX = win. icon_biggrin.gif
6 years ago
I don't really understand why people would not consider looking at this game though. After Twilight Princess was released, people were complaining that the series was becoming far too same-ish, so I would've thought that an idea like this would've been welcomed with open arms.

@ crestfallen - I needed a change I thought, and I realised how much I enjoyed Lulu as a character so thought I'd give her a ride for a while. I would have liked to have made a avatar/sig combo with one of the characters from FF6, though it's difficult to find 'good' art/renders of them.

And dislike Final Fantasy? Heavens no! Easily my second favourite series behind the Zelda series. There'll be an article sometime in the future to reflect that, for both franchises. And apparently you can have a peak into upcoming articles, so...

Also thanks for the lovely remarks! Though, you'll have to kiss Luke's arse to get your VIP status extended, not mine icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
Mark wrote
You doubt the preview? icon_razz.gif
Not doubting, but it's not like you guys have actual preview code to base it off though icon_smile.gif

In any case, I do believe it should all work OK. I can't see Nintendo releasing a busted Zelda (quiet Ugh, I and most ppl thought TP was pretty darn good with the wii controls icon_biggrin.gif).

Still, I dunno why they would leave out conventioinal controls period.
6 years ago
@Mark: rofl. Tis cool though.

I'm a bit annoyed that it's touch-only too... all this talk of angles and stuff seems relevant, but I spose if the demo testers haven't mentioned anything, should be fine. icon_confused.gif I'd much rather d-pad for movement though, I can't see distinguising between tapping and sliding being perfect (a rush to the touch screen to move, for example, resulting in a slash of the sword rather than running from something).
6 years ago
I don't think gamers (at least the ones on the internets) know what they want. They whinged about Wind Waker and then turned around and whinged about Twilight Princess as well. If I have trust in any series for a game to deviate from the usual and still produce great results (note Majora's Mask) its the Zelda series.

Mark wrote
And dislike Final Fantasy? Heavens no! Easily my second favourite series behind the Zelda series. There'll be an article sometime in the future to reflect that, for both franchises. And apparently you can have a peak into upcoming articles, so...
Of course I've noticed the articles, I've been validating them for weeks now. James should probably do something to fix that. icon_razz.gif
6 years ago
imo games like this should (and probably will for that matter) come with a few different control styles. Mario 64 on the DS has the option to do a few different things and I thought there was one option that worked really well for both the stylus and the directional controls. If they can get that right then I believe they can do it again. Using the stylus for puzzles and things looks really good.
6 years ago
crestfallen wrote
I don't think gamers (at least the ones on the internets) know what they want. They whinged about Wind Waker and then turned around and whinged about Twilight Princess as well. If I have trust in any series for a game to deviate from the usual and still produce great results (note Majora's Mask) its the Zelda series.
True. I am expecting more complaints when the new direction of Zelda on Wii is revealed. MM is one of the best experiences because it is different. The only grip I have with PH is that I'm worried that the touch controls are not quick and responsive, so I don't have to feel that I have to wait for Link to follow my directions.
6 years ago
crestfallen wrote
I don't think gamers (at least the ones on the internets) know what they want. They whinged about Wind Waker and then turned around and whinged about Twilight Princess as well. If I have trust in any series for a game to deviate from the usual and still produce great results (note Majora's Mask) its the Zelda series.
I think people in general are afraid of new things. Individuals may have had their grievances on how Wind Waker and Twilight Princess could / should have been portrayed, but we're looking at controlling a game here, which is vastly more important than opinions on storytelling mechanics and what a game could / should contain.

When I think of the confirmed 100% touchscreen gameplay in The Phantom Hourglass, I think back to Mario Hoops 3 v 3 which I absolutely hated for all its slidey the stylus to do this and that concept, thus the prospect of this in a Zelda title (which have been thus far; nothing but quality in my opinion - especially Wind Waker which utterly blew me away), kind of scares me.
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Australian Release Date:
  11/10/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  2

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