E3 '07: The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass Hands-On Preview

Nintendo delivers a time-limited demo of its highly anticipated DS Zelda title at this year's E3.

Nintendo had much to shout about at this year's E3. First of all, the company broke the news that it had two new Wii peripherals set for release in the form of a Zapper light gun and a steering wheel. Then the company revealed a procession of new games heading to the Wii, including Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Mario Kart, and Wii Fit. But even with all these new products, one of the biggest attractions at the company's hotel suite was still The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass on DS. The game was playable in time-limited demo form, so while we only got around 15 minutes at the beginning of the game, we still relished every minute.

The game started with Link dreaming about Tetra, a character who should be familiar to players of the GameCube game The Wind Waker. Like that game, the artistic style of The Phantom Hourglass is reminiscent of mid-20th-century European animation, something that certainly divided fans the first time around. It's still open for debate, but there's no doubt about the game's technical prowess. Mixing top-down and over-the-shoulder views, the game boasts an impressive level of detail, while the overall character animation is superb.

Click to enlarge!

The touch-screen control system is certainly very different to past Zelda titles, but the majority of Link's signature moves remain intact. Once Link awakes, he is guided by a fairy called Ciela, who then acts as a cursor for Link to follow as you touch the screen. Tap the edge of the screen and Link will perform a roll, and as always he'll automatically jump over gaps or down from edges.

What's arguably more important is the combat system, and Nintendo seems to have utilised the touch screen to great effect. Our demo gave us just enough time to find a sword and talk to a character called grandpa, who gave us the full lowdown on using the touch screen to attack. There are basically three different ways for Link to strike his enemies with a sword. Tap them once and he'll launch a simple lunging attack. Draw a line in between Link and the enemy or obstacle and he'll perform a sideways slash attack. Finally, perform a circular motion and he'll use a powerful spinning move on them.

We also managed to see a couple of puzzles in our short time with the The Phantom Hourglass. In trying to get hold of a sword, we had to gain access to grandpa's secret stash hidden in a cave. After some exploration, Ciela informed us that the entry code was the same as the number of palm trees on the beach. After heading down to the shoreline and counting seven, we drew a number '7' on the sign and managed to enter the cave. You can also draw memos on the in-game map to highlight key areas or make general notes about where you've been.

Nintendo has had to revolutionise the control systems for its two most recent Zelda titles, first with The Twilight Princess on Wii, and now with The Phantom Hourglass. Just from our short E3 play test, the touch-screen interface for the latter has clearly been carefully implemented, and it's intuitive after a few minutes of play. Time will tell if the system and the game itself will reward longer play, but as it stands right now, we're more excited than ever about getting hold of the finished game.

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74 comments
bshaw84
bshaw84

I preordered it months ago. From the other reviews, I'm glad I did. I bet it'll get a 9.0. Other reviews say it's a lot easier than other games in the series, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I think GS is pretty unforgiving in their scores. Which is also not really a bad thing. It helps me trust their reviews more for some reason.

Tigerslayerxxx
Tigerslayerxxx

This Looks Awsome! All zelda games rock! I bet it'll be big later on. ^_^

damariofan
damariofan

This could nail a 9.5. I don't think Alex will be able to give a 10-there will always be one downer that will hold any game back. I don't think PH is an exception.

link631
link631

i reserved it like 3 months ago and im getting it on the 2nd yay

Gorge-a-Maniac
Gorge-a-Maniac

Ahh I can't wait for this... I looks like Nintendo are showing how to properly use the touchscreen! Looks like its an awesomely executed game... Im gunna pre-order it tomorrow!

hellpolice
hellpolice

Awesome this series manage to stay fresh somehow after all this years. Makes me want to get a DS so I can play this once its out in the market!

REVOLUTIONfreak
REVOLUTIONfreak

Perfect 10? Uhh.... definitely not. I don't think Alex is prepared to be so bold as to hand out a ten to any game. Phantom Hourglass will have it's flaws like any other game, but I am expecting this game to be superb! It looks like a lot of fun, and the puzzles seem relatively challenging... which is good. The touch controls look more promising to me than they initially did too, which is good.

Lightfellower
Lightfellower

Something tells me this could be the next perfect 10 game on GS, or at least close.

sniper2k0
sniper2k0

This game will be sweet! Can't wait..

