The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Updated Hands-On
We dive deeper into Link's latest adventure on the Nintendo DS.
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As with our previous look at The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, if you're not particularly interested in reading some slight spoilers on Link's latest adventure in Hyrule, then you're probably better off skipping this update. We're jumping into some of the plot and gameplay details that occur after completing the first dungeon, as well as taking a look at some of the puzzles that await. With that out of the way, we'll continue with Link as he completes the Forest Temple dungeon and makes his way back to the Sprit Temple on his train.
Link needs to go back to the Sprit Temple so he can revive the sprit tracks that lead to the other temples within Hyrule. In this case, he specifically needs to find the map that opens the tracks to the Snow Temple located far in the northwestern corner of the map, but to get to this map, he has to go through a smaller dungeon within the Spirit Temple (up the staircase from the previous dungeon where the Forest Temple map is located) to retrieve it. Once inside, Link and Zelda have to use some of the same tactics as in the previous dungeon where Link must find the three teardrops to power up his sword, as well as attack the back of one of the phantom knights before Zelda can take control of it. Once that's done, the pair finds some new obstacles that weren't present in the previous section, namely massive fire pits that Link can't cross without some help.
Fortunately, when Zelda takes control of the phantom armor, she has no problems walking through the fire. So, the new trick you learn is that Link can ride on top of the phantom's shield while it walks through these hazards, preventing him from taking any sort of damage and enabling him to get through parts of the dungeon that were previously inaccessible. Additionally, this same trick comes in handy when defeating some of the new enemies, such as little imps that ride atop indestructible statues, as well as retrieving keys in hard to reach places. There are also portions in this dungeon where you have to use Zelda in her phantom armor as a barricade against fire-spewing statues. Eventually, the two make their way to the end of the dungeon and retrieve the map the opens the tracks to the Snow Temple.
But as Link and Zelda make their way back to the train and head toward the snowy peaks of Hyrule, their train comes under attack by new creatures that do some serious damage to the train. Fortunately, Alfonzo helps out and suggests the two head back to the starting village of Aboda so he can make some modifications to the train that'll help deal with these enemies. While Alfonzo's busy, Link ventures back into town to speak with Niko who hands Link a stamp book. You can get stamps from different areas of Hyrule by finding some small podiums where stamps are dispensed, and if you manage to get all the stamps, Niko says he'll give you something special in return.
Making his way back to the train, Link discovers that Alfonzo is done with the train modification, which takes the form of a cannon not too dissimilar from the one on Link's boat in both Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. To use it, you simply tap where you want to fire and a cannonball flies out. It's very easy to use and makes short work of any foes that get a little too close to the train, but you can also use it to destroy boulders and other objects scattered in the surrounding scenery as you travel. With their new weapon in tow, Link and Zelda once again head toward the Snow Temple.
As with most things in the Zelda universe, it's not as simple as going from one point to the next. It turns out that the entrance to the Snow Temple tracks is blocked by a massive door. The only way in is to head to Anouki Village to see if the Anouki have a solution to the problem. But, of course, the Anouki have their own problems and ask Link to help solve them before telling him how to gain passage through the door. The puzzle here involves making three pairs of Anouki to form patrols that protect their village, but the Anouki have individual preferences on whom they want to be paired with, so you have to play close attention to their personal requests. Once you have all of the information, you report back to the village chief and assign the pairs. If you don't get it right, you can go back to speak with all of them again. But once you do match them up, the Anouki open the door to the tracks so you can proceed with the journey.
The train trip inside the tunnel that opens seems straightforward until a massive crablike creature appears and gives chase, but it's not all that difficult to deal with this creature. Thanks to the train's new cannon, you can fire cannonballs repeatedly at the crab's massive, single eyeball. If you happen to miss and not take it down, the crab will get close to the train to inflict damage. After the relatively brief confrontation on the tracks, Link and Zelda make their way out (and after a brief side trip to play the pan flute) only to find that the rest of the tracks leading up to the Snow Temple are engulfed in a massive blizzard.
Like the earlier Forest Temple segment, if you draw the wrong train route on your map and get lost, the game simply kicks you back out to the entrance. We got lost a few times before giving up and heading back toward Anouki Village to see if its residents could help. Unfortunately, they didn't really have any direct answers but they knew of someone on the far eastern side of the area that possibly knew the proper path through the blizzard. Finding this character involves travelling to his abandoned station where he left a map, which indicates that he travelled to one of three points to photograph trains passing by on the tracks. And sure enough, by travelling to one of these three points, you see him sitting trackside snapping photos of trains as they pass. Once Link tells this character of his predicament, he hands Link a map with the proper path to the Snow Temple (which you can also draw onto your own map).
With the aid of new directions, Link and Zelda finally make it to the Snow Temple. And as you might suspect, many of the puzzles in this dungeon revolve around ice and fire. But this is also the dungeon where Link acquires the boomerang, which functions much like it did in the Phantom Hourglass. You can make Link either throw out the boomerang as he normally would, or you can trace a path for the boomerang to follow. This becomes vital for solving puzzles in the dungeon--particularly ones where Link must throw the boomerang through fire or ice torches. The fire torches help reveal secrets buried in the snow and weaken ice enemies while the ice torches create ice bridges on water and weaken fire enemies.
In fact, creating ice bridges also becomes an integral part of the central puzzle in the dungeon where Link must bring three different types of bells into the main area of the dungeon. Also, hitting these bells in specific order with the boomerang opens new passageways that eventually lead to the room with the master key and the final confrontation with the dungeon boss--a foe that has the power of both fire and ice. With the two torches (fire and ice) in the room, you can probably guess how the boss is defeated, but at a certain point, this boss destroys both torches, making the battle a little more difficult than it initially appears.
So, we've seen a few new elements come into play throughout the course of a few hours. Now that Link's train can defend itself, travelling seems a little more interesting. Seeing how the Snow Temple's puzzles incorporate some of Link's new tools and abilities definitely has us eager to find out what the other dungeons hold. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is scheduled for release on December 7.