It's fun, but sadly turns out not to be nearly as engaging or deep as the 3D Zeldas that have come before it.
ROUGH SCORE: 8.2
FINAL SCORE: 8.0
- Excellent, non-gimmicky use of the touch screen
- Fun boss battles
- The return of Bombchus
- You get to shoot down seagulls with cannonballs
- Incredibly linear (especially in the dungeons)
- Limited replayability
- Pales in comparison to certain past Zelda games (LttP, OoT, heck even the Oracle games)
From the very beginning, this game did not directly interest me. I found out about it, but got excited about it only because it was news of a Zelda game for the DS. I like Zelda. So this was great news. I followed the game's development as closely as I could, and my interest did not waver. I asked for it last Christmas and received it...and then it sat on my shelf for half a year. Even with all the critical acclaim from both the critics and other gamers, I still did not feel like I HAD to play the game ASAP. Perhaps this is why the game disappointed me even more when I finally got around to playing it. I may be giving it an 8.0 (8.2, technically), but that's mostly because Nintendo's painstaking attention to quality in its first-party products saved it from the pitfalls of mediocrity.
I never played Wind Waker, though I own it (I thank my brother for that). I just refuse to play it. I don't like the character art. Toon Link bothers me. I prefer the OoT/MM Link, the OoS/OoA Link, even the TP Link, to Toon Link. But for some reason, I looked past that for Phantom Hourglass. If you have played WW, then you'd be familiar with the basics of this game. The world map consists of a multitude of islands, and over the course of the adventure, you visit each one for whichever reason, getting there with the help of a boat. Besides that, PH proves to be classic Zelda, with a tactile twist. You control everything with the stylus: Link, your items, your map, your course on the seas, everything. It works very well. I never had any issues with enemy/item detection or anything.
The problem comes with the game's general straightforwardness. The game tells you where to go all the time. Even in the dungeons, it's not like the 3D dungeons of OoT and MM, where you could wonder around the places and not have a clue what you need to do. You could actually get lost in those dungeons. Here, each time you enter a new room, you know that you've just got to make your way through the room to progress to the next one, until you eventually get the Boss Key and head practically next door to the Boss itself. This really bothered me. Sure, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the puzzles, but I did not like the fact that the dungeons were set up like this. I don't remember the Oracle games being like this.
There isn't much to say here. The game is beautiful. I can't fault Nintendo at all here. Great work, guys.
The music suits the game well. My beef with it, though, is that much of it is not memorable. The only song that stuck with me after my DS turned off was the song that played while you were out on the seas, sailing. Everything else was just okay. Considering I can recall quite a bit of OoT's soundtrack from memory, there is a difference in quality.
The game does take quite a bit of time to get through, even with its outright linearity. However, the possibility that you'd want to play through it again is not that high, unless you really really enjoyed it. Equally unfortunate is the lack of postgame content. I can't remember whether that's the norm for Zelda games or not, but it's certainly the case here, with only the minigames scattered on particular islands to provide some fun after the main quest is done (sorry, rhyming was unintentional). There's value present in Phantom Hourglass, it's just not lasting.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad game. Not by a long shot. It's just that if you're going into it thinking it's going to play like OoT, you'll be very disappointed. After a few hours, I came to consider the game as a fusion of games like the Oracle series with games like OoT. But even then, that's not what this game plays like. You'd think it falls somewhere in the middle, but it doesn't.
So, the bottom line is that the game is good, but perhaps not as good as all the hype made it out to be. I would still recommend this game to any Zelda fan or to anyone else interested in the title, but I would not recommend getting it at full price. Find it marked down somewhere and it will probably be more worth it.