DarkWarrior42
DarkWarrior42

Dude I can't wait for this game to go on My DS!!! This will be the most poular hand-held game for DS abd the rest of the Hand-Held Industry.

gaming24-7
gaming24-7

UBERCOOL this game will be great not only is a new Zelda title (that is more than sufficient to make the game itself good ) but it utilises the touch screen in an appropriate and interesting manner cant wait to get it!

Aumala
Aumala

can't wait to get the new zelda on my hands!

illinoissooner
illinoissooner

Too many games, too little time... :) But there is always time for Zelda. The game sounds great.

Dumberhalo117
Dumberhalo117

Can this connect to the wii somehow? kinda like the GBA connection with the GC?

MythDarK
MythDarK

It's worth all the waiting, for sure. I got some other games to complete before it hits europe anyway. So i'm not bored of waiting....yet

hitman1988
hitman1988

sweet, can't wait to get my hands on it

xombie5
xombie5

I hope the touch controls are done well.

Distinctive_Fin
Distinctive_Fin

I agree on the buttons for combat, but a change might just be what we Zelda fans need (Wii version of TP was the best!) The only way to absolutely perfect a Zelda game is to do what ever the heck they did in Ocarina of time. It was like crack in game form!

Turbo-Evil
Turbo-Evil

You'd better be able to use the buttons to attack and move too. I hate games where its touch screen only.

luigispatch
luigispatch

Wonder how the 2 player wifi is gonna work?

SerpentsofSet
SerpentsofSet

I am looking forward to this game, despite the fact that im a noob/newb/n00b to the Link games

c_rakestraw
c_rakestraw moderator moderator

This look awesome! I can't wait!

jiggerkiller
jiggerkiller

I have the jap version. i don't want to play it because i don't understand the language. after a few minutes of messing around i found it to be irresistible. my only gripe is that i need a longer stylus, i have to hold it (uncomfortably) from the end so that my hand doesn't block the action. PoeTokoro buy a screen protector, i had the same fear, its worth it..

PoeTokoro
PoeTokoro

I hope the game has an option to use buttons for combat, it's not that I don't like touch controls because the touch control on games is what lead me to get a ds, but sword slashing is really intense in zelda games and I just don't want to scratch the hell out of my screen.

slayersdeath200
slayersdeath200

CANT WAIT FOR IT TO BE RELEASED IN THE UK WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP

Megatoa111
Megatoa111

In the press conference, the spokesman said it was his favorite Zelda title ever, but really, is that fair to Twilight Princess so soon after they released it? Some people are still trying to catch all those #@^* Poes. Don't get me wrong, it looks like it has a lot of potential, the feedback is reassuring, and I can't wait to see more WW-style Zelda, but for some reason that comment just bothers me.

The_Deepblue
The_Deepblue

Bruno BRS wrote: "think im the only one who liked to sail in WW... this is going to be the greatest portable zelda ever!!" You're not alone. The sailing is one of the main reasons I like the Wind Waker better than any other Zelda out there. Can't wait for this one.

blrasmu
blrasmu

the touch screen control makes me a little nervous, but i am excited for this game

icytower
icytower

Never been a Zelda fan myself.

Warfust
Warfust

I am really looking forward to this, sailing again!!

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

think im the only one who liked to sail in WW... this is going to be the greatest portable zelda ever!!

especensor
especensor

this sorta graphics is a lot more suited for a handheld. especially for a top down handheld. because, if it were the older adult link, link wouldn't be like a square in the game anymore.

ma118uller
ma118uller

i just hope the story is great, Zelda is known for great stories, but this is a bit too reminiscent of link's awakening, AKA outdated and boring, everything else seems great

Pannstar
Pannstar

im skeptical about the whole thing. It looks a bit bland, and the controls maybe too simple, but i guess ill just have to wait and see

JaMeS4418
JaMeS4418

this game is going to be breathtaking

kappareign
kappareign

the game looks great... i would like to try out the touch screen controls for myself before buying though

ScrawlKnight
ScrawlKnight

RorshachV : If you didn't love Twilight Princess, something is wrong with you...

ahyumifan
ahyumifan

what can i say? Its Zelda game. and what is Zelda game? Top Notch gameplay.

RorshachV
RorshachV

As much as I want to play this, i really want a Zelda for the Wii. For real this time

Willy105
Willy105

Nintendo Hardcore Game for E3 2007 #5. This game rocks.