GDC 07: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Multiplayer Hands-On

We head to the show floor at GDC 07 to get our hands on a multiplayer demo of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

One of the most popular games in Nintendo's booth at the 2007 Game Developers Conference is unsurprisingly a Zelda title. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is the first game in Nintendo's flagship franchise to appear on the Nintendo DS, and it was on the show floor in playable form. Nintendo is keeping the single-player game under wraps at the moment, but it did lift the veil on the multiplayer component of Phantom Hourglass, and we played a few two-player matches.

The multiplayer game that was on display at the show involved Link running around a large maze collecting fragments of the Triforce called "force gems." One player is blue Link, and the other player is red Link. The game is played in three, two-minute rounds. During each round, one player controls Link by moving the stylus around the screen. This player can tap the force gems onscreen to pick them up. The object of the game is to deliver force gems to your color-coded base zone located on one end of the maze. The player with the most force gems at the end of the match is the winner. But it's not as easy as grabbing gems and dropping them off at your base because while you're gathering gems and running about, your opponent is doing everything possible to get in your way.

It's surprisingly easy and intuitive to control Link using the stylus.

The player who isn't controlling Link takes control of three enemy guards. This player can point to one of the enemy characters and draw lines on a map of the maze that appears on the lower screen. The guards will follow these lines, and if they get close to Link, they'll chop him with their swords. If Link gets hit, the players switch sides and the one who was controlling Link then controls the guards while the other player grabs force gems.

But there's more to account for than gems and guards. The maze is designed so that there are several light blue zones, which are safe zones. Link can enter these zones without fear of being attacked by the guards. Two of these zones are located at the top and bottom of the maze, and there's an underground passage that allows Link to quickly go from the bottom of the maze to the top. The guards can't use the passage, so if you're clever and quick enough, you can try to fake out your opponent using the safe zones on the map.

There are also power-ups scattered throughout the map. Each power-up is color coded to designate which of the two players can use it. Some of the power-ups Link can get include a shield that allows him to take an extra hit from a guard and a power-up that increases Link's running speed. The speed boost is especially good because when Link is carrying a force gem, he can't move very quickly. There are larger force gems that are worth more points, but they slow you down to a crawl and leave you vulnerable to attack. The power-ups for the guards are slightly different, but they're just as useful as the power-ups for Link. If you're playing as the guards, you can pick up speed boosts, items that increase your range of attack. You can also activate wind jets that block certain pathways.

Phantom Hourglass looks good on the bright screen of the DS Lite. The character designs are reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which is a good fit for the game. The level we saw was colorful and very green as you might expect from a Zelda game, but we spent most of our time looking at the overhead map screen rather than the action screen. When you're playing as Link, the action appears on the bottom screen of the DS, and when you're playing as the guards, the action appears on top with the map on the bottom. The action is zoomed in tight on Link, which looks good and makes it easy to control him, but it also means you'll often get surprised by enemies lurking around blind corners.

The multiplayer in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is local only at this point, with no announced plans for online play. There's a possibility of more multiplayer modes beyond the maze game, but Nintendo is keeping quiet about details at this point. On top of all that, there is still no announced release date for the game. As soon as we learn more, we'll be sure to let you know. So check back here often for more on The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

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Discussion

116 comments
Aumala
Aumala

sweet multiplayer!!

ShuuMutou
ShuuMutou

Getting this, Pokemon D and P.. plus Phoenix Wright TT Can't wait!

ssrrdd
ssrrdd

This games gonna be good

link_665
link_665

i cant wait for this game to come out

DeathDealer_69
DeathDealer_69

I'm totally going to buy this game! I just hope it's going to come out the way I expect for multi-player.

meesey01
meesey01

I've been hanging out for this game for a while now, I need something to keep me excited...how bout some coverart Nintendo?

WiiHomie
WiiHomie

I need it!!! can't wait for it to come out!!!!!!!!!!!

greystone227
greystone227

To comment on the graphics argument, I personally think that Zelda could benefit from better graphics. However, better graphics do not always mean more realistic as many of you think. Look at Twilight Princess for example. That game was great artistically, but not so much technically. Imagine if you could take that game, and just smooth out the graphics and make them a higher resolution. It wouldn't really make it any more realistic, but it would make the game a whole lot better. However, I would never want a Zelda game on any platform not made by Nintendo (coming from a big 360 fan), since that's where it belongs. But still, it would be nice to have some better (not more realistic) graphics. Also, AgileNate, to comment on your post, Zelda could have great graphics and not rely on them. Using your example of Ocarina of Time, at the time of its release, it had amazing graphics (check Gerstmann's review, he gave them a 10). But as you said, the gameplay is what keeps it good after all of these years. However, graphics greatly added to the game's experience at the time. I believe the same formula should be carried over to future Zelda games. Make the gameplay stand out, but still pay attention to the graphics. Think about it - Would Gears of War be as good as it is if it looked like crap? No. Would it still be great? Yes. But the graphics gave it that little push it needed.

AgileNate
AgileNate

Fusion_Master, when a game relies on graphics it means it wont be worth playing for more than a few years. While when a game is built for game play it will be good forever. I just downloaded Ocarina of Time on the Wii's Virtual Console and it can still hold its own even with outdated graphics. Also I must say I prefer the cel shaded graphics after playing Wind Waker. Zelda can only get so realistic or else it wont be Zelda.

