With creative boss fights and fun puzzles, Phantom Hourglass is an very innovative game.
The puzzles are just brilliant. They take full use of the DS, and in ways you wouldn't have guess before playing the game. Not only does it use the touch screen perfectly for puzzles with the boomerang and all, but it also uses the DS's mic. There are times when you need to blow in it or say something to get the attention of someone. You also need to fold the DS in half for use with your map at times, which is very interesting. Perhaps the smartest thing Nintendo did with the DS's interface is NOT using the same thing over and over again on the DS. You only have to use the mic occasionally, so it doesn't become gimmicky or boring. That's a huge plus when many DS games feel very gimmicky after a while. The boss fights are equally creative and hold true to what you would expect from a Zelda game. The top screen is used to take full advantage of the DS's capabilities for the battles. I had a few control problems with some of them, but they are indeed stunning. The diversity from boss to boss is incredible, as each one has completely different weaknesses, strengths, attacks, looks, and a completely different style while you're fighting them (you'll know what I mean when you play). The dungeon in which you use the Phantom Hourglass can be a drag, but once you get used to it, you'll find a bit of challenge along with some great moments. Neither the puzzles nor the bossfights are frustratingly difficult, but they're shockingly innovative.
The story is something magical in itself, just like anyone should expect from a Zelda game. It's also different from past games in the sense that it's more dialogue driven and there are always things springing up to do, especially when you're sailing. I'm not the kind of person to say this, but you'd almost want to pick up this game and just hug it at times (wow, I said it). This is also the funniest Zelda, as you will see as you play, and I got quite a few laughs from some of the main characters. The cutscenes are well-written and the cast of characters is neat, and it's great to see a different antagonist instead of Ganon. The adventure might feel cut up at times (mostly with the sailing, which is still improved), but the many areas are great, and the interactions with different societies is great once again. The story might be a bit simple, but it's great just like all Zeldas.
PH takes the DS's power to a new lever in the graphics department. While it's nowhere near the beauty of WW on GC, the DS does the cell-shaded graphics quite well. The cutscenes are nice and the land is enormous, both unlike most DS games. The variety of environment in each island is great, like all Zeldas, and it adds to the adventure in many good ways. It might be quite blocky at times, but it looks much better than any other DS game, and looks like a good middle-strength N64 game (which is saying a lot). There really aren't any glitches that I'm aware of, so it's obviously well polished off. The only noticeable problem is the sometimes dipping framerate which can slow down and possibly mess you up at times. It's really no big deal at all though.
The music is extremely nostalgic. That's about all that needs to be said. PH lacks amazing original Zelda music and some other great tunes like the theme song, but still manages to be enjoyable. The sound effects are very same-old (good though) and if you're a huge Zelda fan, you'll probably get the shivers listening to the tune of a secret being discovered and the music after beating a boss.
PH also includes a multiplayer mode, which isn't quite the same as the Four Swords games. It's good, but doesn't add much to the game. There are about 8 different courses to choose from, each well-made. The idea of the game is simple: As Link, get force gems; as the Phantoms, kill Link. There are also items to get (and you can break your opponent's items), and there is some great strategy involved. Playing with friends is fun, as they don't need a copy of PH to play. It doesn't keep up with your record against friends, but will still be fun whether you're next to each other, or playing over Nintendo Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi play is fun, and you'll be set up to go against someone quickly. There are friend codes for friends, and those can be exchanged automatically when you get near a friend that has PH. I've easily won in random matches (which aren't frustrating like many DS games). You get a win-loss record and "Big Plays", which are basically accomplishments. It would be much better if Nintendo made it so you win if you're winning when your opponent disconnects like a wuss, but the game sadly doesn't count if they do. Too many disconnections really hurts the game. It's fun regardless, and a good addition to the franchise.
PH is another fantastic addition to the Zelda franchise, and definitely worth the purchase to anyone. The revolutionary controls show what the DS is capable of and may brighten the system's already amazing future. I can't urge anyone enough to get this gem.