Phantom Hourglass ranks as one of the best Zelda titles due to intuitive gameplay and design with great presentation.
The most notable mechanic with Phantom Hourglass is how the player controls Link. It is all done with the stylus, while the d-pad and face buttons are alternatively in use to access the map and inventory menus. Additionally, the stylus serves to control Links attacks and other maneuvers. The motion replicates the action: make a line for a slash or stab, a circle around Link for a 360° spin attack, a circle motion at towards the edge of the screen for a diving roll, etc. The weapons and items found throughout the game all have their distinct applications with the stylus. For example, the hero of green attire has an effective boomerang which requires the player to draw a line and even shapes of direction for the boomerang to strike or activate. The beautiful thing about Phantom Hourglass' gameplay is that it works so intuitively well, and becomes a comfortable control scheme very quickly.
The overall game design compliments the gameplay mechanics also. The player will be using each of Link's special items and abilities. The dungeons all utilize the stylus' control scheme cohesively as well as the capabilities of the DS. There are certain actions the player will have Link perform throughout that game that will guarantee a smile or a quote of, "Ah, that's cool!" Like any Zelda title, there are sure to be boss battles, and Phantom Hourglass surely does not disappoint in quantity. Not only that, but each boss battle is uniquely fun and memorable.
The only grievance of the game's design is the Temple of the Ocean King. Throughout the game, Link must return to this dungeon a number of times after completing missions to advance the story. Each successful visit expands the length of the dungeon until Link reaches the final point. The problem that can persist for some players is revisiting the temple on several occasions only to start from the beginning each go-round. Additionally, there is an existing time limit to complete a section of the dungeon.
The main story of Link's adventure at sea roughly can take twenty to thirty hours to complete. This adventure alone is well worth the play-through for the most part. However, the multiplayer mode is a nice little treat that gives the game some extra legs. Essentially, it's one on one capture the flag Zelda style; so the triangle gems substitute for the flags. While it is the only existing multiplayer mode it entails a lot of frantic fun; the only true problem is that very little people populate the Wi-Fi servers.
Being the first direct Zelda sequel, specifically to the Gamecube's Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass holds up a very good presentation. Since it stays in the realm of the 2003 classic, the cel-shaded graphics translate nicely on the DS. The musical score is what one can expect from the Zelda universe; which in most cases includes memorable tunes. The story holds up well, especially with the references to Wind Waker. Additionally, the characters alongside Link are memorable, for example the treasure-hungry navigator Linebeck who is truly a selfish coward on the inside. Due to the light-hearted look of the game a lot of the dialogue contains quirky humor, which is surprisingly executed well.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a great and unique addition to the franchise. With intuitive and accessible gameplay, it can be enjoyable for mostly anyone. It's a great addition to the DS library.