FinnDS
FinnDS

Looks great, hope it's going to live up to the expectations!

BOXINGdaySALE
BOXINGdaySALE

i look one wikipidea (SP) anyways they say it should be coming out ether june1 or november 1

Epyon5070
Epyon5070

And I suppose Sony and Microsoft need to get their hands on Mario as well, huh? There is way more to a game than graphics. Zelda belongs only on Nintendo systems. Period.

gamingtrooper44
gamingtrooper44

This is probly going to be the best DS game all year. I CAN'T WAIT.

hoysoy
hoysoy

hmm zelda is zelda, i think if the graphics were any more detailed than twilight princess it wouldnt be necessary. and it wouldnt be practical to put it on the ps3 or 360. the puzzles have always been on nintendo systems and have always been successful. remember zelda isnt popular for its graphics

Fusion_Master
Fusion_Master

in my personal opinion zelda doesnt belong on nintendo consoles. its more the kind of game to run on higher hardware with more detailed characters and landscapes. i think a 'graphically' next-gen zelda on ps3 or 360 would be great (coming from a non-fan's point of view). the detailed puzzles dont come off as well on these nintendo systems. im a fan of the 2d games, but im still not sold on the 3d versions.

cfamgcn
cfamgcn

I want it! Please!!!

Drewman419
Drewman419

OMG! This game is going to ROCK SOCKS OFF!!

shikaiman
shikaiman

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

MorkkiTH
MorkkiTH

Neeeeeeedddd Zeeeeeldaaaa!!!!

Captainintendo
Captainintendo

This game looks great. I hope Miyamoto delivers again.

aerisol
aerisol

hmm i wasnt too into the game cos link looked all kiddy and the game looked a little childish but now everyone is saying it looks awesome and i saw a preview for it and it does look pretty kool, so now i dont know lol. decisions, desicions

Ryuku
Ryuku

i need new zelda game nowwww ... i finnshed tp wii and gc version already

zeroneff
zeroneff

Ahhh I think it comes out this November...

meesey01
meesey01

Looks sweet, now all we need is a release date...lets hope it won't take too long.

zeroneff
zeroneff

Ohhhh PSP better watch it before it gets re-killed by my DS

Naill0
Naill0

This games gunna pwn

M4D_pHySiKz
M4D_pHySiKz

This game looks excellent,i loved the style of the Windwaker so to have it on the DS will to great.

-Dark-Arrow-
-Dark-Arrow-

go go go nintendo got a wii twilight princess included already beaten it 3 times xD same for wind waker and the rest of the zelda games now I only need this one to complete the colection for so far problem about this game is links head its to round and to big bigger than the one from wind waker but I'm still gonna buy it :P the multi player game will be awesome :D

metallica_669
metallica_669

Great.... Now I have to get a Gamecube (Wii=Tooexpensive, never in stock), and beat Wind Waker....

StanAce
StanAce

You know, there's always that major difference in graphical quality when a game jumps from 2D to 3D. I find that the graphics in Phantom Hourglass are just so horribly fugly compared to the nice 2D sprites they had in previous handheld versions. Assuming that Phantom Hourglass is the first 2D-to-3D transition for a handheld though, I guess it would be understandable why the 3D graphics are so unrefined. I've always been a fan of 2D sprites, and unless 3D graphics are up to a certain level of quality, 2D sprites would always surpass 3D polygons in visual appeal. (Think MMX4 to MMX7and8 ) Nevertheless, the new Zelda game seems like it's going to be awesome, gameplay-wise. Hoping to see a co-op mode in there somewhere.

lilt0193
lilt0193

Would be awesome if they did co-op multiplayer over wi-fi....extremely awesome.

sonofashrub
sonofashrub

maybe the d pad will be used for items.

Setsa
Setsa

Why don t they give us D-pad controls... why? :(

DoctorFu
DoctorFu

I also hope that you can still use the D-Pad..

m4st3r_link
m4st3r_link

This is an even greater blast than the powder keg one!!! Another Zelda to my collection... I hope.

Maluus
Maluus

This looks like a BLAST for MP!!!!!

Mr_Doodle
Mr_Doodle

Normally, I wouldn't get this game because some Zelda games have been pretty similar. However, with the inclusion of multiplayer and a few friends who have a DS, I just might be picking this game up. I know everyone's been saying this, but online play will seal the deal.

Dman1010
Dman1010

OMG SWEET!!!!!!!!ive been waiting 4 PH since they first announced it at E305 but wtf it doesnt come out untilll Q4 07??!?!!?!?!?!?!!!?!

facit_90
facit_90

Guess I'll have to find someone else with the game to play against after I've got it.

bminns
bminns

this game looks pretty good.

Alcotamaysees
Alcotamaysees

Looks fun I guess. It's weird to see a zelda game with multiplayer (minus four swords.)

ninjavelmor
ninjavelmor

the multiplayer mode sounds like alot of fun. i remeber playing the new super mario bros muliplayer mode so much with my freinds as school, hopfully this mode is as fun.

Glenlo
Glenlo

I sold my psp and bought a DS lite for games like this. It looks awesome!!! Even if online play isn't available, single cartridge multiplayer would be really nice.